A belated happy New Year to all members and I hope you all enjoyed whatever you were doing over the Christmas break. A special thanks to members who have renewed their subscriptions at the new increased rate, and a reminder to those I have not yet heard from that the subscriptions are now due. We have produced a new membership leaflet as a result of the subscription change and a copy is enclosed for you to use to recruit a new member. With currently about 100 members of the Section if only a third of you could persuade a friend or relative to join it would give a real boost to the membership. Additional copies will be available from Claremont. I have received enquiries from a couple of section members only about the possibility of having membership cards to help when visiting Claremont. A reminder that, although as a section member only, you cannot borrow material from the YAHS library, you are able to use the library free of charge. I think this would be useful and will be investigating the possibilities of having some printed to distribute with the next Newsletter.

I am looking forward to the rest of the Lecture programme and apologise for the typing error which crept into the programme list for the January lecture – Kenneth Jackson’s talk was on the textile industry in Skipton in the 19th century not the 18th which I agree did make a difference to the subject matter. However fortunately I don’t think it affected the numbers attending, a good turnout braved the adverse weather to hear an excellent talk. A report of all the 2004/5 lectures will appear as usual in the next Newsletter. A reminder that the 2005 AGM will be held on the 16 April at 11am at Claremont, the minutes of the 2004 AGM were distributed with the last Newsletter. Formally nominations are required for the posts of Chairman, Vice Chairman, Lectures Secretary, Membership Secretary and Newsletter Editor, but these can be sorted out at the meeting if necessary. To date there have been no offers of anyone taking up the position of Lectures Secretary for the 2005-2006 programme, so another plea for someone to come forward. David George and myself have identified some possible speakers (which can be the hardest part of the job) and the Lecture Room has been booked for suitable dates but we need someone with the time to contact speakers and finalise the arrangements.

I am pleased to report that David George has arranged two Summer Excursions. The first on Saturday 14 May will be a walking tour of Selby and on Sunday 26 June we shall be visiting Gibson’s Mill at Hardcastle Crags near Hebden Bridge which has been restored by the National Trust. Details are given later in this Newsletter. It also may be possible to fit in a walking tour of Bradford towards the end of August, watch this space in the next Newsletter. Also noted is a main Society event taking place over the weekend of 11 – 12 June examining the Landscape Archaeology of the Textile Industry in Craven. There will be a day of lectures on the Saturday followed by visits on the Sunday to the sites examined in the lectures. Numbers for the lectures are not limited but there are no more than 25 places available for the visits. Full information is not yet available but to save a place, expression of interest should be made to the leader Erik Matthews whose details are given later in the Newsletter.

Longer standing members will be aware that Nancy Cooper was the first Secretary of the Industrial History Section and played a leading part in the running of the Section for many years. The passing of time and failing health has meant that Nancy has decided to leave Leeds and move to sheltered accommodation nearer to where her son Bob (also a longstanding member of the Section) and his wife live in Ashby de la Zouch. I am sure we would all wish Nancy well in her new home and thank her for all her work on behalf of the Section.

The next Newsletter will be produced in late April/early May so let me have any items for inclusion by mid April please. Finally a welcome to new members Mr W Cooper, Mr G Henderson and Mrs C Tomlinson who have joined the section since the last Newsletter.

Margaret Tylee



Over the past four years Janet Senior, the assistant Librarian at Claremont, has done an excellent job organising excursions for the main YAHS but unfortunately she is no longer able to carry on with this activity due to pressure of other work. She has asked if there are any members who feel they could take over the organisation of excursions - if so please contact Janet at Claremont.


I have received a letter from Mr D Whitfield, which reads as follows

I would be grateful if you could possible provide me with a contact who is familiar with the company James Booth & Bros. who built cranes at Rodley, Leeds. I have recently done some work and research on a 20 ton capacity overhead crane, steam driven built 1900 and worked ‘til 1979 at an iron foundry at Stockton – on Tees. The complete crane is in quite good condition but not on public display.

When I was working, now retired for 15 years, I used Booths (Smiths) for the supply of gearing etc. for a stock yard ore crane for Fords of Dagenham Ironworks c 1983.

I would be quite pleased to share my notes, photos and sketches with anyone of your organisation.

