Manufacturing, Trade, Transport and Communications

This period saw a massive increase in the scale and diversity of buildings constructed for industry, trade and transportation as the North West became a global leader in innovation, technology and manufacturing.  The early development of canal building in the region, associated with coal-mining, was influential far beyond the North West. The Earl of Bridgewater’s canal to Manchester from his mines at Worsley Delph was the ‘world’s first arterial industrial canal’, begun in 1759 (Nevell, Wyke, Hartwell, Kidd and Redhead, 2016, p1). Canals enabled bulky materials such as coal, building materials and limestone to be cheaply transported, encouraging the growth of steam-powered textile manufacturing and other canal-side industries. The region’s canals have been studied by industrial archaeologists, engineers and historians, such as a recent study into the engineering and business history of the Peak Forest Canal and Railway published (Boyes and Lamb, 2012); the Marple section of this canal was researched in further detail for the HLF-funded repair and community archaeology project that included a large lime kilns complex associated with Samuel Oldknow (Arrowsmith, 2015). and prompting the building of numerous lime kilns, not necessarily in limestone country, as the Marple example attests. In Cheshire, river navigation and canals are one of the key elements of the built environment, with the Anderton Boat Lift one of the most significant survivals.  The Manchester Ship Canal of 1894 turned Manchester into an inland port and facilitated the expansion of the chemical industry in the Ellesmere Port area.

Marple Lime Kilns, Stockport, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

The North West has a strong legacy of textile mills, ranging from eighteenth century water-powered mills built in rural valleys as at Styal to steam-powered mills alongside canals and town centres to and the vast steel and concrete floored mills of the early twentieth century such as Pear New Mill, Bredbury. The building of the Rochdale Canal to Manchester directly influenced the development of steam-powered cotton mills in Ancoats, notably Murrays Mills, where Old Mill, 1798, is the earliest surviving example of a steam-powered mill in the region; research and investigation into the mill prior to its repair and conversion is the subject of a publication by Oxford Archaeology North (Miller and Wild 2017). Early mills were designed by mill engineers such as Fairbairn but by the 1860s, some regional firms of architects were specialising in mills, such as Stott and Son and Bradshaw Gass and Hope. Increasing losses in the late twentieth century prompted research by the RCHME on Greater Manchester’s cotton mills (Williams and Farnie, 1992) and on mills in east Cheshire where silk mills are the most characteristic mill type (Calladine and Fricker, 1993), setting the standard for understanding the building type. Conversion of mills to new uses has since resulted in a plethora of unpublished surveys produced under planning conditions, some referred to by Nevell in the Industrial Period assessment chapter.  However, the scope and quality of reports varies and the high standard set by RCHME is not always met.

Ancoats Mills on the Rochdale Canal, Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

A recent review of the 1980s Greater Manchester mills survey has been carried out by the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford (CFAA), charting the rate of loss; almost half (46%) of the mills identified in the 1980s survey have been lost. Syntheses of industrial buildings by sub-region are important in setting the context and enabling key themes and variations to be identified, to assist with assessing the significance of mills to inform planning and management decisions. Hatting, an offshoot of the textile industry, produced distinctive complexes of multi-storey and single-storey buildings, particularly in Stockport and Denton (Nevell, Grimsdith and Hradil, 2007), but only a few examples have survived and are protected.

Historic England’s series of short books on Manchester buildings, informed by research and investigation, includes an introduction to textile warehouses (Taylor et al 2002), the city’s most distinctive building type. These range from early river, canal and railway carrier’s warehouses to specialised cotton warehouses built for the home and export trade. Italianate warehouses by architects such as Walters are a feature of the central area and Princess Street, while larger early twentieth century packing warehouses such as those designed by Fairhursts for Lloyds are clustered around Whitworth Street. Warehouses are the subject of research by others (Cooper 1991) and numerous unpublished reports related to conversion to new uses.  Similarly in Liverpool, English Heritage published a booklet on the port’s warehouses (Giles and Hawkins 2004) which have also been the subject of building recording reports under planning conditions prior to conversion or demolition.

In Lancashire, textile mills were the subject of rapid assessment by Oxford Archaeology North (OA North 2010) and an assessment of risk undertaken 2011-15, culminating in a recent illustrated book produced by Oxford Archaeology North with Historic England, which also covers the part of Lancashire now in Greater Manchester (Phelps et al, 2017).  On average, of a total of 1661 identified sites, 619 survive. One of the earliest surviving and most complete Arkwright-type water-powered cotton mills is Kirk Mill, Chipping built in 1785 and now adapted for a hotel (Phelps et al 2017, 24-25). Only five steam engines survive in situ in modern Lancashire; the 1910-11 engine at Holmes Mill, Clitheroe is on view in the pub that now occupies the building. Mill chimneys are also disappearing, a once dominant feature of the industrial landscape. Single-storey weaving sheds, previously the most distinctive feature of north-east Lancashire towns such as Burnley, Nelson and Colne, are vulnerable to demolition as they are more challenging to adapt for new uses than spinning mills;  Holden  provides an overview of the building type (Holden, 2017).  Scholefield Mill in Nelson has one of the best extant examples of a large-scale room-and-power weaving shed, built in the early 1900s. A series of industrial archaeology guides, published since 1979 by Rothwell, cover mills and other industrial buildings in different areas of east Lancashire.

