The Industrial and 20th Century Period


Compiled by Michael Nevell

(With contributions from Mark Brennand, John Hodgson, Peter lles, Mark Leah, Jamie Lund, Nigel Neil, Norman Redhead, & Sue Stallibrass)


A wide variety of approaches exist for studying the post-1750 period, from a focus on the archaeology of technology and production to more theoretical approaches looking at the social context and consequences of industrialisation. Archaeological fieldwork and research on the Industrial and 20th century period (post-1750 to 2000) has been led by developer-funded archaeology, with additional material provided by HLF community projects, local voluntary societies, English Heritage/Historic England landscape surveys, and university research projects. The volume of work in the period 2006 to 2018 is considerable. Hundreds of grey literature reports on industrial sites and buildings have been produced for North West England, along with more than 130 publications as books, monograph series, journal articles and a number of student MAs and PhDs. In addition, there are a variety of regional websites containing useful resources, chief amongst these the Industrial History of Cumbria website ( Such a large corpus of material reflects both the continuing interest by voluntary groups in the archaeology of the recent past, and also the way in which developer-funded archaeology can be used to recover data from this period.

The research and theoretical framework for the period continues to develop. The Association for Industrial Archaeology and the Society for Post-medieval Archaeology published a joint volume on current and future research directions in post-1550 archaeology in 2009 (Horning & Palmer 2009). This collection of 30 papers was divided into three sections covering current practice and paradigms, analytical approaches, approaches to people and things. The National Association for Mining History Organisations (NAMHO) issued a research framework document in 2016. The scope of this framework for the archaeology of extractive industries in England, whilst encompassing sites going back thousands of years, included a review of the existing evidence covering topics relevant to the Industrial period. This includes over views of energy minerals (coal), metals, bulk minerals (stone, aggregates, lime, sand), and other industrial minerals (clays, evaporates), as well as a research agenda (Newman 2016). The Historical Metallurgy Society has also published a research framework that is relevant to the Industrial Period. As well as having very useful resource overviews, method, and technological development sections, it has a section on Post-Medieval research themes (Bayley, Crossley & Ponting 2008). The Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory group (CHAT), founded in 2003 to enable dialogue between the research fields of later historical archaeology and the archaeology the contemporary world, has actively promoted research in this new area, much of which is relevant to North West England. These include individual conference proceedings and thematic publications on subjects such as graffiti (Oliver & Neal 2010).

English Heritage/Historic England published several guides to the archaeology and heritage of the post-1750 period. A note on science for historic industries was published in 2006 (Dungworth & Paynter 2006). This guidance focussed on the investigation of post-medieval and industrial sites, with overviews on site formation processes, historical sources, sampling process residues, recording historic technology, and dealing with contaminated land. In 2010 English Heritage published a thematic research strategy on the Historic Industrial Environment (EH 2010). This was divided into three broad themes: the origins of industrialisation; the impact of industrialisation; and the legacy of industrialisation.

Inevitably there are lacuna in this data. Two of the most obvious are the comparative lack of synthetic studies for the period and the lack of gender and identity studies.

Key overview comments to address for the Industrial and 20th century period

A number of overarching comments came out of the workshop discussions for the framework that should be taken into consideration for the Industrial and 20th century period:

  • Changes have been made to the theme headings to reflect the period.
  • Recent investigations have seen lots of important analysis on human remains.
  • Food production from rural/farms is an important theme that needs mentioning.
  • The rural poor of this period relate to contemporary homelessness.
  • For the Environment theme, the landscape change due to invasive flora/fauna and development pressure are key aspects.
  • There are several overlapping questions which need resolving and turning into proper questions, and some should be moved to the overarching strategy section (done).
  • Some questions should be amended to integrate archaeology and architecture (done).
  • Place based research (holistic approach) in a landscape context is important.
  • We should recognise sub-regional variation eg. houses, mills, public buildings etc.
  • Changing building materials is a key theme: glass, steel, cast-iron framework etc.
  • Dealing with other evidence bases eg. photographs, social history incl. oral histories, vital for this period.
  • For the Post Medieval and Industrial & Modern periods generally, why do we do archaeology and how can we ensure that it isn’t just an expensive way of telling us what we already know (from written resources)? We need to stress the unique ability to reveal/investigate demolished sites and enable reconstruction.
  • How do we capture the process of industrialisation? This is a high level question which has been rather overlooked due to a focus on smaller questions.
  • Development of travel infrastructure for people and goods, transatlantic trade and population movements are especially key themes for the North West.
  • How do we incorporate Britain’s archaeological and architectural influence on its Imperial world, and that Imperial world’s impact on Britain?
  • How and why do we separate post-medieval and industrial archaeology? Key factors that changed in the industrial period onwards relate to the sheer scale and diversity of the resource and to how buildings were built – the increasing input of architects, surveyors and engineers resulted in documentary evidence alongside business, municipal and other records. We aren’t so reliant on archaeology, so other research techniques such as architectural history and social history are relevant.  We need to be more focused to deal with the scale.
  • Overarching Strategies should include digitisation and management of archive plans, engaging local archives/ local history/specialist groups, synthesis of information held by local/specialist societies, holistic research applications, accessing PhDs, area based studies, landscape context.
  • For buildings, an important theme is threat due to shifts in the socio-economic trends and political policy eg. do we understand enough about the significance of banks, pubs, police stations, municipal buildings, high street shops, post offices to inform decisions about change and potential loss? 


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.


Research on and recording of the archaeological remains of the agricultural industry has been extensive since 2006 and not just confined to data gathered through the commercial sector. Such research is focused primarily on the standing structures of the agricultural industry. Of high significance is a major review of the regional character of historic farmsteads in England, undertaken by English Heritage between 2004 and 2015 and the assessment framework published in 2015 (Lake 2015). The North West England regional report was published in 2006 and this provides a good overview of the major agricultural building types that survive in the region, as well as the sub-regional characteristics, from farmstead types, to crop storage and processing, and animal and animal products’ buildings (Lake, Edwards, Wade Martins & Deadman 2006). Earlier studies concentrated on just particular estates or areas of the region but this document provides a key overview of the building types within the North West.

These documents are particularly useful in providing a framework for study since the conversion of agricultural buildings has continued since 2006, and such structures across the region consistently show evidence for the re-use of timber from earlier buildings and the rebuilding of agricultural structures on earlier sites. One notable hotspot of area of redevelopment has been rural Lancashire. Many of these buildings at first glance appear to date from the 18th and 19th centuries, especially barns, although often, closer study reveals a more complex history. Whilst individual studies may not be in themselves striking, there is a large volume of grey literature now available for synthesis. Such a study might answer whether it is worth continuing to record such structures; whether there are other agricultural building types that should be targeted; is the recording level appropriate and are the standards and recording levels adhered to; and what do these records tell us about the detailed character Lancashire building resource? A useful example of the way in which such material might be used is a study of Lancashire dairy cattle and their buildings (Grundy 2015). If more synthesis were to take place, long-held distribution patterns for specific building types might be tested. For example, the late eighteenth or early nineteenth-century bank barn (or at least a hybrid) at Stoneleach Farm, Wrightington (L), lies far beyond the traditional predominantly Cumbrian distribution (Neil 2002). The temporal  and spatial distribution of rarer features such as bull pens, corn holes, such as at Latus Hall barn, Inglewhite (L) (Neil in Ponsford 2001, 169) and the various styles of pigsty / hen house, also merit study.

Other fieldwork and research on agricultural landscapes has included the location on the River Esk in Cumbria of an 18th and 19th century fish weir at Drigg (C), where the timber uprights formed a lattice across estuary with evidence of a wattle walkway to one side of uprights. Wider research into the lowland landscapes of Cumbria has included a study of lowland improvement through grazing and drainage (Davis & Davis 2013).

Several rural water-powered corn mills have been excavated, or earlier results published. These include, within Greater Manchester, the cornmill site at Northenden, which functioned until the mid-20th century (Bell 2009), whilst Norbury Mill in Stockport was further excavated as part of a road-building programme. Both projects focused upon the power systems and wheelpits of the mills. Elsewhere a building survey of the Nether Alderley Mill, near Alderley Edge (Ch) for the National Trust (a building whose structure spans the 16th to 20th centuries but which was extensively rebuilt around 1746; Matrix Archaeology 2012) recorded the in situ surviving power systems and milling machinery, dating from the mid-19th century. Restoration work at the 18th century Heron Corn Mill, Beetham in southern Cumbria, during 2013 and 2014 involved a detailed record of the power systems. The survival of contemporary water power systems and milling machinery is now very rare in the corn mills of the region and largely confined to sites run as museums, as is the case with these latter two mill buildings.

