The 20th century saw a profound change in the rural landscape. One of the most significant developments was the rise of tractors and other agricultural machinery, the subsequent construction of new storage sheds and major alterations to earlier structures for garaging and storage, as well as modifications such as the widening of field gates, farm tracks and the removal of hedges. These changes in the landscape are worthy of recording in their own. The combination of farm holdings has seen many farms buildings fall into redundancy. Whilst longer term changes in labour have seen many former farmhands and estate workers cottages fall out of use. In lowland areas many have been reworked as housing or industrial purposes, whilst many in the uplands have been entirely abandoned.
Patterns of forestry and woodland exploitation were transformed in the late 19th and 20th century centuries. Although the collapse of the colliery industry meant a decline in the demand for pit props, there has since been an expansion in the use of softwoods for wood pulp and chipboard. The industry is now more mechanised with a commensurate decline in the size of the work force. Major forests, such as Kielder and Hamsterley, also have a significant role as leisure areas. Modern forest landscapes demand proper recording, with particularly notice being taken of evidence for the infrastructure of the forestry industry, such as forest rides, fences and fire towers.
Although the north-east experienced long-term economic decline since the 19th century, it was particularly badly effected by the impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s. These challenges saw many short- and medium-term interventions into the landscape to try to ameliorate its impacts, including factory building, agriculture and forestry schemes and small- and medium-scale landscape works. These impacts are poorly understood, although recent work is starting to highlight how much may survive from this important aspect of the region’s social history.
The Welfare State marked a high-tide in government investment in social and economic programmes, resulting in substantial construction programmes of social housing, schools, hospitals and road schemes. Much of the resulting building stock was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s but is now reaching the end of its current use life and is either being demolished or heavily renovated. It is important to record such buildings, including both original fixtures and fittings and external designed landscape features as well as evidence for subsequent re-use and reorganisation.
Although increasingly recognised as a period of secularisation, religion remained an important part of the 20th-century life. There is a need for a better understanding of the 20th century use of churches and chapels. This should include recording post-1900s structural alterations and appreciating the value of internal reordering of church space in response to modern liturgical fashions. New churches of all denominations have also been built to meet the needs of expanding suburbs and new towns, particularly following World War II – these need to be monitored for structural change and where appropriate recording carried out.
The 20th century saw the north-east becoming increasingly multi-cultural, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities developed alongside earlier Jewish congregations. All these groups developed centres of worship and devotion – often re-using earlier buildings. As these communities grow, develop and change, their religious needs and demands also change resulting in impacts on their places of worships. It would be useful, where possible to record and understand such changes.
Although ritual and belief have become increasingly disengaged from many people’s lives, burials and cremations are still major events that continue to involve most people in the wider world of religion and ritual. A better understanding of changing fashions in 20th century burial rites should be developed. What has been the impact of secularisation on funerary traditions? A regional survey of crematoria structures should be undertaken. How have non-Christian faith communities dealt with their dead?
The 20th century saw many changes in patterns of local housing in response to a range of factors, including the decline of heavy industries, with its associated demands for regeneration and the rise of the car. One important development in the North-East was the establishment of planned settlements. There are a number of early estates in the region, such as Darras Hall and Gosforth Garden Village, and the Garden City Movement in the North-East is a key research topic. Thomas Sharp, the influential interwar town planner had strong North-East links and his career merits further biographical investigation. The region also saw the founding of post-war new towns, such as Peterlee and Killingworth. The form and long-term development of these towns have very different fortunes. The role of artists like Victor Passmore at Peterlee deserve more attention, as do public landscape schemes. More generally, the development of social and private housing, especially post-WWII housing estates should be a research priority.
The recent centenary anniversary events of World War I saw a notable rise in engagement with the archaeology of this first major 20th century conflict, through such initiative as the Home Front Legacy scheme and the Cocken Hall Camp project, although some aspects such as coastal defence features and damage from enemy action are still a priority for further research. Features of World War II date still need recording; not only military sites, but also elements of the wider infrastructure related to the Home Front, such as air raid shelter. These sites are increasingly under threat, whilst the oral history resource of people with memories of the War itself is also rapidly diminishing. The impact of the Cold War also needs further research (cf. Cocroft and Thomas 2003). The expansion of commercial airports, often on post-War airbases and the closure of military bases is now threatening many remains of this date. Increasingly previously ‘secret’ sites related to intelligence gathering, Cold War government and other functions are becoming increasingly visible as they fall out of use – these need recording where possible. The major military ranges at Otterburn have seen multiple phases of redevelopment over the 20th century, there is scope for engaging with understanding how these ranges and their infrastructure have changed in response to changing strategic threats and developments in tactics and equipment.
