Since 2006 there has been a focus on the redevelopment of urban, brownfield land. This has led to hundreds of developer-funded excavations and building surveys of sites from the Industrial period and the 20th century. As a result, a huge amount of material has been added to the archaeology and built environment grey literature database for urban industrial sites, with notable concentrations of activity in Carlisle, Chester, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, and Stockport. Much of this material is available to download from the Archaeological Data Service or to consult through the regional Historic Environment Records.
Most of this new research remains to be synthesised but several English Heritage/Historic England sponsored surveys have begun the work of providing a strategic framework. In particular, the Historic Landscape Characterisation programmes begun in the late 1990s (Ripon 2004) have now been completed for the whole region, with the datasets and reports available to download from the Archaeological Data Service (ADS) for Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Merseyside. This data is inevitably, dominated by post-medieval, industrial rural, and urban landforms. To take the Greater Manchester Urban Historic Landscape Characterisation Project, completed in 2012, as an example this study examined the evolution of whole of the county area’s landscape, using geo-rectified mapping, 54,000 polygon records, and time-slicing to show how the landscape was transformed in the industrial period. Ten district reports and an overview report, together with a popular publication, were produced. The individual reports describe the post medieval landscape where it survives (Mitchell & Redhead 2012).
Two further urbanscape surveys have focused on the historic built environment of particular areas of the region. The Lancashire Extensive Urban Survey has looked at the built environment history of the towns and cities of the modern county, in a similar fashion to the earlier Cheshire urban survey (Iles 2009). One of the outcomes of this work includes a record of the extent of industrial workers’ housing in individual Lancashire towns, and the continuing landscape and social impact of this building type (Newman & Newman 2008).
In addition, the City of Chester has had two major pieces of planning-driven landscape study undertaken. Firstly, The Chester and approaches characterisation study (Cheshire West & Chester Council 2011) formed part of the evidence base for the then-emerging Local Plan, intended to guide Chester’s future development. The study assessed the character of the buildings, structures, and spaces within Chester’s main conservation areas and identified 16 general areas with 113 sub-areas. It noted that in many cases the boundaries of the built character assessment areas corresponded to those of the archaeological characterisation. This is largely the result of the long-term survival of urban landscape elements such as the city walls and the Roman street grid within the fortress, which are central to both studies (Beckley et al 2014, 9).
Secondly, an Urban Archaeological Database Project, funded by English Heritage, was undertaken between 2012 and 2014, which led to an enhancement of the records within the Cheshire Historic Environment Record relating to the city. This fed into the archaeological research framework and plan for the city (Beckley & Campbell 2013; Beckley, Campbell & Collens 2014). These two documents provide overviews of the below ground archaeology and above ground historic built environment of the city for the post-1750 period, recording 842 individual industrial-period records. These can be broken down into 404 entries covering standing structures, including both listed and non-listed structures, and 438 records relating to former buildings, archaeological sites, isolated finds, and landscapes from this period (Beckley & Campbell 2013, 55 & 73). Much of this data has been captured from the hundreds of archaeological interventions across the city. Many of these sites are multi-period with remains spanning the Roman period to the 20th century, as at Gorse Stacks on the eastern side of the city (Cuttler, Hewitson, Krawiec & Hepburn, 2012) and Bridge Street in the centre of Chester (Garner 2008).
Beyond the well-established urban centres of region, the Industrial Period saw the establishment of many industrial centres from villages to large-scale towns across the North West. Research on these new settlement forms has continued. Thus, in Cumbria industrial workers’ housing of the First World War munitions settlements of Gretna, Eastriggs, and Barrow-in Furness have been studied (Caffrey 2016). In Greater Manchester the Tameside Archaeological Survey has recorded the development and building of the late 19th century textile village of Carrbrook. This was built to house the calico print works of the adjacent textile finishing sites, from the 1880s onwards. It is contemporary with better known model industrial villages of the period, such as Port Sunlight (Ch). Most of the original workers’ housing and community buildings established at Carrbrook before 1914 survive, although the textile print works has been demolished and the site turned over to housing (Nevell with Grimsditch & King 2006).
Amongst the new specialist towns of the region were 19th century seaside resorts, from Southport to New Brighton. English Heritage undertook a detailed study of the development of Blackpool (M) and its pleasure beach structures (Whitfield &Brodie 2014). English Heritage has also charted the growth of industrial suburbs around the football stadium of Anfield in Liverpool as well as the wider impact of sport on the city’s townscape (Physick 2007).
The impact of industrialisation and railway construction on a historic town core can be seen through investigations carried out in Salford’s historic core along Greengate and Chapel Street (GM). A variety of excavations have been undertaken on industrial remains beside the River Irwell, workers’ housing, and Exchange Station, which was built in the 1880s. The station was demolished during the 1960s but the remarkable brick, arched, undercroft survived and was laser scan recorded by Pre-Construct Archaeology prior to demolition. The original plan drawings were traced to the Kew Records Office (Gregory & Miller 2015; Haslam, Proctor & Ridgeway 2017). Other small-town studies also record the impact of changing infrastructure and industrialisation on earlier urban settlements, as at Penrith (C) (Zant 2015).