I mentioned this request at the last lecture and replied to Mr Whitfield suggesting that he contacted the Leeds Industrial Museum and that I would be including his request in this Newsletter. If anyone does have information about James Booth, please contact Mr Whitfield direct; his address is 6 Hartlea Avenue, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 3NE.

The West Yorkshire Archaeology Service (Advisory Service) has a limited number of places available for interested individuals to help improve the record holdings on the archaeological sites of West Yorkshire. The Sites and Monuments Record of West Yorkshire holds details of all known archaeological sites in the county ranging from 10,000 year old stone tools to abandoned nuclear fall-out shelters. There is a need for help with ordering and referencing information to make it more easily accessible as well as providing information to local schools, societies and individuals. If you would like to help as a volunteer and can afford to spend one day a week, guidance and training will be provided. The WYAS Advisory Service’s offices are at the Registry of Deeds, Newstead Road, Wakefield. The site had free parking and is 10 minutes walk from Wakefield Westgate railway station. If you are interested in volunteering, please ring Ian Sanderson ? 01924 306801 to find out more.


A number of archaeological reports with an industrial history connection have been deposited at the West Yorkshire Sites & Monuments Record at Wakefield during 2004. These include the following:
Historic building assessment of Sterne Mills, Hollas Lane, Sowerby Bridge
Archaeological building recording of the Wheelhouse at New Mill, Kell Lane, Wainstalls
Building and photographic recording of Garden Street Mills, Halifax
Interim archaeological report of the project to investigate the Myers Wood iron working site, Huddersfield
Photographic record of the former Brown’s factory, Wordsworth Yard, Pontefract
Reports can be consulted by appointment ? 01924 306797.

The 24 Hour Museum has launched a series of online City Heritage Guides celebrating and exploring the cultural heritage on offer in ten English cities. Each guide contains news, reviews, trails and features and the 24 Hour Museum database contains information on around 3,000 UK museums, galleries and heritage sites. The cities featured in the Heritage Guide series include Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. The Leeds guide includes an Industrial Heritage Trail from Kirkstall Abbey to the Royal Armouries with text and illustrations; there is also a tour of the centre of Leeds in old photographs. The site can be found at

While on the subject of city guides, new volumes in the series of Pevsner Architectural Guides are now available. To date guides for Liverpool and Sheffield are available (see Book Review) and Leeds is due sometime in 2005. Work is also in progress to revise and update the Yorkshire: West Riding Guide. More details can be found on the Pevsner website at

The conversion of redundant textile mills continues in our region. Urban Splash launched its £110m development of the former Manningham Mills, Bradford on 20 November. Over 2,000 people attended on the launch day and 57 out of the 131 apartments in the first phase were reserved on the first day. The mills were built in the 1870s for Samuel Cunliffe Lister for the production of silk and velvet and occupy a 27 acre site with an impressive 250ft high chimney. At their peak, the mills employed over 11,000 people but closed in 1992 and since then have laid derelict and subject to vandalism. Attempts were made by the Victoria and Albert Museum to develop an outstation focussing on its Indian and eastern collections but this came to nothing. Urban Splash will continue to develop the site and estimate that it will take up to eight years to complete with offices and retail space for arts groups and possibly relocated civil servants from London.

Other recent conversions include Garden Street Mill built in 1833 in Halifax, converted into apartments after several attempts to demolish it by arson and development. A proposal has been made to convert Old Street Lane Mill also in Halifax to residential and commercial use. The mill was built in 1827 by James Akroyd and was one of the first integrated and fireproof woollen mills in the area.

Major development is also taking place at Oats Royd Mill in the Luddenden valley. The mill was built in stages from 1847 to 1887 and pioneered the use of water turbines to generate electricity in 1902-3. It closed in 1982 because its remote location made it uneconomic. Parts were subsequently used as small business units but a six storey block burnt down in 1989. A company called Lowry Renaissance is converting the weaving sheds into town houses and rebuilding the block that was burnt down.

On a negative note however, Luddendenfoot Mills used by British Furtex to make moquette upholstery fabrics was demolished in early 2004. The mill was built by James Clay & Co. worsted manufacturers in the late 19th century on the site of a corn mill which burnt down in 1868. Houses will be built on the site but the goit and World War II shelters are to be retained and conserved.

