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David Crossley

David Crossley, Honorary Reader in the Department of Archaeology in the University of Sheffield, who died on the 3rd December 2017, was one of the first generation of industrial archaeologists although he would not have described himself as such. He began his university work as an economic historian in Sheffield, where he published with Sidney Pollard in 1969 The Wealth of Britain, 1085-1966. He turned his attention to archaeology but retained his interest in the crucial importance of documentary sources for the later periods of archaeology.

When the CBA managed the national Industrial Monuments Survey in the 1970s he was to advise the Survey Officer, Keith Falconer, regionally, on sites of interest in the Peak District and, nationally, on iron working sites. His expertise in these fields was widely recognised internationally and he contributed valuably to TICCIH 1984 held in New England, USA.

Like many of us in the 1980s, he ran evening classes in industrial archaeology and many of his group took part in the production in 1989 of Water Power on Sheffield Rivers, using both historical documents and fieldwork on some of the rivers which formed the original basis of Sheffield’s iron and steel industry. He played his part in contributing to national organisations, serving as vice chairman of the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and a Trustee of the Ironbridge (Telford) Heritage Foundation and the Association for the History of Glass, as well as chairing the Industrial Archaeology Advisory Panel of English Heritage for six years before he retired from that position in 2011. He worked extensively on the excavation of iron and glass furnaces, writing with Henry Cleere a definitive study in 1985, The Iron Industry of the Weald, published by Leicester University Press. At one time he edited both Post-Medieval Archaeology and Historical Metallurgy, and wrote Post-Medieval Archaeology in Britain in 1990, again published by Leicester University Press and really the first book of its kind on this period of archaeology in the UK.

David was very keen that industrial archaeologists should regard excavation as part of their skills portfolio. In a review of the Historical Association pamphlet by Michael Rix which first popularised the term ‘industrial archaeology’, David wrote in 1967 that: ‘there is a growing feeling that much is being lost in industrial studies by the inability or unwillingness of Industrial Archaeologists to appreciate the benefits which a training in excavation techniques would bring them’. He approved of the amount of archaeological work on industrial sites now carried out by contract archaeologists.

His Rolt Memorial Lecture for the AIA in 1995 was a study of ‘The Fairbanks of Sheffield,: surveyors’ records as a source for the study of regional economic development of the 18th and 19th centuries’ ( published IAR 19: 1997, 5-20). He was still working on these invaluable historical documents in his last years, and will be sadly missed both in Sheffield and nationally.


  1. I first met David Crossley Reader in the Department of Economic and Social History, in the early 1970s. Economic History was a fast growing and dynamic part of the social sciences in the University, with dozens of postgraduates and a strong research ethos. David was always ready to discuss historical and archaeological work within and without the University, and his lectures and seminars were well received and well attended. His research work, covering the middle ages to the industrial revolution, explained the relevance of industrial archaeology and its huge potential to a widening audience. The interconnections of archaeology and the documentary record were vividly brought to life in a succession of books and articles, covering the iron industries of the Sheffield district, the Wealden iron trades, utilising records such as the Fuller family letters and papers, to explore the technology of iron working, water power, techniques of construction and excavation. His wide range and devotion to these subjects, and his buoyant personality, will be sorely missed. From Richard Saville.

  2. I knew David when he was at Cardiff in the 1960s and am verry sorry to learn he has gone. I stayed him and his wife in Sheffield around 1966 on a visit from Canada. I had known his wife (whose name now escapes me) before I met David as she and I worked on a number digs directed by the late Prof Leslie Alcock.

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