20th Century

History of Research

Since the original research framework twentieth century archaeology has developed significantly as an academic discipline and is a more widely accepted part of archaeological research. For instance the listing of twentieth century buildings or scheduling of twentieth century sites is now more common than in 2006. Twentieth century remains are also more often the subject of archaeological mitigation, though this is not always consistently applied. As will be argued here future research should provide the regional context necessary to assess the value of twentieth century remains necessary for informed preservation or mitigation. On a national scale research has expanded our understanding of the national context of many types of sites found regionally. Particularly notable is the research that has been carried out on the First World War associated with its centenary (e.g. Cocroft et al., 2015), and research which has examined the archaeology of council housing (Dwyer, 2014). None-the-less many aspects of twentieth century archaeology have yet to be studied thematically.

Although the recognition of twentieth century archaeology has improved since 2006 much of the resource remains threatened; to a much greater extent than that of any other period. Twentieth century buildings are routinely demolished. Recent losses include Trinity Square, Gateshead, the Odeon Cinema, Pilgrim Street Newcastle, Milburngate House, Durham and several units on the Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead. Some of these have been subject to recording prior to demolition others have not. It would be unreasonable to expect the preservation of all twentieth century sites, as we may for earlier periods, we should insist upon thorough preservation by record where destruction is impossible, and upon the preservation of the most important sites. It is important for preservation to be informed by broader studies of aspects of the region’s twentieth century archaeology, of which some of the most important will be suggested below.

The 2006 framework identified four particular interest groups involved in twentieth century archaeology, all four of which remain significant, though there have been some changes of emphasis especially among professional archaeologists. To some extent the division of twentieth century archaeology between particular groups has led to a focus on particular themes without any examination of the period as a whole. Without such synthesis certain areas not covered by specific interest groups have been neglected.

Architectural historians, notably the Twentieth Century Society, continue to be an important constituency. To some extent this has led to a focus on standing building recording within development-led twentieth century archaeology, and upon the recording of buildings of architectural as opposed to social or economic significance. While this should be an important aspect of the discipline specifically archaeological approaches should be developed to examine the use and development of twentieth century buildings as well as their architectural merit and to ensure that other resources such as sub-surface deposits or material culture. However, twentieth century buildings are certainly threatened so pressure groups like the Twentieth Century Society have an important role to play.

Professional archaeologists both in the commercial sector and in universities now play a much greater role than they did ten years ago. The recording of twentieth century material is now much more common, as are research projects on the archaeology of the twentieth century. Within the region however, there have been few research projects on the archaeology of the twentieth century, though the Landscapes of the Great Depression in the North East is a notable exception. Without such regional thematic studies it is difficult to judge how effective increased archaeological mitigation has been and it is likely that much information is lost without recording as a result. The region also lacks typologies of common twentieth century artefact types, such as bottle glass, ceramics, building hardware and ring pulls, which hampers attempts to conduct thematic studies in the area.

Both industrial archaeologists and special interest groups have maintained their presence in twentieth century archaeology since 2006. There is still difficulty surrounding the dissemination of knowledge beyond special interest groups but the Defence of Britain Project demonstrated that this can be overcome. It is likely that there will be increasing appetite for academic archaeologists to interact with such groups as ‘impact’ becomes more important. It is necessary for academic archaeologists to find ways in which such interaction can clearly be shown to have impact as understood by RCUK.


Settlement expanded greatly during the twentieth century by a number of mechanisms some of which were nearly unique to the twentieth century. Prior to the First World War housing was provided by either employers or increasingly speculative developers. House building is cyclical and was in something of a lull during the first decade and a half of the century (Ryder, 1979, pp. 73–77). During this period, and since the late nineteenth century, Local Authorities used by-laws to enforce minimum standards of building for public health reasons. While most academic studies of house building during this period focuses on working-class housing there is abundant evidence for middle-class and upper-class housing in the region. For instance an examination of the Northumberland National Park has noted that mansion building continued in the area during the early twentieth century as it had during the nineteenth (Frodsham, 2004, pp. 133–136).

At the same time Local Authorities were beginning to exercise powers to build houses. At this time no Central Government funding was available for Local Authority housebuilding and so, in comparison to later decades, it was rare. However, several pre-1914 council house estates do survive within the region including those at Fawcett Terrace, Ryhope; Municipal and Council Terraces, Washington; Bede Terrace, Chester-le-Street; Edison Street, Murton; House Terrace, Usworth and North Side Terrace, Trimdon Grange (Ryder, 1979, pp. 122–133). From 1919 the Addison Act and subsequent legislation led to a large increase in Local Authority housebuilding as well as improving standards in all new houses. The North-East had an unusually poor housing stock in this period and so local authorities were especially pro-active in building council houses, though different parts of the region saw very different levels of activity (Ryder, 1979). Indoor plumbing, electricity and gas were increasingly installed in new-build houses and would have been a new experience for some occupants. In some estates, though not all, services like shops, cinemas and community halls were included in larger developments. During the inter-war period the amount of speculative building also increased as many more people were becoming owner-occupiers. Typically, speculative developments consist of semi-detached houses or short terraces which are often decorated in mock-Tudor style in contrast to plainer council houses. Both council and speculative houses are very common survivals in the region, but should be studied archaeologically as an important aspect of twentieth century society. Such houses have frequently been altered and so survival of original interior features would be especially important. Apartment blocks were rare outside London in the inter-war period but at least one survives in the region; Moor court on the edge of Newcastle Town Moor.

