History of Seven Acre Woods
Back in the day...
Brede High was an important place for producing armaments which were exported to the Continent as well as being used by the English Navy.The site of the furnace now lies beneath the dam of the reservoir and was probably built on the site of a medieval corn mill. The furnace was built in 1578 by a consortium of iron masters from Tonbridge in Kent. As well as casting the great guns (the 32 pounders at 91⁄2 feet long), Brede Furnace was also known for its cast iron fire backs. The large bellows for firing the furnace were powered by a waterwheel using water stored in two large ‘hammer’ ponds, where the reservoir now lies. The continuous supply of water was one of the main limitations to production, for in 1742 John Fuller, iron master at Brightling, noted that ‘the ponds were nearly dry but they kept going by workmen ‘treading the wheel’.
Brede Furnace closed before 1770, when it was converted to a gunpowder mill. Charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur were used to form the powder, again using water-power. It was a very unstable product and there were several explosions at Brede. In 1805 three people were killed and the windows of houses in Brede village were blown out.
Originally forming part of the Great Sanders Estate, the name is derived from the fact that there was an 18th-century black powder (gunpowder) manufacturer on the site. The mill used to grind the powder was driven by water from a mill pond formed by a dam across the original stream. The mill was the scene of three explosions, before its eventual closure, in which several workers died (one of whom, according to a rather ghoulish contemporary newspaper report, was blown into five, named, pieces). One of the original pair of mill stones may be seen, half buried, at the eastern end of the dam. Prior to its use as a powdermill the site held an iron foundry which pre dated the attempt by the Spanish Armada to invade Britain.
Under the direction of Sydney Little, "The Concrete King", the reservoir was constructed between 1929 and 1932. The dam is of earth with a concrete slab facing and a puddle clay core and is 370 yards long with a height of 40 feet. The construction of the dam required 170 men working for nearly 40 months and, due to unforeseen difficulties caused by underlying and extruding sandstone strata, the estimated construction costs were exceeded by a considerable margin. A number of the workers employed on the site were of Welsh origin and several married local girls and settled in the area giving rise to a fair proportion of Welsh surnames in the Sedlescombe community. Filling of the reservoir began on 5 November 1931 and was complete in March 1932.
Once the reservoir was completed in March 1932, the Hastings Corporation (the original owners) were approached for the lease of the fishing rights. A seven-year lease was granted to the Hastings Fly Fisher's Club for a fee of £5 per annum and with the undertaking to stock the waters with two thousand fish per season. Since then the lease and the number of fish stocked has risen by a considerable margin.