1721 – 1913 CE


This discussion focuses on the period between what can be considered the real onset of the industrial revolution, in the early 18th century, to the early 20th century – with the assumption that the commencement of WW1 roughly equates to the start of what we might consider the Modern period.

The eighteenth century witnessed the transformation of Britain’s economy. Although the timing and origins of the Industrial Revolution are complex and the subject of debate, the effects are clear. England’s population had increased from around 6 million in 1700 to nearly 16 million by 1841 with its distribution shifting north. The Industrial Revolution was stimulated by the expansion of trade in the eighteenth century and by a series of discoveries, inventions and developments that were to transform industry and the landscape over the next hundred years” (Historic England 2017 p.2)

Industrialisation of the South Yorkshire landscape was already underway (see discussion for the Post-Medieval period) and a number of key developments were already in place, including: use of water power, to drive the forges and slitting mills associated with the iron industry, as well as for edge-tool grinding wheels and a wide variety of mills; initial use of coal as a fuel for a variety of technologies; and initial steel production. In the Industrial period, this process of industrialisation increased, alongside an escalation in the scale of production, as technological developments and increased mechanisation was achieved. For this reason, the Industrial period is sometimes thought of as seeing a transition from workshop to factory – although this transition was not always that simple or straightforward.

Figure 1. Rotherham Historic Environment Characterisation reconstructions for 1750 & 1900 (SYAS)

A useful starting point for considering this process of industrial growth within South Yorkshire is to look at the industries and sites discussed by Historic England in their ‘Listing Selection Guide for Industrial Buildings’ (2017) and the companion ‘Scheduling Selection Guide for Industrial Sites’ (2018). Both of these documents split the discussion of industrial development into two main phases: 1700-1840 and 1840-1914, for the scheduling guide, and 1700-1850 and 1850-1914, for the listing guide; these phases can, perhaps, be considered to approximate to a period of initial expansion, followed by a period of subsequent consolidation. The following discussion will hopefully demonstrate how such a split applies to the evidence from South Yorkshire.

For any such review of the Industrial period, the South Yorkshire Industrial History Society’s detailed discussion of surviving evidence (produced for the Association for Industrial Archaeology) will form an excellent starting point – see ‘A Guide to the Industrial History of South Yorkshire’ edited by Derek Bayliss and published in 1990. This document is supplemented by detailed information produced by the society in relation to various industries under consideration by English Heritage’s Monument Protection Programme in the 1980s/90s, of which copies are held by South Yorkshire Archaeology Service as supporting information with the Sites & Monuments Record/Historic Environment Record.

The quantity and quality of the evidence for this period in South Yorkshire is such that this discussion document can only touch the surface of the information available. However, this is not to say that we have, as yet, maximised the information that can be recovered from this evidence – far from it. Archaeological research and fieldwork to date has demonstrated what potential there is and how much there is still to learn. It is hoped that this discussion document will guide such future research, helping us to input to wider perspectives on this key period.

Technology and Production

Iron Industry

In 1709 Abraham Darby successfully smelted iron without charcoal, using coke instead [coal processed to remove impurities]…  the use of coke allowed a great expansion, with numbers of furnaces expanding… The final break in the industry’s dependence on woodlands occurred in 1783-1784: Henry Cort discovered how to convert cast pig-iron into wrought iron without the use of charcoal by using a reverberatory furnace where burning coal was kept separate from the iron. In this process, known as puddling, melting pig-iron was stirred to produce malleable iron that could then be rolled into sheets” (Historic England 2018 p.10)

As yet, evidence for early coke production allied to the local iron industry is scant, but evidence for early coke use does survive. Although Historic England report that “most of the early generation of coke furnaces were obliterated by later developments on their sites” (ibid), Low Mill blast furnace, near Silkstone [NHLE 1004793] is thought to be a charcoal-fuelled furnace that was then modified to use coke and it is known to have been coke fired by 1799 (Bayliss 1995 p.20). As such, the remains here are clearly important to our understanding of this technological advance.

The earliest documented use of this new technology in South Yorkshire is thought to relate to that by the Walker brothers, who had iron works at Masbrough and Holmes in Rotherham (ibid). At Holmes, three blast furnaces are documented by 1770 and there is reference to the second furnace having its stack raised “to enable it to use coke as a fuel” (Munford 2000 p.84). However, above ground evidence here is largely limited to evidence for the Holmes Goit, which provided the water to power the works (Bayliss 1999 p. 21), although evidence may survive below-ground.

The iron works at Elsecar first opened in 1795, for John & William Darwin & Co, with a second blast furnace added in 1800 (ibid); the Dawes brothers leased the site in 1849, after which further blast furnaces are known to have been added (ibid). Paul Abell notes that nearby, the “Milton (ironworks) changed to hot blast in 1836… there was still considerable dispute as to which process produced the better iron, and Elsecar (ironworks) stayed on cold blast” (Abell 1977 p.41). The recent Historic England funded work on the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone is clarifying both the documentary evidence and the nature of the surviving physical evidence for these important iron works (see Rimmer, Went & Jessop 2019). Such research will help clarify adoption of technological advances, such as the introduction of hot blast furnaces (where pre-heated air was blown into the blast furnace to aid the melt).

Wortley Low Forge, Hunshelf, is known to have had a long history of iron working, with bloomeries rebuilt as a forge in the 17th century. Puddling furnaces were added at some time after 1787, allowing for the production of wrought iron using coke instead of charcoal; the tilt hammer used with the puddling furnaces remained water powered. Surviving evidence on the site includes parts of at least two puddling furnaces, as well as remains of the tilt hammer and associated structures [SYSMR 3596, NHLE 1020626]. Remains of a puddling furnace have also been identified at Mousehole Forge, Malin Bridge, Sheffield [SYSMR 1640, NHLE 1004804], which is again thought to have been installed in the late 18th century (see Dawson 2014 and discussion under ‘metal working’ below).

Iron ore mining locally continued to serve these iron works, with individual shaft mines remaining as the preferred technique for extraction. Many shaft mounds still survive, often preserved within later woodland. For example, Bayliss notes areas of ironstone shaft mines at: Tankersley Park golf course, Barnsley – producing for the Milton and Elsecar ironworks; Hugsett Wood, Barnsley – producing for the nearby Parker’s blast furnace; and Thorncliffe Lane, Chapeltown – producing for the adjacent the Newton Chambers’ Thorncliffe Iron Works (Bayliss 1995, p.19).

Surviving shaft mound earthworks are evocative reminders of this industrial landscape. Further research is needed into their extent and condition and of the survival of associated features – as well as research into the date and nature of the mining activity being carried out (see discussion under ‘coal mining’ below). When one such earthwork mound was removed at Kirby Lane, near Thorpe Hesley, in 1997/8, detailed archaeological recording by Ron Fitzgerald allowed a better understanding of the structure to be obtained:

As sectioning proceeded, it became evident that the mound contained a clearly stratified horizon at approximately 1m above natural ground level. When fully exposed, this was revealed to be a compacted, level surface surrounding the central shaft. It is reasonable to conclude that this represents a working platform around the shaft, the pit bank… At the termination of mining, the lessee was usually obliged to fill the shaft and restore the ground to agricultural condition. It seems clear that this would involve recovering surrounding platform material and returning it to the shaft… settlement would result in the column contracting in height, drawing down material from the dome over the shaft and thus creating the characteristic ‘donut’ or annular shape’’ (Saich 2002 p.78-80)

The report on this work went on to say ‘It is now clear that the spread of spoil mounds would formerly have been more extensive than we see today, but that complete recovery has removed many examples’ (ibid p.80). As with investigation of earlier iron mining evidence, Lidar (light detection and ranging) survey and analysis of the results could be an extremely useful technique for helping establish the extent of surviving earthwork evidence; geophysical survey techniques and analysis would be useful in establishing the extent of former shaft mining, where only below-ground evidence may survive.

Figure 2. Lidar survey evidence for a variety of shaft mounds, north of Chapeltown (EA DTM 2m at 10000). © Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015. All rights reserved.

Historic England note that for early mines any surface structures are likely to have been temporary: “the earliest permanent buildings were vertical engine houses for pumping water from mine workings, first introduced in the eighteenth century but not becoming widespread until the nineteenth” (Historic England 2017 p. 12). One such engine house survives at Rockley in Barnsley, built for an engine to help drain a nearby ironstone mine [SYSMR 2805, NHLE 1004821). The East Peak Industrial Heritage Support Programme allowed both an archaeological and condition survey of the engine house, which has a date stone of ‘1813’ (see ArcHeritage 2012a). This work identified that the engine house was built for John & William Darwin & Co., of Elsecar Iron Works, who may well have manufactured components for the engine itself; the company went bankrupt in 1827 and the ironstone mine and engine house became disused after that date (ibid).

Coal Industry

In the Post-Medieval period, coal mining in South Yorkshire was restricted to shallow mining on the western or exposed coalfield. Mining of the exposed coalfield still continued and well preserved shaft mounds at Hood Hill, Rotherham [SYSMR 3551, NHLE 1017747 ], are scheduled as ‘valuable evidence for one aspect of the coal industry in England’, with the scheduling notification adding:

The shaft mounds are exceptionally well-preserved earthworks, each approximately 3m high and 10m diameter, and take the form of a thick collar of spoil and a wide central depression 2m deep. Particularly distinctive is the layout of the shaft mounds: they were clearly sunk in a planned grid pattern, with approximately 20m between shafts in each direction… The plan of the site is believed to represent a single, well-organised period of mining administered by a single landholder. The coal remains lie within the Fitzwilliam estates, where the family of that name have exploited coal resources from the 17th century. It is thought that the Hood Hill shaft mounds represent a rare survival of the family’s organised mining ventures.”  

However, research by the South Yorkshire Industrial History Society suggests that the earthworks here are more likely to be evidence of ironstone extraction, with the ore supplying Elsecar Ironworks between 1795 and c1827; recording and research by Ron Fitzgerald (see discussion of iron mining above) supports this suggestion. It is possible, of course, that such shaft mining would have recovered both ironstone and coal, if encountered. Further research is clearly needed.

Derek Bayliss has suggested that coal mining in the exposed coalfield at this time was more likely to be by drift, with adits driven from the surface where the coal seam outcropped (or basseted), to follow the seam down (Bayliss 1995 p.9). A surviving pedestrian entrance (or footrill) to such a mine can be found at Elsecar, probably built c1795 for the Fitzwilliam estate [SYSMR 2853, NHLE 1315026].

