Environment

A small but significant area of development since 2006 has been the gradual emergence of environmental studies for the post-1750 period. In a few cases this has been done indirectly through the study of human remains (see below) from graveyards. These studies are just starting to reveal scientific evidence for the impact of industrialisation in the region on local populations.

Environmental change has been traced in two landscape studies. Firstly, English Heritage/Historic England’s study of the Alston Moor area of north-east Cumbria has revealed a legacy of groundwater contamination associated with the lead industry (Ainsworth 2009; Huntley 2011; Jessop & Whitfied with Davison 2013). The area’s centuries-old tradition of lead mining, along with a suite of other extractive industries, has left long-recognised, extensive, and often highly conspicuous architectural and archaeological remains. The survey revealed local hotspots of lead contamination around mine entrances and processing sites in or close to the industrial mining communities of Alston and Nenthead. The study discovered the decay of those remains, especially the water-management features of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, is leading to 21st century contamination of the headwaters of rivers, with problems downstream.

Secondly, an article on historic chemical contamination in the Irwell and Mersey river catchment was published in 2017 (Hurley, Rothwell & Woodward 2017). This study records the environmental impact of heavy industry upon the river system of the region’s largest industrial urban zone. This was done through recording trace elements in river sediments. This found extensive arsenic, chromium, copper and lead contamination from headwaters of the rivers to the floodplains and soils. However, lead was the most common and extensive form of contamination of sediments.

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