The Industrial and Modern Period Resource Assessment 2007

by Robina McNeil and Richard Newman

With contributions by Mark Brennand, Eleanor Casella, Bernard Champness, CBA North West Industrial Archaeology Panel, David Cranstone, Peter Davey, Chris Dunn, Andrew Fielding, David George, Elizabeth Huckerby, Christine Longworth, Ian Miller, Mike Morris, Michael Nevell, Caron Newman, North West Medieval Pottery Research Group, Sue Stallibrass, Ruth Hurst Vose, Kevin Wilde, Ian Whyte and Sarah Woodcock.


The cultural developments of the 16th and 17th centuries laid the foundations for the radical changes to society and the environment that commenced in the 18th century. The world’s first Industrial Revolution produced unprecedented social and environmental change and North West England was at the epicentre of the resultant transformation. Foremost amongst these changes was a radical development of the communications infrastructure, including wholly new forms of transportation (Fig 7.1), the growth of existing manufacturing and trading towns and the creation of new ones. The period saw the emergence of Liverpool as an international port and trading metropolis, while Manchester grew as a powerhouse for innovation in production, manufacture and transportation. The cultural impact of industrialisation was not confined to technological and infrastructural change and the growth of industrial and commercial towns. It also produced specialisation in farming, greater land reclamation, the growth of leisure towns and an unprecedented plethora of manufactured goods both fuelling and meeting the demand of rising consumption (Barker & Cranstone 2004; Newman 2001). Above all industrial economies transformed a rural society into an urban one with more people in the North West living in towns than in the countryside by the later 19th century. The wider impact of industrialisation in transforming traditional communities and customary practices as well as the industrialisation of the countryside and changing relationships between rural and urban communities are key themes for the period (Walker & Nevell 2003; Nevell & Walker 2004a; Newman 2004).

Implicit in any archaeological study of this period is the need to balance the archaeological investigation of material culture with many other disciplines that bear on our understanding of the recent past. The wealth of archive and documentary sources available for constructing historical narratives in the Post-Medieval period offer rich opportunities for cross-disciplinary working. At the same time historical archaeology is increasingly in the foreground of new theoretical approaches (Nevell 2006) that bring together economic and sociological analysis, anthropology and geography.


The 18th to 20th centuries witnessed widespread changes within the landscape of the North West, and most of the region was affected in some way by developments in agricultural practice, land management and increased industrialisation. The physical appearance of the landscape was transformed as programmes of land reclamation, enclosure, woodland removal and planting were undertaken, and the urban centres underwent dramatic growth. Environmental degradation caused by industrial activity increased throughout the period.

The final phase of the Little Ice Age in the 18th and first half of the 19th century was less cool but seems to have been distinctly wetter. Coastal erosion appears to have been especially destructive during this period with increased storminess, and several settlements around Morecambe Bay are considered to have been lost to the sea at this time. Optical Stimulated Luminescence dating of deposits on the Formby foreshore in Merseyside have revealed a major erosion event in the 18th century when surface deposits were removed to reveal underlying sediments (Pye et al 1995). The period was also characterised by some massive flash floods in upland catchments and has been studied in detail for the North Pennines and the Howgills (Harvey et al 1981; Harvey & Chiverrell 2004), but little work has been carried out in the Lake District. This period also saw the peak of lead mining and other extractive activities in the northern uplands, leading to a variety of associated problem. These included valley infill with mining waste; floods due to the bursting of dams providing water for power and washing minerals; damage to lowland pastures and the poisoning of livestock and fish by the process of hushing; and the deposition of material with high heavy metal content in surrounding lowland areas. The sequence and amount of pollution from the growth of industrial processes can be ascertained through analysis of river silts and upland peats but, as yet, such studies have largely been undertaken outside the region (Macklin et al 1992; Coulthard & Macklin 2001; Mighall et al in press). Watercourse pollution from human sewage and other organic waste products became increasingly significant in urban areas during the 19th century, with consequences for human health.

During the period, rivers were heavily canalised and new water courses were created, affecting the nature of alluviation and sedimentation in river valleys and estuaries. These were further affected by the construction of reservoirs to serve urban communities from the 1820s and by the intensification of drainage to improve agricultural land.

Fig 7.1 Northwich viaduct, opened in 1869, crossing the rivers Dane and the Weaver Navigation (Cheshire County Council).


Previous reviews of archaeology and its research agenda in parts of the North West have not examined the potential of the 18th and 19th centuries beyond the realm of industrial archaeology. The Archaeology of Lancashire (R Newman 1996b) exemplifies this approach. A review of the archaeology of northern England (Brooks et al 2002), which included Cumbria, similarly gave no consideration of the 18th century and later beyond the realm of industrial archaeology (Linsley 2002). Yet agricultural change was both a driver behind the rise of an industrial society and subsequently was driven by industrialisation. In recent years significant programmes of work have been undertaken in the North West that have examined some of the processes of agrarian landscape change in the 18th to 19th centuries especially. These have included the English Heritage sponsored North West Wetlands Survey, which catalogued the history of wetland reclamation in the period and Whyte’s recent review of parliamentary enclosure in the region (2003).

In the 18th and 19th centuries one of the greatest forces for landscape change in the countryside was parliamentary enclosure. In the North West this occurred from the 1750s until the end of the 19th century. Some 483,000 acres were affected in the region, about 80% of which were in Cumbria (Whyte 2003). The impact of parliamentary enclosure has been mapped in Cumbria and to a lesser extent in Lancashire (Ede with Darlington 2002) as part of those counties’ HLCs. Unlike midland and southern England, most of the land enclosed by Act of Parliament in the North West was rough pasture held as common grazing between manorial tenants. In Cheshire the only example of parliamentary enclosure of open fields was 126 acres enclosed at St Mary’s on the Hill in 1805-7 (Phillips 2002a, 54). Aside from upland pasture, much of the land affected by parliamentary enclosure in the region was lowland common pasture as in the central Eden Valley (C) or peat moss as in the Fylde (L) and the Lyth Valley (C). Some of this completed earlier processes of reclamation as in Congleton Moss (Ch) (Leah et al 1997, 156). In the Fylde too parliamentary enclosure was only one element in the reclamation of the mosslands, and its characteristic landscapes are often very similar to those produced by enclosure and reclamation brought about without recourse to an Act of Parliament (Middleton 1995; Ede with Darlington 2002, 106-112). The largest single area of parliamentary enclosure in Cheshire was of the former Delamere Forest, where 7652 acres were divided between claimants in 1819 (Phillips 2002a, 54).

Parliamentary enclosure landscapes in the North West, especially in the uplands, are distinguished by a number of common physical characteristics, with local variation according to scale and terrain. The fields are often large, regular, and square or rectangular where possible. Field boundaries, within a specified enclosure area, are of a markedly uniform character whether walls (Fig 7.3) or hedges, with few hedgerow trees but some substantial plantations, often to provide shelter belts. Access roads are straight, though sometimes with sharp right-angled bends, and often very wide. Characteristic features include public quarries for walling and constructing roads, public limekilns, culverts and bridges, watering places for cattle, and turbaries for peat cutting and in one instance at Hutton Roof (C), a public coal mine (I Whyte pers comm). Though comparatively well documented, and an important and widespread feature of our upland and lowland marginal landscapes, the apparent homogeneity of landscapes of parliamentary enclosure is deceptive. The transformation of upland and marginal landscapes did not necessarily obliterate all traces of earlier land use and their uniformity at a broad level hides great diversity at a local level for example in wall and hedge construction between different enclosure areas. Such landscapes are starting to show their age and are now at risk from changes in agricultural regime.

Aside from parliamentary enclosure and wetland reclamation, (Fig 7.2) perhaps the greatest impact on the rural landscape during the Post-Medieval period in the North West was the creation of new and the extension of existing woodland areas. From the 18th century onwards, however, large-scale tree planting took place, firstly on the country estates of wealthy landowners and then in the forestry plantations of the 20th century, helping to form the mixed farming, woodland, and moorland landscapes of the present day. The landscapes of the Lake District exemplify the manipulation of ‘natural’ scenery for the purposes of creating picturesque views using ornamental planting of larch and other species from the mid-18th century and for commercial forestry from the 1920s. Research by the National Trust, as at Tarn Haws and Monk Coniston (C), and by the Forestry Commission in the ‘Veteran trees’ recording project, has begun to look at the longevity and archaeology of planting regimes.

Fig 7.2 Scarisbrick, Martin Mere, Lancashire, showing the loss of peat through reclamation and ploughing (Sue Stallibrass).
Fig 7.3 Enclosed fellside at Red Screes, Cumbria (Tom Huckerby).
Fig 7.4 Home Farm at Burton in Kendal, Cumbria, a model farm built in the later 19th century (Richard Newman).

Another area of significant regional research has been in the examination of farmsteads through building survey. The former Royal Commission on Historic Monuments’ sample survey of farmsteads dating between 1750 and 1914 used central Cheshire as one of its sample areas. This revealed something of the patterning of regional diversity and highlighted the lack of surviving upstanding buildings which pre-date the mid-18th century (Barnwell & Giles 1997, 146). Much of the surviving fabric in the region dates to the late 18th and 19th centuries and includes excellent examples of industrialised model farmsteads (Fig 7.4), such as those built by the Senhouse family near Maryport (C). In Cumbria a thematic survey was undertaken for English Heritage (Wade Martin 1999), and the county benefits from the pioneering work of Brunskill (2002), but such work is lacking elsewhere in the region. Conversion of farm buildings as they cease to have a viable agricultural function is a cause of concern and some record survey has taken place through the use of planning conditions. Whilst many of the recording projects lack in-depth analysis of the buildings, and are reported only within the ‘grey literature’, the records produced are capable of being used for synthesis. Programmes of survey, such as Lancashire County Council’s recording of barns before conversion, and the farm building recording begun by Cumbria County Council in 2002, are forming a useful corpus of case studies.

Designed landscapes were often associated with model farms and other forms of agricultural innovation and improvement, as has been indicated at Tatton (Ch) (Higham et al 2002) and this relationship needs further exploration. Another area worthy of examination is the role of country estates as investors in technology. For example, Dunham Massey (Ch) had a sawmill and Lyme Park (Ch) a range of laundry and electricity generating buildings (M Palmer pers comm). As at Tatton most studies of designed landscapes, including the many unpublished studies by the National Trust, have been based on the documentary record and the surface examination of earthworks. At Lyme Park, and at Rufford New Hall (L), survey work demonstrated that 18th century design plans were not rigorously implemented, but adapted to suit available resources, topography and the needs of the users (LUAU 1996d; Egerton Lea 2002d). Recent limited excavations of a small area of landscaped grounds at Hayton, near Carlisle (CFA 2003b) and the work undertaken at Ambleside (Potter & Quartermaine 1999) have shown how useful excavated data can be for interpreting the development of 19th century gardens.

