Abstracts of Volume XXXI 2009

Issue No 1, Spring 2009

The Rolt Memorial Lecture 2008
‘Dan Dare’s Lair~ The Industrial Archaeology of Britain’s Post-War Technological Renaissance

The theme of the 2008 Association for Industrial Archaeology conference seminar was ‘Modern military matters’. Modern military sites have much in common with large industrial sites. They are places of employment for many hundreds of people, incorporate complex technologies, and are also creators of new landscapes and communities. This paper explores the places created and used to develop and manufacture many of the products that were portrayed as representing the rebirth of post-war Britain as a major industrial power. Many of the new industries were based on technologies developed in the Second World War, including radar, jet and rocket engines, and military and civil atomic power. Politically, the World Wars had left a legacy of heavy government involvement in scientific research establishments and the state as the main customer for their products. In the post-war decades, this relationship was strengthened as the development of high-tech weaponry was seen as one means of countering the growing threat from the Soviet Union and her allies.

Warehouses, Wharves and Transport Infrastructure in Manchester During the Industrial Revolution:
The Rochdale Canal Company’s Piccadilly Basin, 1792-1856

Manchester, given its importance to British industrialisation, offers a useful platform to refine our understanding of inland navigation in the 18th and 19th centuries. Drawing on the archives of the Rochdale Canal Company, this article provides a new historical study of Manchester’s canal-transport infrastructure in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, complementing industrial archaeologists’ recent research. The Rochdale Canal, completed in 1804, was one of four major canals that served Manchester in the early 19th century, affording the town greatly improved access to eastern England and its commercial ports. This article analyses the establishment of the Rochdale Canal Company’s Piccadilly basin from 1792-1856, a period when the company built eight multi-storeyed warehouses and laid out 25 wharves to facilitate its trade. The article assesses the basin’s economic functions, drawing comparisons with Manchester’s other canal basins.

Excavations at Lochrin Distillery, Edinburgh

Lochrin Distillery was founded by John Haig around 1780, at a time when the scale of Scottish distilleries was increasing dramatically and distilling was, briefly, the most significant industry in the land. Nevertheless, frequent increases in excise duty meant that these were challenging times for distillers, and Lochrin was mothballed and re-opened several times before finally closing in 1848. By the end of the century, the distillery buildings had been swept away. In 2005, Abercorn Archaeology LLP excavated parts of the former distillery prior to redevelopment, concentrating on the still house. Remains of six still bases considered to derive from three phases of construction were recorded, together with the footings of a worm tub and a large basement structure. The excavations have clarified the evolution of the distillery, confirming that large lowland distilleries of the period were dynamic enterprises, frequently adapted in the light of the challenges facing the industry.

A Fading Memory: The North Yorkshire Coastal Alum Industry in the Light of Recent Analytical Field Survey by English Heritage

For over 250 years from 1604, the North York Moors were the centre of the English alum industry. The principal use of alum was as a mordant to fix and enhance the colour of dyed cloth. It was made by quarrying, burning and steeping vast quantities of shale to produce an impure solution of aluminium sulphate; then, at alum houses, the liquor was concentrated by boiling, and an alkali added to form alum. The North Yorkshire quarries exploited both inland and coastal shale exposures, but the most successful quarry alum house complexes (alum works) were situated on or near the coast. Even when operational, the latter had to contend with periodic infrastructure losses from landslips and cliff falls; with closure, they now form a diminishing archaeological resource steadily sliding into the sea. This paper reviews the present understanding of the industrial process in the light of recent analytical field survey by English Heritage of four hitherto poorly recorded works, three of which are coastal. In so doing, it highlights the disproportionate loss of certain classes of features at the coastal sites, and advocates the need to do more to compare the latter to their inland counterparts, to place the industry in its wider British and European context, and to examine it from an economic as well as a technological perspective.