Rural Settlement

Data gathering and research on industrial period rural settlement since 2006 can be broadly split in to two types; localised surveys of small monuments done through the planning process and larger landscape surveys, often the result of landscape management projects.

The Lake District National Park has many examples of small-scale studies undertaken as planning or management conditions that could be integrated into wider synthetic studies on the impact of agricultural intensification and the impact of industrialisation. These include farmstead surveys at Peel Place, Lanthwaite (C) where features associated with the farm were recorded, including building platforms, trackways, walls, lynchets, and a possible corn-drier or stack stand. One building was probably used for housing animals and several different floor surfaces were revealed, some likely relating to pens or stalls accessed off an aisle. The farmstead probably dates to the first half of the 19th century. Fieldwork as part of the Black Beck Hydropower Scheme (C) revealed post-medieval and industrial-period enclosures that were shown on later mapping.

Several largescale estate and landscape surveys reveal the impact of land management and vernacular building changes during the 18th to the early 20th centuries. At Alston Moor on the high moorland of in north-eastern Cumbria (C) English Heritage/Historic England have undertaken a study of the industrial village and its surrounding farming and upland lead mining landscape (Jessop, Whitefield & Davison 2013).

Other upland studies include a desk-based assessment by UMAU at Healey Dell, Rochdale (GM), undertaken to inform understanding of the relict industrial landscape for management and community engagement purposes. The work comprised the detailed survey of four sites, Broadley Mill, Broadley Wood Mill, Broadley Stone Rubbing Mill, and Th’Owd Mill I’t Thrutch (UMAU 2006). The Mellor Archaeological Trust have surveyed the industrial and rural landscape of part of the south-western Pennine upland in Stockport (GM), noting the growth of new industrial hamlets and the water management systems needed for new textile spinning mills (Hearle 2011). Recording of a series of farmsteads around Kingsway in Rochdale (GM) ahead of redevelopment noted the development of post-medieval enclosure, the shift from timber to brick building, and the arrival of farmer weavers (Forthcoming 2018).

Healey Dell, Rochdale, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

In the lowlands two adjacent township surveys are also noteworthy. A study of the evolution and character of the lowland Dunham Massey Estate (GM) by the National Trust recorded the investment by the earls of Stamford in over 20 farmsteads and their farm buildings from the early 18th century to the early 20th century. Some of the trends this study recorded included the shift from timber to brick building and a move from mixed farming to dairying (Gregory & Miller 2013). The adjacent township to the west was recorded as part of the Warburton Archaeological Survey (1996 to 2015). This work, led by the South Trafford Archaeological Group, encompassed detailed vernacular building recording, historic studies of manorial records, and landscape exploration. It produced a story of continuity and gradual change in contrast to the major horizons of estate investment seen next door at Dunham (Nevell with Carney, Cracknell, Haworth, Hill and Jubb 2015). In northern Cheshire a further landscape survey, the Alderley Sandhills Project, run in the early 2000s, was published in 2009-10 (Casella 2009; Casella & Croucher 2010). The project combined farmstead excavation with family and oral history, and artefact studies to look at the impact of the industrialisation process on an estate community, in this case owned by the Stanleys, from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

Finally, a number of rural freehold and manor houses have been excavated around Greater Manchester with deposits running into the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. These include Booth Hall, Etherstone Hall, Moston Hall, Royton Hall, Timperley Hall, and Wood Hall (Garratt 2009; Pierce, North & Nevell 2013; Thompson, Stott & Malcolmson 2007; Wooler & Newman 2016). Each is a detailed case study reflecting the development of local vernacular building traditions, the impact of new agricultural and landscape management techniques, and estate decline through their material remains. In Cheshire the publication of the excavations undertaken at Bewsey Old Hall near Warrington during the 1970s and 1980s provide a similar detailed case study of building development, agricultural change and decline (Lewis, Heawood & Howard-Davis 2011).

The Urban landscape

Urban Landscape Change

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).

Greater Manchester Historic Landscape 1912 Time Slice (courtesy of GMAAS)

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 201

Industrial Urban Housing

The last ten years have seen a plethora of planning-led excavations and historic building recording of workers’ housing dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Much of this work though by no means all, has been concentrated within Greater Manchester where over 40 separate projects have been undertaken by a variety of archaeological contractors. One conclusion from this work is the design and construction of workers’ housing within the North West is extremely varied, though substantial synthesis remains to be done.

Individual studies of understanding  buildings remain a key way of understanding the great variety of structural forms within this monument type. At Barrow-in-Furness the Egerton Buildings, a rare pair of tenement blocks in the Barrow Island district of the town, have been studied (Withey 2008). Barrow was once, and to a lesser extent still is, dominated by heavy industry and had an ample stock of associated housing for workers. Egerton Buildings are situated to the south-west of Ramsden Dock Road between Michaelson Road to the north-west and Siemens Street to the south-east. They were designed in 1879 by architects Paley & Austin of Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness and erected between 1880 and 1886 by the contractors Smith & Caird of Dundee, working on behalf of the Furness Railway Company. Built most probably to provide accommodation for the families of employees of the Furness Railway Company’s nearby shipbuilding works. They consist of two identical, four-storey blocks of nine tenements, making eighteen tenements in total. There are eight flats within each tenement, giving 72 flats per block and 144 flats in all. As originally planned, 128 of the flats had one bedroom and 16 had two. Each flat had an entrance hall, a kitchen/living room, a scullery and an open drying area, enclosed by railings, off which opened a water closet, a coal store and a dust or ash store. Designed in a simplified French Renaissance style, the tenement blocks are of red brick with concrete dressings. The roofs are covered with grey slates with red ceramic ridges. Only relatively minor alterations (such as renewed fenestration) have affected the exterior during the lifetime of the buildings, and the plan-form is substantially intact, but most internal details have been lost.

An overview study of the importance of urban workers’ housing in Lancashire has already been noted (Newman & Newman 2008). This work builds upon the long tradition of investigating surviving workers’ housing in the county, most recently seen in Timmins’ study of the quality of back-to-back housing in several textile colonies in Lancashire (Timmns 2013). In Cheshire samples of workers’ housing have been examined in Crewe (Henry/Forge Street) (ECH5976).

In Greater Manchester GMAAS has used planning requirements to facilitate mainly archaeological excavation of several industrial suburbs: Townside in Bury, Portwood in Stockport, and Ancoats in Manchester. In this way the remains of early- to mid-19th century textile mills, workers’ housing, a graveyard, and a mid-18th century school were excavated and recorded by OAN in 2006-7 ahead of The Rock retail development, Bury (Miller & Gregory 2010).

Important remains of a variety of early house types have been recorded at Loom Street in Ancoats, Manchester. The excavations are one of the largest archaeological investigation of late 18th and 19th century workers’ housing undertaken within the City of Manchester. This work exposed the remains of various types of housing, which would characterise the late 18th century and early-mid-19th century domestic environment within both Ancoats and the industrial townscapes of Industrial Britain, described by social commentators such as Frederick Engels in the mid-19th century. These houses types included: large double-depth properties of a comparatively high status, which may have originally housed artisans in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, and smaller back-to-back and blind-back workers’ housing. Many of these smaller house types were arranged around insalubrious courtyards and at times may have been associated with cellar dwellings. The archaeological evidence included evidence for the material culture found within these houses, as well as providing clear evidence for phases of social improvement, dating to the late-19th century. These remains, therefore, provide significant insights into the form, construction, and living conditions associated with workers’ housing within one of the world’s first industrial suburb. The large finds assemblage is unusual for this type of excavation site (UMAU 2007) and summarised in Nevell (2008; 2011; 2014; 2017) and Redhead (2011).

Loom Street, Ancoats, Greater Manchester (GMAAS)

In 2009 OAN undertook a targeted open area excavation of workers’ housing at Miller Street/Angel Street, Manchester, where the Cooperative built its new HQ. This area, part of Angels Meadows, was once notorious for the insanitary and crowded living conditions, immortalised by Engels writings. Excavation of the trial trenches demonstrated clearly that well-preserved structural remains of 18th– and 19th-century houses survived in-situ across parts of the site, which merited further archaeological investigation to mitigate their ultimate loss during development construction work. Approximately 75 structures were identified, almost exclusively relating to domestic dwellings, with the majority dating from the late-18th and early-19th centuries. Four broad phases of activity were recognised, with the earliest structure appearing to represent the cellar of a mid-18th century town house. Other houses mainly comprised two-up-and-two down-type artisans’ dwellings, with top floor loomshops, and two-roomed cellars with independent access, which had probably used as cellar dwellings. Evidence for the decline of the area was observed, with various buildings being partitioned to facilitate an expansion of the local population, and perhaps to maximise rent revenue. These larger dwellings were converted subsequently into notorious lodging houses, whilst the cellars continued to provide accommodation for the poorest families, which were frequently of Irish origin.

