The Industrial and Modern Period

Research Agenda

by Richard Newman and Robina McNeil

With contributions from Graham Brooks, Christine Howard-Davis, Chris Irwin, Caron Newman and Sue Stallibrass


Britain was the world’s first industrial nation and the North West was in the vanguard of the process of industrialisation. One of the major challenges facing archaeologists is to recognise and define the extent and relative significance and distinctiveness of the region’s industrial heritage. The recognition of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath as a distinct archaeological period was fully articulated by Marilyn Palmer in 1991. By examining the archaeology of the industrial period the now rather sterile debate over whether or not industrial archaeology is a period discipline or a thematic study is avoided. Similarly, the current debates in Britain and America over the need to examine wider social archaeological issues within the context of industrial archaeology can be side-stepped as the archaeology of the industrial period examines the entire spectrum of material culture from the later 18th century until the later 20th century. As the period title suggests, however, the archaeology of the period is dominated by the theme of industry, its growth and its impacts. These impacts are not merely technological but affect consumption, working patterns and organisation, religion and politics, gender relations, health and most other aspects of human life. Even so, industrial-period archaeological studies have often been criticised for having too narrow a focus on technological development and lacking a theoretical framework (Johnson 2002). These criticisms are beginning to be answered in part through the involvement in industrial-period archaeology of archaeologists more familiar with approaches to earlier periods. Moreover, the need to engage in a global approach to the archaeology of the period has brought contact with the sometimes more theoretically informed approaches to historical archaeology practised abroad, especially in the USA.

   Industrial archaeology, in the narrower sense of the study of remains associated with industrial production, has also been seen to have a social dimension (Palmer 2005b, 11), as exemplified particularly by recent work on industrial sites in the USA (Beaudry & Mrozowski 1989). There, an approach that is more concerned with the archaeology of labour rather than technology has been extended beyond individual sites and complexes to the wider landscape (Shakel 2004). Interest in the examination of the impacts of industrialisation and the growth of an industrialised society within a landscape context has been another feature in the recent development of industrial archaeological studies in Britain. Pioneered by Trinder (1982; 1996), they have been particularly well developed by Hughes (2000; 2004) in his study of the industrialised landscape of the Swansea valley.

   The archaeological study of the ‘Industrial Age’ or the modern period is often seen as synonymous with the archaeology of industry, whether that is a study of the material remains associated with industrial production, or wider material culture emanating from industrial activity. Most of the regional research frameworks follow these approaches. Though industrial development is the dominating theme within the period, the material culture of the 18th to 20th centuries is characterised by the great increase in the number and diversity of the items that make up that material culture. This period saw an ever-expanding cornucopia of what the historian Asa Briggs simply referred to as ‘things’ (1988). In the North West this means that for the first time since the Roman period there is a relative abundance of objects to be found on most sites. Whilst in part related to developing technologies of production, the expansion of material culture is also linked to spreading global contacts, as in the Victorian middle class’s passion for Japanese objects, and to developing psychologies of acquisition, status, emulation, group affiliation and concepts of health, decency and morality.

   As well as industrialisation and the explosion in the range and availability of goods, industrial period archaeology also has to contend with engaging with the material culture of the very recent and familiar past. Unsurprisingly this is an area that is frequently ignored, considered too difficult and has only the beginnings of a theoretical framework to tackle it (Stratton & Trinder 2000; Buchli & Lucas 2001; Bradley et al 2004). Within the North West there have been few attempts to engage with an archaeological agenda that extends beyond the First World War, with the exception of work undertaken on military remains. Even Nevell and Walker’s recent work on Tameside in the 20th century is solidly based on developments in the earlier part of the century, though some interesting future avenues for research are indicated such as the study of the physical impact of local government (2004b, 9-34).

   This kind of wider thematic approach to later period and contemporary archaeology is very necessary to make sense of the otherwise indecipherable plethora of evidence, and is exemplified at its best in English Heritage’s recent national study of the public house (Brandwood et al 2004). These approaches will help to take the study of more recent archaeology beyond its current safety zone of concentration on industrial and military structures (Schofield 2005, 2-3).

  In the North West subjects such as shopping and its impact on town planning, and the growth of social housing are ripe for archaeological examination. Even so, the challenge of recording rather than researching the later 20th century, given both available resources and the public perception of the role of archaeology, is one that has yet to be addressed (Bradley et al 2004; Schofield 2005, 4).

Meeting the challenge of an extensive resource

The single greatest challenge for the archaeological study of the industrial and modern period is the sheer scale of the resource. Not only is there a huge quantity of objects and structures to study but any researcher, be they archaeologist, architectural historian, cultural historian or historical geographer, must engage with an enormous documentary record, both general and specific. New technologies such as photography and ‘motion pictures’ provide additional sources of information, as does oral history from recorded testimonies and living memory. Until recently the scale of this resource, coupled with the complexity of the period and the familiarity of parts of it, has resulted in an inability to devise methodologies to archaeologically characterise the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath. Consequently, this has prevented the application of useable archaeological strategies and models to examine how society was transformed during the 18th to 20th centuries.

   Archaeologists from Manchester especially, have been at the forefront in tackling the issues raised by the mass of evidence for the period and the need to pursue an agenda that is distinct from that of other researchers who share in the investigation of the resource. Without a distinctive archaeological agenda for the ‘Industrial Age’, archaeologists risk being viewed as nothing more than second-rate historians. In Manchester archaeologists have taken a landscape-based approach to examining ‘the processes and effects behind the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society’ (Nevell & Walker 2004a, 56). The ‘Manchester methodology’ characterised this transition by the development and expansion of monument types through time. This enabled the rate of physical change to be charted, monument types to be related to social groups and for the significance of the diffuse archaeological data to be better appreciated (Nevell 2005; Nevell & Walker 2004a; Walker & Nevell 2003). This approach is specifically archaeological in intent and design, though it can be multi-disciplinary in content and sources. Essentially the approach classifies and categorises monuments in the same way that monuments and objects from earlier periods are placed into typologies, allowing structure to be imposed on diffuse data and providing a baseline against which to develop archaeological interpretations.

   Other complementary approaches are being developed through programmes such as historic landscape characterisation, where relevant issues include the examination of boundary changes over the past two centuries and social (often class-based) as well as functional characterisation of landscapes.

   As one of the principal centres of the British Industrial Revolution, it is fitting and appropriate that the region should feature strongly in the recent development of industrial period archaeological methodologies and approaches. It has been stated that ‘archaeological insight is being applied to the rural and urban industrialised landscapes of North West England in innovative and imaginative ways’ (McNeil & Nevell 2003, 108). Amongst these insights can be included Michael Nevell’s own work on the development, spread and influences of canal warehouses (2003c) and Eleanor Casella’s investigation of workers’ housing within their wider industrial landscape context at Alderley Edge (Ch) (2004; 2005). Nevell and Walker have also produced one of the first local reviews of the archaeology of the 20th century (2004b). Matthews too has looked at aspects of the 20th century in his examination of life in Herbert’s Court, Chester and more widely at the archaeology of work in Chester (1999; 2003). Beyond North West-based projects, archaeologists from the region have been involved in ground-breaking industrial period projects such as the archaeological study of the A5 in north Wales (Quartermaine et al 2003). There is no cause for complacency in the region, however, as much remains to be done.

Archaeological approaches to research in the industrial period

As already stated, the period does not suffer from a lack of evidence but challenges its researchers with the variety and quantity of evidence. This includes materials intended to convey messages about contemporary life and society. The availability of such media for producing past cultural interpretations, whether they be documentary, photographic or oral, in the case of the 20th century, represents both an opportunity and a challenge to archaeologists.

   There is a need to appreciate skills not normally possessed by archaeologists and a requirement to understand how to question the validity, reliability and potential biases of these data sources. Even so, these sources should be seen as an augmentation to, not a replacement for, an archaeological approach to material culture that will involve the classification, and to an extent seriation, of structures and objects as a precursor to distinguishing the rare from the commonplace.

   The process of identifying the unique and distinctive elements of material culture at intra- and inter-regional levels will assist in focusing further research initiatives and in defining conservation policies. Outside of the region in cities like Sheffield a recent archaeological focus on those aspects of the city that made it distinctive, steel and cutlery production, has led to many new surveys and excavations. These have not only increased knowledge about industrial development and organisation but also informed the view of the lifestyles of industrial urban-dwelling workers. This work has been facilitated through the regeneration of decayed industrial areas. Similar opportunities and programmes of work are beginning to be undertaken in Liverpool and are well under way in Manchester.