Rural Settlement

Despite settlement development as a result of industrialisation, Yates’ map of Lancashire, like the contemporary county maps for Cheshire, Cumberland and Westmorland, still depicted large areas of unenclosed moorland and mossland in the late 18th century, but these too had been swept away by parliamentary enclosure by the mid-19th century. This was another factor which helped to emphasise the dispersed nature of much of the regional settlement pattern. Where allotments were large, new farmsteads were sometimes erected. The creation of new isolated farms in the late 18th and early 19th century is a feature of both the reclaimed and enclosed wetlands, as in the Lancashire Fylde, and of the enclosed and improved uplands, as at Skelton (C), where 13 new farms were created following the enclosure of 1769 (Whyte 2003, 82). In parts of Greater Manchester and in east Lancashire farm numbers increased during the period. In the Tameside area they rose from 143 to 273 between 1700 and 1850 (Nevell 1993, 80-95).

In Greater Manchester and Lancashire the spread of handloom weaving led to the growth of folds in the 18th century, where farm buildings were leased or sold for conversion into cottages and in some cases into loomshops. These are a characteristic settlement type of upland areas, many now subsumed by urban expansion, though still recognisable in suburbs and on urban fringes. Most have been heavily modernised, but 17th and 18th century buildings often survive in them. There has been little detailed recording work undertaken, though Rothwell’s industrial heritage surveys (1979a; 1979b; 1979c; 1980a; 1980b; 1981; 1985; 1990) have catalogued some of them. In parts of Greater Manchester the impact of industrialisation on settlement development set within its social context has been examined in Tameside by Nevell and Walker (1998; 1999; 2004). Industrialisation within rural areas led to the rise of equally busy but different landscapes away from Manchester and east Lancashire. On Alston Moor (C) the allotting of the mining rights in 1735 was an impetus to rapid population growth (Hey 2000, 205). Smallholdings were viable because of bi-employment in the lead mines and to a lesser extent collieries. Farm buildings were converted into workers’ cottages, small lean-to cabins were built against barns and byres and new farm buildings were erected with upper floor domestic accommodation. These so called farmer-miner landscapes and their buildings characterise much of the northern Yorkshire Dales and the north Pennines but have been little studied archaeologically within the regional boundary particularly in the south.

The region did not only experience an increase in dispersed settlement and the growth of farmsteads into hamlets, but saw the creation of entirely new rural communities, usually related to some form of industrial activity. These varied in nature from purpose-built colonies, such as Abbeystead (L) or Styal Mill (Ch), paid for by industrialists (Timmins 2000), to small hamlets developed over successive generations such as Galgate near Lancaster (White 2003; Newman 2004), or individual rows of cottages such as those found associated with coal mining in the north Pennines (Harris 1974). Many of these settlements were small and situated in previously sparsely settled, marginal areas.

The excavation project centred on Hagg Cottages, Alderley Edge (Ch), is probably unique to the region at present (Casella 2005) in posing questions about the historical archaeology of a rural hamlet. The Cottages were built during the 1740s near the site of the Alderley Edge copper and lead mines, and were occupied by the Alderley Edge Mining Company’s workers in the late 19th century, and were subsequently demolished in the 1950s. The excavation revealed a number of floor surfaces used in the cottages from sandstone flagging through to linoleum. One of the cottages went through a series of alterations, adaptations and re-orientation which reflected the changing social and economic status of its occupants during the period of the Industrial Revolution. Analysis of the recovered ceramics, building materials, glass, clay tobacco pipes, metals, coins, plastics, slag and charcoal, textiles and leather, bone and floor coverings is ongoing.

Both enclosure and industrialisation not only created new settlements but in some cases had a depopulating effect on existing settlements. Indeed, in the North West many of the presumed Medieval settlement earthworks appear to be the result of Post-Medieval settlement shrinkage, as has been noted for other areas like the East Riding of Yorkshire (Neave 1993). Enclosure is well known to have depopulated some nucleated settlements as farms were moved away to be surrounded by their enclosed fields. In Cartmel parish (C) enclosure of the wastes is claimed to have depopulated townships through its adverse impact on smallholders and cottagers (Whyte 2003, 91). A more likely factor in widespread rural depopulation, however, was farm amalgamation and the migration of population away from farming areas to industrial areas. This is highlighted in Darlington’s examination of some deserted or shrunken settlements in Lancashire, which is primarily based on documentary sources (2003). At Stock the shrinkage of the nucleated settlement in the early 19th century seems to have been occasioned by the growth of weaving and consequent settlement expansion in the nearby town of Barnoldswick (Darlington 2003, 80-1). Another example of rural depopulation possibly caused by the attraction of industrial work elsewhere may have been the excavated toft at Church Brough (C), which was probably deserted in the late 18th century (Jones 1989). Other factors which led to the Post-Medieval desertion or shrinkage of settlements include late 18th and early 19th century emparking as at Rufford (L) and Tatton (Ch), and the failure of some farms which colonised the upland waste following parliamentary enclosure (Whyte 2003, 84). At Haslingden Grane (L) the hamlet was gradually abandoned in the later 19th and early 20th centuries following the flooding of its farmlands for reservoirs, and the requirement to remove cattle from water catchment areas (Darlington 2003).

The water-gathering grounds for the various corporation water boards were systematically cleared of settlement in the early 20th century in the Forest of Bowland (LUAU 1997g), Clitheroe and the Sabden Valley (L). A similar fate befell settlements in parts of the Lake District, notably for the impounding schemes at Thirlmere (1890-04) and Haweswater (1929-36) where the remains of the village of Mardale Green, submerged in 1935, are still visible at times of low water level. At Holcombe Moor (GM) the farms against the head dyke wall were abandoned in the early 20th century as a result of the Government’s acquisition of the Holcombe valley and part of the Moor as a military training area (Egerton Lea 2001a). Watergrove in Greater Manchester was likewise depopulated in the 1930s and preserved datestones ranging from 1699 to 1778 were built into the reservoir storm wall. Archaeological excavations in the 1990s of the farmsteads, one of which dated back to the Medieval period, led to a pioneering survey of relict industrial landscapes (GMAU 1990). The construction of the reservoirs also created new temporary settlements in the form of navvy camps, usually self-contained settlements equipped with their own shops, pubs and even cinemas (Morris 1994).

Overall, industrialisation and enclosure encouraged the growth of dispersed settlement patterns in areas previously not permanently or only lightly settled, whilst causing settlement shrinkage in already settled areas. Consequently, the rural landscape had a greater degree of dispersion in the later 19th century than it did in the early 18th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries in the wetlands new farms appeared in previously uncultivated areas, while the uplands experienced new settlement genesis, growth and abandonment.

Fig 7.5 Cellar loomshops at Mile End, Blackburn, Lancashire (Egerton Lea).

The Urban Landscape

The later 18th to 20th centuries witnessed radical changes in urban settlement that were unprecedented in scale and speed of transformation. Yet surprisingly this phenomenon of urbanisation and industrialisation has been little studied from an archaeological perspective. Archaeological approaches used in the researching of Roman and Medieval urbanism can bring new interpretations to industrial period urban histories and may present new insights in the examination of the material culture of well-documented 18th to 20th century urban contexts. The North West is taking the lead on the study of the urban archaeology between 1700 and 1914 especially (Nevell 2006), and a number of new research directions are being pioneered which look at the archaeology of the new towns of the Industrial Revolution.

The Extensive Urban Survey (EUS) projects have revealed considerable elements of similarity and continuity in 18th and 19th century towns in the region, whilst at the same time revealing distinctiveness in individual and groups of towns that is specific in time and to location. By the end of the 19th century there was a great variety in urban development which is reflected archaeologically in the standing buildings and street patterns of these settlements. All the urban centres of the 17th century saw growth in terms of physical area and population during this period. However, there emerged a clear ranking within the region. At the top were those settlements that expanded to become cities of national and international importance, such as Liverpool and Manchester. Below these were the provincial centres of Chester and Preston, followed by the industrial and market centres such as Blackburn, Carlisle, Kendal, Lancaster, Stockport and Wigan. Liverpool and Manchester each developed a series of ancillary satellite industrial towns such as St Helens and Widnes, and Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton and Rochdale and dormitory suburbs such as Sale. Below these were local market centres such as Altrincham and Nantwich. The period also saw the establishment of new types of urban settlement, often focused on one industry. Thus, Birkenhead grew up around ship building, Burnley, Hyde and Oldham became new manufacturing towns of the cotton industry, Crewe grew around the railway industry and Barrow around iron. In addition resort towns like Blackpool, Morecambe (Wade nd a) and Southport developed to meet the leisure demands of the growing population of industrial workers.

Trinder (2002) has shown that market towns did not suddenly become industrial towns, but had legacies from the past and continuing functions in the industrial period that differentiated them from the largest villages in their hinterlands. Features included the possession of trading rights, with the market place being the physical representation of these, and the continuation of small scale craft industries. Many of these did not require specialist premises whilst others, like tanning and brewing did, but were not new institutions. Thus, market towns in the 18th and 19th centuries epitomise continuity in the industrial period and Garstang (L) is a typical example of such a town. Trinder’s approach to market towns can be applied, as he has suggested, to other types of urban settlement in the North West, and has been successfully used by Matthews in Chester (2003). There the mixture of the domestic and the industrial, often at a small scale, has been examined. From this Matthews has proposed a study of the urban fabric of the 19th and 20th century town through the interpretive medium of the archaeology of work (2003) which brings a much needed human dimension to the study of urban material remains.

During the 19th century more people came to live and work in towns than in the countryside. Already in 1801 45% of historic Lancashire’s population lived and worked in the towns, and 24% lived in just two urban locations, Liverpool and Manchester. In the same year around 28% of Cheshire’s population was living in towns (Phillips & Smith 1994, 135-6). By the middle of the 19th century much of the North West could be said to have become an urban-based manufacturing society. This urbanisation process continued throughout the rest of the 19th century so that by 1891 almost 90% of Lancashire’s population was living in towns and cities, and 80% of Cheshire’s (Phillips & Phillips 2002, 44-5). This is reflected archaeologically in the physical growth of the towns of North West England and in the new urban infrastructure and housing needed to maintain these greatly enlarged settlements.