At the end of October coal mining in the Selby area came to an end with the closure of Riccall mine and the Gascoigne Wood processing plant. The mines were only opened 21 years ago (I can remember the need to divert the East Coast main line to avoid any potential subsistence beneath the previous trackbed which meant the trains no longer went through Selby) but now UK Coal says it is no longer economic to extract coal from the 900m deep seams. About 120 million tons have been extracted far below the predicted 5 million tons when the 5 Selby pits opened. UK Coal hopes to obtain permission to build business parks on the sites being closed as has been done at Whitemoor and North Selby, but the original plan was to return the land to agricultural use.

Another closure in 2004 was that of Hatfield Main colliery which was sunk in 1911-1917 and the demolition of the “Tetrapod” headgears of 1979 at Thorne colliery which had been a landmark in the surrounding flat landscape. This ended any hope of re-opening Thorne which last produced coal in 1956 and has been on care and maintenance at a cost of £1m a year since an investment programme was put on hold in 1986.

Steel melting and rolling is due to end at Corus’ Stocksbridge steel works during 2005. ARCUS (part of Sheffield University) have completed a survey of the site prior to the expectation that parts of the site will be sold for redevelopment. There is pressure for listing the 1864 umbrella shop and the 1877 wire drawing shop, which are tall buildings that look like textile mills, together with the 1868 offices built of firebricks.

Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield has been given £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create new storerooms and workshops where the public will be able to watch engineering conservation work in progress and a new transport gallery. The Bessemer converter which stands outside the Museum (it came from Workington, not Sheffield) commemorates Bessemer’s role in the Sheffield steel industry has been honoured with an Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, joining the Museum’s River Don rolling mill engine which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2005.

Members who attended the November lecture on the Yorkshire Coiners by Cliff Stockton may be interested to learn that the book by Henry Ling Roth on the Yorkshire Coiners, which Cliff referred to extensively in his talk, is available for loan from the British Library at Boston Spa. We have a copy of the original 1906 edition as well as a 1971 reprint.

While on the topic of books, I received copies of a second hand book catalogue of Yorkshire books together with a list of Yorkshire based Patent Applications available for sale from Bob Dobson a book dealer based in Blackpool. The coverage is quite wide from Yorkshire Acts of Parliament to Robin Hood’s Bay in Old Picture Postcards (1983). Copies of the catalogue are available from Bob Dobson “Acorns” 3 Staining Rise, Staining, Blackpool, FY3 0BU.



3 Feb
Limestone & Limestone Kilns: their importance in the life of Craven and its Landscape. Lecture by David Johnson. Skipton & Craven Historical Society, Swadford Centre, Swadford Street, Skipton. 7.30pm.

12 Feb
Ravensthorpe to Gomersal. Railway Ramblers walk. Details from Jane Ellis ? 0113 2494644.

19 Feb
Catcliffe Glass Cone and the Story of South Yorkshire Glass. Lecture by Hugh Wilmott. Joint meeting of South Yorkshire Industrial History Society (SYIHS) and Rotherham Local History Council. Rotherham Central Library & arts Centre. 10.30am.

21 Feb
The Restoration of Cromford Mill. Lecture by Darrell Clark. SYIHS, Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. 7.30pm £1 admission charge for non-SYIHS members.

28 Feb
The Development of the Miner’s Safety Lamp. Joseph Bramah Lecture by Dr Jim McQuaid. Cooper Gallery, Church Street, Barnsley 7pm.

17 Mar
Clock Making in the Dales in the 18th & 19th Centuries. Lecture by Derek Clabburn. Skipton & Craven Historical Society, Swadford Centre, Swadford Street, Skipton. 7.30pm.

22 Mar
Reflections on the British Iron & Steel Research Association. 14th Dr Kenneth Barraclough Memorial Lecture by Don Spenceley. Holiday Inn Royal Victoria Hotel, Sheffield. 5.30pm for 6pm.

2-3 Apr
AIA Ironbridge weekend. Held at the Ironbridge Institute, Coalbrookdale on the theme of railway structures. Further details available later from Margaret Tylee.