 “[coal] was taken up as a fuel in brewing, distilling and cloth-finishing; in the manufacture of glass and pottery; and in the processing of non-ferrous metals. A dramatic increase in the demand from the coalfields also came from the furnace-based industries…  which consumed coal, or its processed form of coke… Demand was further compounded by the development of the steam engine. Thomas Newcomen’s engine of 1712 was quickly adopted for pumping water out of mines… The free availability of unsalable small coal meant that the efficiency of steam engines was of little concern at collieries. For instance, in 1795 at Elsecar (South Yorkshire) a steam engine of essentially Newcomen’s 1712 design was installed and pumped mine workings until 1923” (Historic England 2018 p.12) 

At Elsecar, as mentioned in the quote above, evidence for coal mining includes the beam engine used to pump Earl Fitzwilliam’s Elsecar New Colliery (Bayliss 1995 p.10) – believed to be the only Newcomen-type engine in its original engine house [SYSMR 2807, NHLE 1004790]. A further atmospheric engine house is located nearby at Rawmarsh, again built for an Earl Fitzwilliam colliery. Known as the Westfield pumping station, this was constructed c.1823. Although now without its engine (as at the Rockley engine house – discussed under ‘iron industry’, above) an associated complex of structures does survive [SYSMR 2805, NHLE 1132777]. This group of engine houses and associated structures are a significant survival from this phase of mining.

Pillar and stall workings associated with earlier coal mining have been seen during later coal working, as well as during ground remediation works for development. Such evidence was investigated and recorded ahead of remediation works at land off Station Road/Manchester Road, Deepcar in 2010. Here, a plan of the workings was produced and two stalls, linked by a cross stall, were investigated in detail; a selection of mining tools were recovered from the workings. Documentary research suggests the coal mining here was part of Lowood’s Wharncliffe Colliery, referenced in 1877, which was associated with a ganister and brickworks on the site above (ArcHeritage 2011a).

What are known as ‘nucleated’ coal mines are usually larger and later concerns. Historic England note “It was not until around the mid-nineteenth century, when steam-powered winding started to replace horse power, that the archetypal pit head with buildings clustered around a pair of shafts really developed… The highly capitalised pitheads that are now seen as emblematic of the coal industry… mainly date to the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries” (Historic England 2017 p.13)

A surviving example of an associated development from this later phase of coal mining is the fan house from East Gawber Hall Colliery, Barnsley [SYSMR 4561, NHLE 1017748], used to extract foul air from the mine. The fanhouse here is designated as a building that “originally housed a Guibal fan, a steam-powered device commonly used for mine ventilation in the late 19th century, and dating in this case to the 1880s… stale air was drawn from the mine shaft through an inlet passage, and expelled through a chimney-like outlet or evasee. The evasee is the site’s most prominent survival, standing to 10m” (Historic England scheduling notification).

Technological advances such as these allowed for deeper mining and, as a result, mining could move east, into the concealed coalfield. Abell notes, of this later phase of mining: ‘As the [19th] century progressed the depth of collieries steadily increased. In 1862 the Oaks Colliery at Barnsley was working coal from shafts 250 yards (75 metres), but only six years later Denaby Colliery became the deepest pit in Yorkshire by producing coal from the Barnsley seam at a depth of 450 yards (135 metres). Twenty years later Cadeby Main was heading for a depth of 750 yards (230 metres), completed in 1893’ (Abell 1977 p.60).

Derek Bayliss (1995 ps.10-13) records the sinking of the following mines, where there was still good surviving structural evidence at that time, which helps to demonstrate the shift eastwards:

  • Hemingfield Colliery, Barnsley – 1842-3 (for Earl Fitzwilliam)
  • Moorhole Colliery, Sheffield – 1855
  • Car House Colliery, Rotherham – 1856
  • Kiveton Park, Rotherham – 1867
  • Denaby Main, Doncaster – 1868
  • Manvers Main, Rotherham – 1868
  • Hickleton Colliery, Doncaster – 1895
  • Handsworth Nunnery Colliery, Sheffield – 1903
  • Silverwood Colliery, Rotherham – 1903
  • Dinnington Colliery, Rotherham – 1905
  • Bentley Colliery, Doncaster – 1905/6
  • Maltby Main, Rotherham – 1910
  • Thorne Colliery, Doncaster – 1910
  • Hatfield Main, Doncaster – 1911/17

Many of the structures at such colliery sites were recorded by the former RCHME in response to planned closures in the late 20th century; detailed recording would be required if any further structures are to be lost. However, consideration of colliery structures under the Monuments Protection Programme, as well as by additional research, has afforded some structures protection through designation. Examples include: Barnsley Main Colliery [NHLE 1413541], with a colliery winding engine house and pit head structures of c.1900 origin, and Kiveton Park Colliery [NHLE 1286364 ], with office buildings dated 1875, built for the Kiveton Park Coal Company.

Well preserved structures at Hemingfield Colliery, Barnsley, which include a stone-built engine house (Bayliss 1995 p. 10), are being researched by the Friends of the Colliery (  and work under the Elsecar HAZ project (mentioned under ‘iron industry’ above) is helping demonstrate their significance [SYSMR 4397].

Associated evidence for coal mining in this period may also be found, such as the Tankersley Rescue Station at Birdwell, c1902. Here buildings are ranged around three sides of a yard and were used for the storage of rescue equipment, as well as transport. The rescue station was built for the West Yorkshire Coal Mine Owners Association and is believed to be the first purpose built Coal Mine Rescue Station in England [SYSMR 4419, NHLE 1376008].

Evidence for associated structures are clearly also likely to survive below-ground, even when the colliery site itself has been cleared of buildings. Work in Deep Pit Park, Sheffield, revealed the remains of a series of coke ovens. Investigation and recording by ARCUS exposed remains of eight ovens, out of a much larger complex. The evidence suggests that these were ‘beehive’ coke ovens. Some had been built with bricks made from refractory clay, which is thought to have begun being used in this area in the 1820s (Saich & Matthews 2007 p.132-3). Deep Pit Colliery is shown on the Ordnance Survey Old Series 1” map, published in 1840 but had gone out of use by the time of the first edition 6” of 1853.

Evidence for later coke ovens was identified ahead of redevelopment of the site of Darfield Main colliery. Investigation of an oven found structural alterations that are suggested to indicate “technical advances to increase its efficiency and/or the recovery of by-products” (ArcHeritage 2011b p.6). Associated research identified a draft deed of 1864/5 that refers to the erection of coke ovens, which would have been shortly after the commencement of mining here (Darfield Main was sunk in 1861-2). Ordnance Survey mapping suggests that these coke ovens were ‘long’ type and that they went out of use between 1906 and 1931 (ibid ps.51-52).

Steel Industry

Tentative origins for the steel industry in South Yorkshire have been discussed in the Post-Medieval section; important technological advances in this period allowed the industry to expand greatly.

“The eighteenth century also saw an expansion in steel production with cementation furnaces (where iron bars were reheated packed in charcoal dust)…  and the perfection of Benjamin Huntsman’s Process in 1740 (producing high quality cast steel using crucible furnaces). The latter sparked the development of Sheffield’s steel and edge tool industries” (Historic England 2018 p.10)

Archaeological work has helped shed light on the two crucial developments mentioned here – the development of the cementation process, which converted iron into steel (known as ‘blister steel’, from its appearance), and the invention of the crucible process, to further refine that steel, making it ideally suited for edge tools. Research by Paul Belford into early steelmaking sites in Sheffield (see Belford in prep) has helped ensure many sites have been considered and investigated in the context of recent development schemes – it is hoped that further research will clarify the location and archaeological potential of other early steelmaking sites in South Yorkshire.

Undoubtedly the most important discovery, to date, has been that of the early cementation furnace at Riverside Exchange, Sheffield – investigated by ARCUS and now preserved in situ. Three furnaces were identified on the site of the former Marshall’s Millsands steelworks, which was established in the 1760s. One was of unusual construction and appears to be an early experimental form, possibly dating to the 1790s (Saich & Matthews 2005 ps. 81-83 and Andrews 2015).

By 1860, over 200 cementation furnaces are recorded locally, but no new ones are known to have been built after c.1880, with the remaining ones going out of use early in the 20th century (Bayliss 1995 p.26). As a result, surviving above-ground evidence for this significant furnace-type is extremely rare. In Sheffield, only one complete furnace survives – one of five built for Daniel Doncaster’s steelworks on Hoyle Street, dating to 1848 (SYSMR 2813, NHLE 1004791] and probably last used in the 1950s. Nearby, on Bower Spring, structural remains of a pair of cementation furnaces survive. These were built c.1828 for Thomas Turton’s Franklin Works and were used till 1911 (Bayliss 1995 p.27). Recently, work in relation to construction of a pocket park on Nursery Street, Sheffield, confirmed that a scar on the adjoining boundary wall is the outline of a further cementation furnace. Documentary evidence indicates a pair of furnaces here by 1862, when they are shown on an engraving of works built for the Cocker Brothers, wire and steel manufacturers. By the 1890s these furnaces are no longer shown on Ordnance Survey mapping but associated below-ground archaeological evidence has been confirmed and the remains are now preserved in situ within the pocket park (Dransfield 2010 p.2).  

Archaeological work on a number of development sites around Sheffield has demonstrated that structural elements of a cementation furnace are likely to survive demolition of its superstructure. Given the significance of these furnaces in the development of the metal trades, where possible, identified examples have been recorded and then reburied, to be preserved in situ. These include cementation furnaces found at: Jessops Riverside, Brightside – part of the former William Jessop & Sons’ Brightside Works (Saich & Matthews 2005 p.86-86), and cementation furnaces identified at Saville House – from the former Don Steel Works of Francis Hobson & Son (Reeves 2011).

Figure 3. Millsands Works – cementation furnace under excavation in 2005 (SYAS)

Where preservation in situ has not been achievable, usually because remains have been identified late in the development process, very detailed investigation has been required. This work has helped to clarify constructional details of the chests, where the iron bars were packed in with charcoal before firing, and of the furnace flues. One such site includes the pair of cementation furnaces recently excavated by Wessex Archaeology at the Footprint Tool site, Hollis Croft, Sheffield. Here work helped clarify construction methods and also provided information about the cementation process itself. Analysis of the slag-like material found at the base and on the sides of the chests confirmed that it is a form of vitrified clay likely to derive from ‘wheelswarf’, a mix of finely ground stone and metal produced during the grinding of edge tools. The wheelswarf mix was used to line and cover the chests, to ensure they were air-tight during firing; the crust that formed on top of the chest would be broken up after the firing and resulting chunks of this rough material, known as ‘crozzle’, were often then used as a material to top walls (Mackenzie 2019 pp.92-93). Such crozzle-topped walls can still be seen around Sheffield – an example alongside Brightside Lane is noted in Bayliss (1995 p.27). Further research into the methods and processes for re-use of such industrial by-products would be useful.

 “The eighteenth century saw many experiments and refinements of metallurgical processes: a number being poorly documented because they were closely guarded secrets. Where such sites are identified, the archaeological deposits can retain valuable technological information” (Historic England 2018 p.11)

Benjamin Huntsman developed the use of clay crucibles (already in use in the glass industry), within an enclosed furnace with a controlled draught, to melt blister steel; the resulting refined steel was then poured (or teemed) into ingot moulds (Bayliss 1995 p.27). Invention of what became known as the crucible process was made before a move to Attercliffe and production of crucible steel there, in a purpose built works c. 1751 (ibid). Arthur Raistrick notes that Huntsman had moved to Handsworth, Sheffield, from Doncaster in 1740 and that it was at Handsworth “he made his workshop and commenced the long series of experiments that were finally successful… He spent a great deal of time in the design and trial of furnaces, and of crucibles and moulds… He experimented for many years, and after his death, pathetic records of his many failures were found, in a large quantity of spoiled steel billets which he had buried round his workshop” (Raistrick1968 p.201).