Co-op HQ site, Angel Meadows, Greater Manchester (courtesy of OAN)

Large-scale changes to drainage and sanitation were also identified on this site (Miller & Wild 2015), representing improvements that were probably implemented by the local authority in the early-20th century. This has allowed a new insight to the physical and engineering implications of such wholesale replacement of the sanitary system, undertaken in order to make the properties fit for habitation. Whilst not all the plan-types suggested by the 19th-century cartographic sources survived, the excavation has added great detail to these basic, and often conflicting, plans, increasing the current understanding of domestic life in industrial Manchester. Whilst the housing of the urban poor, a class generated by the Industrial Revolution, became a political issue of great importance from the 1830s, little physical evidence has been examined to compare with the huge weight of documentary accounts available. This project has not only added significantly to the dataset of such investigations, but has also potentially added significant detail for the interpretation of the political and social history which dominates studies of this period (Miller & Wild 2015). Other good example of back-to-back cellar dwellings were recorded on adjacent sites as part of the NOMA regeneration scheme (Miller & Wild 2015; Miller, Wild & Gregory 2010; Nevell 2008).

Excavation ahead of the new National Graphene Institute site, Booth Street East, University of Manchester. This identified well-preserved remains relating to a row of c. 1830 early workers’ housing with unusual plan form, a German club frequented by Engels in the 1840s, and one of Manchester’s first Turkish Baths (OAN 2013).

At Chapel Street in Salford (GM), the Centre for Applied Archaeology (CfAA) undertook a large-scale excavation of workers’ housing in an area described by Engels in the 1840s on a par with the worst slum areas of Manchester. Well-preserved remains of some back-to-back cellar dwellings were recorded; as well as a large area of larger houses fronting onto Chapel Street with various courtyards at the rear (CfAA 2013). At Bridgefield Street, Stockport, excavations by OAN in 2015 ahead of new cinema complex (Red Rock) revealed a series of back-to-back cellar dwellings. These had been built in c. 1810 and demolished during the 1960s. They were associated with large cobbled yards, one of which contained a well/pump and shared toiled block. The rapid urbanisation of villages during this period has been captured in a detailed study of Cheadle (GM) (Redhead & Miller 2014), and in Royton (GM). Here an archaeological excavation on land off Middleton Road recorded the well-preserved foundations of four back-to-backs dating to 1810-40. The basic amenities suggest the inhabitants were economically poor, though not in extreme poverty. This more rural example is a useful comparison with the excavations of workers’ housing in urban Manchester and Salford.

Bridgefield Street, Stockport, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

This work is adding to an important corpus of archaeological investigations on workers’ housing from the late-18th to mid-19th centuries – a critical time in Manchester’s development as one of the world’s leading manufacturing centres. This period saw a dramatic population increase, which led to some of the poor and overcrowded housing conditions famously described by Engels (Nevell).

Urban Building Types

There have been a number of surveys of surviving urban build types from the Industrial Period. Historic England sponsored a survey of urban and suburban public houses in England built between the First World War and the Second World War. This features case studies for several establishments in North West England: The Coach & Horses, Carlisle (C); The Blackburne Arms, & The Farmers’ Arms, both in Liverpool (M); The Primrose Inn, Wallasey (M); The Wheatsheaf, Sutton Leach, St Helens (M); and The White Swan Hotel, Swinton, Salford (GM) (Cole 2015). The project focused on the urban and suburban inter-war public house in England, and was aimed at increasing the levels of understanding, awareness, and heightening the levels of protection afforded  them. It discussed notable architects, architectural styles employed, active breweries, and the ideals of pub improvement. Buildings considered include ‘improved’ or ‘reformed’ pubs – which usually featured rooms for entertainment, dining, and non-alcoholic refreshment – as well as pubs built on more traditional lines. The project reflects the high level of threat now faced by England’s pubs, and the high rates of closure, alteration and demolition.

Less well recorded have been the market halls of the Industrial Period. An exception is the Grade 2 listed 19th century Market House in Altrincham, surveyed during restoration. The building is a large rectangular structure of restrained Classical appearance, displaying the palette of building materials – notably cream, red and grey-brown brick – typical of 1870s-1880s Altrincham and its suburbs. Another example of a recently surveyed and refurbished market hall is in Stockport, in the old market place. The cast-iron and glass covered market opened in 1861, but archaeological excavation and documentary study showed it was the successor to market activity on this site going back to the medieval period (Arrowsmith 2010). Both buildings are significant examples of the Victorian market halls built in Greater Manchester, a considerable number of which no longer survive (Miller 2014).

In Barrow-in-Furness (C), a 19th century steam-powered corn mill was completely excavated ahead of redevelopment. This provides a rare excavated glimpse of the fully-developed urban corn mill and the complexity and size of the associated steam-power facilities (Elsworth & Whitehead 2010).

In Greater Manchester archaeology planning conditions have enabled the excavation of most of the site of the remarkable New Bailey Prison in Salford, work undertaken by Salford University. This was a reform prison designed and built in the years 1787-90 to a radial plan and intended to be self-financing through the work of the prisoners. Excellent remains of the 1815 extension have been revealed including the workshop range and prison cells with exercise yards. Three of the six development plots affecting the prison site have been excavated. The investigations have included community involvement and guided tours/open days. A monograph is in preparation. This is one of the most extensive and important prison site excavations undertaken in this country in recent years (Nevell & Reader 2015). Lancaster Prison, within Lancaster Castle, has been the subject archaeology building survey in the last few years, although this remains unpublished.

New Bailey Prison, Salford, Greater Manchester (courtesy of Salford Archaeology)

Elsewhere in Greater Manchester at Leaf Street, Hulme, Salford Archaeology have revealed and recorded the well-preserved remains of a first-class bathing pool, one of three that were part of the public baths established here in the mid-19th century on the site of an 1840’s workhouse, very little of which survived (Salford Archaeology 2016). The context for this building type was provided by an MA study of the development of municipal baths, including examples from the city of Manchester, was published in 2010 (Marino 2010).

In Rochdale, The Broadwater Centre (GM) was originally the Lea Hall Baths built in 1868 by Rochdale Corporation. The building has a two-storey almost symmetrical front elevation designed in classical style by local architect, E. N. Macdougall; this is the only part of the building with any architectural pretension. There were two pools of equal size for men, as first and second class, and a smaller ladies’ pool. A boiler house was added in around 1900 to the rear, and the chimney is truncated. Both main pools have metal truss roofs and retain some original features, but their spatial character is obscured by inserted ceilings and floors over the pools. The ladies’ pool retains the roof and, possibly, also structure in the basement (not seen). It has not been used as a bath since the late 1930s, when new baths opened on Entwisle Road, Rochdale. A major refurbishment at an unknown date in the late 20th century re-modelled the entrance, provided new stairs, new exterior door and windows, new ancillary facilities and the inserted suspended ceilings and new wall coverings (AHP, 2014). Another set of public baths were recorded at Entwisle Street site in Rochdale (GM) ahead of demolition (ArcHeritage 2010). These were a fine example of a mid-1930s Art Deco public baths.

Religion, ritual and ceremony

The focus of investigation and research on religious and ceremonial sites in the region continues to be the church or chapel building. However, large-scale urban redevelopment has begun to affect 18th and 19th century smaller graveyards associated with non-conformist churches and chapels. Whilst the First World War commemoration events has led to a renewed interest in war memorials and their conservation, and a growth in online access to the information they hold. Historic England ran a listing project funded through monies from the DCMS (HE 2015), which raised the number of listed memorials from 1,657 in 2014 to 2,645 in 2018. Several notable examples have been protected in the North West including the Darwen church war memorial now in Darwen cemetery (L), the Kerridge War Memorial New Bollington (Ch), and the Lathom War Memorial near Ormskirk (L). Elsewhere, the study of non-religious ceremonial or formal landscapes from this period has been limited. An example of conscientious objection from the First World War has been recently scheduled at Green Moor Farm in Cumbria. This was once a safe house used as refuge by Socialist Labour Party members from West Yorkshire and Lancashire campaigning against the war. A rocky outcrop above the farm, which may have acted as a vantage point to look out for the police, became a memorial to the group’s presence and struggle with inscriptions and initials scratched into the rock.