Proto-industrial Communities

Proto-industrialised urban communities are recognisable more through the general historic character of an area than by individual monument types. Consequently, thematic and topographical studies have been particularly useful in identifying this urban form. Studies such as those of Timmins (1977) looking at handloom weavers’ colonies (Fig 7.5) have been especially useful as these formed important areas of distinctive 18th century growth in many of the towns of Greater Manchester and Lancashire. Handloom weavers’ cottages epitomise proto-industrial society. A topographical study of the Northern Quarter in Manchester has shown how urban areas developed in the 18th century in response to industrial development, often at a cottage industry level (McNeil & Nevell 2000; English Heritage 2003; Nevell 2005b). The quarter consists of a mix of domestic, commercial and industrial buildings including middle-class and workers housing, cellar dwellings (Fig 7.6), loomshops, warehouses and small factories, dating from the 18th century through to the 20th century. This survival of topography, streetscape and buildings, which is repeated in a number of urban areas throughout the North West, is both nationally rare and vulnerable. Conservation-based research is essential to protect this fragile resource.

In the 200 years following the late 17th century, towns underwent many complex and interrelated changes, creating a variety of transformations in their size, physical form, economic role and political, social and cultural significance. These did not all happen together and there was considerable intra-regional variation in both the timing and process of change. One of the most important factors, however, was accessibility through communications networks. The planned new towns of the 19th century like Barrow, Fleetwood and Morecambe (Wade nd a) were established because of their coastal location and potential for the development of port facilities. In a period when water was the only viable means of transporting large bulk cargoes, access to it was a major factor in the stimulation of urban growth. This also led to the foundation of Port Carlisle, connected to its parent city by canal and later railway. As Trinder has pointed out one of the common factors in all towns is that they were affected by developments in transport (2002). Thus, canals (Fig 7.8) and railways and their associated features are key monument characteristics in the fabric of the industrial town and city. Nowhere was the impact of canals more significant in terms of urbanisation than in Manchester. Canal building in Britain is marked at its beginning and at its end by two major engineering works both from the Manchester area. In the 1760s the Bridgewater Canal heralded the birth of the industrial canal and led to the development of a national canal network, whilst the building of the Ship Canal in 1894 marked the final flourish of industrialised water transport.

Fig 7.6 Early cellar dwellings under excavation at Piccadilly, Manchester (OA North).
Fig 7.7 Excavations of the late 19th century boiler house at Murray’s Mill, Manchester (UMAU).

Manchester a Regional Metropolis

The completion of the Bridgewater Canal in 1765 enabled Manchester to develop as an inland port and provided it with improved access to raw materials and outlets for its products. The first major arterial canal, crossing valleys with the aid of aqueducts, cuttings, embankments and tunnels, the Bridgewater Canal was a significant engineering achievement and has made an enduring impact on the landscape. The Manchester terminus – the Castlefield Basin which is characterised by its warehouses pierced by bargeholes for covered loading – was where trans-shipment was pioneered and became a model for canal building across the country (Falconer 2002; Nevell & Walker 2001). The canal opened a new era of inland navigation and within a short period Manchester was a nodal point for a network of canals across England and Wales. Sixty years later, with the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, the North West had the first inter-city passenger railway.

Manchester was thus at the centre of the transport revolutions of the late 18th and 19th centuries (Nevell 2004). The urban expansion this facilitated can be readily traced on 18th and 19th century maps. Manchester was known by contemporaries as ‘Cottonopolis’ and has also been described as a ‘citadel to commerce’. Its architectural legacy from this period exemplifies the exceptional scale, ingenuity and enterprise of the era. A recent assessment of the City of Manchester’s Post-Medieval and Industrial archaeology illustrates the concentration of survey and investigation on its history of urbanisation and industrialisation. Over 140 ‘grey literature’ reports, of which 95 are building survey reports reflect both the level of response to the impact of change on the City’s Post-Medieval fabric and the necessary focus on building archaeology (McNeil, Nevell & Redhead 2003). This stands in stark contrast to the relatively low level of archaeological response in other major industrial and commercial urban areas in the North West.

By the end of the 18th century, when the cotton trade expanded, Manchester emerged as the centre of the first power-driven factory system and of the cotton manufacturing industry in Britain. Little of this first industrial town survives, but the area around Kelvin Street, the modern Northern Quarter, with its three storey workshop dwellings built between 1750 and 1800 for cotton spinners and weavers, has been a focus for study (McNeil & Nevell 2000; Nevell 2005b). Such structures provide a physical link between the early woollen and linen town and the later cotton spinning city. An important element of this first textile manufacturing town was textile finishing, of which there were 18 enterprises by 1800, making the town the largest textile finishing centre in Britain. Why and how this activity moved from London to the North West has yet to be studied, nor have any of these sites been investigated archaeologically.

The mill complexes of Ancoats (Fig 7.7) provide a spectacular illustration of urban industrial architecture in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Ancoats was laid out as part of a planned expansion of Manchester in anticipation of the arrival of the Rochdale canal (Fig 7.9), and contains a notable grouping of early mills, whose architecture, design, fireproofing, innovations and improvements in processes span the Industrial Revolution (Williams with Farnie 1992). The development of Ancoats as a steam-powered mixed industrial suburb is the subject of a recent investigation of part of the route of the Rochdale Canal. Survey and excavation has examined canal arrangements, Murray’s Mills and two glass production sites, revealing the influence of changing technology on industrial organization within an urban area (I Miller pers comm).

In 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was built, terminating at Liverpool Road Station. This has the distinction of being the oldest surviving railway station in the world, which pioneered separate facilities for different classes of passenger. The terminus includes the impressive 1830 warehouse, which was has been recorded archaeologically (Greene 1995), revealing how the warehouse was influenced in its design by earlier canal warehousing (Nevell & Walker 2001). As the railway network around the city developed and the cotton mills expanded, so Manchester became a centre of engineering (McNeil, Nevell & Redhead 2003). Large numbers of foundries and engineering firms were created and examples can still be found in surrounding districts such as Gorton, Newton Heath and Openshaw.

Manchester’s dominance as a financial and commercial centre in the second half of the 19th century is reflected in its imposing commercial and civic architecture (Hartwell 2001) but it is its textile warehouses that provide the distinctive element in its streetscape and make it unlike any other city in England. As early as 1806 there were 1182 warehouse units, and by 1815 there were 1819. The commercial quarter, ‘warehouse city’, with its fine collection of buildings based on Renaissance palaces occupies a square mile of the modern city. At first these were concentrated around King Street but by 1850 they had spread to Portland Street and by the early 20th century to Whitworth Street. Notable buildings include the range of warehouses along Charlotte Street, those of Princess Streets, Watts warehouse, and the appropriately imperial-scale packing warehouses of Whitworth Street. This is arguably the finest expression of a Victorian commercial centre in Britain (McNeil & George 1997; Hartwell 2001; English Heritage 2002b).

Fig 7.10 Weir mill, a late 18th and early 19th century cotton mill on the river Mersey in Stockport (GMAU).
Fig 7.11 The railway network in the North West.

The Manufacturing Towns

In Cheshire, canals facilitated the development of a chemicals industry leading to the growth of the new industrial towns of Runcorn, Widnes and Winsford. Elsewhere in later 18th century Cheshire the growth of early factory-based textile production led to the expansion of Congleton, Macclesfield, Sandbach and Warrington. Other than the Cheshire EUS, archaeological examination of these towns has been limited with the most important contribution being the former RCHME survey of east Cheshire’s textile mills (Calladine & Fricker 1993).

From the late 18th century onwards, the growth of the cotton industry in Greater Manchester and eastern Lancashire led to the rapid growth and development of some existing towns such as Ashton-under-Lyne, Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Stockport (Fig 7.10). Yates’ county map of old Lancashire (1786) shows these new manufacturing towns and the burgeoning cities of Manchester and Salford. Urban development was limited away from Manchester, however, until the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century (Fig 7.11). This led to the development of new towns, such as Accrington, Bacup and Nelson.

The majority of Lancashire’s new towns in the 19th century developed organically from existing non-urban or proto-urban centres as at Burnley (Egerton Lea 2002e). The railway not only stimulated industry, especially textiles weaving and engineering, which led to urban growth, but also stimulated the development of towns that were reliant on the railway as their principal industry, the most notable example of which is Crewe (Crosby 1996, 16).

Fig 7.12 Excavation of 19th century housing at the Bars, Chester (Earthworks Archaeology).

As in Cheshire, apart from the EUS, archaeological work on industrial towns in Lancashire has been limited, although the industrial fabric of many of east Lancashire’s towns has been identified and catalogued in Rothwell’s useful gazetteers (1979a; 1979b; 1979c; 1980a; 1980b; 1981; 1985; 1990). Below-ground archaeological interventions have occurred only in Blackburn and Preston. In addition to Timmins’ work on handloom weavers’ cottages and some detailed case studies such as in Atherton (GM) (Morgan 1998), there has been some limited standing building survey. English Heritage carried out a survey of textile mills in Pendle district (Taylor 2000) and a number of more detailed individual mill surveys were completed by RCHME in Nelson.

Other than Ashmore’s study of Low Moor (a mill hamlet to the west of Clitheroe), the only significant archaeological study of a single community’s built character in Lancashire has been English Heritage’s study of Nelson (Wray 2001). This latter review is especially important as it is the only detailed study of one of the most significant characteristics of these towns, the later 19th century terraced house. The first detailed below-ground investigation of 19th century living conditions in the North West has been in Chester (Fig 7.11), where Matthews’ excavation of a mid-19th century court stands as a seminal example of archaeological research into lower-class urban housing.

In Greater Manchester the outline development of the growth of the manufacturing towns has been discussed by the pioneering work of Douglas Farnie (1979) and later in works on Stockport (Arrowsmith 1997), Saddleworth (Smith 1987) and notably Tameside (Nevell & Walker 1998; 1999; 2001; 2004b). Recent fieldwork has seen the first detailed excavation of part of Manchester’s 18th and 19th century urban landscape around Hardman Street (UMAU 2005a) and a study of the late textile village at Carrbrook in Tameside (Nevell with Grimsditch & King 2006). Yet a detailed research programme which looks at the urban development of the cotton towns of Greater Manchester is long overdue.

Similarly, apart from largely social histories such as that for Cleator Moor (Marshall 1978), Harris’ study of the development of Millom (Harris 1966), architectural studies in Barrow (Roberts 1977) and the recent excavation of part of its ironworks, no survey work has been carried out on 19th century urban fabric and the development of the manufacturing towns of west Cumbria.

The 19th century towns produced a series of new monument types, many of which were associated with the development of areas of terraced housing laid out on a grid.

The corner shop and urban public house are two distinctive new types of feature in the urban fabric. Public houses often exhibited particular architectural characteristics distinctive of individual towns. A comparison of late 19th century public houses in Manchester and Liverpool noted the smaller size of Manchester’s surviving public houses because most of them originated as beer houses (Mutch 2003).

In the coastal resorts, especially in Blackpool, early hotels were established and in the 19th century an entirely new building type, the boarding house, developed with its own distinctive architectural style (Egerton Lea 2003a).

The railway hotel was another new archaeological monument associated with railways and urban growth. A notably good example is the North Euston Hotel in Fleetwood (Fig 7.13), further good examples of this genre can be found at Chester and Manchester and as individual examples in towns like Carnforth.