The survival rates of bleaching, printing and dyeworks appear to be poor in relation to spinning mills although their impact on the landscape was substantial, particularly where water was intensively managed. Dyeworks rarely survive and fewer complexes are protected by designation.  Wallsuches bleachworks at Horwich is protected by listing and was recorded prior to residential conversion; the site developed form the late eighteenth century although most of the buildings developed by Thomas Ridgway are later.  In Lancashire, the dyeworks at Holme Bleaching Mill, Rawtenstall was included in the OAN study (Phelps et al 2017); this operated between the 1830s and 1860s and was later adapted as a cotton mill. Heron chemical works in Lancaster was built by Joseph Storey in 1860 to produce pigments dyes and other chemicals including fertilizer; it was considered for listing but did not meet the national listing criteria.  The works’ history and buildings were briefly assessed during a study into the canal corridor development site (Conservation Studio and AHP 2009), but the site has not been assessed in detail and is potentially at risk now the works have closed.

Wallsuches Bleachworks, Bolton, Greater Manchester (courtesy of GMAAS)

In Cumbria, a wide range of industries from 1750 onwards has left a varied legacy of buildings and structures. Large-scale mineral and slate quarry sites have left a substantial impact on the rural landscape, as at Coppermines Valley Coniston, Honister and Threlkeld, but few structures, such as workers housing or workshops, are extant. Multi-storey textile mills for spinning are much less numerous in Cumbria than in other counties of the region, although where they survive as at Dixon’s Shaddon Mill, a cotton mill built 1836, in Carlisle, they are prominent landmarks in the historic townscape.   So far there is no published county-wide detailed assessment of textile-related buildings. Bobbin mills were significant in south Cumbria in this period, built from the late eighteenth century onwards to meet demand from the region’s textile mills; the most intact example is at Stott Park, developed from the early nineteenth century and now owned and managed by English Heritage (Barter and Watts, 2011).  Studies published on historic industrial buildings and landscapes before the last research framework include those by English Heritage on a series of seven Cumbrian water-powered gunpowder works developed after 1750, and on mining sites at Alston Moor (Jessop L and Whitfield M with Davison A, 2013), Greenburn and Force Crag. These are referred to in the previous research framework chapters.

Industries related to goods imported through maritime trade include tobacco; snuff was made in Kendal from the seventeenth century, and the town was an important centre of the industry from the eighteenth century when works were water-powered; the history of the Kendal industry is the subject of a local history book (Dunderdale 2003). There has been a lack of detailed investigation and research, and regrettably some works have been lost without any detailed record. Recent archaeological assessment of a snuff works at 25-27 Lowther Street, established in the early nineteenth century, recorded a steam-powered works run by Gawith, Hoggarth and Co.Ltd from the late nineteenth century until recent closure.   In situ line-shafting and tobacco presses were recorded, in rooms used for finishing and packing, but grinding with pestles and mortars did not place at this site (Elsworth et al, 2018). There were also snuff works at Whitehaven and Eamont Bridge, the latter in a former corn mill, operated by Samuel Gawith between the 1830s and 1930s, when the firm’s operation was consolidated in Kendal.  

In Cheshire, the processing of agricultural produce such as corn generated buildings over a long period, from early water mills such as Nether Alderley to multi-storey steam-powered mills such as Union Flour Mill in Macclesfield, built in about 1830 on the canal. Salt extraction and processing were particularly important on the west side of the county, contributing to related industries such as chemicals and soap. Ashmore’s assessment of industrial archaeology in the county provided the baseline against which more recent losses can be measured (Ashmore 1982). Nevell and George’s more recent appraisal shows that in some areas the losses have been high; in Warrington 55% of the industrial archaeology sites recorded by Ashmore have been lost, but over 70% of the textile mills survive (Nevell and George 2014, 8).  Crewe owes its development to the railway engineering works, developed at the junction of four major lines; the town was laid out by Joseph Locke, engineer to the Grand Junction Railway, in the 1840s, with buildings designed by John Cunnningham (Biddle et al 1979, 179-181). The town was planned on a grid pattern, with red brick workers’ housing and works; much has been lost to twentieth century redevelopment.

An aspect of the built environment that lacks detailed research and publication relates to commercial horse transportation; large urban stables were built to serve commercial carriers, railway stations and canals but few examples appear to survive. Ramps, urban stables, horse hospitals and structures designed for horses were part of the urban landscape of transportation and merit further study. In rural areas, coaching inns on turnpike roads were built to serve horse-drawn transport; the stables and outbuildings associated with the coaching routes are at risk as rural pubs close, a building type that appears to lack strategic research into typology, significance and rates of survival.

Leave a Reply