Church Buildings

Religious buildings have continued to be altered or converted in the last decade. Some Church of England parish churches have had new underfloor heating installed as at St Bartholomew’s in Wilmslow (Ch), St Lawrence’s in Denton (GM), and Manchester Cathedral (GM), or extensions of parish buildings as at the parish churches of Penwortham (LA), Prestbury (Ch), and Tattenhall (Ch) that have led to archaeological interventions affecting post-1540 fabric and deposits. A few redundant churches and chapels have been converted to other uses, primarily accommodation, as at the Wesleyan Chapel in Rhodes (GM) (2006) and the Delph Independent Chapel in Saddleworth, Oldham (GM). The Welsh Baptist Chapel, Upper Brook Street in Manchester (GM) (2006-2015) has been converted to student accommodation, following an extensive programme of archaeological works that looked at the above and below ground remains of the site including the graveyard (Gregory & Keen 2018; see below). Elsewhere the ruins of the 16th to 19th century Dukinfield Old Hall Chapel (GM) were surveyed and excavated as part of plans to restore the site (Reader & Nevell 2013).

Cemeteries and Graveyards

The most significant development in recording and studying of religious sites in North West England in the last decade has been the large-scale scientific excavation of several post-medieval and industrial period urban graveyards. This data has the potential to provide a new source of evidence relating to the impact of the industrialisation process on the people of the region by analysis of their very remains.

Many of these sites are non-conformist denominations, which have slightly different legal protocols if disused and usually have different stakeholder attitudes. Examples include chapels at Redearth (LA) and Swinton (GM). Some large urban cemeteries associated with Church of England sites have also been excavated, as at Freckleton Street, adjacent to Blackburn Cathedral (L). In Lancashire, an archaeological watching brief at the Darwen Academy (L) on the site of the Redearth Road Cemetery revealed six skeletons, probably from the 19th century Free Methodist Church that lay on the site. A large portion of the cemetery on Freckleton Street, associated with St Peters now Blackburn Cathedral, was excavated ahead of road construction. The dozens of bodies investigated from this site are mostly from the working-class population of the 18th and 19th century industrial town. Most of these cemetery excavations have yet to be published.

Development pressure in Greater Manchester has impacted on several former non-conformist burial grounds, where removal of human remains has been informed by detailed programmes of archaeological investigation and recording, including laboratory analysis to examine the skeletal remains. The Second City Crossing Metrolink scheme in Manchester led to a programme of careful excavation and recording of around 250 burials spanning the 18th and 19th centuries at Cross Street Chapel graveyard (GM) by CFA Archaeology Ltd. The remains, which date from around the 1720s to the 1850s, were found to be members of the ‘Nonconformist’’ movement, later part of the Unitarian Church. These are named and aged individuals. During the Metrolink construction work, TfGM also uncovered the vaulted crypt of St Peter’s Church, dating back to 1788, under St Peter’s Square. Archaeologists unearthed some day-to-day discarded items along with less common finds that were put on display in Manchester Central Library. At Manchester Cathedral the reduction of the floor for a new heating scheme, the excavation of a dais pit in front of the medieval rood screen, and the insertion of ground source heat pumps and cabling externally within the former graveyard all had considerable archaeological implications. In total 32 burials from within 48 graves were excavated within the nave by Wessex Archaeology under the guidance of GMAAS. The nave burials consisted of a mix of shroud burials, interments in wood and lead coffins, and two graves containing a densely-packed chalk deposit surrounding the deceased. A further 16 burials were recovered from the watching brief, 12 of which exhibited evidence for wooden coffins, and four of which had no surviving wood. The elaborate coffin furnishings manufactured from bronze and brass recovered from within the Cathedral, alongside the five lead coffins within the nave, indicated that these individuals were of a higher social standing than those encountered during similar archaeological works at the cathedrals at Wakefield and Sheffield. Furthermore, the preference for iron coffin furnishings recovered during the watching brief outside the Cathedral, indicates the extra-mural burials were of individuals of a lower socioeconomic status than those buried within the Cathedral walls. The mixed demographic of the burials both within and outside the Cathedral indicate these interments to be of the local lay population served by the Cathedral. No children aged less than a year old at the time of their death were recovered during this archaeological programme, suggesting those that were not baptised were excluded from the Cathedral cemetery or buried in specific areas, not impacted by the current works (Wessex Archaeology 2013).

Cross Street Chapel Graveyard, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

At the former Welsh Baptist Chapel on Booth Street West in Manchester (GM), Phoenix Exhumations Ltd recorded, under the guidance of GMAAS, recorded 144 individuals buried between 1839 and 1882, from the wealthier elements of the Nonconformist community. Of these, 62 articulated skeletons and a proportion of the disarticulated remains (relating to 44 individuals) were studied through osteological analysis before reburial, giving details of their sex, stature, age at death, and any diseases or abnormalities. The coffin furniture and artefacts associated with them were analysed. Of the 22 fairly intact coffins excavated, 20 were found to be made of lead and two of iron covered in concrete. The remaining coffins were in various degrees of preservation and made of wood bound by iron and studded. Several coffins were also covered in leather, a few remnants of which were preserved. Coffin furniture, small finds, the botanical content of a wreath, pottery, and animal bone found within the backfill of the vaults were recorded. The skeletal remains indicated the presence of osteoarthritis, trauma in the form of fractured bones, a number of congenital conditions such as spina bifida and scoliosis, and evidence for deformation of the ribs, probably brought about from wearing tightly fastened corsets (Gregory & Keen 2018). This case study shows the potential of such material from urban industrial populations.

Proposals for a housing development at 11-16 Chapel Street, Hazel Grove (GM), included the former site of an 18th century Wesleyan Chapel (1785-6) and sunday school (built around 1823). The development area encompassed the former burial ground where, over a 73-year period, 367 individuals were recorded as having been interred. The graves of 44 individuals were investigated and a total of 38 skeletons were removed from the site, analysed by specialist osteologists (York Osteoarchaeology), and reburied along with their coffins, personal effects and other finds. All burials were in extended and supine positions, on a west-east alignment. A small number of partially legible coffin plates were recovered during the excavation that indicate these individuals are representative of the 18th and early-19th century members of the congregation of this chapel. The osteological analysis revealed evidence for childhood diseases, trauma injuries, and poor dental health (CfA, 2017).

The excavations ahead of the ASDA Store development in Swinton (GM) by OAN in 2012-13, led to archaeological recovery of a sample of the graveyard. Here 112 articulated skeletons were recovered for osteological analysis. These remains came from the former Swinton Unitarian Free Church cemetery, dating from 1863-1899, the assemblage comprising 71 adults and 41 juveniles.

Secular Display

Very few sites of secular display from this period have been investigated, beyond the 20th century war memorials (see above). One notable monument type that has been studied are the formal gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries. A number of internationally famous landscape designers are known to have worked in the North West, beginning with Henry Wise at Stonyhurst (L) in the last years of the 17th century, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (Lowther, Cu; Knowsley, M, Doddington Park, Eaton Hall, Dunham Massey, and Tatton Park, C), Humphry Repton (Lathom, Scarisbrick, Garswood L; Aston Lodge, Warrington; Crewe Hall C), and William Emes (Platt Hall, Heaton Hall GMC; Tatton Hall, Crewe Hall, Oulton Hall, Peover Hall, Eaton Hall, Cholmondeley Hall C), and Sir Joseph Paxton and Edward Kemp at Birkenhead Park (the world’s first public park), and Paxton’s protégé, Edward Milner. Other designers who worked in the north-west include Gertrude Jekyll (Dyke Nook Lodge, Accrington, L), William Henderson, the prolific Thomas Mawson (Stanley Park, Blackpool etc.), through to Sir Peter Shepheard who designed Lancaster University, and the living garden designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd. 

Desk-top studies of historic designed landscapes (HDLs) were undertaken in Lancashire (Bennis and Dyke 1998; 507 sites studied), Greater Manchester (297 sites studied), Cheshire (Bennis and Dyke 1995; 56 sites studied), and Merseyside (Gallagher 1994; 24 sites studied). These were undertaken to help enhance what was then the English Heritage (now Historic England) Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England, included a number of deer parks and country house gardens with medieval or early post-medieval origins, besides 19th and 20th-century institutional, civic, and cemetery/memorial landscapes. The Merseyside Parks and Open Spaces project extended Gallagher’s limited remit, and recorded around 100 sites, including city squares in Liverpool. In Lancashire these studies been taken to a second phase, with visits to 291 sites, and recommendations to local planning authorities for ‘local listing’ (Barker et al (2013).

Since 2010, the Cheshire Gardens Trust have been carrying out a research and recording programme for non-designated parks and gardens in Cheshire, Warrington, and Halton. 59 reports have been received by the HER and have identified survival of significant features from parks and gardens not previously known to the HER. The National Trust has undertaken a study of the 18th century gardens that surround Quarry Bank Mill (CH) and the wider designed, romantic, 19th century landscape. At Allan Bank, Grasmere (C) 109 archaeological features and/or garden components were recorded in a survey of the 19th century grounds. At Holbeck Ghyll, the grounds of the Low Wood Hotel was found to have Victorian leisure features such as formal gardens, cockpit, wells, and a bowling green. Also, in Cumbria the recent inscription of the Lake District as a UNESCO world heritage site involved reviewing the designed and managed landscapes of the area.