The impact of railways on urban fabric is an area of fruitful research (Gwyn 2002), as in Blackburn where the arrival of the railway caused a wholesale replanning of the town centre (LUAU 1999c).

Fig 7.13 North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood, Lancashire (Egerton Lea).

Railways and Resorts

The growth of industrial towns led to the development of minor coastal resorts into seaside towns (Newman 2001, 160). It was impossible for these resorts to grow into urban centres, however, until the arrival of the railways facilitated the advent of mass tourism.

In some cases, such as Morecambe West End, the railway companies were speculative developers within the town (Egerton Lea 2004a; Wade nd b). In Cheshire, inland and coastal resorts like Knutsford, Wilmslow, Parkgate and Neston would not have developed as fashionable centres without railways linking them to major conurbations.

Similarly, Bowness-on-Windermere and Keswick (C) were transformed by rail and steamer links that connected them with the populations of Barrow and Manchester from 1847. Furness Abbey became the first heritage attraction in Britain, possibly in Europe, to have its own railway station (Marshall & Walton 1981). Some coastal resorts, like Blackpool, grew in an unplanned manner; others like St Annes and Morecambe were planned.

Fleetwood is the region’s finest example of a planned seaside town (Fig 7.13). Developed in the 1830s by the lord of the manor, Peter Hesketh Fleetwood, it was intended to enrich him through its development as a tourist resort and port. Instead it almost bankrupted him but not before his architect, Decimus Burton, had laid out the foundations of a planned town on classical lines complete with an abundance of Grecian-style architecture (Egerton Lea 2002b). An important type-site for the late development of classical architecture and as an example of early 19th century urban planning, Fleetwood still lacks a detailed analysis of its development and only limited work has been undertaken to record and document its earliest buildings.

Beyond those studied in the Lancashire EUS the other seaside resorts have been little examined archaeologically, though the pier at Southport was the subject of recording (LUAU 2000b) and Blackpool is being considered as a potential World Heritage Site (Walton & Wood 2006).

Yet the resorts featured entirely new monument classes like piers, bazaars, the coastal promenade and new forms of pleasure grounds. Blackpool Pleasure Beach preserves classic examples of the earliest pleasure rides now surviving in Britain such as Maxim’s Flying Machine from 1904, Noah’s Ark, 1922 and Emberton’s Grand National of 1935 (Bennett 1996). These have only been recorded photographically. The coastal resorts continued to grow and thrive throughout the inter-war years of the 20th century at a time when most of the manufacturing towns slipped into depression and decline.

Religion, Ritual and Ceremony


By the later 18th century some new churches were built in response to the beginning of industrial-inspired urban growth, such as St John the Evangelist (1789) and St Paul’s (1792) in the textile town of Blackburn (Egerton Lea 2001c). There was still a general lack of churches in the early 19th century when industrialisation and increasing populations exacerbated the inherent structural weakness of the parochial system (Green 2003, 19). The traditionally large parishes of the North West and rapid population growth created a vacuum which was filled by the non-conformists. In response, an Act of Parliament in 1818 set up a Church Building Commission and provided £1 million for new churches (Green 2003, 21). Thus, 97 churches were built between 1821 and 1829, and of those that survive outside London, 33% are in Greater Manchester or Lancashire. Commissioners’ churches have only recently received a modern dedicated study and English Heritage have identified all surviving examples (Port 2006). Church building and refurbishment was prolific throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in the growing urban areas. Changes in architectural style were linked to liturgical developments. For example classical architecture, focused on the sermon, was replaced by neo-gothic which emphasised a traditional church form for a more traditional style of sacrament-focused worship.

The restoration of Nantwich parish church in 1861 removed the galleried layout of an 18th century auditory church interior to replace it with a facsimile of a 14th century interior (Hyde 1997). The churches of the North West are a product of the 19th century more than the Medieval period, yet this 19th century church fabric has received scant attention from archaeologists, either in relation to demolished or still standing buildings. There are some notable exceptions such as those built by the Lancaster-based architectural practice of Sharpe, Paley and Austin (Price 1998).

Fig 7.14 Jireh Chapel, Burnley, Lancashire (Egerton Lea).

Non-Conformist Chapels

From the mid-18th century, there was a large increase in the number of non-conformist chapels (Fig 7.14), where radical teachings appealed to the growing populations of manufacturing workers, who were not imbued with the views of their masters, the landed estate owners (Stell 1994, xxi). Non-conformist sects quickly filled the need for new places of worship. As their confidence grew, the old, vernacular-style buildings, often in the rear of building plots, were replaced by classical-style structures on street frontages, characterised by symmetrical features. Consequently many of the older chapels have been lost. A remarkable survival is an early 18th century Presbyterian chapel in Carnforth which is now a garage, but is extremely vulnerable in its present situation and condition (Egerton Lea 2002c). Of these early chapels, only Goodshaw Baptist Chapel near Rawtenstall has been investigated in any detail. Built in 1760, survey and excavation revealed many of the changes the chapel underwent over its 103 years as a place of worship (Brandon & Johnson 1986).

Urban chapels tended to be larger and more ostentatious than their rural counterparts. Not only was religious affiliation expressed through architectural style and design but so were community aspirations and social position (Lake et al 2001, 82). There are many surviving examples of such chapels, including Longholme Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Rawtenstall, adjacent to the smaller, older chapel which became a Sunday School (Catlow 1977, 33). The later chapel still dominates its surroundings. In Lancashire the existence of many of these chapels has been recorded in the EUS, though little attempt was made to tie physical fabric to surviving records. Many chapels have been demolished or converted and few have been recorded in advance of such events. Stell’s regional survey (1994), though useful, is highly selective and biased towards towns. A survey of chapels was completed for parts of Cumbria (Ryder 2000) but coverage elsewhere in the region is patchy.

Religious Settlements

Some settlements were established as planned colonies of religious congregations. At Fairfield in Greater Manchester, the Moravians established a colony in 1785. A self-supporting settlement, it was designed to meet the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of its community. It is claimed to have been the largest settlement of its kind in Britain and is characterised by its late Georgian restrained architecture and its formal planned layout. The architecture of the Roman Catholic settlement at Stydd near Ribchester is similarly impressive and also includes a range of buildings designed to meet the needs of the Roman Catholic community.

Burial Monuments

There have been few systematic detailed archaeological analysis of burial monuments in the North-West of the type pioneered by Mytum (1999), though an unpublished rural graveyard survey was undertaken in Cheshire. Only small numbers of individual graves have been examined, for example vault burials from Chorley and Eccles, Salford (UMAU 1995b) and excavation of graves at Barrow Church, Cheshire (UMAU 2002). Despite this, many cemeteries will have had some record made of burial monuments by local enthusiasts, which would form a valuable if unquantified resource.

Some of the best surviving burial monuments occur in urban parish churches, where, in contrast to rural churchyards, the 20th century practice of clearing old headstones did not take place. Many urban churchyards ceased to be used for burial when they became full by the later 19th century. Many cemeteries, especially in the old county of Lancashire, have flat, rectangular grave markers covering the entire burial, the purpose of which was to prevent access to the grave at a time when there was a great fear of grave robbing.

Burnley parish church has a typical churchyard of this type. Prestwich churchyard (GM), has the full range of the social and symbolic development of burial memorials, with documented churchyard expansions and the burial of some of Manchester’s most notable worthies. Its memorials range from flat grave covers to a mid-19th century, Italianate square sedicule which was displayed at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Secular Display

The display of status, through either pageantry or fashion, and participation in ritual and ceremonial events formed part of the everyday life of all classes in Post-Medieval society; though the nature of the activities and the cultural material varied across social classes. The activities could be civic, communal, or personal and private. The need for civic dignity in towns was met by the establishment of corporations, the acquisition of regalia, and the construction of buildings for civil ceremonies (Fig 7.15). Liverpool adopted classical architecture on a massive scale, conveying not only civic pride but also a sense of its role as an imperial city (Newman 2001, 147). In addition to town halls, law courts and libraries, the newly emerging towns of the industrial North West built large enclosed market halls which are one of their most important urban architectural legacies (Winstanley 2000, 157). Beginning with St John’s Market in Liverpool, built in 1822, the closed market hall was adopted in all the expanding industrial towns. The Corporation market hall in Darwen, (L), is a particularly fine example, built in 1882 instead of a town hall (Schmiechen & Carls 1999, 262). These new commercial emporia were unlike 16th and 17th century market halls, which were built to regulate an open market. These were built to house all traders and were the forerunners of the shopping mall. This fashion spread outside the industrial centres, and the foundations of a small mid-19th century example in Maryport, Cumbria were recently noted (NPH 2003b).

Fig 7.15 Warrington town hall, built in 1750 by Thomas Patten, using waste from his Warrington copper works as foundations (Cheshire County Council).

In the 19th century, town centre stores and banks exhibited architectural features and specialist layouts which distinguished them from their 18th century predecessors. Earlier premises either formed part of a house or shared in the traditions of vernacular architecture (Winstanley 2000, 153), even in Chester, probably the first town in the region to develop specialist shopping streets. Some 19th-century businesses did display perceived power and prestige, or branded a corporate identity, through architecture. This is true of some regional banks, and in late 19th century industrial towns, of the larger Co-operative Society stores. Architecture was used as an expression of moral values by both business and various religious groups in the same way, indeed there were some significant crossovers between businesses and denominational affiliation. In the 19th century, especially, the links between the religious, political and commercial spheres of life were much more intimate than today and it is to be expected that they may have been expressed through architecture. The Lancashire EUS has demonstrated the potential for research in these areas.

Commercial prosperity, especially from the late 17th century onwards, increased the numbers of those with the wealth and time to pursue leisure activities. The two principal provincial centres of Chester and Preston developed areas set aside for leisure activities, particularly for social interaction and display (Stobart 1998; Phillips & Smith 1994, 113). They acquired promenades, theatres and assembly rooms (Newman 2001, 157). Lancaster’s flowering as an important trading centre in the 18th century, and its subsequent decline, ensured it retained early structures associated with middle-class leisure activities, such as Assembly Rooms and the Grand Theatre (Egerton Lea 2004b). These aspects of urban fabric were adopted by the new industrial towns in the 19th century, which also developed other facilities to accommodate the leisure needs of the masses. The region has also benefited from the work of locally-based cultural historians such as John Walton and Michael Winstanley who have examined many aspects of these topics.

 Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside have a huge concentration of standing buildings and other features relating to 19th century working-class culture, including public houses, music halls, sports facilities and municipal parks. At Nelson (L), the football stadium and cricket ground adjoined Victoria Park (Walton 2000, 281), forming an area devoted to leisure pursuits and display activities. Much of the fabric associated with leisure and recreation was short-lived and was replaced in response to changing fashions. Raikes Hall, Blackpool (L) is a good example, as its grounds underwent many changes of use and emphasis during the 19th century. Much has been lost without record, though Bolton Wanderers’ old stadium at Burnden Park (L) was the subject of an archaeological survey and forms part of a wider pioneering study of these structures (Smith 2001). More recently English Heritage has reviewed the historic value of sports venues through a project based on the Manchester area (Heritage Consultancy Services 2002; Chitty & Wood 2003).

Technology and Production

It has been stated that ‘if there is one archaeological topic in which England can claim to have international pre-eminence, it is the industrial archaeology of the Post-Medieval period. The world heartland of the industrial revolution lies in midland and northern England’ (English Heritage 1991, 41). More recently the director of English Heritage’s North West region, stated that ‘if the North West has one enduring characteristic, it is one of technical ingenuity and innovation’ (Cooper 2003, 8). Liverpool’s inscription as a World Heritage Site for its global significance as a seaport and mercantile city was confirmed in 2004. Manchester is widely recognised as the world’s first industrial city, and an archetypal city of the Industrial Revolution (McNeil & Nevell 2000, 6), and on the basis of its industrial heritage has been proposed for world heritage site status. Even the Lake District’s bid for the same status is to an extent underpinned by its extensive remains of past industrial activity. There can be little doubt of the importance of the North West’s industrial archaeological resource to the appreciation of its cultural and environmental development.

Fig 7.16 Stoneware jar tops from Hardman Street, Manchester (UMAU).

A review of industrial archaeology in Lancashire (Fletcher 1996) noted that the topic had not received the attention its importance merited. The SMR was cited as under-representing sites of industrial origin and it was claimed that the study of these remains, whilst often researched by local enthusiasts, had not been given much attention by professional archaeologists.

The net result was a perception that the industrial heritage for much of the region ‘was a vast and poorly comprehended body of data’ (Fletcher 1996, 157). Matters have improved in the past decade. Professional archaeologists, both in universities and commercial units, have engaged with the subject, in many cases working closely with local enthusiasts, as in Manchester (Fig 7.16). The need for identification surveys of industrial remains has been recognised as a priority (English Heritage 1991, 42) and to an extent the Lancashire EUS has addressed this in urban areas. In Greater Manchester industrial archaeology overviews and industrial monument type reviews have been undertaken (McNeil & Stevenson 1996; McNeil & Nevell 2000; Nevell & Walker 2001).

Reviews of specific industries have also been undertaken nationally through the Monuments Protection Programme, and many of these have highlighted the significance of remains in the region. In addition, important monument-specific research has been undertaken in respect of various industrial remains especially those relating to iron manufacturing, lead processing and glass. Nevertheless, many aspects of industrial archaeology have not received an appropriate level of survey and investigation to support strategies for preservation and conservation.

One of the principal ways industrial archaeology contributes to the study of the past is in a functional understanding of industrial processes (Fig 7.17; Cranstone 2003, 219), something often not revealed in the documentary record. The identification and analysis of process residues should be part of the detailed investigation of any industrial site, as has recently been the case at Cunsey bloomery forge in the Lake District (OA North 2004b), yet few industrial complexes in the North West have been adequately sampled. The recovery and understanding of residues can be crucial to the understanding of on-site technological innovation (Crossley 1998).

Industrial archaeology has been criticised for its focus on function and technology at the expense of social and cultural matters (Johnson 1996, 12; 2002, 205). This too has begun to change (Nevell 2006) and archaeologists working in the North West, particularly in Manchester, have been in the forefront of this development, with an approach based on an appreciation of social and landscape context pioneered by Trinder (1982; 1996) and developed by Palmer (2000; Palmer & Neaverson 1998). In their review of the development and impact of industrialisation in Tameside, Greater Manchester, Nevell and Walker took a theoretical approach to their data. They assessed the occurrence of monument types through time and as features attributable to specific social groups, producing a narrative not necessarily revealed by the documentary record (Nevell & Walker 1999; Walker et al 2003, 14).

In order to place the industrial remains of the North West in a wider context, the contribution of some of the region’s archaeologically and historically more significant industries are here assessed under some of the broader thematic headings that they elucidate. This approach helps to explain the various factors which contributed to the importance of industry in the North West in the 18th to 20th centuries. It reveals how success in one industry led to developments in another.

Moreover, it demonstrates that industrialisation was not a linear process. While some industries in some areas moved from a cottage basis to workshops and finally factories, domestic-based craft working co-existed alongside these developments often in the same industries. It is the complexities of industrial activity within its social context, and the wider implications and meanings of this relationship, that archaeologists in the North West are particularly well placed to investigate.

Fig 7.17 Excavation of an 18th-century slitting mill at Lymm, Cheshire (OA North).

Natural Resources

Historically one of the North West’s most important resources led to the development of an inland salt industry. The legacy of the salt industry, allied with the local availability of coal, was the development of the inorganic chemicals industry in the Dee and Mersey basin. By the early 20th century towns like Northwich, Runcorn, Warrington and Widnes (Ch) were major centres of the chemicals industry, especially alkali production (Stobart 2002, 72). This was linked to both glass and soap manufacture, the latter being most prominently represented by the Lever works at Port Sunlight (M). The chemicals industry of the North West was also linked to textiles processing. This association stretches back to the genesis of the chemicals industry, represented by the alum industry. The majority of the works were sited in Yorkshire although an early and important alum works was at Pleasington, near Blackburn, in production (albeit intermittently) from 1609 until the 1770s (Miller 2002). Other works were established in Lancashire during the 18th century, though alum was largely replaced by copperas works and, after 1846, new methods of production based on the treatment of waste from coal mines. This revolutionary process was pioneered in two experimental factories in Cumbria (at Burgh-by-Sands and Drumburgh), before a commercial factory was erected in Miles Platting, Manchester. Nationally, the chemicals industry has received little archaeological attention (Cranstone 2001, 209) and the technological aspects of the early industry are not well understood.

As evidenced by the development of the chemicals industry, with its early reliance on local coal and salt, the presence of mineral resources within the region was fundamental to the growth of industrialisation. Major coal deposits occur in the Lancashire, Cheshire, and West Cumberland coalfields, with minor deposits elsewhere in the region. Iron ores occur as nodules and bands in the Coal Measures, and high-grade haematite ores occur in Furness and West Cumberland. Important copper mining occurred in the Lake District and at Alderley Edge (Ch). There were also nationally-important centres of copper-smelting and working at Macclesfield (using ores from Ecton in Staffordshire), and around St Helens and Liverpool (using ores from Parys Mountain in Anglesey). Lead ores are also widespread in the Lake District and the Alston area (Fig 7.18), with important mines and smelters around Nenthead and Garrigill (C) and lesser industries near Cleator Moor (Banks et al 1994). Zinc ores and barium minerals are found in association with lead in these orefields (and in outlying occurrences); the 19th century Tindale zinc smelter (C) is of considerable importance (Almond 1978), and the barium mineral witherite was first identified at Anglezarke lead mines (L).

Fig 7.18 The remains of lead mining at Nenthead, Alston, Cumbria (Andrew Davison).

The mining of metal ores has been the most widely studied set of extractive industries in the region. Lead mining in the north Pennines especially has received much attention and the development of its distinctive landscape assisted in the area being given the status of a European Geopark (Forbes et al 2003, 4). The long-term research project at Nenthead mines (C) is of particular note for showing the development of a mining and processing complex in the 18th and 19th centuries. Lead mining in Lancashire at Bowland, Anglezarke and Rimington has been the subject of some study (Higham 1989c; 2003b), and the Rimington mine workings have recently been scheduled. The secondary processing of lead is less well understood, although the recent survey of the lead shot tower at Chester is an exception to this (Fig 7.19). The copper and iron mining industries in Cumbria have been the subject for many years of research by the Cumbria Amenity and Mining History Society and there has been a range of popular-style publications by authors such as Tyler (1990; 1995; 1998; 1999; 2001). Surveys have included the mapping of underground workings as at Coniston copper mines. In Furness the iron industry was the subject of an assessment survey carried out by English Heritage (Bowden 2000), whilst many years of work by Mike Davies-Shiel throughout Cumbria, has identified numerous mining and iron-working sites (1998).

In addition to extraction sites, iron manufactories have been the subject of a number of archaeological studies. The 18th century charcoal blast furnaces of Furness such as Duddon, Newlands, and Nibthwaite are the best survivals of this technology in England. West Cumbria also retains important sites from the early development of coke smelting, including the 1690s experimental furnace at Cleator (Blick 1983), and the successful 1720s Little Clifton furnace. The Backbarrow (C) ironworks blast furnaces, assessed for conservation in 1992, are another example of the innovative adaptation of 18th century furnaces in the 19th century (LUAU 1992).

Fig 7.19 Interior of the shot tower at Chester leadworks (Andrew Davison).

Elsewhere the study of the Park Bridge Ironworks in Greater Manchester has helped to show how the wrought iron industry developed across the region (Nevell & Roberts 2003). The later iron industry in the 19th century has been less well studied both regionally and nationally. The application of the Bessemer process and the rise of the modern integrated iron and steel works has received little archaeological attention until recently. Excavations at the Barrow Ironworks however, have investigated the remains of one of the earliest Bessemer ironworks and indicate that archaeology has much to reveal about even late 19th century, well documented production sites (Ironbridge Archaeology 2003). The archaeology of the end product of the 19th century iron industry has been little studied, whether the local smithy or an engineering works. The archaeological potential of the 19th century urban foundry is hinted at in salvage excavation work undertaken at the St Helens Foundry, though the main casting shops were unavailable for investigation (Hedley & Scott 1999).

Aside from metal ores, stone was extracted for building throughout the region. Silurian and Ordovician slates were mined in Cumbria and a study has been made of the still operational Honister slate mine (Tyler 1994). Limestone is found throughout the region and is still extracted in Cumbria and Lancashire. Normal extraction of limestone was by quarrying, except to the north of Burnley where it was obtained by hushing. Both limestone and gritstone were key components in the building of the industrial towns. The gritstone quarries of Rosendale (L), which supplied the North West with much of its building stone in the 19th century, have been the subject of recent survey (UMAU 2003a).

The region’s clays provided the materials for numerous brick and tile manufactories, leading to the development of a nationally important brick-making industry in the 19th century around Accrington (L). Few of these kiln sites have been investigated archaeologically, although the Grotton Brickworks near Mossley (GM), is one notable example (Nevell & Walker 2004b).

The Shirdley Hill Sands were an important factor in the early glass production sites of St Helens, together with the close proximity of the coal measures. Lesser minerals extracted included gypsum (Tyler 2000), wad and wolfram in Cumbria, and cobalt in Cheshire.