   Whilst pursuing a specifically archaeological agenda in the study of the period, archaeologists must be aware of the considerable body of relevant work produced by other researchers, especially cultural historians as, in general, they have been using much of the same body of evidence much longer. In recent years they have examined a range of subjects such as shops in Chester, workers’ housing in Preston and fish and chip shops and boarding houses in Blackpool.

   The region is fortunate in having an excellent tradition in historical research into the social and cultural history of the period, beginning with the Manchester school of economic history and more recently featuring such work as Walton’s on the development of the seaside resort (1983) and Vickery’s on women as consumers in the later 18th century (1993). Indeed it is in the field of consumption studies that there is much of relevance for archaeologists.

   When discussing the plethora of Victorian material culture one eminent historian wrote, ‘Whilst it is tempting in considering Victorian things to treat them entirely archaeologically, as if they were the only evidence available to the historian, and to approach the ‘material culture’ of Victorian England, like the study of ancient or medieval pottery, solely through a study of materials, design of products and their spatial distribution, such an approach would be far too restrictive’ (Briggs 1968, 16).

   This cultural historian’s view on the nature of archaeological study is interesting but does not reflect the prevailing ethos of late 20th and early 21st century approaches to material culture. Quite correctly multi-disciplinary approaches have been used, often to emphasise the wider non-functional significance of objects and sites.

   Ironically, as James Symonds (2005a) has recently complained in relation to 19th and 20th century industrial objects, the approach encouraged towards material culture in the 1980s led to neglect in understanding the function of objects. This occurred because of an overt concentration on their symbolic and social meanings. This is particularly relevant to the material culture of industries where the understanding of uses and applications of equipment is disappearing with a decaying manufacturing skills base.

   As David Cranstone has said, one of the major challenges for historical archaeology in general, but of particular relevance to the industrial and modern period, is ‘how to move beyond data-gathering on the one hand and abstract theorising and the use of cherry-picked field data to illustrate or support ‘top-down’ theoretical models on the other hand, into a historical archaeology which genuinely and rigorously integrates data and ideas, and uses that combination both to identify what is really different or ‘strange’ in the past’ (2004, 318). Through this means he considers that historical archaeologists can become ‘creators’ of intellectual ideas rather than borrowers from other disciplines.

   We should observe the approaches and theoretical developments of other disciplines and listen to the views and concerns of those disciplines’ practitioners. Equally, we must construct our own theoretical and methodological frameworks that respond to our agenda and thus allow us to make a distinctive and worthwhile contribution to the study of the period (see for example Nevell 2005). One approach put forward is to concentrate on the process of industrialisation using a range of techniques to emphasise landscape and social change, but combined with the study of technological change (Nevell 2006).

Industrialisation and infrastructure

Behind so much of the industrial and urban development of the later 18th and 19th centuries were developments in the transport infrastructure. Pioneering transport systems changed lifestyles forever, and especially transformed the relationship between towns and their rural hinterlands. For everyone, access to the ever-increasing range of manufactured goods became limited only by income, not by distance from a navigable watercourse. Railways and trams, and later buses and automobiles, reduced the need for industrial workers to live close to the factory gate, allowing the development of first suburbs and later commuter and dormitory settlements. Indeed one fruitful area for research is the study of routeways and transport systems as single linear monuments and catalysts for landscape change. This approach was pioneered in Wales by Hughes (1981; 1990), and developed with a greater emphasis on socio-cultural impact in the USA on highway 40 (Schlereth 1985). It is typified by the recently published survey of the Welsh section of Thomas Telford’s London to Holyhead road (Quartermaine et al 2003). Other transport-related linear monuments would benefit from a similar rigorous, archaeological approach to the study of their development and impact. Those sections of the Bridgewater and Rochdale canals (GM), currently under consideration for World Heritage Site inscription are obvious examples. A multi-monument comparative study could be undertaken of the route corridor followed by the Lancaster Canal, the north-west main rail line between Preston and Carlisle, and the A6 and M6 roads. In addition the tram systems of the North West, highlighted as significant influences on early 20th century urban development in the Lancashire EUS, are deserving of serious archaeological study. The advent of the electric tram was particularly significant in stimulating urban growth. The Blackpool tramway is an almost untouched example of Edwardian technology still in use. Regional analyses of tram sheds and railway sheds could follow a similar approach to that taken by Nevell in relation to canal warehouses (2003c). A basic typological approach to railway structures has been pioneered by Richard Morris (1999) and this could be expanded for a regional archaeological review of railways.

   Another interesting approach capable of providing new insights into the historical significance of an infrastructure development or an industry is that adopted by The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). Their methodology categorises monuments by sub-type; thus for canals there are seven different types including ship canals and ‘technologically significant canals’. The purpose of this approach is to help define the significance of a monument in relation to possible World Heritage Site status. The approach, however, could be used to examine infrastructure systems at a regional level and thus examine a monument in terms of its significance within the local development of the Industrial Revolution. Of particular relevance is that the approach does not emphasise the age of a monument but rather its significance within a developmental context, thus it would be as applicable to 20th century motorways as 19th century railways. It is likely given the early development of various transport systems within the North West that such an approach would reveal that many of the infrastructure systems in the region were significant in their overall concept and construction and that some were national or even global landmarks in industrial and transport history. The outcome of the TICCIH approach is a list of international type sites, but its classification methodology can be applied at any level and for any site type ( Applying the model at a regional scale would not produce a list of sites graded by a notional relative importance, based on the quality of a range of extant features, but on their overall diversity and unique contribution to society. It provides a contextualised baseline typology.

Buildings Archaeology

Many of the significant sites relevant to the archaeological study of the period are standing buildings. They represent one of the best resources for evaluating social context, through their architecture and spatial arrangements. Their use of materials can also reveal much about contacts, markets and trading patterns. In the early 19th century, for example, Baltic timber was challenged by transatlantic imports. How far these transatlantic timbers were dispersed once onshore in the UK and whether they complemented or competed with Baltic resources is not yet known. National projects to investigate this are underway in England and Scotland. As places like Liverpool and Fleetwood (L) were major timber importing ports, the North West is an important region for examining such interaction. Likewise, throughout the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries the incidence of brick, various stone types and the continuance of timber framing had a clear spatial pattern that is not entirely related to local resource availability. The choices that lay behind the use of walling materials are not clearly understood and even the nature of the distribution is not fully appreciated. This is illustrated by the Countryside Agency’s characterisation of much of historic north Lancashire as brick-built, when in fact many of its buildings were constructed of stone.

   The characteristic and defining surviving building type for the North West is the terraced house, which was the main type of housing provision for both the middle and working classes throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Much can be learned from studying the wide variety of architectural detail and motifs deployed by the speculative builders who erected terraced housing. Standing building analyses will be the mainstay of most research but where opportunities exist excavation of areas of former terraced housing should be undertaken. The wealth of documentary evidence for the period increases the possibility of linking excavated evidence to known individual households, as has been shown in the excavation of rural cottages at Alderley Edge, Cheshire (Casella 2004).

   Many new, non-domestic, building types appear in the period including prisons, workhouses, hospitals, department stores, libraries, technical institutes, musical halls and cinemas, petrol/service stations, a range of municipal and commercial premises and public utility buildings. Some of these site types have been classified and categorised at a national level (Morrison 1999; Richardson 1998) and a local attempt has been made to do this for Tameside (Nevell & Walker 2004b, 9-34), but much more needs to be done at a local scale. A number of studies exist that show how the evaluation of spatial organisation and architectural expression in such structures can provide information about the intentions, aspirations and affiliations of owners and benefactors (Lucas 1999, Gould 1999). Much work needs to be done at a regional level to identify and classify the resource and to evaluate significance, as well as to investigate significant individual structures. One group of buildings that pose especial challenges, because of rapid technological change and concerns over safety and security, is those associated with electricity generation. The region has had numerous examples of power plants.

   Most of the 19th and early 20th century examples have disappeared without record, but any surviving remains, such as the remnants of the electricity plant in Blackburn (L) are worthy of study. The associated electrical engineering industry was largely developed in Manchester and, after textiles, can claim to be the most important industry in the city in the early 20th century. More controversial and challenging will be defining the objectives and methodologies for dealing with nuclear decommissioning. Calder Hall (C) is the earliest commercially viable nuclear generating plant in Britain and thus a potentially iconic site, though as the working practices and technologies are well documented the choices to be made will be conservation-led.


7.1   Routeway or route corridor studies looking at the technological and social archaeology of roads and canals especially, are urgently needed to investigate their impact as engines of change for both landscape and culture.

