Extractive Industries

Work on studying and recording mining has been concentrated in two areas – Cumbria and Greater Manchester. In Cumbria a number of small-scale projects within the Lake District National Park continue to record features associated with the region’s extractive industries. A historic landscape survey at Borrowdale (C) identified quarries, a workman’s hut, and a submerged former jetty structure. At Yewbarrow Wood (C) a considerable number of woodland management features and charcoal production sites were identified. Survey work ahead of the Black Beck Hydropower Scheme recorded post-medieval and industrial-period woodland management and stone extraction features (paths, pitsteads, storage huts, kiln). Evaluation showed how existing slag tips were re-used to provide standing for rail lines. At the Bangarth and Blea Tarn Ironstone Mines (C) survey work identified complex archaeological remains. Both mines are pre-dated by elements associated with zigzagging trackways giving access onto the common for stock grazing and peat cutting. Sites found adjacent to these trackways include small stone quarries, peat huts, sheepfolds and shelters. The Blea Tarn mine reflects a single phase of development from 1871 which proved unsuccessful. Mining features at Bangarth mine are more complex reflecting initial stoped working of a sizeable lode from the mid-1840s through sporadic activity to the late-1860s and renewed exploration from 1871. Evidently, the extent of viable ore was such that it was deemed profitable to revisit the mine as shown by its extensive spoil heaps and the inclined plane constructed for transport to the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway (OAN 2012).

Force Crag Mine (C), which was until 1991 the last working metal mine in Cumbria, is now owned by the National Trust; the 75-hectare (185-acre) site is accessible to walkers throughout the year and the extant processing mill is open to visitors on a number of advertised days during the summer. An archaeological survey of the surface remains of the Low Force Workings was undertaken in 1999 and in 2007 English Heritage undertook further analytical survey of the adits, buildings, tracks and other remains relating to the more inaccessible High Force Workings. Although mining for barytes in the High Force Workings spanned the hundred years between 1867 and 1967, it comprised five separate phases with a total duration of only 36 years and with one hiatus lasting nearly half a century, between 1881 and 1929. Underground, this part of the mine was the setting in 1949-52 of what has been called “one of the most ambitious mining operations in the Lake District”, but most of the surface remains relate to work undertaken, arguably on an equally ambitious scale, during the 1930s and 1940s (Grindey, Newman, Oswald & Went 2008).

Study of the physical remains of the coal industry in the North West has been mainly through developer-funded work. One exception was Salford University’s study of Crompton Moor (GM), which was HLF funded. This is an upland moorland area in Oldham, which rises to 400m SOD, and the study identified a significant relict coal mining landscape spanning the early 18th century to 1966. The mining was undertaken by tenant farmers initially, and only later by small-scale mining companies. The range of sites (from adits and bell pits to tramways and the site of pithead buildings) and quality of the surviving remains (extensive earthworks including spoil heaps, bell pits, quarries and tramways) makes this group regionally important (Nash & Nevell 201).

Groundwork Trust and Oxford Archaeology North led an HLF community project at Jubilee Colliery near Shaw, in the uplands around Oldham (GM), following on from a pilot project run by Archaeological Research Services (2013). As well as the colliery workings, this site has excellent remains of banks of late 19th century coke ovens. The project surveyed and sample-excavated key features of the complex, followed by vegetation clearance and conservation to present and interpret the remains.

Jubilee Colliery coke ovens, Shaw, Oldham, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

The lowland site of Gin Pit, Astley, Wigan (GM), was investigated in 2005-7 by OAN ahead of a housing development. This work included a historic building survey of the remains of the heapstead wall of the mid-19th century, c. 1900 workshops for the Astley & Tyldesley Colliery Company, and a World War Two air raid shelter, followed by targeted open-area excavation. Well preserved below-ground remains were recorded, relating to the coal shaft, access tunnels, winding and pumping engine houses and associate boilers and flues, the lamp house, and coal loading areas (Miller & Plummer 2016). In other parts of the region the above ground remains of the coal mining industry are very fragmentary. Occasionally such structures are threatened by redevelopment and therefore recorded. Thus, the Orchard House Mine Rescue Station at Boothstown, Salford, was recorded by Paul Butler Associates ahead of residential conversion (PBA 2013). This listed building was brick-built and dated to the 1930s. The excavations at Bradford Colliery in east Manchester revealed the remains of the coal-preparation plant and the foundation soft her late 19th century engine house and boilers for the pit (Miller 2011).