We are fortunate that there has been research into the development of Huntsman’s Attercliffe Works, by Dr Alan Williams (see, but research into the earlier Handsworth workshop is still awaited. It would be interesting to explore Huntsman’s links with other Quakers in the Handsworth area, who are believed to have been experimenting with steel production themselves (see the Post-Medieval discussion).

The ARCUS excavation at Riverside Exchange produced significant evidence for early crucible steel processing,as well as for cementation steel production – Marshall’s steelworks was an integrated works, i.e. one that included both converting and refining processes. Analysis of two crucibles from a late 18th century context produced evidence for their composition and for the Huntsman refining process, at a time when this was still largely a closely guarded secret (Andrews 2015 ps.51-52). The crucibles were found to be made from a refractory clay, quite likely to have come from a local source such as that at Bolsterstone or Stannington, tempered with 10 – 20% of graphite (by volume), the source of which is currently unknown; the discovery of large quantities of manganese in the slag layer on one of the crucibles demonstrates experimentation with manganese salts as a ‘flux’, to help with the removal of remaining slags in the steel during the melt (Spataro & Craddock 2015). The report adds that by the early 19th century, at the latest, coke dust or ‘breeze’ is known to have replaced graphite as a temper in crucible manufacture – as melting furnaces were fired by coke, coke dust would have been a readily available and cheaper alternative to use (ibid).

Limited evidence for the crucible furnace itself was found at Riverside Exchange but, significantly, an 18th century crucible furnace is known to survive in part at Top Side, Grenoside [SYSMR 4274, NHLE 1408228]. The choice of this location is likely to have been influenced by earlier steel-making activity in Grenoside by the Walker Brothers. As with the cementation process, it is to be hoped that further archaeological research and identification will shed light on the development of the crucible steel process within South Yorkshire in the 18th and early 19th century.

There is better survival of 19th century crucible furnaces than of 19th century cementation furnaces, presumably both because they remained in use for longer – new furnaces are known to have been built up until WWI (Bayliss 1995 p.27) – and because the furnace buildings were well suited to adaptation and re-use (unlike the bottle-shaped structure of the cementation furnace). A number of such crucible furnaces have been formally designated, thanks in part to a thematic study of metal trades buildings carried out by the former RCHME/English Heritage (Wray, Hawkins & Giles 2001). Designated examples of this type of specialist industrial building range from the small scale, such as the 5-melting hole furnace of the Abbeydale Works (now part of the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet), built c1829 [SYSMR 1727, NHLE 1246418]; through the medium scale, such as the 20-melting hole furnace of the Russell Works, built c1860 (now part of Kelham Island Museum)  [NHLE 1392387]; to the only surviving large crucible shop, with 48-melting holes, from the former Darnall Works, built in 1873 [SYSMR , NHLE 1247446].

Figure 4. Clyde Steel Works – crucible furnace under excavation in 2006 (SYAS)

As with the cementation furnace, archaeological investigation has demonstrated that considerable evidence for the below-ground elements of the crucible furnace is likely to survive demolition of the superstructure. Several examples, in various states of preservation, have now been identified and recorded as a result of development-led fieldwork. Examples include:

  • a 12-melting hole furnace from the former Suffolk Works, excavated by ARCUS in 2001-2 (Saich & Matthews 2006 p.98-99, awaiting formal publication);
  • a probable 14-melting hole furnace from the former Central Steel Works, excavated by ARCUS in 2006 (Saich & Matthews 2010 p.131-132), awaiting formal publication);
  • an 8-melting hole furnace from William Hoole’s works of 1816 and a probable 9-melting hole furnace from the slightly later Hoyle Street Works, excavated by ARCUS in 2008 (Saich 2012 p.105-107, now formally published – see Powell 2014).

The mid-19th century example found by ARCUS at 17-39 Mowbray Street, Sheffield, was in such good condition that it warranted building recording rather than excavation. Evidence here included not only the structure of the 12- melting hole furnace itself but also evidence for the associated production of crucibles, in the form of a ‘puddling pit’ for clay preparation and artefacts such as a cast-iron mould for shaping the crucibles prior to drying (Saich & Matthews 2010 p.113-114, now formally published – see Jessop 2007). If similar evidence survives elsewhere, investigation and research may further clarify our understanding of the processes at work.

The final major development of the Sheffield metal trades in this period was the move to bulk steel production, both cementation and crucible furnaces having produced steel in relatively modest quantities (Wray, Hawkins and Giles 2001 p. 7). Henry Bessemer invented a converter in 1855 that allowed bulk steel to be made quickly and cheaply and set up a works in Sheffield in 1858, then licensing John Brown, Cammell and Samuel Fox to use the process in the 1860s (Bayliss 1995 p. 31). Subsequent bulk steel processes that were developed included the Siemens’ reverberatory or open-hearth method (ibid). Archaeological evidence for such later steel production has been found during excavation, for example a Siemens-type furnace from the Don Steel Works (Reeves 2011), possibly used for heat treatment of metals. Other such evidence can be expected to survive where there has not been significant later development. Research into the location and potential of these later steelmaking sites, as with Paul Belford’s research into the early steelmaking sites of Sheffield, would be invaluable – helping ensure associated archaeological evidence is considered in relation to future development schemes across South Yorkshire.


 “Fed by the expansion of iron and steel production was an expansion of forges and foundries converting the raw metal into an ever-increasing range of products for both domestic and export markets. Although some were closely associated with blast furnaces…  others, such as the forges and rolling mills at Wortley near Sheffield, were separate concerns.” (Historic England 2018 p.11)

A number of the sites of water-powered forges and grinding wheels in and around Sheffield survive and have been recognised as being of national importance, given the significance of the metal trades – as a result, many are protected through designation. At Wortley Top Forge on the River Don, a water-powered heavy forge, associated with the local iron industry and first mentioned in the 17th century, has a surviving layout thought to be mid-19th century in date, but with 18th century elements [SYSMR , NHLE 1018262]; two tilt hammers survive with their restored waterwheels – a third wheel would have provided draught to the furnaces, latterly used for producing railway axles (Bayliss 1995 p.23). Bayliss notes that this was one of ‘a series of heavy forges along the Don from Wortley to Conisbrough, and some on the larger tributaries. Lighter forges were used to make scythes’ (ibid). At Mousehole Forge on the Rivelin [SYSMR 1640, NHLE 1004804], again originally associated with the local iron industry, remains survive of two early 19th century forge hammers with associated wheelpits and other features, used latterly for the production of anvils. A survey carried out here for the East Peak Industrial Heritage Support Programme, prior to conservation works, recorded remains of the forge buildings, the dam wall and the east hammer – the west hammer having previously collapsed; remains of an early puddling furnace were also identified – discussed under ‘iron industry’ above (see Dawson 2014).

We are fortunate that the history of water power and the development of the Sheffield metal trades has been well studied (see Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006) and similar research has been undertaken for sites along the River Dearne (see Umpleby 2000) but documentary research to cover other rivers would be welcome. Archaeological investigation can help to unravel the history of the metal trades’ use of water powered sites and supplement the evidence gained from archive research, as well as from standing structures.

Wisewood Forge on the River Loxley [SYSMR 1659] is known to have been recorded as a grinding wheel in the 17th century and as a forge and rolling mill by 1845. It is also known to have been rebuilt after the Sheffield Flood of 1864, with two wheels to work hammers or rolls in buildings on either side of the central wheelpit (Bayliss 1995 p.24). The dam and wheelpit survived as visible features at the time of archaeological investigation by ARCUS in 2003, when remains of two buildings to the north of the wheelpit were identified. One, of late 18th century to early 19th century date, was found to have contained six grinding troughs for working smaller edge tools; the second may have originally been constructed as a wheel-house, for transferring power to the grinding troughs, but by the mid 19th century it housed a tilt hammer and anvil (Saich & Matthews 2007 ps. 95-97). It was not clear from the excavated evidence whether the hammer and anvil pre- or post-dated the 1864 flood and it was hoped that dendrochronological dating of the timbers forming the anvil base could clarify this. However, post-excavation work on the results of this significant excavation were not completed; future research may be able to address this question.

“craft industries prospered alongside, and indeed were symbiotic with, the new power-driven industries of the Industrial Revolution. Factory-production, although becoming dominant towards the end of the period, did not command a monopoly of industrial production; for instance, the so-called ‘little meisters’ of Sheffield (South Yorkshire) – small-scale producers of knives and other edge tools – operated within striking distance of the large scale furnaces and industrial rolling mills of the Don Valley” (Historic England 2017 p.2)

Water-powered grinding wheels were a vital component of the cutlery and edge tool trades. Derek Bayliss notes that “by the 18th century the industry had been divided into three main trades, the forger, who fashioned the blade, the grinder, who gave it its edge, and the cutler who finished it and fitted it with a handle’ (Bayliss 1995 p. 42). As in the Post-Medieval period, small workshops associated with elements of this trade continued in use and standing structures may survive in more rural areas. An example is the outbuilding and forge at Sykehouse, Dungworth, which is thought to be dated c1800 (NHLE 1281549) (Bayliss 1995 ps. 42-43). This complex was recorded by the former RCHME in relation to a scheme for conversion and alteration: the forge was found to have two hearths, in opposite corners of the room, with space in the centre of the building for metalworking; large mullioned windows on three sides of the building would have provided light and ventilation; the nature of the goods produced is not known but it is likely to have been small edge tools (Sykes 1999). 

The tradition of combining farming and metalworking, on a largely seasonal basis, clearly continued well into this period – not just in the cutlery industry but also in the nailmaking industry. As a result, nailmaking workshops may still survive, particularly in the area north of Sheffield. A good example is at Hoylandswaine, where a row of three nailshops survive, thought to be early-mid 19th century in date [NHLE 1276175] (Bayliss 1995 p.25). Where such metalworking workshops are known or suspected, further archaeological investigation may help clarify the nature of the work being undertaken.

Within urban areas, where earlier and smaller workshops have been lost as a result of later development, buried archaeological evidence may be the only evidence for the location and character of metalworking in the early Industrial period. Those areas where there was such metalworking in the Post-Medieval period can be expected to have continued as centres for such work. In Sheffield, the Crofts area has been demonstrated to be an area containing just such small workshops. For example, excavation by ARCUS, in 2006, on land off Tenter Street, confirmed that remains of 19th century buildings and courtyards sealed 18th century features. On excavation, this earlier phase was found to have included small-scale metal working, possibly involving forging, smelting and cutlery working. In the late 18th – early 19th century a single hole crucible furnace had been constructed; a nearby find of an almost complete crucible with partially melted contents, small blades and scissor parts, implies that metal recycling was taking place (Saich & Matthews 2010 ps. 131 – 132). Publication of this significant excavation is currently awaited.