7.2   A study or studies of the North West’s tram systems focused on both the associated structures and their wider landscape impact.

7.3   Use the TICCIH approach to classify infrastructure monuments and identify significance at a regional level.

7.4   Carry out regional surveys of new building types not already covered by national surveys such as technical institutes, National and British schools, political and other club houses, market halls, power generation plants and local government buildings.

7.5   Regional survey of theatres, music halls and cinemas and analysis of individual structures with an emphasis on their form and social function, including eventual redundancy.

7.6   A study of the development of workers’ housing in Greater Manchester and east Lancashire should be undertaken to examine the development of different housing types and to inform conservation agendas (Fletcher 1996, 168).

7.7   Study and compare the material culture of industrial workers’ households in rural and industrial communities with those of farm labourers, to identify and explain similarities and differences and possibly identify ethnic as well as cultural affinities.

7.8   A current research project funded by English Heritage on post-medieval softwoods requires samples from Liverpool and Manchester in particular, and other ports and inland locations in the North West.

The Environment

The amount of palaeoenvironmental work undertaken to examine the 18th to early 20th century environment in the North West is negligible, indeed scientific techniques in general are underutilised in the study of industrial and modern period sites (Bayley & Williams 2005). Yet the increase in industrial activity and urbanisation in the period means that it was a time of great environmental change (see Lewis 2002, 4-8).

   The impact of urbanisation and industrialisation on river and air pollution and the consequences for human health were subjects of contemporary commentary, with Manchester being a type site for such revelations, though the scientific basis for the observations made at the time was often flawed. Concern over urban living conditions resulted in a series of urban improvement acts from the later 18th century and culminated in the late 19th century public health acts. Analysis of river sediments and of rural backplot pit features may provide indications of living conditions, but in towns the development of organised rubbish removal will generally prevent the identification of cess pits from which samples can be taken.

   There are many challenges posed in undertaking environmental archaeological work of industrial and modern period deposits but there is a greater opportunity for comparing this data with a wide suite of data derived from other sources.


Little archaeological work has been undertaken on the environmental impacts of increased pollution from growing industrial production. Palaeoenvironmental studies elsewhere focused on categories of deposits in peat bogs or alluvium have related pollen signals to environmental change caused by tin mining on Dartmoor (Thornycraft et al 2003). Similar approaches may be appropriate to analyse the environmental impacts of lead mining in the north Pennines for example. Geochemical studies of lead contamination in soils have been shown to have uses in mapping the local impacts of lead smelting (Bayley & Crossley 2004, 20).


The long-term impacts of industrial atmospheric pollution on climate change have only recently begun to be appreciated and their full impact is yet to be experienced, but 19th and early 20th century industry had more short-term and localised impacts on urban climates, especially through smoke pollution. This is another area requiring research. The late 18th and early 19th centuries were still in the grip of the Little Ice Age with its impact perhaps peaking in 1816, which was known as ‘the year without summer’ (Flohn 1981, 312). The link found between rickets and severe winters suggest that poor weather did have an impact on food availability in urban areas (Mays 2003). The increased acquisition of palaeoenvironmental data of all types should enable a clearer picture of the impacts of changing climate on human populations across the region.


The physical record of today’s landscape clearly demonstrates the influence of later 18th and 19th century developments in farming. Production was intensified and in some cases industrialised to meet the consumption demands of an increasing, and increasingly concentrated, population. The processes of wetland reclamation and mossland and upland enclosure culminated, and in most areas peaked during the period. Not only large areas of today’s field pattern, but the vast majority of surviving traditional agricultural buildings date to the later 18th and 19th centuries. Ongoing developments in farming are threatening this legacy of landscape character, especially through farm rationalisation. Many farm buildings are now redundant with recent changes in farming methods and regulations. The bulk of these buildings are unlisted and represent an important historical research resource (Barnwell 2005). The responses to this, especially within the planning process vary across the region, but there is an urgent need for all local authorities to ensure that farm buildings undergoing adaptation are at least considered for recording. By this means a regional database of farm building types can be derived and variations across the region examined. Whilst traditional farm buildings are converted to other uses more modern structures are demolished. At present within the region 20th century farm buildings are hardly ever recorded ahead of demolition, yet the 20th century witnessed radical changes in agricultural technology reflected in both buildings and more humble structures such as churn stands. All are worthy of at least a measured photographic record.

   Wider programmes of research into the agrarian landscape have been undertaken across the region but the coverage is patchy. Central Cheshire was covered as one of the study areas examined by the RCHME in their national farmsteads project (Barnwell & Giles 1997) and the impacts of enclosure at least have been examined for the uplands of the north of the region (Whyte 2003). Just these two studies demonstrate the considerable variation in agrarian landscape change across the region during the period. In central Cheshire the landscape reflected only the gradual improvement of a stable agrarian system with little change in the farming processes throughout the period (Barnwell & Giles 1997, 125). In contrast in Cumbria and north Lancashire vast areas of open fell were brought into cultivation through enclosure, new farms were established and radical changes in the landscape reflected considerable developments in the organisation of the local farming system (Whyte 2003). More research is needed to examine developments in farming in other areas, especially lowland Cumbria and the southern part of historic Lancashire. Why were there such intra-regional disparities? The recently produced county HLCs are particularly useful for examining change in the rural landscape from the late 18th century to the present day and they could form the basis for a more in-depth analysis of agrarian landscape change across the region in the 18th to 20th centuries (Newman 2005, 210).

   In the 19th century, especially on great estates, technology in the form of steam power was applied more widely on many farms. Gin houses are a particular and often unrecorded feature of this development. The greater application of technology was accompanied by industrial-scale production through the re-organisation of agricultural buildings into model farms. The home farms of many great estates exhibit these characteristics. This trend introduced new patterns of building organisation into the countryside (Campion 2001, 12).

   Very little archaeological study has been undertaken of these developments, either focused on the buildings or on the distribution, frequency and impact of such farms within and on the agrarian landscape and the consequences for rural society.

Coastal and marine exploitation

Little attention has been paid in the North West to coastal, estuarine or marine archaeology. Much, if not the bulk, of the archaeological remains in the intertidal zone are likely to relate to relatively recent activities. The potential is enormous; Liverpool Bay is the entrance to one of the world’s most important ports and has a phenomenal concentration of likely wreck sites. Morecambe Bay has one of the most extensive areas of intertidal sand and mudflats in the UK and its dynamic environment provides excellent conditions for the survival and exposure of organic remains. The bay is littered with the remnants of wooden jetties, wharfs, fish traps and fishing baulks, the majority of which are likely to date to the 18th to 20th centuries.

   In addition to these remains are the coastal remnants of living history such as the continued tradition of haff netting to catch salmon in the Solway, and to a lesser extent along the estuaries of the Lune, Ribble and Mersey. This technique may have originated in the early medieval period.

   In the 19th and 20th centuries the region’s marine environment has been internationally important for its supplies of shrimp, shellfish, estuarine fish catches like salmon and flounder, and deeper water white fish catches. The importance of these resources has influenced the economy and development of the region’s coastal towns.

   Carlisle in the late 18th century was famed as a centre of fish hook production and Fleetwood, during the later 19th and for much of the 20th centuries, was one of the country’s premier fishing ports. Within the region there is a need to record and interpret the marine and intertidal archaeological remains in the context of the still surviving remnants of marine exploitation in the region.


7.9   Excavations should recover palaeoenvironmental data from cess pits and other suitable cut features to inform on diet, health, natural resource use and consumption patterns.

7.10  Opportunities need to be taken for the use of palaeoenvironmental and geochemical analyses of the historic environmental impacts of specific industries and industrialisation in general.

7.11  The relationship between enclosure, settlement and industry needs to be more closely examined.

7.12  Study the development of the agrarian landscape in those parts of the region that have previously attracted little attention.

7.13  In part using existing data contained in the HLCs and building upon the RCHMEs study of farmsteads (Barnwell & Giles 1997), produce a regional study of farming in the period 1750-1950 that examines areas of continuity and change and highlights areas of rare, regionally specific and innovative practices.

7.14  Examine the country house and estate as innovators and consumers of technology.

7.15  Investigate the development of the industrialised farm and the impact of technological change on farm layout and building types. A TICCIH approach to identification and classification of monument types may be useful in such research.

7.16  Record the remains of maritime exploitation exposed in the intertidal zone. Use documentary and oral sources to provide an interpretative context.