During the Second World War most building work halted but recommenced immediately afterwards and was controlled new legislation such as the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. The Council continued to be a major provider of housing until the end of the 1970s. Some council housing schemes were more architecturally confident or innovative than those of the inter-war period. In the public imagination these are typified by tower blocks several of which were built in the region, particularly on Tyneside. The tower blocks especially have been criticised for their effect on communities and residents and remain unpopular. The unique architecture of some of these developments has led to protection, for instance in the case of Byker Wall which was one of the more successful examples, or recording as at Derwent Tower which has now been demolished. It is important that this recording continues as more are demolished. Such monumental developments have tended to overshadow the more traditional terraces and semi-detached houses, and small blocks of flats were also built by councils in the post-war period. As more conventional and often fairly well-built houses these are still valued for their original function and so are less threatened than tower blocks, but should be recognised as an important part of the twentieth century settlement. It is probably telling that while the Derwent Tower was recorded prior to demolition the nearby Clasper Village was demolished without recording.

In the 1950s Durham County Council introduced a controversial policy of categorising settlements according to their perceived long-term viability. Villages which were believed to have no future were referred to as ‘Category D’ (later Categories v and vi). The Council aimed to acquire and demolish rapidly housing in these settlements and would not invest in new housing or the improvement of existing housing (Pattison, 2004; Snowdon, 1979). The unpopularity of the policy meant that very few category D villages were in fact fully demolished but areas within many category D villages were demolished. It is believed that only three villages were demolished and that of these at least one, Hamsteels, was open-cast mined after demolition. At Backhouse, however, imagery on Google Earth shows cropmarks of the former village which imply the existence of subsurface remains (“Category-D villages in County Durham – Waggonways,” n.d.). This is an important archaeological resource, as abandoned 20th century settlements are almost unknown nationally. It is not currently included in the HER and should be a priority for preservation in the future.

A more extreme form of post-war housing provision was the construction of new towns. In the North-East region these were built at Peterlee, Newton Aycliffe, Cramlington, Killingworth and Washington. These were built by development corporations which were separate from the local authorities. These have been under-acknowledge by archaeologists in this region.

Taken together the local authority housing of County Durham from the pre-First World War period to the post-Second World War era is of national significance as the response of strongly Labour controlled councils to an unusually bad housing situation. The formation of suburbs both by local authorities and private developers is an especially important feature of 20th century settlement and is a response to the widespread adoption of the car and bus. In some cases particular philosophies informed their design as at Gosforth Garden Village or Darras Hall and are apparent in their physical fabric.

From the 1980s councils dropped out of the house building industry and speculative developers became more significant during the 1990s. The 1990s private housing estates are usually architecturally undistinguished but reflect increasing affluence leading up to the stock market crash of the early 21st century.


Although the twentieth century saw the decline of heavy industry in the UK and in the North-East particularly, the decline was slow so that industry was an important feature of the region through most of the century and new industries such as chemical manufacturing became prominent during the era. Consequently, it is important that research examines the remains of twentieth century industrial sites (Stratton and Trinder, 2000). As noted in the original research framework much damage has been done to the twentieth century industrial archaeology resource and it remains under threat.

Coal had been an important regional industry for centuries prior to the twentieth century. The twentieth century witnessed some very important developments. During the inter-war period decline began to set in leading to pit closures and reductions in wages and hours. This led to industrial unrest most notably in 1926. The Second World War led to increased government intervention in the industry due to its strategic importance. The post-war Labour Government nationalised the industry in 1946 under the newly-formed National Coal Board. This led to much rationalisation and modernisation as well as improved conditions for mineworkers. Pit closures in the 1970s and 1980s led to further unrest culminating in the 1984-5 strike. Privatisation of the industry occurred between 1987 and 1994, though one pit remained in operation in the North-East region until 2005. The industry remains socially important in the region; miners’ lodges and colliery bands still exist, monuments to mining disasters are built and maintained, and the Durham Miners’ Gala or ‘Big Meeting’ is a major annual event. However, many colliery buildings were destroyed shortly after closure. The only colliery headstocks to survive are those at Woodhorn and the Washington F Pit, both are listed and preserved as museums, both are important monuments in the region. Sadly, the majority of the buildings at the Ellington Colliery have been demolished since its closure in 2005, despite the rarity of such structures in the region at that time. Although some trial trenching was carried out on the site it does not appear that the colliery buildings were recorded prior to demolition. Some important elements of other collieries do survive and are protected, for instance at Philidelphia a 1906 electricity generating station is grade II listed. Open-cast mining was widely practiced in the region during the twentieth century. It has left very little physical trace. Some remains associated with Second World War open-cast mining on the Newcastle Town Moor; buildings associated with the mine appear on 1945 aerial photography and are now covered by trees. Evidence for improving working conditions during the twentieth century also survives, for instance the Miners’ Welfares at Easington and Elemore both build during the inter-war period (Stratton and Trinder, 2000, p. 24) or the baths at Fencehouses (built 1940) and Dinnignton (built during the 1960s).