9 Apr
Friends of St Aidan’s BE1150 Dragline. Vintage Excavator Trust Open Day on Site. St Aidans, near Swillington, Leeds. For details ? 01482 823831.

18 Apr
Cleveland Iron & Steel. Lecture by John Harrison. SYIHS, Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. 7.30pm. £1 admission charge for non-SYIHS members.

14 May
IHS Excursion to Selby. Meet 1.30pm Market Cross, Selby Abbey.

16 May
Grinding & Tilting at Wisewood Forge, Loxley, Sheffield: recent archaeological investigations. Lecture by Richard O’Neill. SYIHS, Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. 7.30pm. £1 admission charge for non-SYIHS members.

11-12 June
Landscape Archaeology of the Textile Industry in Craven. YAHS Study Weekend led by Erik Matthews. Saturday lecture day at Claremont followed by Sunday field visits. Fee expected to be between £20-£25 including lunch on both days. If you interested please contact Erik Matthews, 1 Chapel House, 5 The Green, Brompton, Northallerton, DL6 2QT.



Forgotten Mines of Sheffield by Ray Battye, published by ALD Design & Print, 2004, 117pp. ISBN 1 901587 40 1, £9.99

Sheffield is not a town traditionally associated with mining and this book examines the rise and decline of ganister and pot clay mining and processing on the western fringes of Sheffield. Around Stocksbridge, Oughtibridge, Wadsley, Loxley, Stannington, Ecclesall Woods and Totley areas this extractive industry in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries was a thriving concern before declining over the last 50 years. Gannister (or ganister - the spelling varies) is one of a series of fire clays used as a refractory material, it is a highly siliceous, bedded sedimentary rock with the percentage of silica ranging from 89-96%. Pot clay is a similar fire clay used as a refractory material but with more alumina and less silica. Both were used in iron and steel making as furnace linings.

The book describes the production of the clays, their uses, a detailed history of the Bramall Company which dated from 1836, descriptions of the mines and their working conditions. The book is well illustrated with maps and photographs and will enable the reader to identify the remains of the industry on the ground today. Possibly more for the specialist reader but certainly of interest to me because several of the mines were situated in the area close to where I live. Likely to be available only from bookshops in the Sheffield area, but available direct from the author at 78 Towngate Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35 0AR price £9.99 (+ £2.01 postage).


Sheffield by Ruth Harman and John Minnis. Pevsner Architectural Guide, published by Yale University Press, 2004, 324pp. ISBN 0 30010585 1, £9.99

Not only is the book designed as a guide for exploring the buildings of Sheffield and its surrounding suburbs it also includes sections describing key topics and themes. For those interested in industrial history there are good descriptions of the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Cutlery Workshops and of the various steelmaking processes – cementation, crucible, Bessemer, open hearth and electric arc. The book gives a description and history of some of Sheffield’s famous buildings and describes a series of city centre walks with details of the buildings and their use. For example walk 5, covering the castle and the Wicker, includes the buildings around the Sheffield Canal Basin and walk 6, Scotland Street to Neepsend, includes the Cornish Place works of James Dixon who made Britannia metal, silver plate and cutlery and the Globe Works of Ibbotson and Roebank who made edge tools.

Further afield, the description of the buildings of the Lower Don Valley takes in many steel works, as well as the Don Valley Stadium and the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, the latter built on the site of the East Hecla steelworks.

The book is a handy paperback size for carrying on a walk and is incredible value for the quality of the content, photographs and diagrams. I look forward expectantly for the arrival of the Leeds guide.

Moving Manchester: aspects of the history of transport in the city and region since 1700 edited by Derek Brumhead and Terry Wyke, published by the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 298pp, £21.00. Publication expected January 2005

I have received a flyer for this publication which consists of 15 original essays that provide perspectives on the transport system underpinning the development of Manchester from the 18th to 20th centuries. Contributions include The Rise and Fall of the Manchester Motor Industry by David George; Canal Restoration in the North West since the 1970s by John Fletcher and The Impact of the Railway on late Victorian Manchester by Derek Brumhead.

Orders can be sent to the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3HY. Cheques should be made payable to the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society and include £4.00 for postage & packing.



David George has kindly arranged two excursions for us later this year.