Rural Settlement

County-based Historic Landscape Characterisation programmes have revealed that the region’s 18th and 19th century rural settlement pattern is imperfectly understood. Often used as a basis for examining the earlier, generally medieval, development of settlement, too many inaccurate assumptions are made about the links between the settlement pattern that began to be routinely mapped from about 1770 and earlier patterns of settlement. Insufficient account is taken of the impacts of industrialisation and urbanisation on both the fostering of nucleation and encouraging of rural desertion. The excellent map resource that exists for the region from the late 18th century, however, and the advent of Geographical Information Systems as an analytical tool offer the opportunity to map and analyse intra-regional rural settlement change from the 18th century to the present day.

   The industrial period appears to be the most significant time for rural settlement desertion in the North West during the entire 2nd millennium AD. Emparking, farm rationalisation and the economic attractions of industrial and urban life all appear to have had an impact on the decline and desertion, or partial decline and shrinkage, of many rural settlements as for example at Rufford (L) and Haslingden Grane (L). In the later 19th and early 20th centuries the clearance of the water-gathering grounds for reservoirs led to the widespread abandonment of upland farms. There is an urgent need within many SMRs and HERs to check, and in many instances correct, references to so-called medieval deserted settlements. A number of these entries are based on mistaken assumptions about the timing of rural settlement abandonment and on misunderstandings over the nature of nucleation. Known deserted sites offer the opportunity for excavations that allow material culture to be tied to documentary evidence detailing owners and occupiers. At Alderley Edge (Ch) and at Risley (Ch), such work has allowed the complexities of changing social status amongst occupiers overtime to be matched to changes in the nature of occupied buildings (Casella 2004; 2005; Heawood 2003). Similar projects are needed elsewhere within the region.

   The period is represented by two new settlement types: the navvy camp and the utopian settlement (see Similar in some respects to the model villages built by industrialists, utopian settlements took two basic forms; the urban garden suburb, of which some like Port Sunlight (Ch) and Vickerstown (C) were sponsored by industrialists, and the discrete rural settlement. Some were inspired by religious communities, such as the Moravian settlements at Dunkinfield (GM) and Fairfield (GM), others were schemes to assist the urban poor and unemployed and were direct responses to the perceived problems spawned by industrialisation and urbanisation. Amongst the latter were the settlements formed by the Land Settlement Association, a major influence on the development of market gardening and, more pertinently for the North West, the Co-operative Society. Most of these settlements consisted of smallholdings and have been absorbed into the wider settlement hierarchy. Others have been abandoned like the briefly flourishing 19th century cooperatives on Chat Moss (GM). An archaeological study of these often rather temporary rural utopian settlements is long overdue, as they have attracted little attention in comparison to the navvy camps associated with some of the major engineering projects of the 19th and 20th centuries.


7.17  Map settlement change across the region from 1770 to the present day, to promote understanding of the relationship of the current rural settlement pattern to that of the 18th century and to provide a more secure basis for regressive projections of earlier settlement patterns.

7.18  A regional study of rural desertion to identify patterns and trends would be worthwhile in its own right, but it may in such a well-documented period, offer insights on desertions from earlier periods.

7.19  Excavations of a range of preferably well-documented deserted rural settlement sites to more precisely understand the nature of rural settlement abandonment and examine changes in consumption patterns linked to social status through time.

7.20  Studies of the physical remains of utopian settlements to examine their impact on the landscape, reasons for success or failure and the influence of utopian ideals on settlement organisation and where applicable building form and function.

The Urban Landscape

The phenomenon of late 18th to 20th century urban growth has been particularly well studied by historians and historical geographers (see Briggs 1968; Carter 1990) but archaeologists have yet to establish an archaeological agenda for such studies. This is reflected in the lack of industrial period equivalents to Wacher’s The Towns of Roman Britain or Beresford’s New Towns of the Middle Ages. The latter in its day provided an authoritative guide to a previously little considered aspect of the English landscape. Beresford examined how characteristic features of topography could be compared and contrasted to produce a typology for medieval towns and begin a process of analysing difference, similarity, change and continuity. Such a process allows the distinctive and exceptional to be distinguished from the commonplace. Undertaking a similar approach to the new towns of the Industrial Revolution should provide a fruitful arena for future research, and would enable questions to be asked about divergence between those towns that did industrialise and those that did not. Such an approach is in part advocated by and inherent within Trinder’s (1996; 2002) recent development of a model to analyse the archaeological features that are common to most 18th and 19th century market towns.

   The base data for beginning a regional typological and characterisation study should be provided by the county EUS studies but the quality of coverage is incredibly variable, with only Lancashire’s and to a lesser extent Cheshire’s dealing with the 19th century and later in any detail. Moreover, Greater Manchester still lacks an EUS of any type. The current Merseyside project combining EUS-style period surveys and historic townscape characterisation offers a likely methodology for the towns of the Manchester conurbation. Many towns in the region have only a partial coverage in terms of site identification for the monuments that distinguish the 19th and 20th century town. Monument type reviews are necessary for all towns in order to provide the data that will enable them to be placed within an urban typology and for their distinctive and commonplace features to be identified. Matthews’ work in Chester (2003), thematic studies in Manchester (Nevell & Walker 2001), the Lancashire EUS and recent studies of warehouses in Ulverston (Ellsworth & Dawson 2005) and industrial sites in Carlisle (Egerton Lea 2005), all offer ways forward but similar studies are needed in all towns across the region.

   The way a particular set of social values, primarily those of the Victorian middle class, were transmuted and transferred through the social order can be read in the region’s urban architecture, planning and service provision (Newman 2001, 99). The large and often expensive and occasionally innovative urban buildings of the Industrial Revolution were intended to convey messages beyond the functional, and contemporaries appreciated this. Briggs wrote that in Manchester ‘the Exchange, like so much else in Manchester, was itself a symbol’ (1968, 107). Structures of lesser status like terraced houses or the disposition and use of spaces between structures and the adoption of features like water closets all have meaning beyond the functional. Understanding the role archaeologists have to play in unravelling this story is essential for the development of both informed conservation policies and research strategies. Sadly curators, contractors and learned societies are often ignorant of or undervalue the archaeological approach to studying 19th and 20th century urban lifestyles. Landscape approaches need to be taken to areas of  large-scale redevelopment,  meticulous  building surveys are necessary where relatively unaltered ‘time-capsule’ structures survive, and excavation is required where opportunities exist to supplement and supersede the documentary record.

Revealing the history and lifestyles of the silent majority

There are many aspects of 19th and early 20th century urban life especially, which are insufficiently covered by the documentary record and are no longer recoverable through oral testimony. The documentary record of domestic life in particular is dominated by middle class, male – and often patriarchal – viewpoints. The views presented of the lives of the poor, women, children and servants are biased and often highly politicised. Archaeological research is needed to shed light on children, servants, domestic-based workers, and the urban working class in general. Cellars are particularly fertile areas for investigation. In middle-class homes they were the engine room that powered the house. Servants operated out of them, undertaking food preparation and storage there and usually doing the laundry. Cellars sometimes housed the water supply and were the storage areas for fuel. They allowed access to the house for staff without entry through the front door. For artisans, cellars could be workshops, especially being used for weaving in east Lancashire, and for the poorest they formed domestic accommodation, though only in Manchester have such dwellings been archaeologically investigated. The archaeology of ‘below stairs’ would have much to offer as a contrast in lifestyles to the picture given in the documentary record of middle-class domestic life presented in histories of the 19th century domesticity, houses and households (see Flanders 2003).