The thematic study of metal trade buildings carried out by RCHME/English Heritage (Wray, Hawkins & Giles 2001) (mentioned under the steel industry, above) looked at about one hundred surviving standing buildings in and around Sheffield. These included building involved ‘in the manufacture of cutlery, edge tools, silver plate, Britannia metal and electroplate, and related trades such as stove grate manufacture, haft and scale cutters’ works… the very distinctive buildings housing these processes can be found both singly and as part of a group within an integrated works. The majority of the sites recorded were 19th century in date… The recent decline of the industry means that many buildings, which combine to give Sheffield a unique industrial character, are no longer used for their original purposes’ (Wray 2002). As well as identifying buildings that warranted designation, this study has – as with Paul Belford’s research into early steelmaking sites – helped to identify buildings warranting more detailed archaeological investigation and recording ahead of alteration or demolition.

Designated buildings range from smaller workshops, such as those at 52-56 Garden Street, Sheffield [NHLE 1270591], to substantial, purpose built cutlery works, such as the Beehive Works, Milton Street, Sheffield [NHLE 1271239]. Building recording in advance of development works included that at the former Kendal Works, Carver Street [NHLE 1247044] – designated as a typical example of the small scale courtyard workshops characteristic of Sheffield and with an associated scissor forge [NHLE 1247045]. The recording by ARCUS in 2004, ahead of conversion works, demonstrated how important it is that recording takes place before the contents of the building have been cleared if maximum information is to be gathered (Saich & Matthews 2007 ps. 122-123).

The same level of attention has not yet been spent on research into metal trade buildings and sites found outside Sheffield but the wider area, particularly Rotherham, played an important part in the local development of the metals trades. The Walker Brothers’ origins in Grenoside and later works at Holmes and Masborough in Rotherham have already been mentioned. Derek Bayliss notes that both Rotherham and Sheffield foundries specialised in ‘the production of stove grates, firegrates, fenders and kitchen ranges, often with elegant or, by the mid-19thC, elaborate decoration’ (Bayliss 1995 p.22) and adds that Rotherham had an ‘important wrought iron trade in the 19th and early 20th century. Products included sheet iron, armour plate and boiler plates, rails, wheels, axles and crankshafts’ (ibid p.23) – see also discussion of the Rotherham railway trades under ‘Waggonways & Railways’ below..

The production and use of non-ferrous metals, such as brass & bronze, is an aspect of South Yorkshire’s metal trades that warrants further investigation (Rod Mackenzie pers. comm.). As well as being needed by the plumbing trades, these metals must have been used in cutlery and edge tool works, and copper alloy production residues have been identified in archaeological investigation of sites in Sheffield (ibid). Further research into the use of copper alloys in the cutlery/tool trade is clearly needed.

The techniques for producing copper alloys are similar to those used to produce crucible steel, the main difference being that brass/bronze casting probably requires a lower temperature (around 500-600 Celsius) than that needed to produce crucible steel (ibid). As such, it is possible that some features seen in archaeological excavation of metal trade sites in Sheffield are related to copper alloy working, rather than steel processing. Analysis of recovered crucible fragments from metal trade sites may be key to our understanding of the relationship between the working of these two types of metal. For example, analysis of crucible fragments found in a late 18th/early 19th century context by ARCUS during excavations on Nursery Street in 2003 suggest they were probably used for melting brass (Mackenzie 2003 p.108).

Figure 5. Building for Rotherham brass founders, Guest & Chrimes, in 2007 (SYAS)

Standing structures from later brass foundries may also survive. The melting furnace and associated workshop of Williams Brothers’ Fastener Works on Green Lane, Sheffield, have been designated as an example of a furnace used for the casting of a non-ferrous metal, unlike the majority of surviving crucible furnace structures; the listing description notes that the furnace has the same form as that used for crucible steel [NHLE 1392551]. Research by Mark Fletcher of Matrix Archaeology suggests the furnace here had been constructed for a brass caster prior to 1868 (Saich & Matthews 2007 p. 110).

Brass founding was to become a Rotherham speciality in the 19th century (Munford 2000 p.111).  Built c.1857, the later works of Guest & Chrimes, inventors of the screw-down tap in 1845 (ibid.), are designated [NHLE 1192221]. However, this building complex has been partially demolished and its future is uncertain. Other brass foundries within the town have already been lost – although archaeological evidence may survive below-ground.

Lead Industry

The relationship with the adjoining Derbyshire lead industry outlined in the Post-Medieval discussion continued in the 18th and into the 19th century. By the 1780s, ore hearth smelting had been replaced by the introduction of the coal-fired reverberatory furnace, or cupola – with the resulting slag often still being resmelted in a slag mill, to recover additional metal (Willies 1990 p.3). The cupola relied on a tall chimney to provide draught and hence could be sited anywhere convenient but the bellows used in the slag mill, or hearth, were still usually water-powered – meaning that much smelting continued in valley locations, particularly on existing smelting sites (ibid. p.6). 

From documentary references, cupola smelting is known to have replaced an earlier ore hearth at Oldhay, Totley, by 1737 (SYSMR PIN 01718). The date of commencement of cupola smelting on a new site at Barber Fields, Ringinglow (SYSMR PIN 03727), close to a ready supply of coal, is unknown but smelting is known to have been taking place here by 1758.

Willies notes “The problem of fumes given off by the process in the eighteenth century was largely ignored, with compensation given for poisoned stock where necessary… In the 19th century [a flue that entrapped condensate] became widely adopted, the “fume” produced first being smelted in the slag mill, but at a later date in the cupola” (ibid p.3). 

Such a smelting site has not, as yet, been archaeologically investigated in South Yorkshire, but the site of an associated lead works has been. A white lead works ‘newly erected’ in 1759 alongside an existing cutlers’ wheel [SYSMR PIN 1739] was investigated in Sheffield ahead of redevelopment. The works stayed in use until 1903 and is known to have later included a red lead house. Debris recovered during the excavation by ARCUS was sampled and identified as a conglomerate of red and white lead oxides; a number of internally glazed pottery vessels recovered were found to hold residues containing lead as well as lead oxide (Saich & Matthews 2006 p.100-101). It is interesting to note here that Willies discussed the use of fume from flues: “in the nineteenth century grey lead or fume could be treated so as to produce a “white lead”’ (Willies 1990 p.16), which could be sold for use by painters.

Glass industry

“The glass industry maintained its progress with the adoption of the distinctive glass cones (brick built covers over reverberatory and annealing furnaces) which became distinctive elements of the skyline…  Catcliffe [glass cone], Rotherham (South Yorkshire)… [is] dated 1740, it is thought to be the oldest largely intact surviving example in Europe.” (Historic England 2018 p.11)

As well as the glass works at Catcliffe, where the surviving cone [NHLE 1004819] is from a pair built c1740 [SYSMR 2778], glass production continued at the earlier Bolsterstone works [SYSMR 2852, NHLE 1004803] and cones were also constructed at Gawber [SYSMR 2926],  Masbrough [SYSMR 3572] and Attercliffe [SYSMR 3528, NHLE 1021424]. Below-ground evidence can be expected to survive, even when the above ground structure has been demolished. For example, a trial trench excavated on the site of the former Attercliffe glass cone, by ARCUS in 2005, identified structures with evidence of damage from high temperatures, suggesting they were remains from the former glass furnace (Saich & Matthews 2010 p.159). As well as structural remains of a furnace, evidence in the form of associated manufacturing debris can be expected, analysis of which is recommended – see Post-Medieval discussion for analysis of the earlier glassworking waste from Silkstone.

By the end of the 19th century there were 25 glassworks in South Yorkshire, with the main products being bottles, jars and other containers (Bayliss 1995 p.17). Use of cone furnaces continued but use of the Siemens’ tank furnace spread rapidly in the late 19th century, becoming universal for the bulk of glass manufacture (Ashurst 1992 ps.77-84). Excavation on the site of the New Don Works at Mexborough, undertaken by Wessex Archaeology, revealed two chambers of a Siemens-Martin regenerative furnace, for the mass production of pre-annealed glass; built in 1891–2, this would have been an early use of this new technology. Recovered glass and glassmaking debris suggests the works was mainly producing Codd-bottles, for carbonated drinks (Wessex 2012 p.v).

Clay Industries

Chris Cumberpatch notes in his discussion of pottery production, produced for the research framework  “The early modern period saw the rise of industrial scale pottery manufacture in Britain generally and in Yorkshire in particular, the importance of which has been overshadowed, at least in archaeology, by a focus on the Staffordshire pottery industry… known potteries [include those] at Sheffield Manor, Bolsterstone, Silkstone, Midhope and Rockingham”. Of these sites, it is interesting to note the re-use of glass working sites, such as Bolsterstone and Silkstone – what Denis Ashurst described as “a not uncommon sequel” to glass production (Ashurst 1992 p.24). As a result, investigation of such sites may be able to provide evidence for both industries – as the work by English Heritage at Silkstone demonstrated (Dungworth et al 2006), although neither fieldwork here nor at Bolsterstone (Wessex Archaeology 2011) identified the location of the pottery kiln itself.

Later production sites also have the opportunity to show the inter-relationship of production for different products, such as the excavation at Denaby Main of what was probably the site of the 19th century Denaby Pottery, in 2001 by UMAU. Four kiln bases were identified, along with a number of pottery waster dumps – documentary evidence suggested the works were later reused as a bone mill and this was confirmed by the discovery of a quantity of bone fragments. The adapted works reduced and milled bone, possibly for glue and fertiliser (Saich & Matthews 2005 p.57 and Saich & Matthews 2006 p.59).

Please the dedicated page linked below for a fuller description of the local pottery industries and the associated research issues:

There was further cross-over in production with the brick & tile industry. Historic England note:

 “Brick production… increased in the nineteenth century, not least following the repeal of the Brick Tax in 1850 which stimulated the introduction of mechanised techniques. Brick production soared, and many new types of kiln were introduced on the continuous working principle invented by Hoffman in 1858, such as the scheduled example in Sheffield, built in 1879. Though intermittent kilns continued in use at construction sites and for specialised products (and indeed survived in use until the later twentieth century), kilns on the Hoffman principle, with many refinements of arrangement and firing, became the dominant type” (Historic England 2018 p.16)

Alongside purpose built kilns, like the Hoffman kiln mentioned above [NHLE 1021089], there is also archaeological evidence for reuse of earlier pottery production sites. Excavation by Pre-Construct Archaeology at a site on the evocatively named Claypit Lane, Rawmarsh, revealed the base of two bottle kilns from the 19th century Meadow Works. Although these may originally have been used for firing pottery, they were later converted for firing bricks, tiles, sanitary pipes and chimney pots (Saich & Matthews 2007 p.85).

