Abstracts of Volume XXXIII 2011

Issue No 1, Spring 2011

Remembering Rolt: A Symposium in Honour of the 100th Anniversary of L. T. C. Rolt’s Birth – A Pioneer of Industrial Archaeology

The year 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of L. T C. ‘Tom’ Rolt, pioneer of industrial archaeology and transport conservation during the mid-20th century, and a co-founder of the Association for Industrial Archaeology. This seemed a fitting point at which to pause in the Association’s Rolt Memorial Lecture series, established in his honour in 1975, in order to spend some time looking back on the influence and personal legacy of Tom Rolt. This paper combines six personal reminiscences of some of his surviving contemporaries, placing Rolt’s pioneering work in industrial and transport conservation in a more human context.

Archaeological Investigations at Swalwell Ironworks, Tyne and Wear

A programme of archaeological investigations was undertaken at Sands Road, Swalwell in Gateshead to examine part of the Swalwell Ironworks founded by Ambrose Crowley in 1707, ahead of the redevelopment of the site as a supermarket. The well-preserved sub-surface remains of buildings dating from the earliest phase of the ironworks were revealed including the eastern part of the Grand Warehouse, constructed by 1713, which was divided into two parts by an undercover keel dock, with the eastern portion functioning as a wharf building for keels to load and unload goods. The combined archaeological, documentary and cartographic evidence demonstrated that this building had been used until the latter part of the 20th century and had been subject to a series of modifications throughout the life of the ironworks and during subsequent activity at the site. Also revealed was a forge building, parts of which dated back to the earliest phase of the ironworks, although this building had evidently been subject to many phases of alteration, repair and rebuilding. Within the forge was a chimney dated to the second half of the 19th century by stamped firebricks. Archacometallurgical analysis of slags from within the chimney suggested that this was from a puddling furnace. Comprehensive historical research was also undertaken and this revealed a very rich documentary and cartographic archive, which generally corresponded very well with the archaeological remains.

From Slitting Mill to Alloy Steel: the Development of Swalwell Ironworks

This reviews Men of Iron, M. W. Flinn’s 1962 analysis of Swalwell Ironworks and the Crowley organisation of which it formed part, in the light of new information and a different approach. Ambrose Crowley III (1658-1713) developed a major mercantile iron business, supplied by his factories on Tyneside. The first major works, at Winlaton Mill, was started in the 1690s. Swalwell was set up by a separate company, but acquired by Crowley in 1707; he added a forge, Grand Warehouse, and workshops to the pre-existing slitting mill, and his son John (1689-1728) added steel furnaces and a foundry. Further workshop ranges were added until the mid-18th century. The works declined from the later 18th century under the Millington family; an increased emphasis on steel-making from the 1810s heralded conversion into a steelworks and specialist engineering works after buy-out by the final manager for the Millingtons. This works in turn was rebuilt in the 1880s, using gas furnaces and producing alloy steels. The processes of growth and decline were longer and more complex than believed by Flinn, and less completely centred on the achievements of Sir Ambrose Crowley.

The Don Steel Works and Saville Works: Charting the Growth of the Small Sheffield Steel Firm

The rapid recent redevelopment of ‘brownfield’ sites in Sheffield has resulted in the large-scale demolition and clearance of industrial sites and the loss of important sources of information about the city’s historic industries. The ongoing archaeological investigation of former steelmaking, cutlery and edge-tool sites is therefore essential to understanding the complexities of growth, development and diversity of these industries. This paper presents the results of the excavation of three types of Sheffield furnace found at the Don Steel Works and the Saville Works, two 19th-20th-century steel works on Savile Street. The works are notable as case studies of urban industrial development in a burgeoning and technologically advancing era in steel manufacture, and represent the early stages of the rapid mid-19th-century expansion of the Sheffield steel industry.

Issue No 2, Autmn 2011

The Rolt Memorial Lecture 2009
The Death of the Industrial Past?