   Much new urban house building for the labouring classes was completed in the late 18th and earlier 19th centuries. During this period many of the house types that came to typify the popular conception of 19th century working class housing provision were developed and built in most industrial towns. These included back-to-back and courtyard developments. Very little of this type of housing now survives, as from the end of the 19th century and through to the 1960s it was swept away in so-called slum clearances. The concept of the slum was for long accepted as a reality in the historical record, as the documents produced by civil authorities and the records of artists and photographers, often working to propagandising political agendas, were used to form the concept. In recent years archaeological investigations have helped to challenge the concept and to expose the mythologies of slums that have been accepted as historically accurate. Work in the USA in Minneapolis, New York and Washington DC and elsewhere across the globe, as in Cape Town, Melbourne and Quebec has shown that the accepted historical narratives often reveal little of the richness and diversity of cultural life in areas regarded as slums (Mayne & Murray 2001). The North West offers huge opportunities for similar studies and some of the work undertaken in Sheffield in recent years acts as an exemplar for similar programmes in cities like Liverpool or Manchester (Belford 2001; Symonds 2002; Symonds 2005b)

   To challenge historical concepts of slums in the North West requires not only topographical analysis of the surviving fragments of pre-1840 working class urban development, but also the excavation of former areas of slum clearances. Most of these have been extensively redeveloped and the opportunity for meaningful archaeological results through excavation may have been lost, but there are a few examples where cleared areas have not been redeveloped, as for example in Padiham (L). The archaeological examination of these areas must be a priority for Industrial Age urban archaeological research. The research context for such studies has recently been summarised, ‘understanding life in the city, especially in those parts which have been demolished in urban renewal programmes or demonised as exemplars of all that is reprehensible about living in cities, must first and foremost be built around an understanding of the contexts of neighbourhood, work, gender, class, ethnicity, childhood and old age, poverty, oppression and prejudice, but above all of possibility’ (Mayne & Murray 2001, 5)

Late 19th and 20th century urban archaeology

Excavation will be of little relevance in the study of later 19th century and 20th century urban housing developments, but archaeological approaches to architecture and land-use planning will be of value in revealing some of the landscape and social impacts of the development of a new form of community living and urban planning: the housing estate. Beginning in the later 19th century housing estates have taken a variety of forms and were often very deliberate exercises in social engineering. Even so, archaeologists are late arrivals in expressing an interest in an area that has long provided fertile ground for cultural historians. Other than usually cursory coverage within the EUS projects, only the recent study of the 20th century archaeology of Tameside (GM) has embraced the subject of the archaeology of late 19th and early 20th century housing (Nevell & Walker 2004b, 45-60). Few studies of any type, based on the surviving physical evidence, have been undertaken of late Victorian and Edwardian estates, though the post-First World War estates of the Fylde’s (L) coastal resorts are seen as exemplars of the domestic architecture of the period by organisations interested in the built heritage of the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, seaside resorts in the North West, like Southport (M) and Morecambe (L), represented the only significant urban growth areas between the World Wars, and were at their developmental peak during the period. Another major inter-war development was the appearance of the council house estate (Olechnowicz 2000), in many instances a utopian influenced housing response to the ‘slumland’ clearances.

   Nevell and Walker’s (2004b) study of Tameside in the 20th century indicates the range of structures that appeared in towns mainly from the 1870s, these include leisure complexes, hotels, and a range of civic buildings and commercial premises. One of the most prolific surviving features of the late 19th and early 20th century town, however, and one under the greatest threat, and thus with a considerable need for conservation strategies, is the shop, especially as represented through the shop facia. The high streets and arterial routes of many of our towns took on their modern appearance of rows of specialist shops in the 19th century. Much of the fabric of the buildings built or adapted for commercial premises date to this period. Facias, often of wood or plaster, tend to date to the late Victorian or Edwardian periods. They contribute considerably to the character of a street and can embody a variety of messages relating to the commercial enterprise carried out in a shop at the time of their erection, or to issues of individual status or corporate and municipal identity.

  The decline in shopping areas, especially along arterial routes, and the regeneration of town centre commercial districts poses a threat to this important legacy. Easily recorded, however, this element of the townscape would respond well to archaeological programmes of classification and analysis. Such work would provide insights into 19th century urban and commercial attitudes and inform a conservation agenda. The region is fortunate that the development of shops and shopping has attracted the attention of locally operational historians (Stobart 1998; Winstanley 2000), but archaeologists have yet to engage with this important development in 19th and 20th century urban and commercial history. Another significant commercial development and addition to urban fabric primarily in the decades between 1870 and 1930 was the pedestrianised, covered shopping arcade.

   The North West’s towns enthusiastically adopted this feature with six being constructed in Manchester and two apiece in Colne (L) (GM), Oldham (GM), Southport (M) and Wigan (GM) (Winstanley 2000, 156-7). Where the commercial importance of some towns has faded these arcades are both threatened with dereliction and retain important unaltered features of interest. Colne’s earliest arcade of 1875 lies abandoned and Accrington’s superbly ornamented arcade contains a redundant early postal sorting office (Lancashire EUS). Again these features, of interest architecturally, technologically and socially have attracted very little attention from archaeologists.


7.21  An overview of the impact on the historic landscape of the new towns of the Industrial Revolution and the new monument types developed within them.

7.22  An extensive urban survey and historic landscape characterisation of the towns of Greater Manchester.

7.23  Reviews of the characteristic period monument types contained in each town.

7.24  Need to excavate urban cellars to examine life ‘below stairs’ in the middle class house and cellar dwellings and workshops in working class houses.

7.25  Where threatened with possible redevelopment excavations are required of now undeveloped and cleared former working class areas regarded as slums.

7.26  Survey and analysis of theatres and cinemas (many now converted to different functions), to establish their social setting, technological development, architectural affinities and cultural role.

7.27  Recording and classification of shop fronts and facias.

Religion, Ritual and Ceremony

More places of worship were established in the North West between about 1820 and 1914 than during any other similar period. This is an indication of the importance of organised Christian religion during the late Georgian to Edwardian eras; indeed without an appreciation of the importance of this it is difficult to gain an understanding of 19th century history. The period also saw an expansion in secular display, initially amongst the wealthiest private individuals but increasingly during the later 19th and 20th centuries by the middle classes too and especially by local government corporations. During the later 19th and 20th centuries  more  secular  statues,  memorials and commemorative monuments were erected than ever before. In the 20th century both religious and secular forms of practice, ceremony and display fragmented and  diversified to reflect a less spiritual but more diverse and multicultural society.

Places of worship

The established churches of the North West are a product of the 19th century more than the medieval period, yet 19th century church fabric has received little attention from archaeologists, either in relation to demolished or still standing buildings. Some of the churches designed by significant architects, however, have long been the subject of interest for art and architectural historians. The concentration of their research interests, however, has been on 19th century aesthetics rather than on the links between architectural and liturgical developments or the wider social meaning of the growth in church building. It was the revival of ritual in many Anglican churches in the 19th century that led to church restoration and rebuilding programmes, just as modern liturgical changes are necessitating internal spatial reorganisations (Parsons 1998, 12). Listing protects many of the standing structures, and consequently, while some recording is undertaken of these ahead of renovation or adaptation, this is often not the case with non-listed churches. There is a strategic approach in parts of the region to the conservation of churches (Barter 2004, 26), but little archaeological interest has been exhibited in analysing the structures as cultural indicators and artefacts (see Newman 2001). For the most part, however, a fair proportion of the established and Roman Catholic churches are at least identified and recorded in the SMRs and HERs.

   The issue of a lack of archaeological interest is even more acute with non-conformist places of worship, many of which, unless listed, are not even recorded within the SMRs and HERs. Few have been recorded prior to alteration, adaptation or demolition. Part of the importance of non-conformist chapels lies in their clear physical connection with the growth of industrialisation, but this can only be fully appreciated if all sites are identified and recorded. Stell’s regional survey (1994), though useful, is highly selective and whilst the Lancashire EUS noted the existence of chapels little has been done to tie physical fabric to surviving records. A survey of chapels was completed for parts of Cumbria (Ryder 2000) but there are large gaps in knowledge and coverage elsewhere in the region. A priority must be the identification of the resource with a record made of all known chapels and meeting houses and an identification of those that have been demolished, those adapted for other uses, and those still in use as places of worship whether rebuilt or not. The Cornish chapels survey is a model for such work (Lake et al 2001).

   The issue of conversion of unlisted non-conformist chapels to secular uses is a particularly difficult one, as the removal of fixtures and fittings and even the demolition of the building can be undertaken without the need for planning consent. Thus, the gradual reduction of this archaeological resource is not one that can be mitigated entirely through programmes of developer-sponsored recording. Even where chapels remain in use the needs of modern congregations may lead to the removal of significant historic fabric. The loss of galleries is a particular issue, as are the removal of pews (Serjeant 2004a and b) and in non-listed structures this can often happen without any recording. Beyond the requirements of the conservation agenda, however, is the need to understand the impact of the various denominations on the character of 19th century communities.

   In Nelson (L) for example it would appear that the Free Methodists, who dominated the town both religiously and politically, were influential in ensuring that there were far fewer public houses per head of population there than in any other east Lancashire town (Egerton Lea 2003). The distribution of non-conformist chapels in a town or rural area can reveal a complex story of social interaction through their frequency, location, architectural expression and development of ancillary institutions like schools, as has been demonstrated in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester (E Green 2004). Projects are needed throughout the region that archaeologically examine the role of places of worship on the physical and social character of areas.

