Metal Working Industries

The remains of the metalworking industries (processing of ores and the manufacturing of goods) have been investigated extensively in the last decade. More generalised landscape surveys of metal processing have tended to be asset-management led, whilst the excavation of metal working or manufacturing sites in industrial urban towns have been recorded through the developer-funded planning process.

Historic England’s study of the lead mining landscapes of Alton Moor and the industrial village of Nanthead has already been mentioned under extractive industries (Jessop & Whitfield with Davison 2013). This study focused on the development of the mining landscape and the surviving domestic buildings associated with the local communities as well as mineral processing activities.

In the upper Ribble Valley a survey of the Ashnott lead mine has recorded many landscape features associated with lead processing. Located in southern part of the Forest of Bowland AONB, this landscape is of particular interest for its evidence of complex, successive phases of mining, originating in the medieval period (Went 2014). From the early-16th century, if not before, miners created an intricate pattern of interconnected workings by chasing erratic lead deposits present within the Ashnott limestone knoll. Exploration began with open-cuts and shafts, and culminated in levels driven into the hillside to exploit deeper deposits and to facilitate underground transport and drainage. A broad sequence of development was determined within the earthworks visible across the surface of the knoll. The area presently designated as a scheduled monument encompasses the greater part of these remains, apart from two dams to the east and two adit entrances to the west. It appears to include, based on records of exploration in 1961, the majority of the known underground workings, with the exception of the greater part of a deep drainage level extending to the north. A major collapse in the price of lead, combined perhaps with the marginal nature of the mine, appears to have brought an end to the Ashnott operations in the 1830s.

Urban excavations have been concentrated in the Manchester city region. However, in Cumbria excavation of a post-medieval brewery on Irish Street in Whitehaven (C), and the excavation of a foundry and soapery at Albion Square, also in Whitehaven (C) (Raynor & Rowland 2015). demonstrates the importance of metal working in the market towns of the region. Elsewhere, in 2016 an HLF community archaeology project was undertaken at Cunsey Forge (C), one of many 18th and early-19th century forges found in Cumbria, Lancashire and parts of Cheshire.

Several iron works have been excavated through planning conditions. In Greater Manchester SLR excavated the remains of Ashbury’s Carriage Works and Iron Foundry, Gorton, Manchester (GM), ahead of the construction of a Network Rail control centre. The excavation produced extensive archaeological remains, including a variety of iron furnaces, large slag deposits, flues, chimneys, steam engine, and eight Nasmyth hammer bases, the site of a travelling crane, and a regenerative furnace with associated flue system. The carriage works operated from 1841 producing carriages and wagons for railways and tramways until it was demolished and cleared in 1926. Very little documentary material survived for what was one of the largest engineering works in the region. Several carriages are still in use on heritage railway lines. The project is notable for using the knowledge of members of the Manchester Region Industrial Archaeology Society as site volunteers to supplement the archaeologists’ technical skills. Additionally, the site showed how much information archaeology can provide on an industrial site with very little documentation (SLR 2013) (Hayes 2014).

In 2007, excavations by OAN ahead of a new bus station site on River Street, Rochdale (GM), recorded significant remains of John Petrie’s iron works. The original works of the 1820s were sealed beneath a later floor when the site was remodelled around 1850. John Petrie patented a wool scouring machine in 1853. A boiler house, flues chimney, engine base, and casting pits were preserved. A total of 52 box mould core fragments manufactured from a mixture of compacted silica sand with a low clay content were recovered. An adjacent brass works dating back to 1831 was also partially excavated and recorded (OAN 2009).

Elsewhere in Greater Manchester the Sports City development saw the excavation of remains of Bradford Iron Works, East Manchester, which was constructed adjacent to the Bradford Colliery in the 1850s by Johnson and Nephew. The excavation of Bradford Ironworks provided evidence for the remodelling of the original forge area with the installation of a range of boilers. The remains of a Siemens-type regenerative furnace were also revealed (OAN 2011). Soho Iron Works, Pollard Street, Manchester, dating to the early 1800s, displayed excellent remains relating to a double engine bed, early tram road, a Nasmyth Forge Hammer, canal side steam crane, and former canal arm (NAA 2011).

Leave a Reply