The coal industry of the region has received little attention, apart from the MPP Step 1 Report and Step 3 assessments (Gould & Cranstone 1993; Instone & Cranstone 1994); the latter indicates that the region also contains a substantial proportion of surviving coke ovens, including the early Maryport (C) and Tewitfield (L) examples. One exception to this lack of fieldwork has been the research work at Park Bridge where UMAU have excavated a colliery pumping engine from the 1760s (Nevell, Roberts & Champness 2004). The wider survey work at Park Bridge and the unpublished research and recording for a Conservation Plan at Aspen colliery and coke ovens (L) confirms that colliery sites have considerable, and untapped, archaeological potential (D Cranstone pers comm).

Water Power

In the later 18th century steam power began to replace the water wheel in the textiles industries and even for corn milling in the later 19th century, but water remained the power source for a number of other industries. The need to avoid combustion on site made it the safe motive force for gunpowder manufacture. Gunpowder production in the North West began in the 18th century. The Thelwell works in Cheshire were established beside the River Mersey in 1758, and operated until an explosion destroyed them in 1855, no remains are considered to survive (Crocker 1988, 35). The other seven manufactories were erected in river valleys in south Cumbria where in addition to available water power there were ample supplies of timber for both charcoal making and the manufacture of wooden boxes, barrels and casks. Old Sedgwick, established in c 1764, was the earliest of this group and little now survives of this site (Jecock & Dunn 2002). Gatebeck was the last to close, with production ceasing in 1936.

When the works closed the buildings involved with the actual processing were demolished or burnt to prevent the possibility of any residual gunpowder in their fabric accidentally igniting. Generally all that remains of these structures other than the water power arrangements, are ancillary buildings which were not involved in production or storage, blast banks and blast walls. The latter were often free-standing but in the case of the incorporating mills they also formed the rear and side walls of the mill chambers. With the exception of Blackbeck, which unusually was always steam-powered, water was brought from rivers adjacent to the manufactories along massively constructed millraces to drive the waterwheels and later turbines. The millraces, waterwheel and turbine pits often survive, as do traces of the tramway systems, which serviced the works.

There has been much historical research into the Cumbrian gunpowder industry directed at both the industry as a whole and at individual sites (Crocker & Crocker 1992; Patterson 1995; Palmer 1998; Tyler 2002). Until recently there has been little formal examination and detailed recording of the surviving archaeological and architectural remains, beyond Mike Davies-Shiels’s fieldwork in the 1960s (Marshall & Davies-Shiel 1969, 75-88) and a survey of the blast walls at Basingill (LUAU 1996e) The importance of the industry’s remains, however, have been acknowledged by English Heritage who have embarked on a thematic project to record them (Jecock 2003, 6-7). Comprehensive survey reports have been produced for Old Sedgwick, Basingill, Elterwater and New Sedgwick (Jecock & Dunn 2002; Hunt & Goodall 2002; Jecock et al 2003; Dunn et al 2003) and fieldwork has commenced at Blackbeck and Lowwood.

Fig 7.20 Handloom weavers’ cottages on Earnshaw Road, Bacup, Lancashire (Egerton Lea).

Bobbin mills are a small and regionally distinctive, water-powered industry in the Lake District, utilising local coppiced woodland and serving the cotton industry of Greater Manchester and Lancashire. Howk Bobbin Mill, Caldbeck (C) has been the subject of detailed survey (LUAU 1995d) and Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Lakeside (C) remains a working enterprise, as an English Heritage site. There were some bobbin mills in the Ribble valley and scattered throughout eastern Lancashire.

Cottage Industry

In addition to mills and extraction sites, industrial activity was carried on in the home. The ‘spinning galleries’ of south Cumbrian farms are one obvious manifestation of this (Denyer 1991, 125). Many activities that were later mechanised and centralised in factories originated in the home. It is important to note, however, that domestic-based industry (Fig 7.20) continued alongside workshop and factory production. Sometimes there was a direct evolution from one form of production to another, but often elements of the former domestic industry survived in isolated areas or where specialised products were required. Cottage-based industry such as clock and watch-making, common in Ormskirk and Prescot, was influential in developing essential skills for factory based production, such as precision engineering.

Handloom weaving was in operation from the Medieval period onwards in the region. However, the main development of home-based weaving as an industry probably occurred in the Elizabethan period around Manchester. Handloom weaving as a cottage industry grew rapidly in the late 18th century in response to the greater output of the mechanised spinning mills and continued to grow until the widespread adoption of mechanised weaving in the mid-19th century. Handloom weavers, mainly of cotton, formed the single largest occupation group in early 19th century Greater Manchester and Lancashire (Timmins 1996, 18), with particularly notable concentrations around Blackburn, Colne, Saddleworth and Stalybridge. The houses of these workers were designed to meet the needs of the industry with multi-light mullioned windows and in parts of east Lancashire cellar loomshops. Organised on a putting-out basis the industry was frequently centralised into separate loomshops either formed from farm buildings or built as bespoke workshops. Surviving examples are rare. The impact of handloom weaving on housing has been studied by Timmins (1977; 1979) and in Preston by Morgan (1990). In east Lancashire the occurrence of handloom weavers’ cottages has been catalogued by Rothwell (1979a; 1979b; 1979c; 1980a; 1980b; 1981; 1985; 1990) and in urban areas throughout Lancashire during the EUS. Outside Lancashire such buildings have been little studied in the North West, Manchester (Nevell 2003d) and Tameside being notable exceptions (Nevell & Walker 1999).

At Longridge a town began to develop in the 19th century based primarily on cottage industries. There handloom weaving was undertaken in conjunction with nail making (Egerton Lea 2004c). Within the region, however, nailmaking was concentrated in the township of Atherton (GM), on the south Lancashire coalfield. It was an important by-employment in the district from the 16th century but was in decline by the end of the 18th century. At least one cottage used formerly for nail making has been the subject of a building survey and this appears to have had a workshop attached to the rear (Morgan 1998). Ashmore (1969) considered that the case was not proven that many of the surviving workshops to the rear of houses in the district were mainly linked to nailmaking. The production of nails as a cottage industry continued on into the early 20th century around Orrel. Archaeological evidence of the late survival of cottage-based smithing to produce nails or other small metal goods comes from Chester. There the excavation of a 19th century domestic court revealed previously unsuspected evidence of cottage industry smithing, with the forges being operated by children as late as the first decade of the 20th century (Matthews 1999).

Fig 7.21 19th-century glass furnace under excavation in Ancoats, Manchester (OA North).


The impact of international links was reflected in the growth of new industries based on foreign raw materials and on the borrowing of skills and technology from abroad. The raw materials primarily came from the West Indies and American colonies and included cotton, sugar and tobacco. The industrial skills and technologies were derived from the European mainland and their acquisition was a significant factor in the development of industry within the region. It began during the Elizabethan period with German workers brought in to mine the ores of Lakeland. Also in the 16th century French Huguenot migrants in London moved from Spitalfields to bring their skills and knowledge in the production of silk to Macclesfield. 19th century examples include Swiss and German technology being used in the development of roller milling by Simon Engineering of Manchester.

No certain clay tobacco pipe production groups or kiln sites have been recovered dating to the 18th century. Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester joined Chester and Rainford as the principal production centres. 19th century production is attested from many centres in the region from Carlisle to Northwich, often represented by a single maker. Rainford, Liverpool and Manchester were predominant, Chester continued but at a more modest level, and Whitehaven provided a new focus on the Cumbrian west coast.

Foreign competition and German technology played an important role in the growth of the glass industry in St Helens (M). In 1773 the British Plate Glass Co established a works at Ravenhead, St Helens. These were taken over by Pilkingtons in the later 19th century. The Pilkingtons worked with the Siemens brothers in the development of a regenerative furnace. Their Number 9 Tank House was the site of probably the largest industrial archaeological project in the North West. This combined oral and documentary history with building survey and excavation to provide a picture of the functional and social significance of the works (Krupa & Heawood 2002). It also gave a detailed analysis of the undocumented adaptation of new technologies in the late 19th century. By the 1860s St Helens was the main centre of plate-glass manufacture in the country (Barker 1994; Ashmore 1982, 14). In addition to St Helens, there were crown glass-works in Warrington and Newton-le-Willows and numerous flint-glass works making tableware in Manchester and Salford (Ashmore 1982, 14). A recently excavated 19th century glassworks in Manchester contained the impressive remains of three furnaces, which showed rapid technological development over forty years including hitherto unknown details of furnaces and processes (I Miller pers comm).


The creation of factories where large workforces could mass-produce a product first occurred in the textile industry and pre-dated mechanisation, such as the hand-powered linen textile factory at Lowther, near Penrith (C), erected in 1742 (Robinson 1998, 57). The invention of spinning machinery for manufacturing textile yarns allowed the mechanisation of the process through the application of first water power and later steam. The very earliest mechanised factories in Britain were silk throwing mills. In the North West the first such mills were established in Cheshire, the earliest being Button Mill in Macclesfield in 1744 (Calladine & Fricker 1993, 9). The first mechanised cotton spinning mills used water-frames and appeared in the 1770s, closely followed by jenny factories and spinning mule mills. Water-powered woollen carding mills appeared after 1775 (Nevell with Grimsditch & King 2006), whilst the first mechanised worsted factory, which adapted the water-frame, was established in 1784 at Dolphinholme (L). However, from then on the region became noted primarily for the production of cotton goods.

Over 1600 mills are known in Greater Manchester alone (Hill 1927; Williams with Farnie 1992), with the Ancoats area of Manchester having one of the earliest concentrations of steam-powered plant anywhere with another important early group in Chorlton-upon-Medlock (Williams 2002). There were no textile mills in Manchester before 1781. At this date the leading textile mill towns in the region were Macclesfield with 26 factories and Stockport with 25 factories (Nevell with Grimsditch & King 2006). The first cotton spinning mill in Manchester, Arkwright’s on Miller Street, was built in 1781-2 and has been the subject of recent evaluation (M Nevell pers comm.). By 1800 there were at least 29 purpose-built cotton spinning mills within the boundaries of the old township (Nevell 2003). Most of these were five- or six-storey, steam powered factories (the Manchester Factory), a type which now dominates the archaeology of the Lancashire cotton spinning industry. Many of these were in multiple occupancy as room and power mills and by 1816 there were 86 steam-powered cotton spinning mills within the city (Williams with Farnie 1992). The city was the leading centre of cotton spinning during the first half of the 19th century. The Chorlton-on-Medlock area has an important surviving early grouping including Chorlton New Mill, probably the earliest surviving example of a fireproof mill in Greater Manchester. The 19th century spread of steam power led to an increase in the size of mills as more spindles and power looms could be operated (Dickinson 1984, 2002).