   The industrial and modern period also offers the challenge of considering non-Christian religious structures. The earliest of these are Jewish synagogues that were established in a number of the region’s towns from mainly the later 19th century. Largely ignored by architectural historians (Kadish 2004, 29), the synagogue is an important cultural element of the developing 19th and early 20th century urban landscape. Manchester was and is one of the bastions of British Jewry. Work undertaken by English Heritage, the University of Huddersfield and Jewish Heritage UK is nationally addressing this lacuna but work has been targeted thus far at surviving buildings and cemeteries under threat (Kadish 2004, 30-1).

   There is a need at a regional level to identify the often forgotten sites of former synagogues and to look at the wider cultural influence of the Jewish community in specific centres. It is perhaps too soon for archaeologists to be considering the later 20th century cultural impact of the Moslem, Hindu and Sikh communities in the region’s towns, but these issues are already beginning to appear on the conservation agenda.


There was a great expansion in the number of burial memorials in the 18th century with their use being adopted by all but the poorest. The work of Harold Mytum in particular has demonstrated the value of analysing the developing style, iconography and dedications on late 18th and 19th century burial memorials (Mytum 2004). The North West has many rural and some urban graveyards that contain well preserved burial monuments which have escaped the late 20th century clearance of memorials to assist in maintenance. Some burial grounds, such as that at Prestwich (GM), preserve an important element in the social history of a great city, though this cemetery like many others in urban areas is threatened by vandalism. In the North West, as elsewhere, genealogists and other local enthusiasts have recorded many burial grounds and memorials and the information is sometimes accessible through record offices, but these do not exploit the data to examine questions of changing beliefs, identity and family and social structure (Tarlow 2005). No studies embracing an analysis of the wider social meanings of the memorials iconography and dedications are available from within the region. The methodologies necessary to undertake such work are readily available in a CBA handbook (Mytum 2000) and internet-based publication would be very suitable for bringing together, and comparing, a variety of survey results from across the region.

   The analysis of difference between burial grounds in different situations, urban and rural, established church or non-conformist, middle class suburb or industrial village, would be of interest and to an extent has proved successful elsewhere (see Shorters 2004). By the early 19th century many denominational urban burial grounds were becoming full and this led to the development of non-denominational municipal cemeteries (Rugg 1998). Most such cemeteries in the North West originated in the mid to later 19th century, the period of greatest urban expansion. Not only were these new landscape features, but also they present an opportunity for studying variation in memorial practices between contemporary Anglican and other Christian denominations as well as occasionally non-Christian people. They also offer an opportunity for studying patterns in consumption and emulation. Work on York Cemetery serves as an indication of the wealth of information that can be gained from municipal cemetery studies (Buckham 1999).

   The examination of individual burials has the potential to reveal much more than information about burial rites and theological beliefs. The excavations at the Spitalfields crypt demonstrated the value of examining the palaeopathology of large assemblages of relatively modern burials (Molleson & Cox 1993). One of the most interesting results was the relating of dated burials with particular types of disease pathology to known climatic variations; thus individuals with signs of rickets were shown to have been born in years where the following winter was severe (Molleson & Cox 1993, 118; Mays 2003, 151).

   Studies of burials from the late 18th and 19th centuries are beginning to reveal the impact of climate and environment on health (Mays 2003; Lewis 2003). Although ‘work into urban and industrial health in Britain, using human skeletal remains is still in its early stages’ (Lewis 2003, 159), it is clear that it has much potential and is already suggesting that industrialisation rather than urbanisation had an adverse effect on health (Lewis 2002). Non-adult skeletal remains can also reveal other impacts of industrialisation, as for an example a reduction in weaning time, as had previously been noted from documentary sources (Lewis 2002, 58; Fildes 1988).

   Very little palaeopathological work has been undertaken on 18th to 19th century human remains from the North West and no large assemblages have been analysed. Recent guidance issued by English Heritage and the Church of England should lead to an increase in the analysis of skeletal assemblages of relatively modern date. It states ‘if burial grounds, or areas within burial grounds, which may contain internments more than 100 years old, have to be disturbed – whether for minor building work or large scale development – to a depth that is likely to disturb burials, the relevant areas should be archaeologically evaluated. Any subsequent exhumations should be monitored, and if necessary carried out, by archaeologists’ (Mays 2005, 4). Where excavated the assumption is that remains will be subject to analysis. The potential for gaining new data on the impacts of industrialisation and urbanisation is obvious and the recovery and analysis of skeletal remains will be especially informative in relation to urban centres like Liverpool, Manchester and Preston.

Secular display

Many new parks were created in the later 18th and 19th centuries and existing ones were extended. Some indication of the proliferation of landscape grounds can be gained from comparing the late 18th century county maps with the mid and late 19th century Ordnance Survey maps. County-based surveys of the types and character of private landscape parks, with a view to the establishment of local registers, and an assessment of their impact on landscape character would be useful throughout the region. The most significant development in secular display during the period was the establishment of public pleasure grounds. Most of these took the form of municipal parks (Conway 1991; 1996), but promenades, designed woodland walks and gardens let for public enjoyment but set up as commercial enterprises, all had a part in the increased public access to pleasure grounds. Municipal parks were not simply the green lungs of industrialised urban areas but were sites of civic display, where many of the features of private elite display were adopted for public pleasure and the celebration of municipal success. The conservation agenda is now well advanced in relation to municipal parks and programmes of restoration have been undertaken in internationally significant urban parks such as Sefton Park, Liverpool and Heaton Park, Manchester. The research agenda is less well advanced and survey and interpretation is needed to establish the developmental history and social significance of many of the regions pleasure grounds, some of which have become almost forgotten relicts as a consequence of later 20th century disinterest. In a similar fashion there has been a lack of archaeological interest in another important feature of 19th and 20th century popular culture, significant as a place of secular display and ceremony, the sports ground (Wood 2005).


7.28  Study the relationships between chapels and industrialised communities and the possible denominational influence on the character of settlements.

7.29  Identify and  if  possible  examine  the  sites formerly occupied by synagogues.

7.30  Record  and  analyse  burial memorials  and establish a regional database.

7.31  Recover and analyse 18th and 19th century skeletal assemblages where they are to be disturbed through burial ground redevelopment.

7.32  Establish local registers of landscape parks based on individual site appraisals.

7.33  Record and classify the municipal pleasure grounds and public parks of the region.

7.34  Identify, record and classify the historic sports places throughout the region, building on the results of a pilot study in Manchester (Wood 2005).

Technology and Production

One of the greater challenges of studying the archaeology of the Industrial and Modern period is to avoid simply regarding it as being the archaeological study of industry, whilst at the same time acknowledging the huge influence and contribution of developing technology and increasing production on the material culture and character of the period. Indeed it is clear that there is a need to study technological development and production in their own rights, as part of a bottom-up approach that allows the significance of industrial production to be confidently and rigorously placed in context (Cranstone 2001, 184-5; 2003). Industrialisation lies at the heart of the period (Nevell 2006), changing a rural society into an urban one, moving from craft production to mechanised and then automated manufacturing, vastly increasing the scale of industrial enterprises and fuelling consumption through the introduction of mass production. This process needs to be studied in a landscape context in which its full impact on society, and not just on technological innovation and modes of production, can be appreciated. Recent work in Wales on specific industries (Jones et al 2004) and specific communities (Hughes 2000) in different ways offer exemplars of this approach.

   Archaeological research into specific industries in the region is patchy; some like glass have received considerable attention, whilst others such as chemicals have hardly been examined. Similarly certain aspects of industry such as the continuation of domestic and workshop working into the 20th century have been little researched in the region. Work by Matthews (2003) within the region and Wray (2004) on the Sheffield cutlery industry and Menuge (2004) on boot and shoe making in Northamptonshire, have outlined the potential.

   Space does not permit an industry by industry coverage, so the focus of this aspect of the agenda is on a few research themes that are of particular relevance to the industrial development of the region, or present issues that are crucial to the archaeological understanding of the period.


For archaeologists one of the most significant areas of industrial activity in any period is the manufacture of clay products. For the 18th and 19th centuries this is particularly so as ceramic vessels, clay tobacco pipes and bricks and tiles comprise the bulk of material culture (along with stone) surviving as indicators of past activity. They are ubiquitous and therefore commonplace throughout the region, but contain messages concerning the basics of everyday life such as, building construction, food preparation, leisure pursuits, consumer choice and social affiliations and emulation. Without good baseline data rooted in an understanding of the technologies of manufacture and a typology of products, a clear understanding of the likely relevance of product distribution and use remains difficult to attain. Consequently, the attribution of motivations for product purchase or a search for social meanings in product application will be highly speculative.