Ship building was another important industry with a long history in the region. The remains of numerous shipyards, dry docks and workshops exist on the Tyne, Tees and Wear, with the best preserved apparently at Wallsend where part of the Swan Hunter yard is used at the Segedunum Museum. Very little archaeological work has been carried out on these, though many are included in the CITiZAN database which may provide a tool for recording and monitoring them (“CITiZAN – Interactive Coastal Map,” n.d.). Scope for research is enhanced by the good documentary resources for many of these sites held by the Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives.

Twentieth century shipbuilding was partly dependant on the regionally important iron and steel industry. Again this is an industry which had a long history in the region but which saw major changes in the twentieth century. Dorman-Long of Middlesbrough were an internationally important manufacturer of structural steel. Their products allowed the construction of steel-framed buildings early examples of which survive in the region at the Mathias Robinson store at Stockton-on-Tees (built 1901) (Stratton and Trinder, 2000, p. 8). Major steel working sites developed during the twentieth century at Hartlepool, Consett and Redcar all of which have now closed. Redcar was an integrated site which is a form of steelworks that developed during the twentieth century and led to the decline of sites like Consett (Stratton and Trinder, 2000, p. 8), thus multiple phases of the steel industry’s history can be studied within the region. Unfortunately much of the Consett site has been demolished without recording, though the recording of any surviving remains will be important in the future, Redcar still stands and should be recorded if alteration becomes imminent. Recording should be conducted before the removal of plant if this has not already happened, and it would be desirable to record the site as soon as possible even without a specific threat before significant deterioration. Ironstone has also been mined within the region, especially south of Middlesbrough, and has left remains dating to the twentieth century.

Non-ferrous metals have also been mined and processed in the region. Lead had been important before the nineteenth century, though a few mines continued in use into the twentieth century. During the twentieth century some important plants for processing non-ferrous ores were built within the region. The Seaton Snook zinc works was built in 1907-8 and parts have remained standing, though it is unclear if any of the earliest phases survive. The Alcan Aluminium smelter was another important site built near Lynemouth in Northumberland in 1974 and closed 2012, most of this site has been demolished but any surviving remains should be recorded.

Brick making was also practiced extensively in the region using the glacial clays of the lowlands and the brick shales of the coal measures. In some cases brickworks were associated with collieries. No twentieth century brick or tileworks are protected and little is known of surviving remains, though Peter Davison’s research into the history of North-East brickmaking provide a useful basis for an examination of their archaeology (Davison, 1986). Some remains of the brickworks at Swarland survive, though damaged by fire. This began operation in the 1930s and continued through the remainder of the century. These remains should be recorded prior to demolition if this is attempted in the future.

Power generation is an important feature of twentieth century industry. Electricity generation began quite early in the North-East so some important sites survive, such as the early power station at Manors which is listed. Unfortunately, a number of important sites have been lost without recording including Carville A at Wallsend which was the first to have a central control room. Some power stations have been recorded prior to demolition such as the 1903 power station at Leamington. There are also some smaller scale elements of infrastructure surviving, such as the late Arts and Craft’s electrical substation at Chatton (Northumberland) or the Grade II Listed gas house built for the Raby Estate in 1910.

One of the most significant developments in the region during the twentieth century was the development of the chemical industry to the height of its importance (Stratton and Trinder, 2000, pp. 82–86) . The presence of coal mining in the region was key to this as coal tar was the most important chemical feedstock during the first half of the century. Other chemicals were mined such as flourospar and baraytes of which some mining remains survive and potach which was mined at Boulby, Cleveland. The most important chemical plant in the region is ICI at Billingham, which continues to be an important part of the regional economy. It began as Brunner-Mond in the 1920 initially making ammonia via the Haber-Bosch. This was strategically important as a component in TNT and as a fertiliser. It began to process but began to process anhydrite when this was found on the site (Stratton and Trinder, 2000, p. 84). In addition to this a ICI built a factory at Prudhoe, due to the vulnerability of Billingham to attack during the Second World War. This is now occupied by SCA Hygiene but any remains of the ICI plant would be important if they survive. During the post-war period oil became in important feedstock leading to the construction of four refineries on Teesside. The 1950s-60s ethylene crackers at Wilton are particularly iconic of this period.