In Greater Manchester the formal terraced gardens at Worsley New Hall, Salford (GM), were investigated between 2011 and 2014 (Salford Archaeology 2014). Designed by the well-known landscape gardener Andrew Nestfield for the Earl of Ellesmere, the formal parterres were arranged along a series of three terraces. The remains of footpaths, terrace steps, and bedding edges were located along with the site of three fountain basins.

Technology and Production

Developer-funded archaeology work tends to emphasise urban, brownfield sites. In the last decade the investigation of industrial production sites has been driven by such urban redevelopment. Sites investigated in this way include metal processing and manufacturing sites, especially textile sites. Sometimes this has included industrial period extractive sites (coal, copper, and limestone), though these have also been investigated through HLF community projects and through landscape management initiatives in the Lake District National Park and elsewhere. More generalised landscape surveys of surviving extractive and manufacturing sites have been undertaken by the Association for Industrial Archaeology for Lancashire (Nevell & George 2007) and for Cheshire (Nevell & George 2017). Both studies noted the high rate of destruction of such upstanding remains when compared to an earlier landscape survey from 1981 (Ashmore 1981).

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)

Manufacturing : Textiles

The Lancashire Textile Mills Rapid Assessment Survey, carried out between 2008-10, identified a total of 1,661 textile-manufacturing sites that once existed in the modern county of Lancashire (OAN 2010). The majority of the identified sites were concentrated in the southern and eastern parts of the county, within the boroughs of Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Burnley, and Pendle, corresponding essentially to Pennine Lancashire. In addition, important concentrations of urban textile-manufacturing sites have been identified in Chorley, Clitheroe, Lancaster, and Preston, with notable rural examples existing on the periphery of these centres. Of the 1,661 textile-manufacturing sites identified, a total of 619 were found to survive or were partially extant in 2011; which equates to an average survival rate of 37.27%, although this varied between the component boroughs. This total includes examples from all branches of the textile-manufacturing industry, though in some cases, such as textile-finishing works and flax mills, very few buildings survive. In order to inform policies to help protect the remains of the county’s rich and internationally significant industrial heritage, a comprehensive Buildings at Risk (BAR) assessment was carried out as a second phase to the project. Undertaken between 2011-15, this aimed to provide an overview of the stock condition, occupancy, and ownership patterns of the buildings. This was coupled with a detailed record of selected examples that were used to illustrate the historical development of the functional and architectural types that were noted for the various branches of the industry in the Rapid Assessment Survey, and allowed for any differences spatially across the county to be determined (Phelps, Gregory, Miller & Wild 2017).

In 2016-17 GMAAS and CfAA undertook a Buildings at Risk survey of Greater Manchester textile mills, funded by Historic England. The survey revisited the mills recorded by GMAU/RCHME in the second half of the 1980s. The included an initial desk-based assessment of mill survival and condition, occupancy, and potential re-use survey. It was found that 540 mill sites have standing remains compared to 973 in 1988, a loss rate of 45%; with the highest rate of loss in Salford and lowest in Bolton. Overall 20% of mills were in very bad or poor condition compared to 41% in fair condition and 39% in good condition. 16% Of the mill sites studied 16% were vacant, 41% partially occupied, and 43% fully occupied. A fifth of mills were at risk from damage or loss including several listed structures such as Gidlow Works in Wigan and Oakwood Mills in Tameside. There were many examples of good re-use, particularly as residential sites, as at Albion Mill in Uppermill in Oldham, Cavendish Mill in Ashton-under-Lyne in Tameside, and Wallsuches Bleachworks in Bolton, as well as mixed-use sites as at Pear New Mill in Reddish, Stockport (CfAA 2018). A series of recent mill fires has drawn attention to the risk from arson (Nevell 2017c).

Through the use of planning conditions, the local government archaeological advisers (GMAU and since 2011 GMAAS) have secured the implementation of a large number of historic building surveys and below-ground investigations of the area’s iconic remains relating to the textile industry. Between 2006 and 2018 there have been over 50 historic building surveys, either to record textile mills and finishing works prior to demolition or to inform conversion schemes. Alongside this work, there have been 25 excavations of textile mill sites and 12 textile finishing sites.

Murrays Mill in Manchester (GM) has seen the most detailed survey. This grade two star listed mill complex was recorded by OAN in the mid-2000s during a significant fabric consolidation project with both detailed building survey and excavation work being undertaken. The survey and below-ground investigations were published in 2007 (Miller & Wild 2007), with further work being undertaken a decade later. This publication included the results of development-led excavation at several other mills and workers housing in the Ancoats area as a result of planning-led investigations undertaken for the New Islington regeneration project (Nevell 2008).

Mellor Mill in Stockport (GM) was explored between 2009 and 2018 through excavation and survey undertaken by the Mellor Archaeological Trust (Hearle & Hearle 2015). This community project has revealed the mill foundations and massive internal wheelpit, which is now landscaped and interpreted as part of the Revealing Oldknow’s Legacy project, which was HLF funded. Built by Samuel Oldknow in 1792, and burnt down a hundred years later, Mellor was possibly the largest water-powered mill in the world at the time of its construction.

Ahead of regeneration, OAN fully excavated Arkwright’s Shudehill Mill site in Manchester (GM) in 2014-15, following on from Channel 4’s Time Team evaluation in 2005. The mill was built in 1783 as one of the world’s first mills to make use of steam power, burnt down in the mid-19th century, re-built as a textile warehouse only to be destroyed in the Manchester Blitz of 1940. This complex marked an important moment in the development of the mechanisation of the cotton industry in Britain. After initial but ultimately unsuccessful experimentation with a direct-acting atmospheric (Newcomen-type) engine, it is known from documentary sources that Arkwright’s Shudehill Mill went into production in 1783 using a steam-powered pumping engine in conjunction with a waterwheel. Arkwright chose a site that was remote from a river, reflecting his intention to power the machinery in the mill by steam. This technical shift signalled the birth of the steam-powered textile mill, and the beginning of the rise of Manchester as a factory metropolis. The buried remains of the multi-phase power systems survived up to 5m deep and were exceptionally significant as they encompassed the original wheelpit and drive system from the early 1780s, and the extensive remains of the five steams engines installed between 1781 and 1815 as well as multiple phases of boiler (Miller & Glithero 2016; Miller & Wild 2015).

Succession of engine and boiler houses at Arkwright’s Shudehill Mill, Greater Manchester (courtesy of Oxford Archaeology Ltd)

In late 2016 Salford Archaeology excavated the remains of Salford Twist Mill No. 3 as part of the Chapel Wharf Phase 3 development. Well-preserved remains of the basement included intact cast iron framework for innovative fire proofing, c. 1800, with the use of hollow cylindrical columns for very early steam heating. The mill was the second to use gas lighting in Britain and had its own gas retorts, and provided gas to the world’s first gas lit street – Clowes Street. There was an exceptionally large, for the time, steam engine of 60hp provided by Boulton and Watt. Drawings survive in the latter’s archive. Other excavated Greater Manchester mill sites in the region since 2006 include Brownhill Bridge Mill, Slackcote Mill, Diggle Mill, Brook Mill, Greenfield Mill, Rugby Mill, and Gem Mill in Oldham borough.

As part of the Metrolink extension to Ashton under Lyne, Northern Archaeological Associates carried out excavation and recording of remarkably well preserved industrial remains at Pollard Street in Ancoats, Manchester, beside the Ashton Canal (GM). These included the early-19th century Pollard Street Mill (with its engine bed, boiler house, coal store, chimney base, and flue system) and the Soho Iron Works, dating to the early 1800s and built by the noted engineer William Fairbairn. Here were found the remains of a double engine bed, early tram road, a Nasmyth Forge Hammer, canal side steam crane, and former canal arm (NAA 2011).

Ahead of construction of new offices for Stockport Homes, Wardell Armstrong archaeologists recorded the remains of a once famous and unusual Stockport landmark – the Edward Street Windmill, Stockport (GM). This was a windmill erected in the 1780s to power a cotton mill. Despite the site having already been redeveloped for car show rooms in the 1920s, there were impressive foundations for the windmill and fragmentary remains of the adjacent cotton mill (Wardell Armstrong 2016).