   Ceramic manufacture is not well understood in the region. There has been little archaeological research into the new factories that appeared from the later 18th century. Minor investigations such as that at the Lancaster delft ware factory are typical of the scale of exploration (Price 1973) and not one production site has been investigated for the well-known tin-glaze industry of Liverpool. Nothing has been undertaken on the scale of that carried out in London, Staffordshire (Barker 1999, 228-9) or in south Wales at Swansea and Nantgarw. Equally there has been little archaeological examination of the small craft potteries that continued to thrive in the countryside, throughout the region. Some, like Wetheriggs (C), the UK’s only surviving steam-powered pottery, founded in the mid-19th century (Blenkinship 1998), are still in production today. Many questions are unanswered; did the new factories introduce new technologies during the late 18th and 19th centuries, because technological innovation seems not to have been a major factor elsewhere in a period of unparalleled expansion for the ceramics industry (Barker 2004, 214)? What was the relationship between the major factories in places like Liverpool and Whitehaven (C) and the country potteries in terms of scale of production, working conditions, wares produced and markets sought? What was the impact on factory organisation and equipment of new products in the later 19th century like sanitary wares? Much remains to be done to understand the development and impact of the regional ceramic vessels industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries especially. The clay tobacco pipe and associated wig-curlers industry has received much attention in the North West, largely because of the work of Peter Davey and David Higgins. Their studies concentrate on the industry’s products, but outside of Cheshire and Liverpool very little work has been undertaken on the production sites. These often consisted of small workshops but the identification and investigation of these in towns like Lancaster and Whitehaven should be a priority. Closely linked to the ceramic vessels industry, and sometimes occupying the same sites was brick and tile making. Such enterprises mushroomed in the 19th century in response to urban expansion, engineering projects, sanitary services provision and the spread of undersoil drainage in agriculture. The local presence of a brick and tile works could have a major impact on the character of local buildings and on the date and nature of agricultural land improvement in an area. The significance of the individual brick and tile works ranges from the purely local to the iconic in the case of brickworks around Accrington (L), where their product – Accrington Bloods – is seen, however inaccurately, as symbolic of later 19th century urban construction. The products of brick and tile works are found on most industrial and modern period sites, yet the archaeologist remains largely ignorant of their likely date, local significance and production source. Neither is the regional technological development of the industry understood, as during the 19th century it changed from small kilns in labour-intensive brickfields to large sophisticated kilns forming part of increasingly mechanised plants.


The North West region is historically most closely associated with the evolution of the textiles industry, especially cotton. Along with Derbyshire and West Yorkshire, the North West has the greatest survival of textile mills in the country. Nationally and internationally, textile mills are being studied not just in terms of their form and function but also as elements of wider landscapes and as places of work utilised by a labour force (Palmer 2005b, 11). They have social as well as technological narratives contained within their structures and spaces (see Mellor 2005), however, as yet archaeological analysis of mills in the region has seldom examined their role as workplaces. Unfortunately, Cumbria and Lancashire lack surveys of their textile mills to complement those undertaken in Cheshire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, and this has long been seen as a regional oversight (Falconer 1993, Fletcher 1996, 168-9). Town- and district-based surveys do exist and at least in Lancashire the EUS has ensured that most urban sites have been noted in the HER. Even so, there is no regional review of textile mills and their associated structures or any form of comprehensive database. English Heritage’s Monuments Protection Programme (MPP) examined numerous monument types of the industrial period with a view to conservation through designation, but the sheer scale and complexity of the textiles industry discouraged an MPP survey.

   The MPP approach has been criticised for being too descriptive and insufficiently analytical, and an alternative approach is that being used by the TICCIH. As with MPP they use a typology of textile mill features to aid description and classification but sites are categorised into three monument types; individual significant mills, single large textile complexes and integrated textile landscapes (with rural and urban sub-categories). Within these monument types, sites are classified in one of four groups: pioneers are sites without precedent and influential for later developments; flagships are sites that are architectural firsts or trend-setters; time capsules are sites that contain in situ machinery, and giants are unusually large sites in terms of physical capacity and size of workforce ( The North West is most prominently featured as possessing integrated textile landscapes, with Ancoats, Bolton, Oldham and Wigan Pier (all GM) being seen as internationally significant. As with infrastructure sites the TICCIH approach could be usefully employed to review textile sites at a regional level. Such a systematic study would enable the essential significance of a range of sites to be emphasised and their relevance to the progress of the Industrial Revolution appreciated. This approach has not previously been undertaken in Britain. Whilst it might be criticised for an obsession with functional typology and an absence of social analysis, it would sensibly organise a mass of data and a multitude of monuments to form a baseline from which the most appropriate sites can be selected for further study. By this means sites can be selected for the type of social analysis so successfully undertaken at Lowell, Massachusetts (Beaudry & Morozowski 1989).

20th century large industrial complexes

Recent industrial sites, especially those in the process of closure, offer opportunities for comprehensive recording utilising oral and documentary history in conjunction with the study of their physical environment. Even so archaeological research into 20th century industries, especially those with large plants, remains weak nationally (Riley 2005). It is perverse only to begin to show interest in sites 20-30 years after they have been demolished rather than when they are still operational concerns.

   Recording the last remnants of once significant industries, like rope and snuff making in Kendal (C) and clay tobacco pipe making in Manchester (Jung 2003), is important but so is the archaeological analysis of more modern large industrial plants. Such sites have attendant logistical and political issues that may compromise their study.

   Archaeological approaches to recording and analysis need to be closely matched to specific site requirements and capable of revealing the human story behind the technological function. One of the techniques used at the few sites that have been tackled is activity mapping, which ensures that the workforce’s involvement in processes is fully understood within the context of the production technology (Badcock & Malaws 2004, 272, 287-8). The challenge of recording and researching the massive industrial complexes that characterise the later 20th century, is not a regional or national issue but a global one. This is recognised by the TICCIH and conferences such as that held in Stavanger, Norway in April 2005 on de-industrialisation and approaches to the industrial heritage, are seeking international responses to address the issue. This clearly indicates that archaeologists in north-west England need to be looking beyond their region for solutions to shared challenges and should be actively engaging in the development of an international agenda.


7.35  Industry specific studies are needed for those industries that have received little archaeological attention. This is especially needed for those industries that grew in importance in the early 20th century such as chemicals, automobile and early aircraft engineering. Equally more research is needed into the smaller but highly significant 19th and 20th century workshop based industries such as nail and bolt making and the regionally significant tool making industry of south-west Lancashire.

7.36  Studies of industrial landscapes should examine the presence of indicators of authority and social control to illuminate the wider impact of industrialisation on society in general and on individual communities.

7.37  Regional study of late 18th to early 20th century pottery production sites should identify urban factories and rural workshops, to tie products to source with identifiable typologies and to examine differences in technology, organisation and marketing between the large factories and smaller rural potteries.

7.38  There is a need to source the products of brick and tile kilns and to establish typologies. Early brickfields seldom survive but the below-ground investigation of such sites, as well as surveys of later extant brickworks, should be a priority to understand the technological development of the industry within the region.

7.39  A survey of textile mill sites in Lancashire and Cumbria is necessary to complement those for Cheshire and Greater Manchester. It should include an examination of their location in relation to the pre-industrial distribution of medieval and post-medieval water mills, and the impact of Industrial Age transport systems.

7.40  Surveys of 20th century industrial plants before they close, using techniques like activity mapping to understand the interaction of process and employee.

Trade, Exchange and Interaction

As previously stated, during the late 18th and 19th centuries there was a huge increase in both the number and variety of things for purchase and in the proportion of people able to gain access to them. Not only was more produced in the newly industrialised economy but improved transport, both nationally and internationally, and innovations in storage such as refrigeration made even perishable exotic consumables available. Economic historians have copiously studied this phenomenon, but the contribution of archaeologists to a discussion on the dynamics of trade in the Industrial Age has been negligible. Yet the study of artefacts from other earlier periods has always provided fresh insight on trade links and patterns. The assumption that all vernacular traditions disappeared in the face of industrialised manufactured products imported from across the globe, is false.

   The continued use of local materials in the construction of the fabric of the manufacturing towns and in major engineering projects in the 19th century reveals this. The continuation of country potteries into the 20th century still supplying a local market also indicates this. Indeed the adverse impact on village shops and services in the later 20th century of popular access to the motor car and the advent of the supermarket and the shopping mall, clearly demonstrates the continued importance of localism into the early 20th century.

