At the time of writing the world is in the grip of a pandemic – Covid 19. People are dying all over the globe and the social, political and economic consequences are huge. But it’s worth remembering this has happened before.
Shortly after the end of the First World War the Spanish ‘Flu swept through a generation who were already decimated by conflict. Unlike Covid 19 the Spanish ‘Flu affected young men most seriously.
Among them were 34 German prisoners of war who were due to be repatriated when they caught the infection. They all died, and are now buried in the cemetery at Castle Donington in Leicestershire. They share a separate peace garden area to one side of the site.
In 1792 a plan was launched to build a canal near Ashby de La Zouch, although the cut never actually reached the town. In 1800 the local land was enclosed and the mineral rights granted to Francis Rawdon Hastings, 2nd Earl Moira. Four years later he sank the first coal mine on his land and built a lime kiln. Work began on constructing a blast furnace. The combination was the ideal way of using all the local minerals, ironstone, limestone and coal.
However, the furnace was never a success and worked for only a total of a few months before being finally closed in 1811 after a disastrous fire that reached temperatures high enough to melt the brickwork. The associated iron foundry was a huge success on the other hand and remained in operation producing smallware until the 1850s.
The lime kilns were also a commercial success, producing quicklime for the building industry and agriculture until the 1850s. Coal mining continued in the area until the 1980s.
Moira had a brief spell as a spa in 1812 when it was decided to exploit the salt water from down the mines but the site proved unpopular so the water was later shipped to the Ivanhoe Baths in Ashby by canal and tramway.
Moira Furnace is now a listed building and preserved as a museum at the centre of a heritage park in the National Forest.