Issue No 2, Autumn 2009

Water-Power as a Factor of Industrial Location in Early Medieval Ireland: The Environment of the Early Irish Water Mill

It has long been known that certain water-powered mill sites, owing to the suitability of their water supply, have continued in use since the later medieval period But when, exactly, did medieval millwrights begin to make empirical observations on the efficacy of a particular source of hydro-power and, indeed, on the very site of the mill itself? In the present paper, important new archaeological evidence from early medieval Ireland (c. AD 600-1100), is used to demonstrate that conscious decisions on the location of mills employing various types of freshwater and estuarine supplies were already being made by the early decades of the 7th century AD. Furthermore, not only were increasingly more challenging locations being adapted for use by early medieval Irish millwrights, but the availability of water-power had already become an important factor in the choice of site for larger monasteries.

John Smeaton’s Snuff Mill at Chimney Mills, Newcastle upon Tyne:
Building Recording and Excavations on the Site of the Former Leazes Brewery

This article analyses the results of a programme of archaeological building recording and evaluation on the site of the Leazes Brewery, established in 1837 using premises built c. 1782 as a water-powered snujif mill to a design by John Smeaton (1724-1792), possibly his only mill designed for this use. Smeaton is of national significance as a designer of wind- and water-powered industrial machinery and buildings, and he was among the first to describe himself as a ‘civil engineer’ and as a ‘professional’. The only part of the snuff mill still surviving above ground is the Grade II listed Leazes, or Transport, House. Two unlisted parallel brick-built ranges to the north-west of Leazes House, built after c. 1782 but before 1831 and forming part of the later use of the snuff manufactory, had been incorporated into the Leazes Brewery and latterly Newcastle University’s Jones Marine Engineering Laboratories. These ranges were demolished after recording in March 2008.

The Last Mill on the Eden: Guardbridge Paper Mill, Fife

The recording of Guardbridge Paper Mill was a joint field recording initiative between the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and of Wales (RCAHMS and RCAHMW), to coincide with the centenary year of both organisations. Its aim was to foster an exchange of approaches to, and techniques of site recording, in particular industrial process recording, and to explore the practicality of making a worthwhile record of operations of a large, complex working site within limited field time.
The paper mill at Guardbridge was chosen for recording as it fulfilled several criteria: the works was considered to be of historical importance as it had been in existence on the same site since the 1870s; there were many and varied buildings and structures illustrating the continuous development of the site; it was easily accessible and relatively compact and it was still active manufacturing its original product. The site was unique, and it was decided that a record should be made on those grounds alone, yet typical in that standard items of plant were used here as elsewhere. The machinery in use spanned a wide date-range and, although everyone is familiar with the finished product and the process is broadly understood in general, it is a much more complex process than at first perceived and thus worth recording from an archaeological perspective so that others may use the results to identify features at similar types of site.
As is so often the case with industrial sites, the buildings are generally of secondary importance to the processes carried on within and this should be reflected in the type of recording undertaken. In particular, full advantage should be taken of any opportunity to record while operations are still active. It was considered an appropriate time to share these experiences and techniques in the field.

A Slate Saw Mill at Twll Coed Slate Quarry in the Nantlle Valley, Gwynedd

A 19th-century slate sawing machine from the saw mill at the disused Twll Coed Slate quarry, in the Nantlle valley, Gwynedd, is to be added to the National Collection of slate quarrying artefacts at the Welsh Slate Museum, Gilfach Ddu, Llanberis. The opportunity was taken before its removal to carry out a detailed study of the machine itself and to carry out a photographic record of the mill building. Whilst the slate industry of Wales has had the benefit of much archaeological study, this has tended to concentrate on whole-quarry surveys. The opportunity to carry out a detailed recording of a slate-saw table and the mill building in which it was housed prior to the removal of the machine sheds light not only on the process by which the industry was mechanised in its 19th-century heyday but also on the way in which it reverted to smaller-scale technology in the harsher climate of the 20th century. Slate saw mills were central to this process, marking the move away from working by barely capitalised independent quarryman-proprietors to highly capitalised factory type production, and in this case a reversion to smaller production units thereafter.