Figure 6. Kiln at Claypit Lane, Rawmarsh, under excavation in 2003 (SYAS)

Clay tobacco pipe production does not seem to have been related to other, earlier kiln sites in the same way – although our understanding of the industry locally is still sketchy. We are lucky that some research has been carried out (see White 2004 for the period up to 1800) but, as yet, few production sites have been investigated. A small kiln base associated with broken pipes was identified at Church Street, Doncaster in 1972 [SYSMR PIN 05077] (see Buckland, Magilton & Hayfield 1989 p. 200-201) and a probable production site was investigated at Nursery Street, Sheffield, although no certain kiln base was identified [SYSMR PIN 05495] (see Lines 2003). There is clearly much more to do to properly understand the importance of this industry within South Yorkshire. Detailed recording and analysis of clay pipes found during excavation, to help identify as yet unknown makers from their marks is needed.

Textile industry

Derek Bayliss notes that “By the 18th century the woollen trade was mainly in the area of Penistone, an outlier of the West Yorkshire industry” (Bayliss 1995 p.53) and adds “A linen industry centred on Barnsley began to expand in the 1740s… Unlike woollen weavers’ lofts, linen loomshops were mostly in cellars or basements, where the damper air made the yarn less likely to snap on the loom” (ibid p.54). Archaeological research of surviving buildings associated with this textile industry is still badly needed.

As with the early metalworkers, more research is needed into the crossover between residential and industrial, as much weaving was being carried out on hand-looms in cottages. Linen weaving in cottages in and around Barnsley (including at Dodworth and Ardsley) continued even after steam-powered mills were introduced to the town c.1837 (ibid). Useful research by Harold Taylor needs to be expanded and extended to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the development of the textile industry in this period (see Taylor 2018).

A few buildings associated with the later linen industry survive, such as the former warehouse on St Mary’s Place, Barnsley [NHLE 1151124] and these are significant. Below-ground evidence may also survive, as was seen in the evaluation by ARCUS at the site of the former Redbrook Mill in 2005 (SYSMR PIN 04594). Although limited evidence for the 18th century bleachery phase was identified, a number of structures from the later linen mill were uncovered, including the floor of the weaving room, backfilled cellars of a winding room, and wheel pits associated with the former engine house (Saich & Matthews 2010 p. 54-55).

Transport & Communication

Growing industrial activity was very dependent on improvements in the transportation network, with improvements helping increase production by “opening up new markets and reducing the transport costs of raw materials. Improved transport also allowed the spread of industrialisation into new areas” (Historic England 2018 p. 14). This period saw a number of key developments in the transport system, which either survive or evidence for which survives within South Yorkshire.

Inland Navigable Waterways

The importance of inland navigation and inland ports in the Post-Medieval period has been highlighted and this importance continued into the Industrial period: “River navigations predate canals, were constantly improved throughout the canal era and, as far as commercial carrying use is concerned, outlived most of the canal system. Their non-tidal sections were a fundamental part of the 19th century inland waterway system” (Falconer 2017 p.38).

The above quote comes from Keith Falconer’s excellent appraisal of canal and river navigations, which covers many of the aspects we might want to consider. With regard to the River Don, Falconer says: “below Doncaster it flowed through low lying land… above Doncaster the river was much steeper with weirs for mills and the final section from Tinsley to Sheffield was so problematical that it was omitted from the 1726 Don Navigation Improvement Act… Above Doncaster all the locks had finally been built by 1751 and the 33 mile long navigation now had nine miles of cuts and 17 locks suitable for 30-ton vessels” (ibid p.45). The opening of the navigation saw the decline of Doncaster as an inland port. Derek Holland notes that “By 1751 the Navigation was open up to Tinsley, where wharves and warehouses had been built” (Holland 1980 p. 32). Such wharves and warehouses would have been built at each ‘head’ of the navigation as it was extended: to Aldwarke in 1733, to Rotherham in 1740 and then to Tinsley in 1751 (Bayliss 1995 p.64).  

Once built, Falconer adds that navigable waterways would have been frequently upgraded, often to carry commercial traffic with larger vessels. He notes “During the 20th century, there were several plans to upgrade the Don itself, to handle larger craft. It was eventually upgraded to take 700-tonne barges in 1983… At Kilnhurst and Long Sandall, the new larger locks were built alongside the original locks, and so a comparison of the relative sizes can be made” (ibid p.49). As a result of such regular upgrading, few early features survive on the Don navigation but those that do are significant. The mid 18th century Strawberry Lock in Doncaster is designated [NHLE 1314870], as is the wharf at Waterside, Thorne [NHLE 1151572], which is thought to be a mid-19th century modification to allow transhipment between keels and larger vessels for onward transportation to the Humber (Bayliss 1995 p. 65).

Navigations were soon followed by the construction of artificial canals and Falconer notes “It is generally recognised that there was a Pioneer Phase from 1760 to 1780 typified by the canals surveyed, designed and engineered by James Brindley, John Smeaton and their pupils and associates” (Falconer 2017 p.52). In South Yorkshire, Brindley was the Surveyor and Chief Engineer for the Chesterfield Canal, working with John Varley & Hugh Henshall (ibid). The canal opened in  1777 and its construction was to impact on the inland port at Bawtry – Derek Holland notes “the wharf [at Bawtry] began to decay upon completion of the Chesterfield canal in 1777, as this new waterway from Chesterfield to Stockwith (on the Trent) sapped away… trade” (Holland 1980 p. 34).

Keith Falconer comments that “The Chesterfield Canal, another early canal, with its problematic Norwood Tunnel, … is now being valued and partially restored and thorough archaeological recording preceded the work on innovative staircase formations of Thorpe and Turnerwood locks (1192731)” (Falconer 2017 p.56 – 58). The recording work mentioned was carried out by Mike Coxah and Lynne Gardner for British Waterways ahead of restoration of these Grade II listed locks. Their work suggested that further research would be warranted into both the original byweir system and the anchorage system for the lock walls of this early canal (Saich & Matthews 2006 p.119-121).

Figure 7. One of the Thorpe group of locks on the Chesterfield Canal, during recording in 2001 (SYAS)

Falconer goes on to note “The economic turmoil caused by the American War of Independence… put a considerable dampener on the expansion of the canal system from the mid-1770s to the mid-1780s so that even schemes requiring only modest amounts of capital had difficulty in raising finances” (Falconer 2017 p.59). However, Paul Abell notes an exception – in 1775, the Marquis of Rockingham, who wanted to develop the coal-pits on his land at Greasbrough, “built a canal from the River Don to Greasbrough Ings (1½ miles/2½ km.), with branches added to Sough Bridge and Newbiggin” (Abell 1977 p.25) and adds: “most canal construction was financed by issues of shares, which were often made repeatedly if funds ran short. The obvious exception is the Greasborough Canal, which was built by the Marquis of Rockingham over his own land with his own money, so did not even require an act of Parliament (which in itself saved money)” (ibid p. 26).

Between 1791 and 1794, construction of canals picked up again and in South Yorkshire this period saw work on a number of canals commence. Falconer notes, of these canals, that a number, including “the Barnsley, the Dearne & Dove… served coal mining areas and prospered and declined with that industry and suffered severely from subsidence” (ibid p.68). For such coalfield canals “dismemberment due to subsidence and consequent breaches has meant that some structures [have gone]… on the Barnsley the Dearne Aqueduct, its main feature, has been demolished. Similarly many of the branches, and most of the private branches… have gone” (ibid p.71-72). However, it would be wrong to assume that closure and loss of visible features, means that evidence for these canals has been completely lost. Archaeological work has demonstrated that much can survive below ground. For example, work by ARCUS in 2006, at Canal Street, Barnsley, revealed evidence for a dry dock and part of the main canal wall of the Barnsley Canal. The canal wall was constructed of substantial sandstone blocks and most of the dry dock’s wall was too, except for one corner – where wooden sleepers had been used; it was suggested this area could have acted as a fender for incoming barges (Saich & Matthews 2010 p.55-56).

The stretch of canal from the terminus of the Don Navigation at Tinsley into Sheffield was finally completed in 1819. Keith Falconer notes that the Victoria Basin, at the head of the Sheffield Canal retains a number of related buildings, including “the original Terminal Warehouse of 1819, (Gd II* 1247016) the Straddle Warehouse (1895–1898), a grain warehouse (c1860) and a curved terrace of coal merchant’s offices (c1870)” (ibid p.193).

Falconer’s report discusses the variety of features that might be found in association with canals, which might survive even where the canal itself is ‘lost’ (based on Falconer 2017 p. 4):

  • Earthworks – Tunnels and horse lanes, cuttings and embankments, retaining walls.
  • Changing Levels – Locks, inclines and lifts.
  • Water Supply – Reservoirs, weirs and pumping stations.
  • Crossings – Aqueducts, Bridges.
  • Operation – Lock keepers’ and lengthmens’ cottages, tollhouses and offices, company housing and company workshops, dry docks and gauging locks.
  • Trading – Inland ports, basins, interchange facilities, cranes, warehouses and hotels.

Further research into the overall working of the canals within South Yorkshire is still needed – in particular, research into associated water management features, such as reservoir/feeder ponds and ancillary watercourses. Falconer notes  “Supplying water to summit levels of canals was always one of the major problems facing canal engineers… It was not until the 1790s that reservoirs became usual features of new canals… Reservoirs from this decade still in use and the responsibility of British Waterways in 2009 (include) Harthill (Chesterfield Canal 1796)” (ibid p.157-8) and adds, in relation to later canals: “The two reservoirs on the Dearne & Dove at Elsecar and Worsbrough also date from this decade [the 1790s] and the dam c.1799 of the latter above the corn mill of the same name may be worthy of assessment for designation” (ibid p.158).

The last commercial canal constructed in South Yorkshire was the New Junction Canal, which opened in 1905, linking the Don Navigation and Stainforth & Keadby canal [completed 1802] with the Aire & Calder Navigation, as a route to the Humber ports. Falconer notes “The 5 mile long canal has one lock, five lift or swing bridges and two aqueducts with the one over the River Don protected by large guillotine gates, which can be lowered when the Don is in spate, to prevent the surrounding countryside from being flooded” (ibid p.84). This extension of the system helps demonstrate that freight use of the waterways system continued into the 20th century, despite the competition from railways (see below).

Roads & Turnpikes

Alongside improvements in inland navigation came inevitable improvements in roads, to upgrade existing packhorse routes. The 1726 Don Navigation Improvement Act allowed the Company of Cutlers “to make and repair a good road” from the then Tinsley terminus into Sheffield, and to charge tolls for goods transported on it (Abell 1977 p.24).

Up to this point, maintenance of roads had largely been the responsibility of the local parish but the establishment of turnpikes in the 18th century allowed tolls to be raised from road users, for the upkeep of more major routes. Paul Abell suggests that “their establishment in Yorkshire often came after river improvements… partly because these stimulated trade in their neighbourhood but also as a way of avoiding part of the river tariffs” (Abell 1977 p.20). Although Derek Holland notes “long distance road travel for people…  was considerably improved by the process of turnpiking important routes. But goods transport by roads remained expensive and inefficient… no-one moved bulky goods by road if water transport was available” (Holland 1980 p. 32).