Amongst those textile mill sites recorded ahead of conversion in Greater Manchester since 2006 is Brownhill Bridge Mill, Dobcross, Oldham (GM). The mill was built on the packhorse road from Dobcross to Uppermill on Diggle Brook. Built  c. 1772 by three entrepreneurs it was powered by an internal water wheel, initially served by a leat and then a reservoir by 1822. The wheel remained until the 1940s and its filled-in pit survives, along with water power features such as the headrace and tailrace openings and dam overflow; there are also remnants of mechanical and hand power systems. As a relatively unaltered example of its kind, it is a building of importance not just locally but also in the wider context of the early Greater Manchester textile industry (Miller 2009).

In Cheshire, targeted programmes of mitigation have been undertaken on several textile mill sites, primarily in Cheshire East. Here work has concentrated primarily on wheelpits, power systems, and building recording, as at Bath Vale Mill, Congleton (Ch). Amongst the most important of these investigations was the excavation in 2003 of the wheelpit, leat system, and remains of the line shafting that powered the Old Silk Mill in Congleton (Ch), built in 1753. The power system was designed, and probably installed, by the canal and water mill engineer James Brindley and shows the adaptation of corn mill water power technology to the textile industry (Fletcher 2008).

Manufacturing: Textile Finishing

The textile finishing industry remains poorly studied, compared to the spinning and weaving branches of the industry in the North West, although there have been some significant studies since 2006. The extensive Grade 2 listed complex of the Wallsuches Bleachworks at Horwich (GM) was redeveloped for housing in the mid- to late 2000s and a detailed scheme of archaeological building recording accompanied this process, providing important new information on the early origins and character of textile finishing, and becoming a type site for industrial archaeology. In addition, in 2005-6 a programme of archaeological evaluation and an open area excavation of the bleaching croft revealed significant remains and allowed an extensive re-interpretation of the site (UMAU 2009). This is one of the most detailed archaeological studies ever undertaken on a textile finishing works in Britain, combining both above and below-ground remains, although it remains unpublished.

Extensive remains of a c. 1820 dyeworks and workers’ housing were recorded at Adelphi Street, Salford (GM), beside the river Irwell, with a regionally important assemblage of clay pipes dating to the 1810s that included considerable kiln waste (OAN 2008; Higgins 2016). As part of an apartment development alongside the river Irwell in Salford, targeted excavation was undertaken to record the late-18th century logwood mill and early-19th century Crescent Road Dye Works. Significant remains of multi-phased walls and dye vats were recorded by Archaeological Research Services. They also provided a significance study on the very rare survival of a late-18th century wheel-house projecting into the river. This structure was retained as part of the riverside walkway and interpretation panels provided (ARS 2016). A building survey by OAN recorded the buildings of Cheadle Bleachworks, Stockport (GM), a former medieval corn mill, ahead of redevelopment for apartments (OAN 2008). The Bleachers Association early-20th century plan informed the building survey and facilitated interpretation of some of the excavated features which included a set of stone lined bleaching tanks. Tottington Print Works, Bury (GM), was the site of a community archaeology excavation in 2010, led by OAN. The industrial remains lie under a thin cover of vegetation in the Kirklees Valley, which was a major centre for textile finishing. Remains of a variety of cisterns, flag floors, and engine beds were exposed (Miller 2012). Northamptonshire Archaeology excavated, at Carlyle Street, Bury Ground, Bury (GM) the remains of the a goyt, a secondary water channel, a wheelpit, building walls, and floors relating to Howarth, Peel and Yates Calico Print Works (1773).

Community excavation at Tottington Print Works, Bury, Greater Manchester (courtesy of Oxford Archaeology Ltd)

The textile industry in the North West also encompasses several smaller branches, such as fustian and felt hatting production both of which have been studied since 2006. Roger Holden has written an overview of the fustian industry in Lancashire and Cheshire England (Holden 2016). Fustians are heavily wefted cloths, which includes cotton velvets. Some fustian, principally corduroy, and all velvets were woven with weft floats that were cut after weaving to form a pile. This remained largely a manual operation, in some cases still being carried out in domestic workshops, into the 20th century. Although some cutting was carried out in the Rochdale, Oldham, and Todmorden areas, where these cloths were produced, velvet cutting in particular came to be situated in the Warrington area, in east Cheshire, where Congleton became the centre of the industry, and in adjoining parts of Staffordshire and Derbyshire. In its domestic phase the industry used top floor workshops similar to those used by weavers. The long, narrow mills built for silk throwing were suitable for conversion to fustian cutting and purpose-built mills took a similar form. Some of these buildings survive in alternative commercial or residential use as at Congleton.

Felt hat making saw the production of hats from rabbit fur. Early references to the domestic industry occur in the 17th century, but large scale production only began in the 18th century. Denton (GM), Haughton (GM), Manchester (GM), and Stockport (GM) emerged as centres of the domestic industry in the late-18th century (Nevell 2008; Nevell, Grimsditch & Hradil 2007). Mechanisation in the mid-19th century saw the emergence of concentrated, formalised production in purpose-built factories such as Moores in Denton (GM). The design of these factories encompassed two sets of processes which were reflected in the design of the buildings, as a Battersby’s Hat Works in Stockport (GM). Firstly, wet side production where the felt hat body was made, a process done in single-storey structures with access to water and power. Secondly, dry side production that involved finishing the hat design with a brim, liners, and trimmings. This second set of processes remained largely unmechanised and took place in multi-storey structures and sometimes at home for more specialised products.

Although these manufacturing processes were sometimes found in re-used cotton spinning mills, such as Christie’s Work in Stockport (GM), most were housed purpose-built structures in Denton and Stockport, which emerged as the national centres of this mechanised industry in the late-19th century. Such complexes are usually not listed and are vulnerable to partial or complete demolition (Nevell, Grimsditch & Hradil 2007).

Manufacturing: Chemical

The chemical industry was closely associated with the Lancashire and east Cheshire textile industry from the late-18th to the mid-20th centuries, although other industries also influenced its development, such as salt production in Cheshire and gunpowder in Cumbria. In the first half of 2006, a multi-disciplinary team of archaeological and architectural investigators, with illustrators and photographers from English Heritage’s Research Department undertook survey and investigation of the disused Gatebeck Low Gunpowder Works and associated workers’ settlements of Endmoor and Gatebeck (Archer et al 2009). Together with a rapid survey of the adjoining Gatebeck High Works (in reality part of the same site), which took place immediately afterwards. The survey was the last in a Departmental project investigating the seven gunpowder works that operated in the historic counties of Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (modern-day Cumbria) between 1768 and 1936. The study resulted a detailed understanding of the history, form, and power-supply arrangements of the surviving industrial structures (four pairs of incorporating mills, a glazing house, two corning houses, a stove house plus ancillary buildings and associated features). It provided an in-depth appreciation of how the factory and settlements developed over time, and how these changes relate to the gunpowder industry regionally and nationally.

The restoration of the salt process buildings at the Lion Salt Works in Cheshire provided an opportunity to not only record the panhouses, stores, and machinery in detail, but also to undertake excavation on the site (Hewitson 2015). In 2016 to 2017, as part of the Saltscape project community excavations were undertaken at the Ollershaw Lane salt works site opposite the Lion Salt Works on the northern side of the Trent and Mersey canal.

Extensive remains of an early-19th century tannery were excavated by CfAA at Salford University on a waterlogged site at Kitchen Street, Rochdale (GM) (CfAA 2012). This took the form of a series of timber tanks for processing the leather. Elsewhere in Greater Manchester during 2010-12 OAN excavated the remains of Clayton’s chemical industry, east Manchester, ahead of redevelopment for Manchester City’s football training ground. Despite widespread contamination significant, though fragmentary, elements of the 19th and 20th century chemical manufacturing processes and storage for aniline and naptha were recovered (Miller 2013).

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).

Trade, Exchange and Interaction

There has been a steady stream of studies and developer-funded work on sites associated with trade, exchange, and interaction since 2006. The study of workers’ housing, in particular, has provided ceramic assemblages which should go some way to identifying the various trade and social links that were emerging during the 18th, 19th, and early-20th centuries. Current national research on industrial urban finds assemblages is focussing in on issues such as domestic house building quality, household mobility, localised production, overcrowding, poverty, sanitation, and disease (Cassella 2009; Cessford 2009; Connelly 2011; Crook 2011; Nevell 2011; Nevell 2014; Owens & Jeffries 2016). Whilst it remains difficult for individual developer-funded projects to provide an overview of the trade, exchange, and interaction from individual sites, retaining the relevant archaeological assemblages is very important for future synthetic studies in these subject areas. Yet, this material, which is scattered amongst many archaeological contractors, museums and voluntary groups, remains a largely untapped resource whose long-term future is threatened by the regional and national crisis in the lack of storage facilities.

In North West England recording, research, and publication over the last decade has been across three main areas; warehouses and commercial premises; ports and harbours; and new industrial transport systems (canal, railway and cars).