The 20th century saw the development of a suite of architectural styles used across industrial, commercial and domestic buildings. The local emergence and development of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modern Movement, Brutalism and Post-Modernism requires further research. The local implementation of regionally distinctive sub-styles should be re-examined.
There are whole classes of sites relating to sports and leisure in the 20th century which have remained relatively little researched in the region, including public houses, cinemas and bingo halls. Whereas there is increased interest in pre-war sites, less research has been done on post-war structures. As well as general surveys of basic stylistic and architectural trends, it is important to consider their wider social context. For example, how did the provision of public houses in New Towns compare with areas which developed more organically? Finally, in the late 20th century leisure facilities followed industry and retail to out-of-town locations. What have been the consequences of this spatial shit for leisure activities in the region? The region has a strong tradition of music, both amateur and professional. The infrastructure for this needs more research. There is a wide range of potential sites that might be investigated here, from practice rooms for local brass bands, to small and medium size music venues.
There is a need to better understand nationally popular sports, such as football, cricket and tennis. Whereas the stadia of major regional teams are unlikely to preserve much original infrastructure, lower level league and non-league clubs may retain early pavilions and stands. The wider social context of sport might usefully be explored, particularly its spatial location, work teams and the provision of facilities by employers. There are also regionally distinctive, often gender specific, leisure activities, such as quoits, pigeon racing and greyhound racing which need more research.
The 19th and early 20th century saw the development of settlements specialising in the leisure industry, the seaside town. The rise of foreign travel has however had an adverse effect on the region’s coastal resorts, such as Redcar, Saltburn, Seaton Carew, South Shields and Whitley Bay. Further work could usefully define and describe the novel elements of their landscape, as well as record and analyse important structures associated with leisure and tourism.
From small estates to entire new towns, a significant development in settlement patterns in the 20th century was an increase in their planning. The construction of new residential areas was often carried out with a wider agenda of social engineering, although there was frequently a ‘reality gap’ between the vision behind their developments and the actuality of life within then. Certain periods also development of temporary or short-term settlement. Unlike some areas of Britain, the areas of new, planned development and new towns are discrete and provide legible units for study. There is an extensive archive of plans, maps and aerial photographs in the region’s record offices, clearly demonstrating the development of these planned settlements. These sources could be combined with fieldwork and oral history to explore how planned space was used and organised by those who lived within them.
Shipbuilding was once one of the iconic industries of the North-East, with important foci around the Tyne, Wear and the Tees, with smaller scale construction at many coastal settlements. The industry had, however, almost entirely disappeared by the end of the 20th century. Whereas coalmining has become the focus for community history, there has been less interest in the history and surviving remains of the region’s shipyards, even though the industry was of national, indeed, international, importance, and ships from the North-East were integral to the international trade links of the British Empire and other globalising institutions. A study of the shipbuilding of the North-East would inform us not only about a local industry, but would also have a direct link to wider issues, such as the rise and fall of the Empire, and the development of international shipping routes. A desk-based assessment is required is required of all remains of ship building in the NE. This should include not just a record of shipyards themselves, but associated industries and facilities, such as engine makers and design and testing facilities. There is also scope for recording the wider social context, such as workers housing and the role of industry as a driver for mass general and technical education. All recorded sites should be added to the region’s HERs. There is still also a surviving, but inevitably diminishing, workforce who used to be directly involved in the ship construction industry. There is scope to combine research into the historic remains of shipbuilding with a programme of oral history. Further study of the products of these shipyards is required. There are many 20th century wrecks along the coast of the region. The well-preserved wrecks of 19th- and 20th- century steel wrecks are generally more attractive to the region’s active sports diving community than are the earlier wooden wrecks which survive less well. The research potential offered by the regular diving of these wrecks must be harnessed and the recovery of artefacts from them better regulated and recorded.