Light industries also expanded greatly during the twentieth century, both nationally and regionally. This began during the inter-war period during which shrinking prices brought consumer goods within reach of many more people than during the nineteenth century. Growth was strongest in the south-east of England but during the 1930s the government sought to re-balance the regional economy by encouraging light-industry to locate in the North-East and replace jobs lost in heavy industry. It did so by establishing Trading Estates at Team Valley, St. Helen’s Auckland, Jarrow and Pallion. Inter-war factories survive at Team Valley and St. Helen’s Auckland, and possibly at Pallion. The Team Valley Estate also includes the Central Administrative Building and other service buildings. The examination of the early phases of these sites is important as it represents a very early attempt by government to intervene in the economy, in a way that was to become particularly important in the post-war period. None of these buildings is listed though some of the Team Valley buildings are on the local list. The examples at St. Helen’s Auckland may be particularly well preserved. The early development of the Team Valley Trading Estate and St. Helen’s Auckland is being examined by the Landscapes of the Great Depression in the North East project, but the later history had not yet been examined. During the Second World War light-industrial factories both on trading estates and otherwise were converted for war work and evidence for how these alterations were carried out would be very significant. The use of trading/industrial estates increased greatly after the Second World War and was influenced by the Distribution of Industry Act 1945. Some of the most impressive post-war industrial estates were built at the new towns of Peterlee and Newton Aycliffe, the latter on a Second World War munitions factory. In addition to the examination of purpose built light industrial units on industrial estates archaeologists should consider any evidence for the conversion of existing structures for light industry. As heavy industries declined rapidly in the last quarter of the twentieth century some light and light-heavy industrial firms took advantage of the labour released from heavy industry. Perhaps the most important was Nissan which opened a plant on Tyneside in 1986. Recording of this site would be a priority if it were to close in the future.

During the twentieth century while extractive and manufacturing industries declined service industries developed and the office became the normal work environment for the majority of the workforce. This development has been examined briefly on a national scale by Historic England (Franklin, 2016), but has not been examined within the region. Many examples of twentieth century office blocks exist in the region particularly in the urban centres on Tyneside and on the Wear.

Labour employed in the North-East was often organised and so the area has important resources for the archaeological study of the labour movement. The most significant of these is the 1913-15 National Union of Mineworkers building at Redhills, Durham (Mansfield, 2013, pp. 60–61). The Memorial Hall at Esh Winning provides an interesting example of a joint venture between employer and employees (Mansfield, 2013, pp. 107–108). Artefacts relating to the labour movement are also present in museum and private collections. The nationally important collection of miners’ lodge banners at Woodhorn is notable and some of the items used on the Jarrow Crusade of 1936 are owned by the Jarrow branch of the Labour Party. The collections at Beamish and the Discovery Museum may also contain relevant items. The strike of 1984-5 is a particularly significant event which has not received archaeological attention, though archaeological study of 1980s protests elsewhere in the UK has proven fruitful (e.g. Schofield and Anderton, 2000). It is likely that large amounts of artefacts are in the possession of private individuals who may also remember the events themselves. It is also possible that material remains survive in the form of graffiti at industrial sites in the region, though no specific examples are known to archaeologists. Recording of these sources of information should be a priority and may be an opportunity for outreach projects.

Transport and Communications

Shipping is a particularly important form of transport for the region as it provided the means to export the products of the industries described above and in some cases to import their raw materials. Structures relating to this of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be found along all of the three major rivers in the region. Many coastal towns have concrete harbour structures many of which date to the late nineteenth or twentieth centuries. For instance that at Craster was built in 1904. These will have served both the shipping and fishing industries. Other examples can be found at Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Seaham, Sunderland, Tynemouth, Seaton Sluice, Blyth, Amble, Benthall, Seahouses, Holy Island and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Lighthouses are another important feature of this infrastructure. Twentieth century examples can be found at Tyne North Pier, Roker, The Heugh Hartlepool and Bamburgh. The development of the shipping container in the post-war period rendered many ports and harbours obsolete (Graves-Brown, 2013). Container ports have been built at Port of Tyne and Teesport and so this part of the history of the shipping industry is represented in the region. The ships and boats themselves survive more rarely though some may survive as wrecks off the North-East coast. While many wrecks are listed in the regional HERs the condition and in some cases precise location of these are often unknown. It is likely that wrecks form an important resource for the study of twentieth century and earlier trade between the North-East and elsewhere and so assessment of this resource should be a priority. A few boats have been preserved in museum collections in the region. Important examples dating to the twentieth century include the Elswick No.2 (built 1913) wherry in storage at Beamish Museum, the Joan Foyeboat being restored by the North East Maritime Trust and the late 19th century Foyeboat Peggy at Beamish. There are two groups of possible twentieth century hulks. One at Newburn was recorded since the last research framework and contained several wherries though they are in poor and probably deteriorating condition. A group of hulks in the inter-tidal zone are better preserved and thus a very significant resource. They were recorded as part of the North East Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment, continued monitoring and recording of this particular site is vital.