Walking Tour of Selby – Saturday 14 May 2005

As well as being a market town, Selby has also been a thriving port with a shipbuilding industry despite being about 60 miles from the sea. The Selby Canal was completed in 1778 and linked the River Ouse to the Aire. The Leeds to Selby Railway was the first passenger line in Yorkshire and travellers initially transferred to packet boats for the continuation of their journey by water to Hull. The original railway terminus of 1834 is now a warehouse. The through station for the opening of the Hull and Selby Railway was built in 1840. There should be plenty to see and we shall meet at the Market Cross outside Selby Abbey at 1.30pm. David will lead a two hour walk around Selby taking in the Selby Canal, the shipyard, first railway station and swingbridge. It is suggested that members make their own arrangements for lunch beforehand, perhaps visiting the Abbey, before meeting David at 1.30pm.

Visit to Gibsons Mill, Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge – Sunday 26 June 2005

Meet at the Lodge Gates car park at 1.20pm. David and Jonathan Orford will lead a walk in the area of Gibson’s Mill which is currently being restored by The National Trust and is due to be completed by June 2005. The Mill was built around 1800; it was driven by an internal waterwheel and produced cotton cloth up until 1890. It then took on a new lease of life by becoming an entertainment venue with dining rooms, a dance hall, roller skating rink, refreshment kiosks and boating on the mill pond.

For more details, contact David George 0161 7909904.



Association for Industrial Archaeology 2004 Annual Conference and associated programme, 13-19August 2004

The AIA 2004 conference focussed on the IA of Hertfordshire and the Lea Valley and broke with tradition by being held in mid August instead of the usual early September slot. It was held at the de Havilland Campus of the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield, so called because the campus was a new build on the site of the old de Havilland airfield. The timing may have been different but the format remained the same with lectures and excursions starting from the Friday to the following Thursday, I attended from Friday – Tuesday.

Friday evening saw the delegates assemble to hear two introductory lectures. The first by our section member Tim Smith examined the industry of Hertfordshire. Not surprisingly the proximity of London has had a major influence on Hertfordshire industries, particularly given the number of navigable rivers, canals and railway lines that pass through Hertfordshire from London. Hertfordshire has no building stone but there is much use of chalk, flint, brick and timber. Tim showed examples of corn mills, paper mills, silk mills, the malting industry, printing, the manufacture of straw hats and brought the story up to date with engineering, car and aircraft design and manufacture and the film industry. Tim was followed by Jim Lewis who spoke about the Lea Valley and its role in technological revolution. There was evidence that the world’s first monorail system was in operation across the Lea Valley in 1825 In 1816 the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield was established, this was where the famous Lee-Enfield rifle was made and production of small arms on the site continued until 1988. At Ponders End, Edison and Swan manufactured electric light bulbs from 1886 and in 1904 the world’s first thermionic valve was patented by Ambrose Fleming. This innovation was followed by the development of the world’s first vacuum flask in 1917 by James Dewer. Also in Enfield was the Thorn EMI Ferguson Building (now a Safeway/Morrison) where the world’s first colour TV was produced. The River Lea enters the Thames at Bow Creek via the Bow Back Rivers were there were tide mills; the Three Mills still survive. Both lectures gave a good introduction of what we could look forward to during the conference.

On Saturday morning there were four lectures. The first given by Jonathan Smith, Hertfordshire’s County Planning archaeologist was entitled The Industrial Age Archaeology of Hertfordshire and the Planning Process. He gave an outline of the planning process referring to planning law and the planning policy guidance notes issued by government, PPG 15 and 16 are particularly relevant. Hertfordshire has 200 ancient monuments, 8,000 listed buildings and 180 conservation areas but very few of these have any industrial connections. There is also great pressure on the use of brown field sites for commuter housing. Mr Smith illustrated the problems faced in protecting industrial sites by three case studies. The Sun print works in Watford developed the photogravure process but closed in the 1980s. All that remains now is the clock tower and pump house but the site has been fully recorded including oral history records. The second study was of the Ovaltine factory which had seen many phases of development. The recording had included the egg farm, dairy form and workers housing. The third study was of the Gate Studios in Borehamwood, an early example (1928) of a film studio. Amber Patrick gave the next lecture on Hertfordshire’s Malting Industry. She examined the industry in comparison with the national picture. The malting industry was an important Hertfordshire industry with 80 sites being identified, some dating back to the 13th century. Good quality barley was available and the proximity of London with navigable river access meant there was a ready market. Amber described the various developments in the industry including the use of woven wire drying floors. In the late 19th century multi storey malthouses became common. Although the industry has virtually ceased there were still some fine examples of the buildings to see in Ware and Bishop’s Stortford.