The early turnpike roads may not have been much of an improvement on existing routes (Radley & Penny 1972 p.95), resulting in the need for later improvements:

In the ten years before and after 1800 there was an increasing number of diversions to existing roads… the most notable achievement of this period is the lengthening of the older routes to give them a better gradient. New techniques of construction allowed roads to be cut into hillsides on terracing and to be built in some of the deep valleys along the banks of rivers… Even whole roads were re-routed” (ibid. p.97).

As a result of these works, many routes that are described as packhorse routes, including in the South Yorkshire SMR (see, for example, SYSMR PIN 04283 – packhorse road, Dunford) are likely to be packhorse routes that were also early turnpikes. The Dunford route, for example, is marked as ‘old turnpike road’ for the Doncaster and Salter’s Brook Trust on the first edition OS 6” map of 1854. David Hey notes that many earlier wooden bridges were replaced by stone structures in the late 17th  and 18th  centuries, in response to more traffic and heavier waggons, and adds:

The delightfully picturesque packhorse bridges that lie on abandoned routes in the upper reaches of streams and rivers are often said to be medieval, but in fact they appear to date from the century between the accession of Charles II and that of George III… Old and quaint they may now appear, but they were the product of an age which was concerned to improve its highways in response to the growing demands of the traders who used them” (Hey 1980 p.80-85).

There is clearly a need for research to help us better understand the relationships between earlier routes and early turnpike roads, as well as of associated structures, such as the wayside inns used by the carriers. Currently, some of these abandoned inn sites are noted on the South Yorkshire SMR, such as the site of the Miller’s Arms (SYSMR PIN 04285) at Dunford, on the later Doncaster and Salter’s Brook Trust turnpike, while others are not, such as the site of the Old Salter’s Brook inn, adjacent to the earlier route nearby.

Turnpikes, like canals, would suffer from competition with the railways. The closure of the tollgate at Hunters Bar in 1884 is seen as the end of the turnpike system in Sheffield ( accessed 12-5-2020). Many surviving features from the turnpike road system are likely to be recognised as significant and to be designated: examples include milestones, such as that at Clough Green, Cawthorne – for the Barnsley & Shepley Lane Head turnpike c.1825 [NHLE 1286788]; toll houses, such as Toll Bar Cottage, Norton – for the Doncaster-Selby turnpike, built 1832-33 [NHLE 1151466]; and the reconstructed toll gate at Hunters Bar, Sheffield [NHLE 1270820].

Waggonways & Railways

There is also a relationship between the development of the canal system and the development of horse-drawn waggonways, also known as tramroads or plateways. When discussing the construction of the Greasborough canal for the Marquis of Rockingham, described above, Paul Abell notes “At Greasborough there was a system of waggonways… which developed to feed coal to the canal from the outlying coal-pits. These waggonways were the ancestors of railways, trains of four-wheeled wagons each carrying about two tons being pulled by a horse” (Abell 1977 p.25) and went on to say “whilst the line of the waggonway had to be reasonably level to give the horse a chance of pulling its train, it was possible to use rope-worked inclines to climb hills, so waggonways were often laid as feeders to canals and rivers through hilly country… Thus the first railways at Greasborough ran from the Cinder Bridge to pits at White Gate, 1½ miles away south of Wentworth Park, with a ½ mile branch running south from near White Hall to pits round Bassingthorpe” (ibid p.25-26). There is still evidence for waggonways, as well as coal pits, within woodland at Bassingthorpe Spring, to the southwest of Greasbrough. An assessment by ARCUS, in advance of woodland management works by Rotherham MBC, suggested these are the remains of waggonways shown on a 1774 plan of Bassingthorpe Colliery, linking the colliery to the Don Navigation – although some remains may also relate to later re-use of the main waggonway as a mineral railway (Saich & Matthews 2010 p.100-101).

Derek Bayliss notes that such waggonways were in use between the Sheffield Park Colliery and Sheffield town by the 1720s and adds “flanged iron rails to carry unflanged wheels, invented by John Curr in Sheffield for use underground, were used in tramroads in 1790s, with iron edge rails with flanged wheels by 1820s” (Bayliss 1995 p. 65). Surviving stone sleeper blocks to carry the rails of such a waggonway can be seen at Silkstone [SYSMR 4948],  part of a route in use from 1809-1860, from the collieries at Silkstone Common to Barnby Basin, at the head of the Barnsley Canal.  An extension of 1½ miles was added around 1830 to reach Huskar Colliery and a large proportion of this route is known to have been cabled inclined plane. Funding awarded by the East Peak Innovation Partnership allowed investigations of the route of this waggonway, including geophysical surveys aimed at locating the routes of branch lines (ArcHeritage 2012b); a community excavation looked for evidence of the track itself and at an associated workshop (Weldrake 2013).

Waggonways were not only used in coal-mining areas; Derek Holland notes that they were also used in quarrying areas for transporting stone, another bulky material (Holland 1980 p.34). Evidence for such a use has been identified at Levitt Hagg, Warmsworth, where a series of tramroads ran from the limestone quarries down to the River Don [SYSMR 4172].

When considering the significance of surviving evidence for such waggonways, it may be useful to consider their relationship with later railways. Bertram Baxter notes “The builders of these early lines have, perhaps, not had the recognition that is their due as the first railway engineers, who learned to construct formations, build bridges, embankments and tunnels, and lay drained track” (Baxter 1966 p.29).

The first modern railway to open in South Yorkshire was the Sheffield & Rotherham Railway, which opened in 1838 (Abell 1977 p.53). This connected Earl Fitzwilliam’s collieries at Greasbrough to the town of Sheffield, at the Wicker – helping his coal to compete in the town with that produced more locally by the Duke of Norfolk’s collieries (ibid). Next was the North Midland Railway, opened in 1840, which operated north-south between Derby and Leeds via Rotherham (ibid). The Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, which had started construction in 1837, opened to a terminus at Bridgehouses, Sheffield, in 1845 and was an important trans-Pennine route (ibid). Its construction included building the Woodhead Tunnel [SYSMR 4751], the longest railway tunnel in Britain when built – the first tunnel opened in 1845, a second parallel tunnel in 1852, both were closed to traffic in 1954 (Bayliss 1995 p.66). Further east, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) opened in 1849 and “made Doncaster an industrial centre of national importance, a centre for the production of steam railway engines, coaches and wagons” (Holland 1980 p.46). The GNR route skirted to the west of Doncaster town centre and it was here that an associated engineering works, known as the Plant, was constructed c.1852-3 (ibid). The original Plant Works buildings survive and are listed [NHLE 1314901], as is the original erecting shops and boiler shop of 1853 [NHLE 1151419], and the later locomotive erecting workshop of 1890-1891 [NHLE 1420744]. Other railway works at Doncaster included the Crimpsall repair shop of 1901 (Bayliss 1995 p.40). Proposals to demolish buildings that formed part of this works led to recording of the former engine shed by the Scott Wilson consultancy in 2007. The engine shed had four principal bays, each served by three lines of track, meaning that the repair shed could have housed over 100 engines at maximum productivity – when built, the works was thought to be a model of engine repair shop design (Saich 2012 p. 79-80).

Figure 8. Railways around Doncaster c1914, showing the number of collieries connected to the network, as well as the railway works at Doncaster (Amended from Abell 1977)

As well as stimulating industrial development around Doncaster, the railways had an impact on industrial activity elsewhere in South Yorkshire. Anthony Munford notes “in the nineteenth century Rotherham played an important part in the development of the railway as a means of transport”. Isaac Dodds was the engineer for the Sheffield & Rotherham railway and Munford adds “Dodds is credited with the invention of the locomotive turntable and the volute, or conical spring, used in railway buffers. Together with William Owen, of the Phoenix Foundry [Masbrough], he patented a number of improvements to the manufacture of railway wheels, the forging of crank shafts, automatic couplings, etc” (ibid p.134). Snell’s account of the life of Isaac Dodds notes “the original turntable was installed by Dodds a short time after the Sheffield & Rotherham Railway was opened… In 1839 and 1840 there were two sets of turntables in use on this railway at the Sheffield terminus and another set at Rotherham” (Snell 1921 p.59-60). Dodds’ obituary, in the 1884 Proceedings for the Institution of Civil Engineers, adds information about further innovations:

In the latter part of 1850 Mr. Dodds took his eldest son, Mr. T. W. Dodds, into partnership, and re-commenced the Holmes Engine and Railway Works, Rotherham. It must be admitted that by the introduction of steeled rails by Messrs. Dodds, who had great prejudices to overcome, but who persevered and spent freely to prove the economy, increased durability, and superior working of steel as against iron, they were the ‘pioneers’ of the rails which railway companies have now almost entirely adopted” (quoted on accessed 12-5-2020).

As a result of their experimentation in the production of steel for rails, patents were awarded in 1853 for a modified cementation furnace, to produce blister steel, “that admitted of being charged and drawn without interfering with the heat or combustion… Messrs. Dodds, however, never reaped the full reward they deserved for, some time afterwards, the direct conversion of steel was brought out by Henry Bessemer, and by the year 1865 the Bessemer process was generally adopted” (Snell 1921 p.102-110) – see Steel Industry above for discussion of the Bessemer process. Financial difficulties led to the closure of the Dodds’ Holmes Engine & Railway Works in 1868 (ibid p. 151) and Anthony Munford notes that “Although an engraving of the work exists, it is impossible to locate it on the 1851 Ordnance Survey 6in map of the area” (Munford 2003 note 6, p.155). More research into this pioneering works is clearly needed.

Rotherham’s connection with the railway trades continued. William Owen stayed at the Phoenix Foundry until 1864 “when a limited company, Owen’s Patent Wheel, Tire & Axle Co. Ltd. was formed… in 1875, George Dyson and Robert Dyson, son and nephew of William Owen, formed the Rother Iron Works, generally known as Owen & Dyson, on Fullerton Road, where they made wheel and axle sets for railways at home and abroad” (Munford 2003 p. 135 – 140). Perhaps their success encouraged other companies locally to specialise in the railway trades, as Munford details a number of related companies established in Rotherham (ibid p.140-148).

The extent of archaeological evidence for this early phase of railway development is currently unknown. Few sites have been investigated. It was hoped that work on the site of the Wicker Station in Sheffield might reveal evidence from this period. The area investigated included the site of Hall Carr House, built in the 18th century and later incorporated into the station site; documentary records indicate it was occupied by Isaac Dodds in the 1840s, during works to connect Sheffield with the North Midland Railway at Rotherham. However, re-configuration of the site late in the 19th century was found to have removed all trace of earlier structures (Lakin 2011 p.12).

Horse Transport

Throughout this period, a major component of all transportation remained the use of horses. Early transport of goods via packhorse routes obviously depended on them. Horses pulled boats on canals, pulled wagons on waggonways or tramroads, and pulled carts and coaches along turnpike roads. Horses were still required when railways arrived – Paul Abell notes that well into the 20th century “most goods traffic on the railways began and finished its journey on a horse and cart” (Abell 1977 p.60). Horse-drawn tramways for passenger transport can also be added to this list – established in Sheffield from 1873 (ibid p.61).