Warehouses & Commercial Premises

Individual historic building surveys of commercial warehouses and premises in Liverpool (M) and Manchester (GM), and in smaller commercial centres such as Chester (Ch), Rochdale (GM), and Stockport (GM) have been undertaken in the last decade as part of the planning process. A wider framework for understanding these particular building types is provided by several synthetic studies. This includes an overview of the commercial and official buildings within the business and dock districts of Liverpool, tracing their development from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century (Sharples & Stonard 2008). A study of the northern quarter of Manchester encompassed the warehouse buildings of the late-18th to late-19th century in this area of the city. Many of these structures pre-dated the arrival of the railways and were associated with textile and food distribution (Taylor and Holder 2008).

The crossover of this subject with historical evidence is indicated by several studies of the development of the Manchester canal system from the 1790s to 1890s (Maw 2013; Maw, Wyke & Kidd 2009; Nevell & George 2017). These combine documentary and buildings archaeology material to chart the laying out, construction, and use of warehouses and wharves, and the various canal basins’ economic functions.

Ports and Harbours

Study of the traditional ports and harbours of the North West has been led by a mixture of developer-funded archaeological work and historic study. Thus, Robinson has provided an overview of trade and shipping along the Cumberland in the 50 years before 1735 (Robinson 2008). An overview of the later development of coastal trade as it affected Carlisle was given by Caron Newman (Newman 2011). At Lancaster (L) excavations behind the 18th century quay revealed the remains of a pottery kiln and its waste tip. Sadly, this creamware manufacture site remains unpublished and more crucially the post-excavation analysis unfinished. The investigation of Liverpool’s (M) river frontage in the 2000s, undertaken ahead of the building Liverpool Museum and the Liverpool One shopping centre have been partially published (Gregory et al 2014). This work revealed details of the port’s expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, the excavation work on Liverpool’s first dock, built in the 1700s, and probably Britain’s first wet dock, remains unpublished. In Cheshire a number of reports have appeared concerning the development of Chester’s waterfront and port (Dodd 2011; Hewitson and Scruby 2011, Nash et al 2011, Poole 2011, and Reid 2011). These excavations and building surveys trace the rebuilding of the port of Chester on the Roodee from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, recovering evidence for cranes, quayside warehouses and the development of the quay structure itself.

Transport Networks: Road, Canal and Rail

One of the few studies of the turnpike system has looked at the route from Knott Head to Thornwaite (C) (Denman 2007). Another rare analysis of early roadside infrastructure is Jennings’ study of Bewcastle’s waterside inns (C) (Jennings 2011). In Greater Manchester a council-run HLF project removed the 20th century sections of Rochdale Bridge, in the centre of the town, to expose the River Roch and the original medieval to 17th century bridge fabric (May 2011). The 250th anniversary of the opening of the Bridgewater Canal, the first arterial industrial canal, has led to an upsurge in archaeological research on the buildings, functioning and economic impact of the canal (Nevell 2013; Nevell & Wyke 2011; Nevell, Wyke, Hartwell, Kidd & Redhead 2016). The impact of the buildings of the Manchester Ship Canal in the 1880s and the opening of the Manchester Docks in the 1890s has also been the subject of recent archaeological and historical study (Nevell & George 2017).

The rebuilding of much of the 19th century railway fabric has continued to threaten redundant infrastructure such as railway warehouses. This was the subject of a regional study for the North West (Nevell 2010) and more recently a national survey of the building type (Minnis 2016a). The latter discussing in detail the movement of goods and the resultant variety of building plan forms. The installation nationally of electronic signalling systems has made thousands of railway signal boxes redundant. This led to a national listing programme, with several sites on the North West protected, and a study of the building type by Historic England (Minnis 2016b).

The 19th century railway infrastructure of the region has also been the subject of research and recording through the planning process. The electrification of the Liverpool to Manchester and Manchester to Preston routes has led to recording of historic industrial archaeology remains, including the removal and replacement of the Chorley flying arches. A rare chance to investigate two railway stations came ahead of redevelopment in Greater Manchester. An open area excavation took place at the site of Knowsley Street, Bury, railway station (opened in 1848), revealing well-preserved remains and evidence for phasing of the is relatively short-lived station site (OAN 2008). The Ordsall Chord railway link on the Manchester and Salford border has seen extensive building recording by Salford Archaeology of the railway viaducts, including Stephenson’s 1830 railway bridge across the river Irwell, and the stables beneath the arrival station on Water Street. Pre-Construct Archaeology have carried out a detailed building survey of the remains of the late-19th century Exchange Station site in Salford, ahead of demolition to make way for new office blocks (Haslam, Proctor & Ridgeway 2017).

The lives of the navies and construction workers who built the railways was investigated for the first time in the region in 2010. Channel 4’s Time Team programme investigated a navvy camp at Risehill, on the Great Central Line in Cumbria, revealing the workshops and domestic huts of the 1870s’ camp built to construction the tunnel through this part of the Pennines at over 300m AOD (Brennan 2015). Finally, little work has been undertaken on recording the 20th century road infrastructure of the region. However, a national survey by English Heritage has identified a range of building types, from fuelling stations to roadside guest houses and phone boxes that are threatened by redevelopment. A number of North West examples were included in this study (Morrison & Minnis 2012).


There have been a variety of initiatives undertaken by a range of professional and voluntary bodies, on the defence archaeology of the region since 2006. Unlike some research topics, local voluntary groups have been very active in recording the military archaeology of the North West. In part, this is due to the hundredth anniversary of the First World War (1914-18) and consequently dedicated funding flowing from the HLF and Historic England to encourage such projects. Whilst much of the research focus has been, therefore, on the First World War, redevelopment activity has affected several later 20th century military sites across the region, whilst other community engagement projects have studied defensive sites from the 19th century.

Military Archaeology before 1914

Study of the remains of the 18th and 19th century defensive structures of the region continue to be uncommon. The Rapid Coastal Zone assessment (Johnson 2009) and the Citizan projects have tended to focus on 20th century coastal sites. Inland, the early-19th century shift towards stationing troops outside the growing major industrial populations of the southern part of the region, at manufacturing and port towns such as Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester, and Preston, has been little studied by archaeologists and historians. A notable exception is the archaeological investigation of the Hulme Cavalry Barracks in Manchester. This was the home of 27 different regiments during its existence from 1804 to 1915;the 15th King’s Hussars was stationed here when they took part in the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. In 2013 Univeristy of Salford led a community dig of the site, now within George Park, Hulme, as part of the Dig Greater Manchester project, and discovered well preserved remains of some of the 19th century buildings and adjacent workers’ housing, some of which were rented by retired veterans from the barracks (Thompson 2015).

World War One Remains

Three national projects have helped raise awareness of surviving First World War military remains in the region. The Council for British Archaeology’s Home Front Legacy project (2014-18) was set up to help local communities identify and map the remains of the First World War across the UK. A series of training seminars and online tools were designed to support the project (Appleby, Cocroft & Schofield 2015). The range of data included documentary, map, oral, and photographic evidence, as well as physical evidence that could be upload to the project website and passed on to the relevant Historic Environment Records and the National Monuments records. A significant number of individual sites have been identified in the North West, whilst a number of excavations have also been recorded (see below).

The Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Phase 1 identified a large number of nationally important First and Second World War remains along the North West coast, particularly around the major ports/docks/shipyards of Liverpool and Barrow (Johnson 2009). Some of these have received subsequent investigations through community projects, including Fort Crosby (M) on the Sefton coast just north of Liverpool, where there was a training fort with its own railway station and defences (Burns 2014). The NWRCZA (Johnson 2009, 112-113) identified four First World War Observer Corps sound mirrors, at Crosby, Formby Point, and Southport (L). Practice trenches identified at Fort Crosby in Merseyside may be of Second World War rather than First World War date, from their context, as is a firing range at Skinburness (Johnson 2009, 199).

A national survey of First World War national factories was published in 2015 (Kenyon 2015). This overview of their archaeological, architectural, and historical importance includes at least 39 sites in the North West, out of 216 sites in England. These were mainly concentrated around Liverpool and Manchester, but there were outliers at Blackpool (L), Carlisle (C), and Chester (Ch). Such sites were under the direct control of the Ministry of Munitions producing vital war material; everything from wooden boxes, respirators, shells, and explosives to optical glass and vehicle radiators. Many were adapted from existing works, as at Cloughfold, Holme, and Irwell Mills in Rawtenstall (L), the Hyde Road tram depot in Manchester, and Woodley Mill in Greater Manchester (all surviving). While others were located in specially designed factories, such as at East Cumberland in Carlisle, Gretna, Heaton Chapel, Liverpool, and Morecambe (again all surviving). Some were finished to high architectural standards and followed the latest thinking in factory design and the provision of welfare facilities. At some locations housing was included. The report discusses the historic context of the National Factories, the types of factories created, their layouts, and architectural form. It also explores their social history, including evidence for the organisation of work, welfare provision, and associated housing. It documents each factory and includes short desk-based assessments of the extant factories.