After a break for coffee and a browse of the displays and bookstalls, the conference reconvened to hear Richard Hills speak on Paper-Making in Hertfordshire. Paper had been made in Hertfordshire for over 500 years. There were two important reasons for this – the abundance of clear, hard water from the surrounding chalk hills and the ease of obtaining cast off linen from London. The first paper mill was established in Hertford by John Tate at the end of the 15th century, but the mill reverted to corn milling after his death. In the 17th century use was made of the clear streams to make hand made paper and by 1800 there were13 paper mills on the River Colne and its tributaries the Gade, Bulbourne and Chess. John Dickinson established his first paper mill in 1808 at Apsley Mill and the Foudrinier brothers leased Frogmore Mill and introduced the first paper making machine here in 1803. As a result of mechanisation, by 1825 the price of paper had fallen by 600%. John Dickinson invented a cutting machine and in 1839 a machine to insert metal thread into paper. In the mid 19th century wood pulp and esparto fibres were used in papermaking, they had to be treated with caustic soda which resulted in increased effluent. By 1921 most of the mills had closed but Frogmore Mill survived using wood pulp to make bus tickets. By 1931 there were 4 mills in the John Dickinson company producing 30 different products. However by the 1990s all the mills operating on a commercial basis had closed down and now the paper we use is imported. The final lecture of the morning was given by Brenda Buchanan on Gunpowder in the Landscape. Dr Buchanan focussed her talk on the Waltham Abbey Gunpowder Works the most important and long-lived of the 14 known gunpowder sites in the Lea Valley. Gunpowder had been produced at Waltham Abbey since the mid 15th century and the site was purchased by the Board of Ordnance in 1787 and remained in operation for the manufacture of cordite and other explosives until 1943. It became a research establishment and the site finally closed in 1991. The site covers 172 acres and is now held by a trust. Although some of the site had been sold, mostly for housing, what remains contains some 300 structures of which 21 are grade I or grade II* listed. Dr Buchanan gave a brief history of gunpowder manufacture stressing the importance of getting the correct grain size and proportions of the three ingredients – saltpetre (75%), sulphur (10%) and charcoal (15%). The charcoal was produced from alder, willow or dogwood and the sulphur was imported from Iceland or Italy. Water was used both as a method of transportation and power.

Saturday afternoon saw the conference split into three parties to visit either the Apsley Paper Trail, the Leighton Buzzard Railway or the Ware Maltings and New River. I joined the Apsley Paper Trail which is a project to link the two historic sites of Frogmore Mill and Apsley Mill on the River Gade. The brochure describes the project as becoming a centre of excellence for the Design, Publishing, Packaging, Paper, Post and Digital Technology sectors of the industry. We didn’t see much of that but had a fascinating talk about Frogmore Mill and a tour of the mill, unfortunately there was no time to walk along the river to Apsley Mill. The mill still makes specialist quality paper using a 30 yard long Foudrinier machine and we all came away with samples! We then drove to Redbournbury Mill on the River Ver. The mill was rebuilt and extended in 1790 and for many years was worked by the only lady miller in England until she retired aged 89 in 1985. Restoration started in 1987 but was almost destroyed by fire. Fortunately a grant from English Heritage enabled the restoration of this grade II* listed building to be completed. Abstraction from the river has caused it to dry up completely in 1992 and milling is now carried out using a Crossley oil engine to generate electricity.

Following an excellent conference dinner on Saturday evening, proceedings continued on Sunday morning with the presentations of the AIA awards and the AGM. The final session of the main conference was the annual Rolt Memorial Lecture, which was given by Dr Denis Smith, on Landscapes with Writers: Engineering and the Industrial Landscape in English Literature. De Smith is Chairman of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society and he was assisted in the presentation by Tom Rolt’s widow Sonia. His lecture looked at industry with a different slant by examining how it had been portrayed in literature (similar to the approach that David George gave in his recent lecture to the section when focussing on Shirley and Inheritance). Examples from literature were read by Sonia Rolt and included works by Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Mrs Gaskell, Arnold Bennett and George Eliot.