Air transport developed entirely during the twentieth century and is one of the most significant developments of the period. Although early flying experiments were carried out at Marske Sands near Hartlepool in the 1910s it is unlikely that these have left any archaeological trace. Civil flying developed in earnest in the post-First World War period and three airports in the region opened during this time. Woolsington is the current Newcastle International Airport, Greatham or West Hartlepool is now within the Tata Steel site and Cramlington is the site of an open-cast quarry. While subsequent industrial activity at the last two mean that survival of inter-war remains is unlikely any that does survive would be of regional importance. Some elements of the inter-war airport at Woolsington do survive. This is due to the development of the modern terminal buildings at a different part of the site to the earlier airport. These include the aero-club house and hangar. Both are important monuments unique within the region. Civil flying stopped during the Second World War but recommenced after it. Greatham reopened after the war but closed again in 1958 (“West Hartlepool (Greatham) – Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust UK,” n.d.). Woolsington also reopened and became a regional hub with major expansion in the 1960s and late 1970s. Many of the buildings of this period survive. The former RAF Middleton St George became Durham Tees Valley Airport from 1963 and continues in use as an airport today.

During the twentieth century motor-transport became the dominant form of transportation in the British economy and society which led to the development of massive physical infrastructure. Attention has been drawn to some of this infrastructure nationally but little work as been done in the North-East (Merriman, 2012). In the region elements of this include the A1(M) and A194(M) both of which are 1960s-1970s motorways. The Tyne Tunnel is another interesting part of this infrastructure. The pedertrian and cycle tunnel were built as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and is the first cycle tunnel to be built in the UK. The Road tunnel was built in 1967. Less monumental elements of road transport are also significant such as the listed pre-war garage at Rothbury and the Dex Garage in Newcastle which is an early example of a ramped car park. The Trinity Square Car Park has sadly been demolished apparently without recording. This monument dated to the period in which cars were becoming available to the majority of people and were for the first time an inescapable part of urban planning. Bus transport was important for many working men and women for the whole first half of the 20th century when cars were not affordable for most ordinary people. Infrastructure relating to the pre-Second World War phase of bus transport rarely survives but there are two Grade II Listed bus shelters at Stannington (Northumberland). There is an important ferro-concrete bus depot at Portland Terrace, Jesmond (Tyne and Wear) and a ferro-concrete bus station (Grade II Listed) at Seaton Carew. Much more of the post-Second World War archaeology of bus transport survives but has not been examined systematically. Rail transport continued to be significant during the twentieth century but declined due to competition from motor-transport. Little new infrastructure was built on the mainline railways but the Tyne and Wear Metro was opened in 1980. It retains its original rolling stock and many of the original structures. It is currently undergoing significant upgrading and recording of 1980s features during this work should be a priority.


The archaeology of 20th century agriculture has not been studied in depth anywhere in the country. Nonetheless, it was an important time for agriculture. The first half of the century the world wars were an impetus for increased production especially of grain while depression which had set in during the 19th century continued before and between the wars. Despite depression mechanisation did occur especially via the introduction of the petrol tractor and mechanical milking machine. After the Second World War government and later EU subsidies were used to support agriculture to allow self-sufficiency in case of a war in the future. At the same time mechanisation continued and artificial fertilisers and pesticides were used on a large scale, battery farming of livestock was also practiced. Post-war governments also passed legislation like the National Parks and Access to the Countryside and Commons Registration Acts which impacted the way in which agriculture worked. By the end of the century subsidies for production had become controversial and were largely reformed towards encouraging environmental stewardship.

Farmsteads are a significant part of the archaeological evidence for these processes. Few were built during the 20th century but major alterations were made; the most obvious are the construction of corrugated iron sheds and silos. These have not been studied in the region though large numbers exist. Field systems may also include evidence for the 20th century. Again they do not usually date to the 20th century but were altered mainly via the removal of field boundaries to accommodate machinery. Wire fencing was increasingly used in place of hedges and walls and is dateable but often replaced regularly. Increasing use of the countryside for leisure and form 1947 the control of this by statute must have led to changes in the maintenance of gates and styles and led to the use of waymark signs. Farm machinery and tools are another source for the archaeology of this period but have not been studied academically though there are special interest groups dedicated to them. The processing of agricultural products were increasingly moved off the farm and into industrial plants such as abattoirs and dairies. While several of these facilities have operated in the region they do not appear to be included in HERs.


Of all the topics discussed here this has seen the most development since the 2006 research framework especially concerning the remains of the First World War (e.g. Cocroft et al., 2015, 2003; Foot, 2006; Schofield et al., 2002). The prime focus has been on recording structures directly related to military activity via projects like the Defence of Britain project, works of national or regional synthesis, and by special interest groups who have made a major contribution in this field. As a result a reasonable picture of military sites relating to twentieth century conflict can be presented. Other features related to conflict such as munitions manufacturing sites and evidence of war damage or of anti-war protest are much less well understood and should be a focus of future work.

Archaeological activity relating to the centenary of the First World War had led to the recognition and protection of many sites related to that conflict. The practice trenches at Otterburn are scheduled and others are known at Brunton, Hylton, Whitburn and Easington Colliery. The strategic importance of the Tyne, Tees and Wear rivers led to the construction of major defence works on all three. The structures at Tynemouth and the Heugh Battery Hartlepool are particularly notable, and the possible flying boat ramps at both Seaton Carew and Tynemouth are important. The strategically important Eslwick Works were subject to particularly extensive defence works (Whaley et al., 2008, p. 15). Particularly complete sets of acoustical mirrors survive at Fulwell, Boulby Cliff and Marske and the ranging station at Brunton is also an important site (Sockett, 1990, 1989). ‘Y-stations’ for intercepting radio transmissions were based at Cullercoats and Stockton. Both of these survive and are listed; that at Cullercoats contains some remains of a pre-First World War civilian radio station which is of equal or greater significance. The archaeology of munitions manufacture in the region is much less well understood and should be addressed in future research. A National Shell Factory was present at Darlington and an aircraft factory at Gosforth.

