Trade, exchange and interaction

The original Resource Assessment highlighted the potential of pottery, as the most frequently recovered artefact, to enhance an understanding of Post-Medieval trading patterns, stressing the need for more material to be gathered from across the region. Numerous large assemblages of pottery have been generated since 2006, and there is now a pressing need for comparative studies between different collections to shed new light on internal market and trading patterns of ceramic goods across the North West.

The introduction of an effective transport network was a prerequisite for industrial growth and trade, and whilst the introduction of canals, and subsequently railways, occurred during the Industrial Period, these developed from the river navigations of the 18th century. Significantly, the river navigations were the first large-scale financing of the local infrastructure by the merchant class to help develop trade, and their success stimulated the development of canals subsequently. Those of particular significance to the development of the North West included the Mersey & Irwell Navigation, the Weaver Navigation, the Dee Navigation and the Douglas Navigation. Most of these are thought to have employed simple chamber locks and short sections of man-made channels to avoid existing water mills and where the slope of the river demanded.

Documentary studies of these early navigations have been carried out, although very little archaeological investigation has been undertaken recently, other than in respect of the River Dee, where good evidence has been provided for a rapid shift in the active channel of the river. This evidently led to the need for new revetments, canalisation and construction of inlets for docks/wharfs and slipways (Hewitson and Scruby 2008; Reid 2008). The structural components of these early navigations, especially abandoned locks and weirs, await archaeological investigation, and have considerable potential to yield significant new information on inter-regional trade on the river navigations. This could perhaps be coupled with a study of associated infrastructure, such as wharfing and warehousing facilities. Similarly, as noted in the original Resource Assessment, there is still considerable scope for archaeological studies of coastal and estuarine ports beyond Liverpool, Whitehaven and Chester, and the role that numerous minor creeks fulfilled in Post-Medieval water-borne transport and trading patterns.

Alternatives to water-borne transport of goods were for the most part limited throughout the Post-Medieval period to the continued use of ancient packhorse routes and, from the early 18th century, the introduction of effective turnpikes. The crucial influence of cross-Pennine packhorse routes to the growth of Rochdale as a leading centre for the woollen cloth trade that stimulated the growth of cottage-based textile manufacturing in the surrounding settlements, for instance, was highlighted in an archaeological desk-based study of the town. This study identified Packer Street as a probable terminus of a packhorse route in the 17th century, rendering it one of the principal commercial thoroughfares in the town, lined with warehouses, inns, stables, shops and merchants’ houses, the majority of which were cleared for redevelopment in the mid-19th century (Miller 2019). As is typical of these key transport arteries and their associated infrastructure, however, a greater appreciation of development, form and character awaits intrusive archaeological investigation.

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