Sunday afternoon’s visits programme gave a choice of Waltham Abbey Gunpowder Mills, Enfield and Whitewebbs or Luton. I visited Waltham Abbey where our guide was Wayne Cocroft who led the RCHME team which recorded the site and investigated its history during the site decontamination works in 1993. We had a fascinating afternoon, exploring the displays and gunpowder manufacturing buildings and then taking a land train to see the northern part of the site which is designated as a nature reserve and SSSI but has extensive remains of structures associated with gunpowder and cordite manufacture. The site also has an extensive network of waterways used to transport materials around the site. (For members wanting to know more about Waltham Abbey two publications by Wayne Cocroft The Royal Gunpowder Factory: Waltham Abbey, Essex published by RCHME 1993, or Dangerous Energy published by English Heritage in 2000 are recommended.)

After dinner on Sunday were two lectures. The first by Philip Birtles, Chairman of the de Havilland Museum covered The aviation industry in Hertfordshire. Having worked in the industry, he was well placed to give a good illustrated overview, focusing mainly on the history of the de Havilland company and its planes such as the Moth, Mosquito and Comet and airfields including Hatfield, Leavesden, Radlett and of course Luton. The lecture ended with a plug for the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre, the oldest aircraft museum in the country situated at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. The site was used by de Havilland in 1939 for the development of a wooden high speed bomber and later the Horsa glider used in the D Day invasion, the wood being obtained locally. The second lecture was Bletchley Park and Enigma by Hugh Davies. As the title indicates this was a history of the establishment and work of the famous code breaking centre, together with the development of the Enigma machine and Colossus, the world’s first computer. At its height over 12,000 people worked here and the site is now a heritage centre run by a charitable trust with exhibitions and guided tours.

The choice or tours for Monday was Stort Valley Maltings or Luton and Bletchley Park. I chose the latter and we started at the Luton Museum in Westcombe Park to view the nationally important collection relating to hats and the hat industry. Hats made from straw plaits were common in the early 19th century and their manufacture was a major activity for women and children in the villages of south Bedfordshire and north Hertfordshire. It was easy to set up small businesses and there was increased growth in the late 19th century with the import of cheap plait from the Far East and the adaptation of the sewing machine to the sewing of hats. In the early part of the 20th century there were 800 hat workshops in Luton most employing less than 5 people. The industry moved from straw to felt hats and declined in the 1950s, however there are still hat factories working in Luton and after viewing the museum we were taken on a guided walk through the main hat factory area. Most were extremely small, looking no different to an ordinary house from the front, but with a small workshop attached at the back. (A good leaflet describing the Luton Hat Trail is available from the museum if you are ever in Luton). The afternoon saw us driving through the roundabouts of Milton Keynes in the rain to Bletchley Park. Having recently seen a film about Alan Turing, it was fascinating to see the hut where he had worked and a real Enigma machine. We also had an excellent description from an ex-Post Office research engineer on how a team had worked on the reconstruction of the Colossus computer. This was delivered while he stood in front of the computer which took up most of a large room and used up most of the available stock of valves left in the country.

In the evening Brian Strong gave a history of Three Mills and the London Distilling Industry. The Three Mills complex stands at the head of Bow Creek where the River Lea enters the Thames, It is made up of the House Mill and Clock Mill (the third mill has gone) both are tide mills. The House Mill
built in 1776 on the site of an earlier mill was rebuilt after a fire in 1804. It contains four undershot waterwheels and is grade I listed. The Clock mill was rebuilt in 1817 with a wooden clock turret is grade II listed. A distillery was established on the site in 1727 producing alcohol for sale for rectifying into gin and for industrial use. Mr Strong described the distilling process explaining how it expanded in the 17th century due to the influence of the Dutch king. Interestingly anyone could set up a distillery after giving 10 days notice to the Excise. Other uses of the output from the distillery included the manufacture of perfume. The Three Mills complex has been restored by the River Lea Tidal Mills Trust, but unfortunately there is no money for the restoration of the machinery. The final lecture of the day was on the Grand Junction Canal in Hertfordshire by Alan Faulkner who is the author of a book on the canal. The Grand Junction Canal formed part of the Grand Union Canal, the section between the Thames and Rickmansworth opened in 1796, extending to Kings Langley in 1797 and reaching the summit at Tring in 1799. The canal rises 380 feet from the Thames to Tring through 55 locks. Slides were shown illustrating the route including the Wendover Arm which leaked and is now dry. In 1998 a trust was established to restore the canal which closed to traffic in 1981. In its heyday the canal was busy with various cargoes including grain to the Weetabix factory at Wellingborough, esparto sheets to the Crossley paper mills and lime juice to Rose’s at Broxmoor. Factories such as the Ovaltine factory were built alongside it to take advantage of ease of bulk freight movement The talk ended on a more promising note with the expectation that a new contract to move aggregate to Uxbridge was a possibility.