The Second World War has left the greatest archaeological traces of any twentieth century conflict in the North East. As with the Frist World War, archaeological research has focused on the military remains themselves and neglected sites related to manufacturing of munitions or the civilian experience of the Home Front.  A number of airfields were built in the area. The best preserved are Ouston, Eshott, Brunton and Middleton St. George, the latter having been adapted for use as an airport while elements of most of the others also survive (Chorlton, 2005). In addition to airfields the RAF 13 Group Headquarters at Kenton Bar survives and is well preserved; this is a particularly important site in the region. A very large and well preserved bomb store of the Second World War era survives at Brasside but its history and archaeology appear to be poorly understood. As during the First World War the defence of the industrial sites of the area was very important. Several anti-aircraft sites were built including Lizard Lane Whitburn and Gloucester Lodge Farm which are both Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Sadly, the unusually well preserved, 1938 battery at Red Barns Farm has been demolished despite being included on the local list. As a battery built during the Munich Crisis it was probably among the most significant WWII era sites in the region. It was subject to recording prior to demolition but preservation in situ should have been insisted upon.

Anti-invasion defences are a common sight in the region and have been studied thoroughly. Foot has described sets of defences in a number of locations. At Durridge the disguised pillboxes are particularly interesting and a hut may survive which was associated with this. Other sites have been examined at Wooler, Greatham Creek and Kirkleatham. All seem relatively well preserved, while well understood any new features discovered relating to these would be interesting. There are several POW camps in the area of which Low Harperley is unusually well preserved and is scheduled (Thomas, 2003). Few others seem to contain standing remains but these have not been studied systematically in the region. A number of radar sites known to have existed though survival of upstanding remains is rare. Substantial remains appear to survive at Craster, Kirkley Hill, Ottercops (where the locations of associated light-AA batteries are known), Whitley Bay and Ancroft.

As a traditionally industrial area the North East made a major contribution to the manufacture of munitions – this is an aspect of the Second World War which is poorly understood archaeologically – it is likely that the region has significant resources to contribute to this. The study of the adaptation of existing factories to munitions manufacture should be examined. The revival of shipbuilding in the years before and during the war should also be examined as its effect on the regional economy was especially significant. Purpose built ordnance factories are known at Spennymoor, Birtly and Aycliffe where some elements survive though much has been lost. Coal mining was also a key part of the war effort. Miners’ hostels for conscripted miners are listed in the Historic Environment Records at New Kyo and at Plawsworth both in County Durham. At New Kyo no standing remains survive. A few buildings survive at Plawsworth; the majority of the buildings were demolished recently but were recorded prior to this.

In contrast to other areas of the country there are very few military remains of the Cold War period in the North East. The airfield at Middleton St. George continued to be used until 1964 and was designated a V-bomber dispersal field and so played a role (albeit a fairly minor one) in the UK nuclear deterrent. Ouston continued to be used as a fighter station into the 1950s and for flying training after 1957. Extensions to the runway with operational readiness platforms probably relate to the use of De Havilland Vampire jet fighters and still survive. Ouston became Albemarle Barracks in the 1970s and is still in use in this role. It contains a potentially very significant archaeological site in the form of the compound for nuclear weapons convoys built on one of the runways which was used as a stopping point en-route to Royal Naval Armaments Depot (RNAD) Coulport in Scotland. The site must post-date the establishment of RNAD Coulport in 1963 but it not clear how long after this the site was built. It seems to have gone out of use in 2005 when ‘continuous running’ was introduced in order to transport warheads within 24 hours. It has left substantial archaeological remains; aerial photographs show that a rectangular structure present in 2009 has been demolished but that the perimeter fence, six gun emplacements, and an hexagonal structure survive. As the rectangular structure seems to be partially buried it is possible that subsurface remains survive. As part of the infrastructure associated with the UK nuclear deterrent the site is of national significance and recording would be advisable if it were threatened.

Various pieces of military infrastructure were placed in the region. Several elements of the line-of-sight microwave communications network, developed from the 1950s onwards due to the vulnerability of trunk lines to attack are within the North-East at Pontop Pike in Co Durham and Corby’s Crags in Northumberland (Cocroft et al., 2003). Parts of the radar screen were based at RAF Boulmer, Cold Hesleden, Seaton Snook, Danby Beacon and Goldsborough. RAF Brizlee Wood was part of the tropospheric scatter communication system. Lizard Lane and Gloucester Lodge Farm Anti-aircraft sites continued in use into the Cold War but rapidly became obsolete. Unfortunately the command post associated with Lizard Lane at Gosforth has been demolished but was recorded prior to demolition (Whaley et al., 2008).

