Industrial period 1750-1914


The industrial period was marked by a national movement to improve agricultural production, partly to supply expanding urban populations and facilitated in the later part of the period by improved transport, particularly rail. Improved farmstead design was influenced by published advice on agricultural processes and animal welfare; on country estates the home farm was often rebuilt as part of an ensemble of estate buildings;  classical style was chosen at Tatton Home Farm (Arrowsmith et al, 2015a) and Heaton Park, but lower down the social scale and on smaller farms, older farm buildings continued in use with varying levels of adaptation. A survey of nineteen farmsteads on the Downham Estate in north-east Lancashire recorded the effect on the estate’s vernacular stone-built farm buildings of a shift from mixed arable farming to dairy farming and raising cows for beef in the second half of the 19th century (Lancashire Heritage Trust, 1995). In central Cheshire, farm buildings were substantially rebuilt as part of agricultural improvement (1750-1914), recorded by the RCHME as part of their national survey of improved farmsteads (Barnwell and Giles 1997), but there has been no systematic survey of improved farmsteads in most of the region.  There are several good examples of Georgian model farms in the region, particularly in Cheshire where they are associated with large estates that dominated land tenure; the fine Georgian farm at Doddington Park was designed in the 1770s by architect Samuel Wyatt, a specialist in model farms as well as country house design (Robinson 1979, 33). This farm was probably the most advanced farmstead of its time in the North West.  Later examples of model farms in the region include Bulkeley Grange at Malpas in Cheshire, built 1861-70 for Thomas Brassey the railway contractor; the U-plan brick farm buildings were recorded prior to conversion to residential use (Morris September 2013).

Mechanisation of some farm processes influenced the layout and design of larger farmsteads, to accommodate increased efficiency and the use of machines for threshing grain and processing animal fodder. During this period, power was provided by horses, water, steam and lastly electricity. At Dunthwaite near Cockermouth a large bank barn built in 1823, with a slightly later water-powered threshing machine, has been recorded for the National Trust (Arrowsmith et al 2016).  At Marsh Grange near Kirkby-in-Furness, a large barn was built with a water wheel in the early nineteenth century date, probably to run a threshing machine, as part of investment by the Wakefield family; this was recorded by Greenlane Archaeology in advance of conversion (Elsworth 2015). Both wheels were supplied with water from specially constructed leats or reservoirs. Water power was used for threshing on some larger farms in parts of Cumbria into the mid nineteenth century, but extant examples elsewhere in the region are rare.  Steam power was introduced on model farms during the nineteenth century; at Tatton Home Farm, a steam-powered mill combining corn and fodder processing with a saw mill for the estate yard was built in the 1850s, recently recorded by Matrix Archaeology (Arrowsmith et al 2015a). 

Dunthwaite Bank Barn, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Tatton Home Farm, Cheshire

During a late improvement phase from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, Dunham Massey estate remodelled tenanted farmsteads for dairy farming, to meet urban demand for fresh milk. This resulted in the replacement or remodelling of almost all of the estate’s post-medieval farm buildings and the building of new shippons and pig cotes.  The impact of this on the farmsteads has been the subject of building surveys undertaken for the National Trust, which has shown that evidence for timber-framing sometimes survives within remodelled buildings (Unpublished reports on farmsteads on the Dunham Massey estate by UMAU and since 2009, by Matrix Archaeology for the National Trust).

Efforts to improve farm land including the spreading of burned lime; numerous lime kilns were built in south Cumbria after the canal to Kendal was cut in 1819, giving access to coal, according to Davies-Shiel and Marshall (Davies-Shiel and Marshall 1971). A more recent study discusses the distribution of lime kilns and the uses of lime in Cumbria (Johnson 2013). The Cumbria Industrial History Society provides a gazetteer of lime kilns, but without phasing information (  A large complex of lime kilns built by Samuel Oldknow on the Peak Forest Canal has been researched by Arrowsmith as part of a HLF-funded community archaeology and repair project (Arrowsmith 2015).

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