Apart from documentary evidence, the best evidence for this essential component of transportation in South Yorkshire is likely to come from standing buildings. Derek Bayliss listed the Borough Mews, Bedford Street, Sheffield – a late 19th century complex that includes stables, coach houses and workshops, as an example “to represent the largely unexplored building history of horse drawn road transport” (Bayliss 1995 p.68). Another example of an associated building, recorded by ARCUS in 2009 ahead of proposed conversion works, was Castle House, by Lady’s Bridge, Sheffield [NHLE 1246501]. Their report on this recording work describes the building as “a good surviving type of livery stable constructed in many of the large industrial centres within Britain. Often associated with the expanding railway network from the late 19th century and early 20th century, whose companies retained large numbers of working horses…. Several original features had been retained within the building including part of the ramp [access] system, recessed mangers, stall partition scars, tether hooks and stable and taking in doors” (Dawson 2009 p.14-15). The surviving horse tram depot at Albert Road, Heeley, built in 1878, was also recorded ahead of plans for part-demolition and conversion, in 2006 (Saich 2012 p.97). It is hoped that more examples of structures associated with this often overlooked component of transportation can be identified and that research will enhance our understanding of the contribution of horses to our developing transportation systems.

Power Supply & Utilities

Inevitably, in considering the growing industrialisation of South Yorkshire this discussion has already described the use of water-power, which was crucial to that process. Water-power was used to drive bellows, forging hammers, grinding wheels, rolling and slitting mills, etc. According to ‘Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers’, ‘The key period in the development of water powered industry in Sheffield was the century after about 1680 and in particular the middle two quarters of the 18th century. By about 1780-90 all available sites on the rivers had been developed’ (Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006 p. xvi). Although Sheffield rivers have been the most heavily studied, water-power was a crucial phase of industrial development across South Yorkshire and wider studies, such as that by Tom Umpleby of evidence for the Dearne (Umpleby 2000) and Vera Nicholson for the Upper Don (Nicholson 2001) are to be welcomed. Further research is needed to establish the survival of physical evidence in our river valleys for water-management systems, as well as for remains of the mills and works themselves. The characterisation of evidence for historic water management features within South Yorkshire, prepared for Historic England in 2016, is a useful starting point (Thomson 2016).

Figure 9. Water management features for Shepherd Wheel, on the Porter Brook, after restoration, 2011 (SYAS)

It was the increased use of coal as a fuel that helped industry to move away from water-power, which had required industrial sites to be located close by rivers. After the development of the beam engine to work mine drainage pumps (discussed under ‘coal industry’ above) came the innovation of the rotative steam engine. This had the necessary flexibility to drive machinery and it encouraged increased mechanisation. However, a water supply was still vital and this kept associated industrial sites in close proximity to the rivers, sometimes – if not necessarily – on the same site as earlier water-powered works. Some research has been undertaken into early use of rotative steam engines locally (see Flavell 2007)  but, as yet, no certain physical evidence for early steam-powered sites has been identified. As Nevell has recently pointed out, primarily for textile mills, in the Manchester area, ‘ Archaeological fieldwork has the ability to both add to the number of known early steam engine sites derived from documentary sources and to highlight the physical evidence for the diffusion of this technology’ (Nevell 2018). It is to be hoped that further research into the development and spread of early steam engine technology within South Yorkshire, through identification of archaeological evidence for both steam engines and their associated boilers and water supply systems, can add to this debate.

Evidence for changes in the provision and use of power may be found in documentary sources and then be confirmed by archaeological evidence. One example of this is the site of the Sylvester Wheel, Sheffield (SYSMR 1619), where there is documentary evidence for a water-powered grinding wheel for cutlery from the mid 17th century and where the OS map of 1853 shows that the dams had by then become ‘reservoirs’ (Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006 ps. 142-143). Excavation here by ARCUS in 2006 revealed part of the dam structure and bypass goit, as well as a flywheel pit. Infilling of the goit and substantial internal remodelling of the works were dated to between 1830 and 1850, when the wheel must have been converted to steam power (ibid p. 144). It is unfortunate that ARCUS were not commissioned to complete the analysis of findings from this significant excavation, with reporting stopping at the assessment stage.

On an adjoining site, a new grinding wheel known as Wards Wheel or the Porter Island Grinding Wheel (SYSMR 4993) is shown on a map of Sheffield dated 1832. One surviving building, interpreted as a grinding workshop that formed a mid/late 19th century extension to the original works, was recorded by ARCUS in 2009. Unfortunately, little evidence for power transmission within the building, such as evidence for line shafting, remained (Thomson 2009 p.14). Subsequent to the building’s demolition, excavation by Wessex Archaeology of the footprint and surrounding area, in 2018-19, did reveal evidence for steam power, including channels for water supply and drainage, as well as the site of the works’ boiler (see

Both the above sites demonstrate the potential for a combination of documentary research, building recording and archaeological excavation to examine the transition to steam power in this period. The significance of water-power on Sheffield’s rivers, in particular, is well known; these sites indicate the potential for examining and understanding the continuing role of rivers with the introduction of steam technology.

Steam engine innovation continued through the 19th century and, as Historic England note for textile mills (and the same is likely to be true for other industries, including the metal trades):

Early steam-powered mills, using single-cylinder beam engines, normally had their engines placed within the main mill building, their position identified by a tall window. From the 1830s wider, double-beamed engines were often employed. By the 1850s, external engine houses had become common… After the 1870s, with the adoption of the compound engine with horizontal cylinders, engine houses were sometimes large and architecturally embellished….  Survival of intact chimneys and boiler houses of any date is increasingly rare’ (Historic England 2017 p.18).

Considering any surviving evidence for the location and form of steam engines used in industrial buildings from this period will be important, as will the evidence for power transmission. In relation to the Portland Works, Sheffield [NHLE1271036], Historic England notes in the listing description ‘The works was mechanised, with evidence for a steam engine, but there are also unpowered workshop ranges, illustrating the fact that Sheffield based its reputation upon the supremacy of traditional methods; it was said in 1879 that “the highest excellence can be attained only by the employment of intelligent hand labour”’. More evidence from other standing works buildings will be required to examine fully the impact of mechanisation alongside continued hand production, both in the metal trades and other trades operating locally.

Further technological advances in power generation followed, first was the use of gas – largely for lighting but also in production –  Bayliss notes ‘Sheffield had the area’s first gas company (Act 1818, supply 1819), followed by Barnsley (Act 1821), Doncaster (Act 1827) and Rotherham (Act 1833)… there are few remains apart from (mainly modern) gasholders’ (Bayliss 1995 p. 59). Archaeological evidence for the development of this industry may be found, for example during remediation of the Old Mill Gas Works site in Barnsley, in 2007-8, ARCUS recorded remains of 19th century gas holders and the associated retort house (Saich 2012 p. 47-48).

This was followed by development of the use of electricity. Historic England note that:

Four principal types of power house or power station had emerged in the late 19th century… The first of these were power houses that served private houses or estates.. The second were power stations which provided lighting and power for selective industrial concerns… Third, there were generating plants that powered street tramways…And fourth, there were power stations built to serve the urban populace” (Historic England 2015 p.2). Derek Bayliss notes that in Sheffield, ‘Davy bros and Cammells installed electric lighting in their works 1881’ (Bayliss1995 p.59) and that ‘By the 1890s the electric motor could be used to power individual machines and replace the shafts and belts which carried power from a central source’ (ibid p.3). Electricity generation for the wider town started as a commercial concern, with the Sheffield Electric Light & Power Co. established in 1892 – but its importance was quickly recognised and the business was taken over by Sheffield Corporation, becoming a municipal concern; the Sheffield Corporation Electric Supply Department was formed in 1898 (ibid). Municipal generating stations were  also built at Barnsley, Doncaster, Mexborough and Rotherham by c.1900 (ibid).

Figure 10. Early electricity supply access hatches on Rustlings Road, Sheffield (J Leman)

The first generating station in Sheffield was located centrally (SYSMR 5778) but as demand increased, additional capacity was needed and a new site was sought outside the town centre, in part because of issues to do with air pollution (concerns had been raised about the coal-fired central generating station). The Neepsend Power Station, also coal-fired, was brought online in 1904 (SYSMR 5779). Both these generating stations have since been demolished but one municipal generating station from this period survives in Sheffield – the building for the tramways generating station, in use from 1899-1914, later used for wider electricity generation; this building now forms part of Kelham Island Museum (SYSMR 5755).

Given the significance of this method of power generation, which transformed not only industry and manufacturing but also everyday life, at first it may seem surprising that so little evidence from this early phase survives but this is really a reflection of the industry’s success. Rapid local expansion was followed by nationalisation and then rationalisation, with use of fewer, more efficient power stations (Historic England 2015 p.1). However, we may have physical evidence, including street furniture such as cast iron access hatches – associated with the electricity distribution system, and, perhaps, some early substations, which could help us to understand the growth of this new industry and support available documentary evidence.

For the first time, this new power source meant works were no longer constrained by the need to be  located close to a water supply and the works could move away from the rivers that had powered them for so long. The eventual effect of this can be seen in the results of the South Yorkshire historic environment characterisation project – see, in particular, the historic character reconstruction at However, the location of existing works and transport routes, as well as flat valley floors, continued to make river valleys attractive for development. In 1910, the first electric steel melting furnace, a Héroult arc furnace, was installed at the Imperial Steel Works of Edgar Allen & Co Ltd. in the Lower Don valley at Tinsley (

It is interesting to note that power stations themselves were still tied by the need for a water supply. Historic England note, for electricity generation, ‘By 1910 steam turbines had become the general form of prime mover, and coal the dominant fuel’ (Historic England 2015 p.4) and that key, recognisable features of the power stations of this date included ‘a parallel arrangement of boiler and engine houses, [with] tall chimneys to disperse smoke from the boiler furnace’ (bid p.9). It seems that water management for power supply was still an important consideration, even in the age of electricity.

Water supply was, of course, not only important for industrial concerns. The provision of a water supply and associated removal of sewage for sanitary purposes have always been important concerns, particularly in urban areas. This period saw these issues addressed more widely, often at a municipal level. South Yorkshire had the advantage of upland areas suitable for the creation of reservoirs and the associated works were engineering feats. Many structures constructed are still in use today. For example, Derek Bayliss notes ‘Sheffield Waterworks Co set up by Act 1830. Built Redmires Middle Reservoir 1833-6 at 1105ft. 4½ mile open stone conduit to Hadfield service reservoir, Crookes… Two more reservoirs 1849/54 and 2¾ mile catchwater drain N and W on Hallam Moors’ (Bayliss 1995 p. 61). The company was bought by Sheffield Corporation, becoming a municipal concern, in 1887 (ibid); the reservoirs are now managed by Yorkshire Water. It is known that a village to house navvies and their families was built for the construction of later, 20th century reservoirs – Ewden village, near Stocksbridge (see South Yorkshire characterisation record HSY2963); were navvy villages built for the construction of these earlier reservoirs, too, if so, where were they sited?