Excavation on practice trench sites have been undertaken. The so-called Loos (or later Arras) Trenches on Watson Road in Blackpool (L) were investigated in 2014 by the University of Salford (Whittall 2014), following extensive documentary research by Neil Archaeological Services (Neil 2014), who provided (ibid, 112-124) a draft catalogue of over 30 examples of practice trenches around Britain. The Blackpool trenches were originally part of a much larger training ground, most of which was given over to housing in the 1930s. Dating from 1915, these trenches were kept open and re-used as a visitor ‘attraction’ until 1917, with convalescent soldiers as guides, a guidebook, postcards, and refreshment stalls. Archaeological excavation uncovered communication and front-line trenches, the latter including firing steps. Practice trenches at Heaton Park (GM) briefly had a public education element, but less successfully (Craig Brisbane, pers. comm.); the only other known examples of this public interaction / propaganda in the UK were at Knightsbridge Hall and/or Kensington Gardens in London, which Wilfrid Owen slated in his private correspondence. Excavations at Walney Island, off Barrow (L), by Headlands to Headspace (H2H), an HLF-funded Landscape Partnership, have investigated military defences; such as First World War rifle butts and a Second World War target range, and RAF Walney, a gunnery school and airfield established in 1941. This work included the excavation of First World War practice trenches on Walney Island with the University of Bristol.

Elsewhere, The Hooton Park Trust (Ch) has been working on restoring First World War buildings at Hooton Park aerodrome. This site was established in 1917 and was used by the RAF until its closure in 1957. The original three Belfast-truss First World War hangars survive and The Hooton Park Trust restored the First World War era Central Hangar, Building 17 before 2012, whilst two further hangars are now also being restored. 

One of the North West’s most important roles during First World War was the importation (from the USA, Canada, Argentina, and elsewhere), assessment, and training of horses for all the theatres of war. The depot at Lathom Park near Ormskirk (L) was opened in October 1914, to hold up to 5,000 horses and mules, staffed by 2,500 men, housed in over 100 prefabricated buildings. The only other remount depots of this size were at Shirehampton (Bristol), Swaythling, and Romsey in Hampshire. Horses were landed at Liverpool, and delivered by rail, initially to Ormskirk station but soon via the depot’s own branch line. Horses were generally moved to smaller depots for specific training after a month, and overseas within three months. A total of around 250,000 horses passed through the depot during the war. The depot continued to function, in a reduced form, for repatriation and horse sales until 1920. Desk-based work, by Neil Archaeological Services and others, for Lathom Park Trust (2012) has revealed much of the site’s layout and history, but as yet no Lidar, field survey, or excavation has taken place even though Lathom is the least developed of any of the country’s remount depots. A document in the National Archives (TNAWO 107/26) lists 40 remount depots in the UK, including Lancaster and Chester, but Winton (2013) believes there were more, often essentially commandeered farms that may still survive in some form. One contemporary building at Lathom survives (the theatre, though not in situ), and two pre-war stables at the Arborfield permanent depot in Berkshire are scheduled.

World War Two Remains

Less attention has been paid to the remains of the Second World War since 2006. Developer-funded work, however, has led to the recording of particular sites; including a Second World War airfield remains to the north of Nantwich (C) and at Lucas Green, Whittle-le-Woods near Chorley (L), a Bofors gun (Light AA) permanent emplacement site was excavated and presented as part of a housing development close to the site of ROF Chorley. In Hapton (LA) two adjacent ‘Blacker Bombard’ (aka Spigot Mortar) positions and a possible ammunition store were recorded and protected by Listing in advance of housing development. In Greater Manchester a rare anti-aircraft battery from the Second World War at Nook View Farm, Tameside (GM), was recorded through the planning process. The fragmentary remains included a concrete magazine block and the site of the command bunker (Arrowsmith 2012).

Trenches at The Coppice, in Peel Park, Accrington (L), widely believed to be First World War practice trenches, are undoubtedly Second World War anti-glider trenches, closely comparable with examples adjacent to the Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon cemetery, in Suffolk (Peter Iles, LAAS, pers. comm.).

A 900-plus housing scheme at Woodford Aerodrome, Stockport (GM), involved total demolition of the airfield buildings. The site dates to the 1920s and is famous for assembly of Lancaster Bombers, and construction of the Vulcan Bomber and Nimrod aircraft. CGMS undertook a desk-based assessment while building recording was carried out by Wessex Archaeology. Remains of the original 1920s’ hangar were found to have been extensively remodelled. An historic building record was required by BAE Systems of two buildings due to be demolished at the former Orica UK, Roburite Centre near Shevington, Wigan (GM). This report synthesised the results of a Level 3 historic building survey of two buildings on the site (known as Buildings 24 & 27) which were formerly used as magazines (AOC Archaeology 2011).

Woodford Aerodrome prior to demolition, Stockport, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

At 27 Buxton Road, Hazel Grove, Stockport (GM), the Tameside Archaeological Society record remains of anti-invasion defences. The site was a Second World War concrete cylinder manufactory but the numerous concrete cylinders nearby were recorded. The cylinders were used as anti-tank traps, probably on a nearby ‘stop line’ (TAS 2010). A manufactory base for these tank traps was discovered in 2016 during the excavation of a development site at the bottom of Deansgate in Manchester. This was the site of the engineering works used by Bateman and Sherratt. A large number of concrete cylinders piled on the site indicated its re-use for making such tank traps during the Second World War (Salford Archaeology 2016).

Second World War air raid shelters continue to be recorded. In Greater Manchester excavated and recorded examples include Adelphi Street in Salford (Gregory & Miller 2015), Gin Pit Colliery in Wigan (Miller & Plummer 2016), Angel Street in Manchester (Miller & Wild 2015), and First Street South also in Manchester. The latter was built on a communal scale with an area of former housing being used for a planned series of sunken corrugated iron structures with blast proof entrances.


The volume, extent, and international importance of the archaeological material from the 18th to the 20th century makes it one of the most important periods, if not the most important period, in the region. Innovations in manufacturing processes and urban living developed in the region had a national and international impact, whilst also connecting North West England with emerging global trading networks and the mass movement of people internationally. Archaeological evidence, whether it be from the perspective of post-medieval archaeology, industrial archaeology, or 20th century archaeology studies, is crucially important in understanding the massive landscape and material culture changes of the era, providing unique types of data and a volume of material that can provide a corrective to the contemporary literature. A feature of the 20th and early 21st century is the rate of loss of documentary, pictorial, and photographic evidence, leaving archaeological approaches as the main means of recovering information about many of the sites and landscapes new to the period.

There is a notable increase in the scale and volume of sites and material culture from the 18th century onwards. The sheer scale and diversity of the archaeological resource, including the built heritage is vast and daunting when it comes to recording and interpretation. How to record and promote research on this material remains a challenge. The rise of professions in the 19th century such as architects, surveyors and engineers resulted in additional documentary evidence, alongside more traditional material from business, municipal and other records. Where this survives it provides cross-disciplinary opportunities to work with architectural, cultural, and social historians. Furthermore, the introduction of new building materials such as glass, steel and cast-iron framework provides opportunities to work with materials science specialists. Likewise, the impact of industrialisation on the flora and fauna of the North West gives opportunities to work with environmental historians to provide a more holistic approach to the rural and urban changes of the 18th to 20th centuries.

Since 2006, the level of archaeological work in this period has remained high with fieldwork undertaken by community, professional, and academic archaeologists. There has been a significant number of excavations of graveyards, with analysis on human remains leading to important work on the health of populations living in the industrial towns and cities of the region. Changes in agricultural practice in the early 21st century and urbanisation have continued to provide opportunities for recording rural farms and communities, whilst a number of landscape surveys have targeted the impact of agricultural intensification and industrial pollution on rural communities across the North West. The development of travel infrastructure for people and goods, transatlantic trade, and population movements are especially key themes for the North West during this period and there has been some progress in recording linear transport monuments and the impact of population movements through the analysis of human remains and material culture studies. Recording and research continues to recognise sub-regional variation in houses, mills, and public buildings, whilst the national study of building types, from petrol stations garages to railway signal boxes have a direct relevance for the region.

Archaeological studies form this period are increasingly theoretically informed and focussed, although such approaches are by no means universally applied. Making sure that an archaeological perspective is at the centre of projects dealing with sites and material from the 18th to 20th centuries is crucial to maintain the credibility of archaeology as discipline in a period blessed, or cursed, with a huge variety and volume of source material.

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