Bunkers are one of the most well-known types of Cold War site nationally but are rare int eh region. The regional government bunker at Hexham has been demolished but the regional war room at Kenton which reused a second world war fighter control facility does survive, it is unique as a non-purpose-built Cold War war room, it’s use after 1968 when the Hexham bunker was established is unclear (Whaley et al., 2008). It seems currently particularly well preserved and is grade II listed. Unfortunately the associated Royal Observer Corps (ROC) command post which may have been quite well preserved has been demolished though it was recorded prior to demolition. A large number of ROC monitoring posts are known to have existed throughout the region as they did throughout the country, but do not seem to have been systematically surveyed. While these are common sites any particularly well preserved example would be significant.

In addition to military remains the civilian response to the Cold War is important. Any remains relating to anti-war protest in this period (e.g. graffiti, protest camps, portable material culture) would be very significant though none are known at present they are likely to exist.


The archaeology and history of sport is increasingly recognised as an important subject for research (e.g. Pearson, 2010). Sport forms an important part of the regional culture of the North-East and should be a focus for future research. Football remains an important sport within the region and was throughout the twentieth century. Archaeological recording occurred of early twentieth century football stadium gates at Darlington but there are many other defunct or operational stadia in the region. Major changes have occurred to football stadium design since the publication of the Taylor report in 1990 and indeed many pre-1990 stadia have since fallen out of use, so that evidence for pre-1990 stadia is important (Smith, 2001). Greyhound racing developed during the inter-war period and became very popular during this time, it has left many archaeological traces; all three existing stadia in the region date from this period as do several defunct ones. Swimming also expanded during the period. Many swimming pools were built, particularly between the wars, and many are now going out of use as commercial leisure centres out-compete them. The bathing pools at Berwick-upon-Tweed are either early twentieth century or late nineteenth century an so are an early element of this trend. The 1930s baths at Durham have been recorded, while the 1928 baths in Newcastle are being restored. Recording of ice-rink at Freeman’s Quay and salvage of plant for Beamish museum represent the recording of a much less common type of archaeological monument. Of course many other sports have been played and left archaeological remains in the region, most obviously tennis, cricket and golf, but even on a national scale little work has been done on the archaeology of these sports. Overall little is known of the archaeology of most sports in the region despite their significance in regional culture this should be addressed by future research.  

Cinema emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. By the middle of the twentieth century it had become a very important leisure activity throughout the western world before declining in the 1970s but experiencing something of a renaissance with the arrival of multiplex cinemas from the 1980s (Manders, 2005). Earliest cinemas in the region were pre-WWI and a few of these survive, for instance the Sunderland Empire Theatre, the Consett Empire Theatre, and the Crook Empire Electric Palace Theatre. The Theatre at Westgate Road Newcastle was used as a cinema from 1919 and is grade I listed (though primarily for its 19th century theatre features). Many more cinemas were built during the inter-war period. Many of these survive though original interiors are rare. Some original interior features do survive at the Tyneside Cinema (originally the Bijou News-Reel Cinema) and at Wallsend (Ritz Cinema). In the latter these were recorded prior to conversion into a pub but most seem to have been retained. Sadly, the Odeon Cinema on Pilgrim Street Newcastle had its interior destroyed shortly after de-listing despite being well preserved prior to 2003, the building itself has now been demolished.

During the 20th century shopping increasingly became a leisure activity, following a trend which began at the end of the nineteenth century. Increasingly ostentatious buildings were built for shops, especially department stores. An early example is the Central Arcade Newcastle. Despite economic depression such shops continued to be built during the inter-war period as prices of consumer products dropped and came within reach of more people. Newcastle contains a number of very grand inter-war shops, notably Fenwicks and the Co-operative building. However most towns contain smaller examples, such as Boots and Burton’s in Durham and several shops on this high streets of Stockton (Daniels, 2014, pp. 32–42), Morpeth and Ashington. After the Second World War shopping was increasingly focused on large shopping centres and dependent upon the car. Post-Second World War shopping centres are often on a large scale but, to modern eyes, less attractive. Notable examples in the region include the Washington Galleries, built as part of the new town and the Metrocentre, Gateshead built during the 1980s.

Although experiencing something of a decline due to competition from other forms of entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century pubs retained their central role in British social life throughout the century. All towns and most villages in the region contain 20th century pubs and it would be impossible to be comprehensive here as there has been very little research work it is difficult to identify regionally significant examples. Historic England has conducted from work nationally on inter-war pubs but regionally they are little understood (Cole, 2015). The Campaign for Real Ale lists the Dun Cow Sunderland 1901-2 interior as of national importance (“Historic Pub Interiors,” n.d.).


Despite the general secularisation of society over the course of the 20th century there have still been significant developments in religion and associated practices. Although the great Victorian period of Anglican Church restoration and renovation was over, there continued to be small scale alterations to church structures throughout the period. The early 20th century also saw some new church building, such as St Andrew’s in Roker, and the important extensions to St Michael’s in Bishopwearmouth. A second phase of church building, both Anglican and Catholic, occurred in the 1960s following the creation of new towns at Aycliffe, Cramlington, Killingworth, Peterlee and Washington. Although post-war churches have been listed elsewhere in the country, there are no such protected buildings in the North-East.