The conference programme continued after I left with visits to West Hertfordshire, Hendon, the Lea Valley and Garden Cities together with several evening lectures. Once again a full and interesting programme with an extensive well produced guide, a copy of the Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Hertfordshire and the Lea Valley has been deposited in the YAHS library. The 2005 conference is being held nearer to home; based at the University of Nottingham between 2-8 September it will focus on the IA of Derbyshire (apparently there is no suitable accommodation actually in Derbyshire to house the conference). Note the date in your diaries and details will be available later.

Margaret Tylee

The Archaeology of Industrial Processes. Conference jointly organised by the Society for Post Medieval Archaeology, the Historical Metallurgy Society, Ironbridge Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd (PCA).
Held 2 October 2004 at the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC)

The Museum of London curates the largest collection of excavated post-medieval material in the world. The material is held at LAARC which opened in 2002 and is situated beside the Regent’s Canal on Eagle Wharf Road to the north of Old Street, Islington. Here the site records, grey literature reports, artefacts and environmental remains from over 5,000 archaeological investigations from the City of London and its 32 Boroughs are held. There are over 120,000 boxes of artefacts stored on over 10km of shelving. LAARC was an appropriate host for this conference.

Battersea was home for a short while in the 18th century to the enamelling industry. The mass production of boxes and trinkets using a transfer process was a new emerging industry and several artefacts were available to view. The factory was replaced by a sulphuric acid producer and finally by Price’s Candle Works, the site is still being investigated by PCA. Marilyn Palmer re-reviewed earlier work comparing the archaeology of lead and tin dressing in the 19th century. Using photographs as recent as the 1980s this showed what has now disappeared from various sites.

A truly cutting edge piece of work came from Sheffield University’s Hugh Willmott. His work revealed by going back to long stored artefacts from investigations carried out in the 1970s and using new techniques, previous ideas about glass production sites now lost could be re-evaluated. This revealed a much wider spread around the city walls of the growing English glass industry from the early 17th century. Both Gustav Milne and Roy Thomson’s papers were well polished. Though each one had various interesting ideas, Milne’s showed how the skilled labour force of shipyard workers became ship breakers when wooden boats ended their lives, he emphasised the importance of this trade to the Empire since ships and trade route protection were vital. Roy Thomson’s talk showed how important leather was in the post-medieval period and what exactly went into its production.

It is often said archaeology is the study of failed processes, the successful ones become replaced and adapted as they develop, leaving no trace of the original. PCA Ltd gave support to this idea showing how much of the Woolwich Arsenal re-invented itself by a rapid replacement of plant and buildings. Machine beds put into foundations in 1908 were outmoded by the 1930s as the arms industry progressed. Unfortunately being an arsenal and secret, little written work exists but even so, Chris Mayo’s presentation gave a fascinating insight to its development over the years, still an on going investigation. The final presentation of the day was by Messrs Dawson and Kent, the duo from Staffordshire University whose work on bottle kilns and pottery manufacture is well known. They gave an overview of the development of the bottle kiln, unusually starting in Fulham, London in 1893 and working backwards to early 17th century European designs.

A well paced day allowing time to explore the site of the old Gainsborough film studios and the various, rather sad, house boats made from old Thames lighters, so out of their context and once such a vital part of the Pool of London and its long lost docks and wharves.

Adrian Bailey