This paper starts by examining the degree to which the archaeological evidence for the industrial period has disappeared It compares a record of significant industrial sites in Eastern England made in the late 1970s with what survived 30 years later. It then seeks to investigate whether the evident decline in industrial activity and the disappearance of some industries entirely really constitutes the death of the industrial past, or whether it is our perceptions and definitions of what constitutes ‘industry’ and ‘industrial archaeology’ which need examining.

Technological Continuity, Technological ‘Survival’: the Use of Horizontal Mills in Western Ireland, c. 1632-1940

This article discusses the continued use of the early medieval horizontal waterwheelform, well into the post-medieval period in the Atlantic Provinces of the British Isles. It argues that archaeological and documentary evidence demonstrates that the horizontal mills of western Ireland represent the continued use of this technology from the early medieval period in to modern times. Similarly, it argues that the traditional horizontal mills of Scotland and its western islands can, on linguistic grounds, be linked into the same enduring tradition. The continued use of this technology in these societies appears to be as much a product of social context and choice, as it was a technological ‘survival’ in a ‘marginalised’ area.

Excavating the 18th- and 19th-Century Urban Flour Mill: the Example of the Archaeological Investigations at the Former J. A. Symes Factory Site, Highbridge Road, Barking

The area occupied by the former J. A. Symes match factory, Highbridge Road, Barking, was once home to a large steam- and water-powered flourmill. The mill was originally driven by the tidal flow of the River Roding, prior to its expansion and gradual conversion to steam. A residential redevelopment, undertaken in spring 2006, provided an opportunity to conduct a developer-funded archaeological investigation, carried out by Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd The excavation exposed the partial, multi-phase remains of the mill’s below-ground foundations, in particular the evidence for successive power systems. These remains were interpreted with the help of documentary research, demonstrating the complementary nature of these two forms of evidence on an urban industrial site.

The Hawton Gypsum Mill and Developments in 19th-Century Grinding Technology

Hawton Gypsum Mill was formerly part of an extensive complex of gypsum extraction and processing plants that extended over a considerable acreage of south-western Newark in Nottinghamshire (Mill and quarry site, GR SK8014 5070). The sites were interlinkedby a standard-gauge tramway, worked by steam locomotives, enabling the output of the quarries to be matched to the capacities of the mills.
The Hawton Mill was attached to its own quarry, the later of which appears to have been in production since the 1840s. Although the evidence is inconclusive, there may have been a processing mill on the site from the beginning. However, the present mill was probably completed in the second half of the 19th century, possibly after Messrs Cafferata became owners of the site.
The brick building that enclosed the milling machinery followed the local vernacular tradition of industrial buildings. The plant contained within the building, although specifically intended for gypsum reduction, consisted of an installation characteristic of corn milling. This adoption of corn milling technology to refine gypsum is a particularly significant development in the gypsum industry’s history, and there were several similar plants in operation locally until the closing decades of the 20th century.
In addition to the interest that attaches to the use of such machinery for gypsum processing, the mill machinery embodies two further important features of wider consequence for the study of stone milling technology. It represents a type of milling plant that had become virtually standard throughout the cereal milling trade after about 1830. This was the layshaft mill, which used a horizontal main drive shaft carrying several sets of bevel gearwheels, each driving an individual pair of stones. The arrangement of the stones was thus linear as opposed to the circular configuration of stones driven by the great wheel and its upright shaft, the pattern commonly adopted in the 18th century.
The newer type of mill was built entirely of iron, the product of the engineering works, whereas the older upright shaft mill was a traditional millwright’s construction, fabricated on site, largely from timber. The engineer-built, all-iron mill lent itself to modular construction. Increasingly, agricultural and other engineering firms offered such mills as catalogue products available as single stone units or multiples thereof Hawton was clearly of this form with standard elements bolted together in series to create a twin line each of eight stone sets.
The mill with its machinery survived until recently and was surveyed in the year 2000 by Structural Perspectives Ltd. acting as subcontractors to the Archaeology Service of Nottingham County Council. As it stood at the time of the survey, the Hawton Gypsum Mill was reduced to a single block standing isolated at the edge of the recently filled quarry. The building had been heavily vandalized and fire damaged but nevertheless remained substantially intact. The associated ancillary process and other buildings shown on earlier maps and photographs had been recently demolished.