Twentieth-century industrial archaeology has often been ignored in preference to work on earlier periods. However, there are important gaps in our knowledge and sites must be recorded to avoid the appearance of further lacuna. Major surveys are needed of many industries, such as quarrying, brick and tile making and light engineering. Wider trends that characterise 20th century industry could also be researched, for example, changes in the spatial organisation of industry, such as the switch from light industry in urban centres to the creation of specialist industrial and retail estates on the edge of towns. The NE saw some of the earliest developments of industrial estates partly in reaction to the Great Depression. The decline of heavy industry also changed the relationship between employers and employees; as towns and villages became less dominated by a single employer so there was a decline in the provision of social provision, such as clubs, libraries and institutes.
Fishing has long been an important part of life on the region’s coast, with major ports, at Blyth, Amble, North Shields, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Redcar hosting fishing fleets, alongside fishing out of smaller villages such as Beadnell, Seahouse, Craster, Boulmer and Seaham. As well as the harbours themselves, there are wider maritime cultural landscapes of landside installations, including bark pots, ropeworks, ice factories and smokehouses. Many of these are threatened as the fishing industries have declined, and many former industrial harbours shifting to leisure use. There is a need to ensure that the maritime cultural landscapes of the 19th and 20th century fishing industries are properly preserved and recorded.
The region has been home to two major mining industries: the coal mines of the NE coalfield and the lead mining of the North Pennines. Both saw profound transformations and decline in fortune over the 20th century. With coal mining the most notable gap in knowledge is in the social aspects of colliery society, for example miner’s institutes. The little studied colliery bath houses designed by Frizzell in the 1930s and 1940s were of importance to the Modern Movement. In the North Pennines, the final years of lead mining need more work, including a better understanding of life in the lead-mining settlements after the decline of the lead companies. In addition, the mining and processing of fluorspar and baryte in the North Pennines requires research.
The 20th century saw the development of a distinct discourse relating to heritage. Initially, with the establishment of National Trust and the process of sites of archaeological, historical and architectural importance being taken into public guardianship (i.e. Ministry of Works; Department of Environment; English Heritage) a clearly defined stock of visitor attractions of ‘historic’ importance developed. Tourism is now one of the region’s major industries, but there has yet to be a study of the landscape of tourism itself.There is a need to develop a better understanding of the changing physical, social and legal processes related to the development of the heritage sector in the North-East. Topics of particular importance include the development of the heritage industry, the impact of legislation on the survival of the historic environment, the impact of planning law and the development of Conservation Areas on the appearance of the region’s towns and villages and the relationship between historic and natural heritage, especially in the North Pennines AONB and the Northumberland National Park. The physical impact of tourism on the region’s historic visitor attractions should also be explored, for example, the provision of car parks, visitor centres, the impact of visitor numbers on the resource etc. Very little work has been done on this topic, and there is scope for the region to make a significant contribution to national research. Finally, the process through which sites and places are deemed as having heritage value requires scrutiny. Fifteen years ago, sites which are now being carefully recorded, such as World War II air-raid shelters and post-War industrial remains, would have been ignored and yet today they are seen as part of the region’s heritage. A better understanding of the processes through which this happens is desirable; who decides heritage value, the heritage sector or the general public? Should decision makers be following public opinion or striving to lead it? These issues have profound consequences for the making of policy by national and local bodies, such as English Heritage, DEFRA, and local authorities. There is also a key overlap with social history collections in the region’s museums, with a need to better understand how contemporary selection and colleting policies work, and the history of development and acquisition of collections of specific objects types.
The 20th century saw a transport revolution with the advent of internal combustion engines and the commensurate decline in the importance of the railways. The rapid expansion of the road network has also had a profound effect on the landscape of the 20th century. Pre-WWII motoring remains, including garages, petrol stations and road signage should be surveyed. In the early 20th century roadside inns had an important role in the development of popular motoring. These too are little investigated. In addition to the surviving physical infrastructure of 20th century transport, access to cars has fundamentally changed patterns of contemporary life, including the spread of out-of-town shopping and leisure centres, the decline of local shops and the design of housing (e.g. the increased use of cul de sacs).
The railways grew to their greatest extent in the early 20th century before being substantially cut back following the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. The early 20th century also saw the widespread use of trams, whilst the early 1980s saw the construction of the Newcastle metro. All these surviving and disappeared systems are likely to have surviving 20th century infrastructure in place, often little understood and poorly protected. More needs to be done to record them.