The importance of factory-based textile production in the region has led to a number of district-based overview surveys of the mills. The RCHME in the early 1990s completed comprehensive surveys of the cotton mills of Greater Manchester (Williams with Farnie 1992) and the textile mills of east Cheshire (Calladine & Fricker 1993). In addition Ian Haynes published reviews of the cotton mills in Ashton (1987), Dunkinfield (1993), Stalybridge (1990) and  Mossley (1996), as well as of the textile mills of Hyde (2002). Similar volumes have been produced for the cotton mills of Bolton (Longworth 1987) and Oldham (Gurr & Hunt 1998). These volumes review both technological and architectural development. The prolific and varied mills of Lancashire have not been so intensively or so comprehensively surveyed (Fig 7.23). English Heritage compiled a primarily architectural inventory of textile mills in Pendle (Taylor 2000) and Mike Rothwell’s various surveys of industrial heritage in east Lancashire (1979a; 1979b; 1979c; 1980a; 1980b; 1981; 1985; 1990) provide brief details of most of the textile mills in that area, as does James Price’s review of the industrial archaeology of the Lune Valley (1983). More similar in scope and depth to the work undertaken in Greater Manchester and east Cheshire is the recent volume on the cotton mills of Preston (Dickinson 2002). This concentrates on the steam technology used in the mills but a more architecturally based study was previously undertaken by Scott (1952).

Fig 7.23 India Mill, Darwen, Lancashire (Egerton Lea).

Whilst a number of late 18th and 19th century textile factories have been surveyed in detail (the RCHME studied 39 mills in Greater Manchester during the 1980s and since 1992 a further 54 examples in the county have been recorded), most of the early examples survive only as ruins or as below ground remains and until recently few have been explored by excavation. Consequently an archaeological miscellany of the textile industry of Manchester  in 1996 was be necessity compiled without any reference to excavated evidence (McNeil & Walker 1996). In Greater Manchester 23 textile mill sites have been investigated since 1992, although where earlier mill remains have been excavated, as at Eagley Mill, Bolton (LUAU 1999c), or Portwood Mills in Stockport (UMAU 2004; Fig 7.22) the work has been limited in scale and remains unpublished. Textile bleachworks remain under-researched, although recent work in Greater Manchester at sites as Standish, Wallsuches and bleachworks in the Kirklees Valley (UMAU 2005b; 2005c; Fig 7.24) is starting to rectify this.

Fig 7.24 The Kirklees Valley, a bleachworks landscape in Bury (UMAU).

Engineering grew in the region in part because of the textile industries need for mechanised spinning and weaving equipment and steam engines. In 1917 the cotton trade year book listed over 60 North West firms involved in machinery-making for textiles. In 1853 a loom manufactory was established in Accrington (L). This grew into the Globe Engineering Works, which at its peak in the early 1920s employed a workforce of 6000 in a complex of factory buildings (Randall 2000, 36-41). These have either been demolished or converted and all without record.

The region became noted for the production of steam locomotives and steam plant with over twenty steam plant manufacturers in Lancashire alone by the latter part of the 19th century. Steam locomotive manufacture was carried out at Crewe, Gorton (GM), Horwich (GM) and Liverpool, with steam wagons produced at Birkenhead and Leyland. Tramcars were also manufactured at Birkenhead, Manchester and Preston and at Lancaster a wagon works was established, which has been partially recorded and analysed (Woodhouse 1973).

Little archaeological recording has been undertaken on engineering works, although the recent surveys of sites such as Budenburg’s in Broadheath (GM; UMAU 2003b) and Hick Hargreave’s Works  in Bolton (GM; UMAU 2002b) are notable exceptions. Nevertheless, engineering sites are continuing to be demolished and converted often without an archaeological record.

20th Century Industries

The 20th century witnessed the widespread adoption of automated processes in large plants on a scale previously not seen. Cars and commercial vehicles were made in the North West from 1898 and until the Second World War the industry was a significant employer in the region (Timmins 1998). Despite the industry’s association with mass production methods, many of the early factories reused redundant plant from other industries, also utilising the engineering expertise which had developed in those industries. Nearly all the early factories were adoptions of other building types (George 2004). Mill buildings, textile machinery works, engineering workshops, horse tram depots, electric tramcar works, cycle and sewing machine factories, were all utilised by the pioneer entrepreneurs. One or two factories only were purpose-built examples or extensions on a single storey layout such as Belsize at Clayton (1900-1925) and Crossleys in Openshaw (1904-1938/47).

Blackpool, Bolton, Crewe, Leyland, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Sandbach, Southport, Stockport and Wigan all had significant enterprises (Collins & Stratton 1993). There were also short-lived firms in Cumbria at Carlisle and Cockermouth. After World War Two the motor industry in the region was much reduced. Factories continued in production in Crewe, Sandbach and Leyland. Another new factory was built at Speke by Standard-Triumph in the 1960s and is now closed. The legacy of this industry is best represented at sites such as the Vulcan motor works factory at Crossens near Southport (M), a splendid example of a redbrick, late Edwardian works and largely unaltered externally. The former Rolls Royce works at Crewe is an example of a shadow aero engine factory subsequently adapted for car manufacture.

Car manufacture was closely linked to aircraft production, especially in relation to making engines, and a number of companies like Rolls Royce were associated with both industries. It is likely that the region’s engineering tradition, including early car manufacture, helped to establish it as a centre of aircraft production. The world’s first registered aircraft producer, Avro, was established in Manchester in 1910. Later the company went on to produce the Lancaster and then the Vulcan bombers. Rolls Royce produced the world’s first jet engine in Clitheroe. Other companies with important aircraft factories in the region include Bristol at Clayton-le-Moors (L), Lucas at Burnley and Napiers at Liverpool. In addition flying boats were built on the River Ribble near Preston in the 1920s and on Lake Windermere in the 1940s ( There has been no comprehensive survey of the surviving remains associated with these endeavours and most of the factory complexes have been reused and redeveloped. The North West remains one of the principal centres of the modern British aerospace industry which is the region’s most significant surviving manufacturing industry.

Trade, Exchange and Interaction

While archaeological evidence for trade links comes primarily from artefacts found during fieldwork (Fig 7.25) the lack of analysed large-scale excavation on Post-Medieval sites limits the potential for examining Post-Medieval trade outside of Chester and Liverpool. Additional archaeological evidence for the importance of trade to the region, especially overseas, as well as some evidence for contacts, can be found in a variety of structures that appeared in the Post-Medieval period. The historical evidence points to a wide range of objects entering Chester both by the port and over land, in addition to the movement of people. However, the archaeological evidence for these external contacts is relatively rare. Many of the goods were either perishable or raw materials which were converted to or used to produce other objects and materials. They included wine, foodstuffs, including grain and animals, cloth, metal, pitch/tar and timber. The principal archaeological evidence for this trade consists of stone and glass and, most of all, ceramics. Sources of traded ceramics do not reflect accurately a port’s trade, thus archaeological evidence alone will provide a skewed picture of domestic and overseas contacts (Allan 1999, 286).

Domestic Trade

Navigations and canals opened up the region for trade so that the movement of goods was no longer dependant on local markets or coastal shipping. As well as improving the movement of goods within the region, they greatly facilitated inter-regional trade. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal transported coal from east Lancashire to Liverpool and grain from Liverpool to east Lancashire’s flour mills. Wool went from Lancashire to Yorkshire and woollen cloth returned, much of it for export. The River Weaver Navigation opened in 1734 and the Trent and Mersey Canal, opened in 1777, unlocked Cheshire’s saltfields and enabled a great expansion of the industry to take place.

Apart from significant work done in Manchester (Nevell 2003; Nevell & Walker 2001), little archaeological investigation has focused on canal construction and development or the buildings (Fig 7.26) and industries closely associated with the waterways outside the larger urban centres. The proposed restoration of the northern reaches of the Lancaster canal, in-filled in the 1960s, may provide one opportunity for more detailed survey and investigation of the impact of canal-building on the rural economy and landscape in the 18th century.

The archaeology of the small boats used on the canals and rivers as well as for coastal trade is also in its infancy in the North West. Several 19th century Mersey Flats (large barges suitable for estuarine sailing) were sunk in the canal basin at Chester. These were recorded in situ and key structural elements were recovered. The railways enhanced inter-regional trade further. One of the more noticeable physical effects of rail transport was the distribution of the bricks known as Accrington Bloods. These were widely used for building throughout the North West and further afield but hardly at all in east Lancashire where they were made.

Fig 7.26 Finsley Docks, Burnley (Egerton Lea).

Overseas Trade

The main archaeological evidence for overseas trade, before the arrival of the railways, is likely to be found associated with ports and to a lesser extent with other accessible urban areas. With the notable exception of Chester and to a lesser extent Liverpool, however, there is little available excavated data from the North West. Relevant work in Carlisle, Kendal, Lancaster and Manchester awaits full publication, although there is a recent review of the archaeology of Manchester’s waterfronts (Nevell 2004), whilst little work of relevance has been carried out in Preston and none at all in Whitehaven (C).

Chester remained the largest port in the North West into the 17th century, indeed, it was the most important port on the western seaboard after Bristol. Subsequently its relative importance slowly dwindled because of continued silting, the expansion of competitors such as Liverpool and Whitehaven, local inertia, and the growth of other forms of transport (Woodward 1996). Nevertheless, trade continued in a variety of commodities and in passengers, especially with Ireland from Chester’s outport at Parkgate (Place 1996). Clay tobacco pipes from Chester and Rainford found in the towns of northern and eastern Ireland are testimony to these contacts. In the 1730s there was a concerted attempt to revitalise the port through the canalisation of the wide and meandering estuary and the construction of New Crane Wharf to the west of the urban centre. The estuary was subsequently connected to the canal network (a largely unsuccessful exercise) and to a major railway trans-shipment complex at Saltney. In addition the tradition of local shipbuilding along the Dee continued and apparently flourished from the mid-18th century well into the 20th century.

Another local export product that leaves little archaeological trace beyond its production site is salt. The growth of the salt industry after 1840 was primarily a result of the export trade directed from the port of Liverpool. By 1880 over a million tons of salt annually was shipped down the Weaver Navigation for export across the globe. Coal also leaves little trace as a traded commodity but the desire to export coal and locally produced salt led to the development of a new town and port at Whitehaven. Developed initially in the late 17th century, it expanded further in the 18th century through the transatlantic trade in tobacco and African slaves (Beckett 1981). The former RCHME carried out an exemplary study of Whitehaven’s urban development and of its surviving fabric (Collier 1991), but the town has lacked excavations from which to gain data on its wider contacts and imports.

