Abstracts of Volume XXVI 2004

Issue No 1, Spring 2004

The Iron Bridge – New research in the Ironbridge Gorge

The paper outlines new discoveries that emerged during the recent historic building survey of the Iron Bridge in Shropshire – both from site observation and the archives, plus the subsequent phase of experimental archaeology that became possible through finding of a BBC Timewatch programme, and the new thinking that derived from the experiment.

Town and Factory: An Historic Building Survey of John Paton’s Kilncraigs Woollen Mill in Alloa, Clackmannanshire

A programme of historic building recording took place at Kilncraigs, later Patons & Baldwins woollen mill, in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, in advance of the redevelopment of the site as a supermarket. This project involved a full architectural, historical and social study of the complex, which ranged from several stone-built mills of the 19th century to modern single-storey spinning-sheds of the 1980s and which had for over two centuries been a striking and socially i9mportsant landmark for this small town on the foothills of the Ochills. The recording work carried out by AOC Archaeology was to a specification laid out by Clackmannanshire Council. This article has been sub-divided into four sections. The first part of the article deals with the background surrounding the project and what was required to record the mill in its entirety prior to demolition. The second part of the article deals with the methodology employed on-site during the archaeological works. Thirdly, the wool industry in Scotland is discussed and the role that Kilncraigs mill had in this industry and in Alloa. Finally, the article concentrates on the architectural history and development of one of the most intact remains of the woollen industry throughout the last two centuries in Central Scotland.

Estate Ruins as Loci for Industrial Archaeology in Jamaica

This paper, through an examination of industrially related artefacts, physical remains or above-ground exposed structures and machinery on sites of selected former slave sugar estates in Jamaica, argues that there are excellent loci for industrial archaeology in the island. The recording, study, interpretation and possible preservation of these sites within their social and historical contexts will invariably indicate not only the rich industrial heritage, but also the technological capabilities of the sugar industry during slavery. By providing technical information on infrastructure and equipment, industrial archaeology will enable the economic historian better to discuss the generally held view that slavery and planter conservatism retarded qualitative change.

Monasteries of Manufacture: Questioning the Origins of English Industrial Architecture

Studies of industrial sites have tended to focus on purely functional understandings of their origins, layout, design and meaning. Industrial buildings have often been seen as an entity apart from other forms of post-medieval architectural expression. This is symptomatic of the isolation of industrial archaeology, not only from the broader spectrum of archaeological thought but also from disciplines which strive towards a deeper understanding of the development of consumer society. This paper explores the origins of the typical industrial complex, arguing that elements of medieval cognition were retained into the 19th century.

Issue No 2, Autumn 2004

Excavating the Iconic: The Rediscovery of the Fairbottom Bobs Colliery Pumping Engine

Steam engines were one of the first machine-types to attract the attention of antiquarians and later Industrial Archaeologists. From the first Newcomen engine in 1712 to the 20th century steam turbine, these objects still exert a fascination for archaeologists and historians of the Industrial Era. None more so than the Newcomen or more properly the atmospheric steam engine. Such engines were described by L.T.C. Rolt as one of the prehistoric forefathers of the Industrial Revolution period steam engine. Only a handful of examples remain standing today, and amongst the better known are engines from 1791 in the Science Museum in London; from 1787 still in situ at Elsecar in Barnsley; the Coventry Canal Engine from Hawksbury; and Fairbottom Bobs from Ashton-under-Lyne, now in the Dearborn Museum in Detroit. Of these only the site of one, Fairbottom Bobs, has been the subject of modern excavation and historical study although it is in the nature of archaeological research that at the time of the site’s excavation in 1999 the iconic status of this particular steam engine was not fully appreciated.

The International Collieries Study: part of the Global Strategy for a balanced World Heritage List

The Global Strategy to attain a balanced World Heritage List has been running for ten years. Now is an appropriate time to review what has been achieved in relation to Industrial Archaeology and to make available a study which only appeared in final form on the internet during 2003. No less than half of the twelve studies so far produced as part of this strategy concern the functional and social elements of the industrial heritage. These, and an earlier general industrial archaeological advisory list produced in 1994, have provided the context for almost all industrial archaeological sites nominated by national governments for inscription on the World Heritage List in the last decade.

The End Of An Era – Elk Mill 1926-1999

Elk Mill, Oldham, built 1925-1928 was the last traditional cotton spinning mill to be built in Lancashire, the last to spin cotton on mules and when it ceased operations at the end of 1998 it was one of the last cotton spinning mills still operating in Lancashire. The mill was traditional in construction with cast iron columns supporting steel girders, although the floors were of mesh reinforced concrete. Also, although spinning coarse to medium counts of yarn, it was equipped in a traditional way with spinning mules, which were still considered to provide the best way of producing the types of yarn the mill was to produce. The only non-traditional feature was the power plant; this was a steam turbine but it still drove the mill via a rope race. From the late 1950s onwards the mill was progressively modernised, enabling it to survive in operation until 1998.

The ‘Contemporary Archaeology of Mell Square – Developing an Interpretive Framework and Research Strategy for the ‘Preservation by Record’ of a 1960s Shopping Precinct in the Westr Midlands

The term ‘Industrial archaeology’ often infers a more recent past than that of the wider discipline of archaeology. This paper pushes the boundary still further and attempts to collapse the notion of temporal distance in archaeology by addressing the contemporary-past – an apparent oxymoron that questions the perceived gap between past and present and places interest in those sites and events that are often seen as ‘everyday and taken for granted’.
In this paper, Mell Square, a late 20th century shopping precinct, is examined as a case study for the transfer of an interpretive theoretical framework into archaeological practice. The result is an emancipatory project that gives voice to the fine grain detail of individuals and socially constructed meanings in contemporary settings. The outcome is a reflective process which can act as a ‘camera-obscura’ on our own society and identities and also provides an holistic archive of ephemeral material for the interest of future generations.