Abstracts of Volume XXXV 2013

Issue No 1, May 2013

Bridgewater: the Archaeology of the First Arterial Industrial Canal

This paper reviews, for the first time, the archaeology of the entire length of the Bridgewater Canal, one of the iconic monuments of the British Industrial Revolution. It seeks to review two decades of piecemeal fieldwork along the length of the canal, from Runcorn to Worsley, before looking at the evidence for the construction of the canal, including the aqueducts, emhankments, and warehouses. The study then goes on to look at the technological impact of the canal. It concludes by assessing the Bridgewater in its international context and setting out a research agenda for its future study as a linear transport monument of the Industrial Age.

Telegraphy and Telephones

This paper surveys the emergence of the era of electrical communications, from its beginnings in the 1830s through to the end of analogue technology. The electric telegraph soon became an essential and visible business tool with its network of poles and wires, but it is argued that, as each system was supplanted by the next, the evidence of its existence soon disappeared. The telegraph equipment manufacturers have not necessarily survived either, and a case study of the history of Reid Brothers, Engineers Ltd is given by way of example. Little evidence of the electric telegraph’s built environment now remains in Britain. When the telephone was introduced in Britain in the late 1870s, it was seen by the Post Office as a threat to its monopoly control of the inland electric telegraph system, and a court action which the Post Office won in 1880 had a retarding effect on the development of a national telephone network. The telephone exchange buildings and trunk lines became more prominent than those of the telegraph, but technological improvements caused the open-wire pole routes gradually to disappear. The Post Office created a characteristic architectural style for its buildings, but the independent telephone undertaking in Kingston upon Hull remained distinctively different in this respect. Wireless telegraphy and radio telephony imposed their own new look on the countryside, but this too has disappeared in turn. The author concludes that selected preservation of the buildings and artefacts of superseded telecommunications systems is important for a full understanding of the technology.

Ports – Land and Air

This article presents on overview of the archaeology of ports on land and at sea during the 19th and 20th centuries in Britain. Particular attention is paid to the development of quays, wharves, and staithes, and on land the rise of the airport.

The Archaeology of Communications’ Digital Age

This paper reviews the history of the digital age of communications that began with the invention of the stored program computer in 1948 and is today realised by the World Wide Web, super fast broadband and the smart phone. Taking a predominantly UK focus, the paper examines the key technological advances that were made, where they occurred and what archaeological evidence remains of their existence. The paper begins by examining how digital technology was applied to the telephone network, how that network then provided the means by which early computers could be connected together, and from there to subsequently offer access to information services. Packet switching, the home computer, modems, optical fibre and the Internet are reviewed in terms of their importance in the creation of and growth in the World Wide Web. Finally, the application of digital technology to the mobile phone is discussed in terms of the development of mobile networks and the evolution of the handset into today’s smart phones. The paper concludes by recognising that much of the archaeological evidence of communication’s digital age has already been lost and that urgent action is needed to put in place appropriate preservation strategies.

The Archaeology of Military Communications

The application of wireless communications to the conduct of military operations was one of the transformational technologies of the 20th century. In the UK, despite this importance, it is a topic that has received relatively little attention from historians of technology and industrial archaeologists. This article briefly reviews the development of military communications technology and its archaeological and architectural legacies.

Issue No 2, November 2013

The 20th-Century Revolution in Textile Machines and Processes. Part I: Spinning and Weaving

This paper reviews the textile revolution of the mid-20th century, a subject little studied by archaeologists, unlike the developments of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The consequences of this revolution pose new challenges to the industrial archaeologist, since the legacy is not distinctive buildings and urban landscape, but the machinery and fabrics themselves. This is the first instalment of a two-part study, looking at the development of the spinning and weaving.

Workers’ Housing at Portlaw, County Waterford, Ireland – An Assessment

The following article examines housing in the village of Portlaw, County Waterford. The village was built around a cotton factory by the Malcomson family, prominent industrialists in the south of Ireland. Today, the site is well known as one of Ireland’s largest model villages. Portlaw was built in the 1820s and 1830s, and redesigned in the 1860s. It has been traditionally assumed, as a result of descriptions of contemporary visitors to the site, that the housing in the early village was of a high standard. Timmins’ reassessment of the housing standards in the Ashworth settlements, published in this journal, has shown that archival and historical analysis of housing standards can sometimes be misleading. Descriptions of housing are not always reliable indicators of the reality of working class standards of living. This article examines archival valuation assessments of the houses in the early village of Portlaw to see if a similar pattern occurred in Ireland.

Housing Industrial Workers During the 19th Century: Back-to-back Housing in Textile Lancashire

During the Industrial Revolution period, rows of small houses built for industrial and other workers became a common landscape feature in Britain. Most were through houses, but, in many parts of the country, sizeable numbers were built as back-to-backs. By the early Victorian period, such houses had become associated with high-density and extremely squalid loving conditions in industrial towns and were strongly condemned by contemporaries. Of particularly concern were the health hazards that were seen to arise from a lack of through ventilation. Less well recognised and discussed by historians, however are the-back-to back houses that were associated with rurally-based industry. Focusing on textile Lancashire, this article addresses the theme, demonstrating not only the importance they could have as a component of rural settlement during and beyond the Industrial Revolution era, but also that they came to offer much improved standards of accommodation.

Railways and Mining: the Role of the Train in the Exploitation of the Cerro Muriano Mine (Cordoba, Spain)

Since its inception, the railway has been intimately connected with mining. On one hand, the arrival of trains permitted the large-scale development of numerous mines far from the sea, with the railways facilitating supply delivery to the mine as well as the transport of its products to ports or industrial centres and other interior points. On the other hand, railways depended on the mines being provided with raw materials and fuel. Thus, during the 19th and 20th centuries, a close relationship was established between the two industries, often reflected in the capital invested. In this article, we study this relationship using the example of the British worked Cerro Muriano mine (Cordoba, Spain).