There have been several studies of lime kilns in the region. Lime was a key commodity for farming and the local building industry until the 1960s. In Cumbria and northern Lancashire recent studies have looked at the distribution and history of these monuments along the Pennine fringe (Johnson 2010b; Johnson 2013a). The article considered the constraints which held back large-scale lime production in the county, before going on to discuss a range of variables that help to explain the distribution and details of lime kilns in the survey area.

In Greater Manchester the Revealing Oldknow’s Legacy HLF project undertook historic research, survey and excavation at the site of Oldknow’s Lime Kilns in Marple, Stockport (GM). These were built in three phases between 1797 and 1802, set into the Peak Forest Canal embankment and supplied with lime and coal by a dedicated canal basin. They were unique in having internal accommodation as well as being embellished with Gothic architectural styling. The site is Scheduled and on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register. Associated with the lime kilns are a series of surviving buildings: a stable block, a building for loading lime onto wagons, and a similar building for loading onto canal barges via a dedicated canal arm. There were a series of tramlines of the same date which connected the terminals of the canal pending the construction of the Marple Locks on the Peak Forest Canal (Arrowsmith 2015). Community excavation of the tramlines and weigh houses were led by CfAA and uncovered evidence for associated process buildings and a tram way. At Worsley Lime Kiln, Salford (GM), excavation (WYAS 2010) recorded and interpreted the remains of a mid-18th century lime kiln on the southern side of the Duke of Bridgewater’s canal. Excavation revealed a well-preserved kiln pot which had been back-filled in the 19th century with burnt barge debris.

Oldknow’s lime kilns, Marple, Stockport, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

Evidence for industrial-scale brick making has been recovered from several locations in the North West. An urban brick making site was located adjacent Oxford Road, Manchester (GM), despite extensive disturbance from the construction of the BBC North television studio buildings in the 1970s. Archaeologists from Pre-Construct Archaeology were able to record remains of a brick clamp kiln, overlain by 1840s’ workers’ housing. This is the first time such a kiln has been revealed in Manchester. These kilns used locally sourced clay and were built adjacent to building sites in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as Manchester rapidly expanded. The kiln base displayed characteristic ‘tiger stripes’ made by oxidised orange clay and blackened linear flues (PCA 2016 report pending).

Ahead of the OASIS Academy development, Oldham (GM), OAN excavated a large area of an 1880s’ Hoffman Kiln at the former Oak Colliery in Oldham. The kiln was a 16-chamber Hoffmann type, capable of producing around 200,000 brick in each cycle of the continuous kiln. The excavation revealed that the kiln had been demolished to gallery floor level, but nevertheless retained significant detail of its form and function. The firing gallery floor retained evidence for feed-holes in the barrel-vaulting that would have originally been present, and flues from the gallery, which would have fed a central flue at a higher level were also revealed. Significantly, the flues around the south-western end of the kiln were placed on the outer wall of the gallery, demonstrating that the kiln post-dated 1870, when this improvement was added to the kiln patent. The kiln had a relatively short lifespan, and was disused by 1922. The exact reason for this remains unclear, although it is likely that it was caused by either an exhaustion of appropriate shale from the colliery, or more probably economic factors. The local demand for brick declined as the textile industry faltered following the First World War. Even within such a timescale, an incredible number of bricks were made, and it is probable that in excess of 150 million bricks were manufactured (OAN 2010). The more fragmentary remains of the Bradford Colliery Hoffman Kiln were investigated as part of the Bradford Colliery site development in east Manchester (GM) (Miller 2011).

Hoffman kiln excavation, Oak colliery, Oldham, Greater Manchester (courtesy of Oxford Archaeology Ltd)

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