   Value and carriage costs will affect the local availability of items as well as access to transportation networks. Consequently, the material culture of the poor in isolated communities across the region was likely to feature fewer non-local manufactured goods than the poor of a town situated on the rail network. An extreme example of this has been demonstrated by the archaeological investigations undertaken on the island of St Kilda (Emery 1996).

   Archaeological research is capable of investigating these potential differences. Unfortunately, good domestic assemblages at either end of the social scale are rare and where they have been recovered often remain unpublished. As with earlier periods the material culture of rural sites remains poorly known. Retention and examination of artefacts by archaeologists is an issue, with later period items often being discarded as of no interest. Yet there is much of interest to be investigated in relation to the drivers behind consumption.

   For example, a family in a rural community at distance from good transport links may have relied for their utilitarian wares on the products of a local pottery bought regularly at a local market. Their religious affiliation might be expressed, however, through the very occasional purchase or inheritance of Staffordshire produced pottery commemorating Methodist personalities (Lee 1988). To understand the assemblages that we may encounter archaeologists must understand the region’s economic dynamics during the period, the complex social factors that may influence consumption and the different site formation processes that can distinguish a later period archaeological site.

   The physical effects of the great increase in trade that occurred in the later 18th and 19th centuries are most vividly revealed in the surviving contemporary transhipment facilities of which numerous excellent examples survive in the North West.

   The recent work on some of the earlier facilities at Liverpool docks should reveal some of the potential for the archaeological investigation of Industrial Age ports. Docks are likely to preserve waterlogged deposits that will be good for the preservation of organic artefacts, ecological evidence, and data on water quality and pollution.

   The region has been in the forefront in the archaeological study of warehousing and the impact of water transport on commercial development, especially in Manchester (Nevell 2003c; 2004b). This work has highlighted the potential for the further study of warehousing across the region. There is a need to examine the distribution as well as the nature of warehouses. Is there a difference in the number and type of warehouses in towns with good links to the sea in comparison to towns without such links? How was the evolution of warehouses linked to the products they stored and what are the links with vernacular agricultural storage and between canal and railway warehouses (D Ellsworth pers comm)? Nevell’s work in Manchester and more widely on canal warehouses (2003c), offers some indicators as to the way forward and his methodologies need to be developed and applied more widely across the region.


7.41  The retention of later period artefacts and their routine analysis as part of all archaeological excavation projects.

7.42  Examination, mapping and evaluation of the occurrence of vernacular materials and objects in 19th century contexts.

7.43  Excavation and scientific analysis of 18th and 19th century dock deposits.

7.44  Build upon the archaeological investigation of warehousing undertaken thus far in the region to examine warehousing in all towns and establish regional distribution patterns and typologies.

Defence, Warfare and Military Activity

During the period, Britain was under threat of real or perceived invasion on a number of occasions and the number and type of military sites and monuments diversified and increased. They include coastal defences, military camps, bases and training areas, supply depots and manufacturing sites. The period saw an expansion in the mechanisms of warfare with the introduction of mechanised transport, aircraft and rocketry and methods to defend against attack using such means. The 19th century witnessed the reorganisation of the army into local regiments and the establishment of garrisons to house them. In the North West there was a recognition that the successful Atlantic ports required defences to protect them against sea-borne attack not just from traditional enemies like France but new ones like the USA. Little now survives of the coastal defences and there have been few attempts to study them even at places like Liverpool and Whitehaven. The various 19th century coastal batteries, often only short lived and manned by local militia, are frequently not even located within the SMRs and HERs. The military infrastructure of the North West, has also received little attention although there are good surviving barrack blocks and administrative buildings at places like Fulwood near Preston (L) and at Carlisle Castle. These are parts of existing military garrisons but there are also surviving remains of garrisons at other places, like Burnley (L), where the buildings are unprotected, not recorded in detail and have been adapted for other uses.

20th century military sites

The 20th century in many ways can be characterised as a period more than usually dominated by warfare and preparations for war (English Heritage 2003f, 3) and this is emphasised by the production of far more military sites than at any other period, including the Roman occupation.

   Much work has been undertaken at a national level on the military remains of the 20th century, particularly through The Defence of Britain Project and this has informed and stimulated a number of locally-based recording programmes in this and other regions (see Schofield 2004; Lowry 1996). Given the historical significance of the century’s two World Wars and of the Cold War, such a concentration is entirely appropriate.

   Nevertheless, the national recording programmes of 20th century defence structures necessarily concentrate on the more impressive and significant monuments, and many smaller and less robust structures such as machine gun loopholes, anti-tank defences and search light emplacements still remain to be recorded at a local level. Enthusiasts, such as members of the Fortifications Club, generally undertake such work but in the North West only Cumbria has a publicised local recording initiative ( The Defence of Britain Project handbook provides an initial guide to classifying 20th century military remains (Lowry1996).

   The primary purpose of recording these structures is to inform a conservation-led agenda, yet with the imminent loss of the first hand knowledge of their use archaeological research to foster understanding will increase in significance (English Heritage 2003f, 3). The historical record of many of the sites is poor as for reasons of security the survival of documentation was not encouraged.

   Examination of physical evidence at sites such as ordnance factories and POW camps will have much to offer in terms of social insight regarding vernacular practices and resistance to control. English Heritage’s national programme of defence site recording has developed a typology and classification of site types (English Heritage 2003f, 9; Dobinson et al 1997), that can be adapted to provide a basis for regional typologies, assessments of significance and prioritisation for future research and conservation strategies.


7.45  Undertake a regional study of late 18th and 19th century coastal defences and local militia installations.

7.46  Encourage the local recording of 20th century features not covered in detail in the national recording programmes but using the recording methodologies pioneered in those programmes.

Future Research Directions

It can be, and sometimes is, argued that later period archaeology is more concerned with identification to enhance conservation management rather than research to advance knowledge. Many of the concepts and initiatives articulated in this agenda demonstrate that archaeological approaches do have a contribution to make to the understanding of the recent past. Even so, with such a large and often extant resource, much archaeological energy is focused on making decisions about the significance of surviving structures and landscapes, and their sensitivity to change wrought through adaptation, reuse and regeneration. To do this adequately, however, requires a sound understanding of the nature of the surviving evidence and its significance for interpreting the period. ‘There is a symbiotic relationship between effective conservation policies and the growth of understanding, and the justification for conserving buildings must be based on arguments derived from knowledge and not on the mindless assertion of questionable superlatives’ (Trinder 1996, 213). There is an urgent need to make the abundant archaeological resource for the period more manageable and accessible to assist in the development of meaningful, in-depth research projects. To do this requires considerable investment in appraising the resource through identification, quantification and classification.

Fig 7.1 The Grade II* listed Bank Quay Transporter Bridge, Warrington (Andrew Davison).

Fig 7.2 St Georges Island, Greater Manchester (GMAU).

Fig 7.3 Turbine under excavation at Portwood Mill, Stockport, Greater Manchester, (UMAU).

Fig 7.4 Cast iron canal lock at Beeston, Cheshire on the Shropshire Union Canal (Andrew Davison).

Fig 7.5 Odeon Cinema, Blackpool (Egerton Lea).

Fig 7. 6 The remains of the port at Ulverston, Cumbria (Richard Newman).

Fig 7.7 Evidence of former reclamation on Morecambe Bay (Richard Newman).

Fig 7.8 Early 19th century milestone, Cheshire (Cheshire County Council).

Fig 7.9 Terraced housing in Nelson, Lancashire (Lynne Walker).

Fig 7.10 St Michael’s Arcade, Chester, designed by W T Lockwood in 1910 (Chester Archaeology).

Fig 7.11 Broughton Co-operative buildings, Salford UMAU).

Fig 7.12 Eden Methodist Chapel, Rossendale, Lancashire (Lancashire County Council).

Fig 7.13 Gravestones from the 19th and 20th century within Burnley Churchyard (Egerton Lea).

Fig 7.14 Handloom weavers’ houses, Kirkham (UMAU).

Fig 7.15 A mid-19th century hat factory in Denton, Greater Manchester (UMAU).

Fig 7.16 Derelict Mill at Haslingden, Lancashire (Lancashire County Council).

Fig 7.17 Astley Colliery, Wigan, Gtr Manchester(Andrew Davison)

Fig 7.19 The 18th century quay buildings  at Lancaster (UMAU).

Fig 7.20 Stanley Dock Warehouse, Liverpool (National Museums Liverpool).

Fig 7.18 The 19th century Goldthread Works in Avenham Road, Preston (UMAU).