Non-conformist chapels date mainly to the 19th century, though, like other churches they have undergone constant small-scale alteration, and the laying out of new towns sometimes led to the construction of new examples. The 20th century has also seen the expansion of several, previously small, groups, such as Mormons (Church of the Latter Day Saints) who have been responsible for the construction of several new churches in the region in recent years.

Information about these building campaigns can be found in a variety of locations, including the Church Plans OnLine website, the minutes of the Diocesan Advisory Committees (both Anglican and Catholic) and the associated diocesan archives, which hold information about all the relevant Faculties. The non-conformist chapels for Darlington and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are fully covered by surveys carried out by Peter Ryder, which supplement the less comprehensive survey by Christopher Stell (Ryder, 2004, 2003a, 2003b; Stell, 1994).

The 19th-century move away from churchyard burial to larger municipal cemeteries has continued. As well as the continued use of the great Victorian cemeteries, many new cemeteries have opened. This has not only happened in towns; many villages have now opened overflow cemeteries following the cessation of interment in the churchyard. Little work has been carried out on changing trends in 20thcentury gravestones and related memorialisation. The advent of cremation as a popular burial rite has led to the introduction of a new architectural form, the crematorium, and there are important national archives for cremation in the Palace Green library at Durham University.

In addition to Christian places of worship, the increasingly multi-cultural nature of twentieth century society is reflected in the presence of places of worship and burial of other religions. The most comprehensively catalogued are those belonging to the North-East’s Jewish communities. The Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the United Kingdom and Ireland has recorded a range of surviving 20thcentury Jewish sites, including nine synagogues (one, the Ryhope Road Synagogue, Sunderland, is Grade II Listed), a Jewish school and a mikveh in the area. There are also a number of synagogues of earlier date, and also several Jewish cemeteries, some incorporated into larger municipal cemeteries.

The distribution of Sikh gurdwaras in the region reflects that of South Asian immigrant communities (two in Cleveland, one in Darlington, one in Newcastle and two in South Shields). There are also four Hindu temples in Newcastle and one in Cleveland as well as nine mosques in Newcastle, one in County Durham, three in Middlesbrough and one in Stockton. Most of these buildings are converted pre-existing structures, the mosque at Grainger Grammar School, for example, was converted from its original use by the Newcastle Turkish Community Association. There are also some purpose-built structures, such as the Laygate Mosque in South Shields, built in 1973. Many of these communities have separate burial areas, such as the Muslim section of Gateshead cemetery. Very little work has been carried out on the historic environment of these aspects of society in the North-East, though the South Tyneside Library Local Studies section holds some useful photographs in its Ethnic Communities collection.

Public Buildings and Government

During the 20th century the role of both national and local government increased and, especially during the middle decades of the century this was often expressed architecturally. Both Durham and Newcastle have post-war civic buildings including the Civic Centre Newcastle and Durham County Hall which replaced the Edwardian Old Shire Hall which represents an earlier phase of local government. At the same time many government departments were moved out of London and some such as the Post Office Savings were moved to the North East (Davies, 2016). While some of the governmental buildings of this period are recognised as architecturally significant many are unremarkable; however as an important feature of the period and as a workplace for sizeable proportions of the population they are archaeologically significant and should be recorded if threatened. Fortunately Milburngate House, the former office of National Savings and Investments (built 1968), has been recorded prior to demolition (Davies, 2016).

Services provided by local and national government also left archaeological traces. Fire, police and ambulance buildings are often recorded prior to demolition, though remarkably little archaeological synthesis has been conducted either locally or nationally. In Newcastle the police and fire station of Pilgrim Street has been appraised prior to alteration and is listed Grade II. In Durham the post-war 1956 fire station headquarters was recorded photographically before being demolished. At Seaham the 1950s fire station was subject to a desk based assessment prior to development. A 1907 police station in Wallsend was recorded prior to demolition. The Department of Work and Pensions office in Durham dates to the immediately post-war era of planned economy.  

The Post-Second World War period was also an important era for publically funded higher-education. Many new universities and polytechnics were created. Within the region these include Teesside, Northumbria and Sunderland polytechnics which were created from technical colleges in 1969. All of these became universities in the early 1990s as student numbers were increasing rapidly. The buildings of both phases are important archaeological traces of these changes.  Occasionally such buildings are recorded for instance a photographic survey was conducted at Wearmouth Hall, Sunderland before it was demolished. Student housing at Goldsborough Court, Newcastle (built 1971) was also recorded prior to demolition. Newcastle University became independent from Durham in 1963 and Durham expanded greatly during the 1960s and 1970s. Most of Durham’s ‘hill colleges’ and several buildings on its ‘Lower Mountjoy campus’ date to this era and are moderately architecturally notable. The Durham Student Union is also important and typical of university buildings of this period. It is currently threatened and should be at least recorded and preferably preserved.