In south-west England it has been demonstrated that most of Exeter’s pantile exports in the early 18th century went to the West Indies as ballast in outgoing vessels engaged in the sugar trade (Allan 1984). A similar study of the North West’s ports would be informative, and the presence of Buckley or Preston pottery is a noted feature on 18th century North American eastern seaboard sites, but for much of that century one of the most likely exports carried by the ships of these ports to the Americas and West Indies was African slaves. The trade was seldom direct, however, instead goods were taken to West Africa exchanged for slaves who were than shipped to the West Indies or American colonies. The ships returned with tobacco, sugar, cotton or coffee (Whincop & White 1988, 23). Consequently there is unlikely to be much archaeological evidence in the North West that would indicate the region’s prominent role in the trade. Amongst the few reminders are two slaves’ graves near Lancaster, one at Sunderland Point for a slave called ‘Sambo’ and another in Poulton-le-Sands churchyard.

Fig 7.27 Manchester ship canal (Cheshire County Council).
Fig 7.28 Late 19th and early 20th century text warehouse along the Rochdale Canal (UMAU).


The remains of port structures, especially from the 18th century are one of the best physical indicators of the growth in the importance of the transatlantic trade. In Chester the massive 18th century sandstone wall of Crane Wharf stands largely intact. The only associated buildings still surviving are the Harbourmaster’s house and the TS Deva warehouse. The area is currently subject to redevelopment and a series of archaeological investigations have been undertaken revealing a wide range of evidence. This has included structural evidence for the quay wall and flimsy and ephemeral remains of the cheese warehouse, the main shipment point for Cheshire cheese to London in the 18th and 19th century. Surveys of several wharfside buildings have been undertaken, including a detailed record of two workshops and a 19th century smithy. Of particular interest may be the sequence of rapid and massive silting episodes in the 17th and 18th centuries which was finally stabilised by the construction of the quay wall (based on sediment analysis). Crossley wrote in 1990 that ‘comprehensive examination of 16th to 18th century deposits at ports have been rare’ (1990, 85), which makes these deposits and those recently encountered in Liverpool of considerable significance.

The impact of the Atlantic trade was most keenly felt in Liverpool where its requirements and the wealth generated by it led in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to a total overhaul of its trading facilities as the town was remodelled to suit its new international and imperial role. The old market area was levelled in 1726. The pool from which the town derived its name was progressively in-filled with rubbish until it was completely reclaimed by 1710 (Davey & McNeil 1980) and in the same year work began on the construction of the Old Dock at Canning Place. Completed by 1716 this was the world’s first commercial enclosed wet dock. Recent excavations have shown that the massively built stone and brick wall to the dock survives largely intact (LUAU 2001b). It is difficult to overemphasise the significance of these remains. They encapsulate the importance of trade between the North West and the wider world by the 18th century.

Unlike Chester or Liverpool, Lancaster has received little archaeological study of its port facilities, but St George’s Quay, built in 1750 with its distinctive near-contemporary three- to four-storey warehouses and Customs house, substantially survives (Williamson 2002). Archaeological work at the site of Pye’s Warehouse, Lancaster, revealed a number of tipped deposits containing an interesting assemblage of pottery, which represented reclamation as part of the construction of the quay (OA North 2003e). Whitehaven’s harbour and some of its waterfront also survives, though the majority of its early warehouses have been demolished (Collier 1991, 5).

From the later 19th century the Salford Quays area in Greater Manchester developed as a result of the buildings of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 (Fig 7.27) which at the time transformed Manchester and Salford into the world’s largest inland port 36 miles from the sea. The ‘Great Ditch’ survives as a significant piece of industrial archaeology and is associated with a group of exceptional monuments including the Barton Swing Aqueduct (McNeil 2002).

Fig 7.29 Second World War pillbox at Cavendish Dock, Barrow in Furness (Egerton Lea).


Warehouses are a further indicator of the significance of trade (Fig 7.28). The archaeological importance and potential of warehouses in the North West has been demonstrated by Nevell’s recent studies of canal warehouses, a structure claimed to have been developed in the North West for which he has developed a typology (Nevell & Walker 2001; Nevell 2003). In 1998 the Duke’s Warehouse in Manchester was excavated and was shown to be the first purpose-built canal warehouse, with internal water-filled canal arms (Nevell 2003, 46). Built on the Bridgewater canal, it led the way in the creation of the dock and warehouse district of Castlefield.

By the 18th century some of Liverpool’s warehouses were 13 storeys high and amongst the largest buildings in the North West. Little survives of the early warehouses but the scale and complexity of the 19th century and later warehouses serves as an indicator of the North West’s vast consumption of perishable goods. The corn warehouses along Waterloo Road, dating to 1868, were the first grain warehouses in the world to have a central power source driving the grain elevators and conveyors. The largest of all the historic warehouses in Liverpool is the 1901 Stanley Dock tobacco warehouse which remains one of the biggest structures in the city.


Carlisle was witness to the last siege on English soil after it was seized by the Jacobites in 1745. Although neglected the city’s defences were obviously still viable, and the defenders undertook further measures to hold the town (Oates 2003, 174). The siege lasted nine days. The uprising also led to the construction of General Wade’s new Road between Carlisle and Newcastle (Lawson 1979).

In the later 18th century military attention shifted away from the Scottish border and towards coastal defence. The protection of the region’s Atlantic trade from seaborne attack was of especial importance. Little is known or likely to survive of the coastal fortifications at Liverpool but the Old Fort at Whitehaven, built in 1741, was excavated in the 19th century and again in the 1970s (Taylor & Richardson 1979). The harbour at Whitehaven was protected by a half-moon battery which no longer survives. Shore batteries continued to be built in the 19th century with sites at New Brighton (M), Fleetwood and Morecambe (L), but none has been investigated.

Studies of remains from 1914-18 are not common, although a practice camp has recently been identified at Barrow from aerial photographs (D Parkin pers comm). Barrow, Liverpool and Manchester had anti-aircraft batteries (Dobinson 1996b) although little detail of their location is known. The Great War saw the establishment of the largest ordnance factory in the British Empire, to the north of Carlisle. Known as ROF Gretna it occupied a number of sites and surviving remains were surveyed by English Heritage in their review of the explosives industry (Cocroft 2000).

As war threatened again in the 1930s the Royal Ordnance expanded its works beyond its London plants, building a further 40 factories in the late 1930s into the 1940s. There were Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF) throughout the region, although few have received detailed recording, and many are absent from the Defence of Britain Project database. In contrast, work has been undertaken on the Royal Ordnance Factory at Chorley (Nevell et al 1999), at the time of its construction in the late 1930s the largest filling factory in the world, although the military nature of the site prevented wide-scale survey.

The perceived threat of invasion in 1940 led to the construction of defence lines and defended strongpoints along the coastline and the major inland routeways (Fig 7.29). The region was never perceived to be as vulnerable as the south and south-east, but measures were undertaken against the possibility of an invasion launched from Ireland (Dobinson 1996f, 121). The port of Liverpool and the industrial areas around Manchester were viewed as key targets and inland the so-called strategic stop-lines relied heavily on fortifying existing barriers, such as the major rivers and canals (Rigby undated).

From late 1940 the major industrial centres of the North West also became targets for enemy bombing raids and an extensive operation of defence and deceit was put in place including anti-aircraft batteries and decoys designed to imitate bomb runs (QF sites) or specific targets such as furnaces, factories and railway sites (QL sites). Many of the industrial cities within the region had dummy fire sites (known as QF, QL and starfish) within their hinterlands. Liverpool was ringed by 14 different sites.

The English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme has undertaken a concerted assessment of 20th century fortifications since 1994 (English Heritage 1998), considerably increasing the awareness and protection of surviving sites.

This programme included Colin Dobinson’s (1996a-g) extensive assessment of records of 20th century military sites, which also informed the comprehensive programme of recording of military sites undertaken by the Defence of Britain Project between 1995 and 2002 ( The Defence of Britain project is now complete and the database is fixed, and will not be updated. The continued researching and recording of 20th century defence architecture remains a predominantly amateur pursuit with little co-ordination of publication and dissemination of survey work.

Despite this there are considerable survey and photographic archives being accumulated on the northern Liverpool defence lines (J Virgo pers comm) and 20th century defence sites in north Lancashire and Cumbria (;; D Parkin pers comm)

RAF Spadeadam (Fig 7.30) will become one of the most important late 20th century monuments in the region. Established in 1956 as a test site for the Blue Streak missile project it is of international importance, later acting as the test site for European collaborative efforts to establish a space programme. Surviving elements include test sites and test stands, control bunkers, administrative blocks and a temporary labourers’ camp (English Heritage 2002a). The site was surveyed and recorded by English Heritage as part of the Monuments Protection Programme. Other important Cold War sites in the North West include an early 1950s anti-aircraft battery at Norley, Cheshire, and its operations room nearby at Frodsham (Cocroft 2000; English Heritage 2002a).

The Guardian underground telephone exchange in Manchester, dating to the 1950s, is one of only three such exchanges built as emergency bomb protected switching facilities (English Heritage 2002a). The Greenside lead mine at Glenridding, Cumbria, was used in the 1960s for testing detonators for nuclear weapons, and further research is needed to establish its significance (English Heritage 2002a). The Calder Hall/Windscale/Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria retains the remains of the world’s first commercial-sized nuclear power station for early military and civil development of nuclear energy. Calder Hall was the site of a number of experimental innovations for both the weapons and energy industry. The nuclear weapons programme here has ceased and today Sellafield leads in the world’s most modern systems for decommissioning nuclear plant and for reprocessing used nuclear waste.

Fig 7.30 Spadeadam blue streak rocket testing site, Cumbria (Andrew Davison).


The Windscale nuclear piles, abandoned after the disastrous 1957 fire, have still be to be fully decontaminated and demolished and any proposals for recording or preservation raise problematic issues. The reactor chimneys remain standing, overlooking the West Cumbrian coast on the edge of the proposed Lake District World Heritage Site, as an icon of the North West’s role in pioneering industrial technologies, and an extreme example of the challenge which the region faces in managing its Industrial Period heritage.

The scale of the legacy from the North West’s extraordinary growth over the last two centuries cannot be underestimated, nor the challenge that archaeologists face in gaining acceptance of the value and interest of this inheritance for local communities. ‘The North West was arguable the first region in England – and therefore in the world – to experience significant industrialisation…Today (it) faces unprecedented challenges in finding new uses for its great buildings, public spaces and historic transport networks’ (English Heritage 2003). The regeneration of historic industrial and commercial quarters is potentially the largest future area of demand for new archaeological research and investigation. It is here that archaeological research can illuminate the unwritten histories of the communities that transformed the North West from a marginal rural economy to a world player in international trade, manufacturing, and technological innovation. Those achievements are exemplified in the newly inscribed World Heritage Site of Liverpool’s maritime mercantile city and the proposed inscription of Manchester as archetype city of the Industrial Revolution. New approaches and skills will be demanded to meet the research challenges that this legacy brings and in this field in particular the North West is well-placed to develop its leading role in innovative research projects and programmes.