Unfortunately, effective dam construction was not always well understood and Sheffield is famous for a substantial dam collapse at Dale Dike reservoir. Bayliss notes ‘dam burst 11 March 1864, torrent of water down valley to Sheffield killed around 240 people and led to major inquiry into circumstances and safety of earth dams’ (Bayliss 1995 p.61). An important source of information about the impact of the Great Sheffield Flood, as it is known, for modern researchers is the claims for compensation made subsequently, which can be consulted online (see

The impact can be investigated archaeologically, as well –  in terms of the damage and rebuilding occasioned, particularly for works buildings along the affected rivers – the Loxley and the Don. For example, the ARCUS excavation in 2002-3 of the footprint of two buildings to the north of the wheelpit at Wisewood Forge, in the Loxley valley (SYSMR 01659). Of these, the northern building was found to be late 18th century in date and had clearly survived the flood. The more southerly building was known from documentary sources to have been damaged in the flood; it was not clear if the tilt hammer and anvil it contained pre- or post-dated the flooding episode (Saich & Matthews 2007 ps. 95-7) – see also discussion under ‘metalworking’ above.

One further aspect of the flood that has been identified archaeologically, is the commemorative pottery that was produced and sold as a charitable response (ahead of any official compensation or where that was inadequate to cover needs). Fragments of this pottery have been recovered during excavations locally, including, for example, sherds found at Wellgate in Conisbrough (Saich & Matthews 2006 p. 58 and p.130).

In relation to sewage disposal, Bayliss notes ‘The South Yorkshire towns discharged their sewage into rivers until the late 19thC and were late in providing sewage works (Sheffield 1884) and in replacing nightsoil collection by domestic sewers – about 16,600 Sheffield houses were unconnected in 1915’ (Bayliss 1995 p.61). What might have been bad news for residents at the time is good news archaeologically, as cess pits have great potential to contain evidence that can tell us about the lifestyle and  diet of inhabitants, which information cannot be retrieved in any other way – particularly for poorer inhabitants who will have left no documentary records. Archaeological excavation by ARCUS in 2005, of residential courts located off Edward Street, Sheffield, for example, revealed what was interpreted as a cess pit; this structure had seen a series of alterations before it was decommissioned and replaced by a toilet block in the late 19th or early 20th century. Samples taken from an associated shaft contained ‘hazelnut shell fragments and fish bone and scale… the fish bones that were recovered included the remains of conger eel, herring, cod and flatfish, providing evidence for the types of foodstuffs being consumed’ (Wooler 2015 p. 324).

Urban Townscapes

Urban growth inevitably followed the innovations and expansion of industry outlined above. The Historic Environment Characterisation project has helped to give a graphic indication of this growth across South Yorkshire – see, in particular, the historic character reconstruction at Archaeology is well placed to consider the effect of these changes and the impact on people’s lives.

One particular and recurring feature of this phase of urban development within Sheffield, identified by many excavations, is the creation of an initial development platform through the importation of material at the time of construction – sometimes to a considerable depth. This can form problems for interpretation of the material recovered during excavation, as much will clearly have been imported from elsewhere. As Jim Symonds notes of sites investigated by ARCUS along the northern route of the Sheffield Inner Relief Road:

As Sheffield industrialized, new political and socio-economic structures were formed and made their mark in the landscape. The most decisive factor here was the large-scale earthmoving activities which these new structures were able to conceive and implement… Such prodigious earth moving, which in places raised the land surface by as much as 10m (ca.32’9”) broke the link between households and their waste… the thick layers of soil and rubble, which were used to raise the ground level, were imported from elsewhere in the city” (Symonds 2011 p.78).

In terms of an individual excavation, it is easy to consider finds from this ‘made ground’, as being simply unstratified and of low interpretive value. However, if we consider the excavation of such individual sites as part of the investigation of a phase of development across the city as a whole, then clearly these finds have a role in helping us to understand the processes at work. In relation to the Inner Relief Road project, Symonds added “the process of dumping and levelling which transformed the urban geography of Sheffield and has resulted in bulk mixed deposits was highlighted as something that needed to be studies in more detail, rather than being dismissed as being unhelpful to archaeological interpretation, and that work is now in progress” (ibid p.79-81).

That work is still in progress and, as is often the way with archaeological investigation, occasionally an individual excavation will throw up evidence that may help us to understand a larger whole. One such site is the ARCUS excavation in 2007 at Nos. 161-189 Upper Allen Street, Sheffield, where excavation across two former residential courtyards revealed a sealed dump of debris within an outbuilding. The limited range of artefacts that it contained (ceramics, glass and shellfish remains) indicated that this was not simply domestic rubbish disposal but that the dump showed deliberate sorting and retention of some material. It was suggested this material could have been stored before being sold to the building trade, for use as aggegate or hardcore; the material within the dump dates it to the period 1877-1885 (Baker & Cobbold 2008 ps.64-65). It is hoped that further research will be able to clarify the processes at work here.

Workers’ housing was an essential component of this phase of urban growth and courts of often back-to-back housing, like that investigated off Edward Street (discussed above), are very visible on historic OS maps. These courts were built in close relationship with industrial works and were intermingled with commercial concerns, such as pubs and shops, usually on the main street frontage. These residential areas have largely disappeared from the landscape, as a result of later clearance programmes, and archaeological evidence is now our key to understanding them.

Archaeology can examine evidence for the construction of these residential courts, as well as helping us to understand their use. For example – were all courts and housing built in the same way and in the same style, or were there variations? Was there a differentiation in status between residential areas when built – if so, how can we identify this? Did this change over time? Although many areas of housing were the subject of slum clearances in the early 20th century, as Paul Belford notes, for ‘the Crofts’ area of Sheffield:

Far from being a muddled mass of confusion, chaos and crime, the eighteenth- and nineteenth- century ‘crofts’ was a planned and ordered suburb, deliberately designed to provide a setting for new and innovative industries, and moreover remoulded by its inhabitants into an effective living environment…. This is not to pretend that standards of housing and sanitation were high…[but] analysis of the ‘crofts’ during the hundred years before 1850 invalidates the ‘slum’ identity of the place” (Belford 2001 p.115).

Figure 11. Retaining wall in the Crofts area of Sheffield, below Solly Street, showing potential viewing platform in 2003 (SYAS)

An interesting reference to such a change in status over time comes from research into a site on (the aptly-named) Garden Street, within the Crofts area. Here, Fiona Wooler quotes a report from a local paper of December 1935, “The face of the Crofts has changed […] we read that once the parish of St Luke’s comprised a pretty ravine with gardens and picturesque views, and that when the manufacturers lived near their works there were many beautiful houses and grounds” (Wooler 2016 p.52). Evidence for this earlier residential phase may well have been identified on a nearby site, where ARCUS recorded a substantial retaining stone wall between the upper level of Solly Street and the lower Edward Street level. Their report on this recording project says:

The wall was constructed c.1800 as part of the planned development of part of the Duke of Norfolk’s Estate into a new district of integrated residential and cutlery works… The retaining wall appears to have formed part of a formal garden with a projecting viewing platform overlooking the Lower Don Valley to the north. The wall consisted of a large number of re-used worked stones, many with architectural detail… The architectural style of the moulded fragments places them in a date range from 1720-1800” (Jessop 2014 p. iv).

Even when dealing with what seems (from the archaeological perspective) a narrow timeframe, it is clearly important to test assumptions arising from later documentary sources, which may mask real-life complexity. Also, we may feel that we may have a good understanding of ‘industrial towns’, including from archaeological work in other towns and cities, but there is always a need to consider local variations. Neville Flavell notes, of Sheffield in the 18th century, “Sheffield (like Birmingham) was a high wage town… limited evidence indicates journeymen [in the cutlery and allied trades] earning typically 11s. to 12s. per week in the 1740s to the 1760s… As fifty to sixty percent of adult males were in the trades, this group dominates wages… the differential is most striking in the payroll of the Sheffield-Wakefield turnpike where Sheffield labourers consistently earned 2d. (16 per cent) per day more than their Barnsley and Wakefield counterparts” (Flavell 2003 p.105). Flavell was assessing the evidence for allotment gardens in and around Sheffield, suggesting that Sheffield may have had 1500-1800 allotments by the 1780s, with Sheffield “the first to experience workers’ gardens en masse” (ibid p.95) and quotes the belief, given in contemporary accounts, that “allotment gardening and its concomitants of regular exercise and better diet were of major benefit to Sheffield’s working families and an excellent example for others” (ibid p.106). The prevalence of the metal trades, with their associated impact on pay, conditions and working hours,  may well be seen to be having an effect here. More flexibility in working hours allowed free time – Flavell notes the tradition of ‘Saint Monday’, whereby the weekend was extended, with cutlers putting in extra hours later in the week (ibid. p.105-6); better pay allowed for the payment of garden rents.

Figure 12. Photo taken 1855/60, showing allotment gardens and garden houses, off Hanover Street, Sheffield (from reference y00521)

Documentary research may seem our best method for examining the extent of allotment gardens, with a view to understanding their importance as a resource for town and city inhabitants – a resource that continued in importance into both the 19th and 20th centuries. However, archaeology has a role to play, too. Sites that are recorded as having allotment gardens in this period can be picked up in archaeological desk-based assessments and then investigated. An example of where this has been done is a site off Summerfield Street, to the south of the Porter Brook in Sheffield. Here, allotment gardens are shown on the 1850s OS map but by the time of the 1890s OS map the site had been fully developed. This may have been following a pattern seen elsewhere; Margaret Boulton suggests that allotments may have been created ahead of planned development noting, for the Alsop Field development “land was used for letting out gardens before the actual development of the land took place, meanwhile revenue [from garden rents] could be generated” (Boulton 2017 p.33). Evaluation by Wessex Archaeology identified buried soils on the Summerfield Street site, along with a drain and soakaway, thought likely to relate to this phase of garden activity. As a result, one of the objectives of the subsequent phase of fieldwork was to further investigate the evidence for allotment gardening present on the cartographic map of 1850 (Wessex Archaeology 2017 p.5). The results of this mitigation phase are keenly awaited; it is hoped they will help clarify the potential for other such areas of allotment gardens to be identified and investigated archaeologically.

When considering assumptions about the growing towns of this period, another assumption that needs to be tested is whether the residential courts so visible on historic OS maps were just that, i.e. residential. An important question for archaeological investigation is whether the courts were also a scene of small-scale industry – either in the home itself or in adjoining workshops. Evidence gathered for Court No. 13 off Pea Croft (now Solly Street), Sheffield, suggests that evidence for this may be found. Excavation by ARCUS in 2005-6 was subsequently reported by ArcHeritage; their report notes of the features identified in the yard:

Artefacts within the fills of several of these pits and post-holes indicate late 18th- to early 19th-century activity… pits 355/358 at the western side of the group contained items relating to industrial production in the form of waste from bone handle-making… The fill of the [later] gully contained a large quantity of brick fragments and mid-19th-century ceramics, as well as bone-handle-making waste and a fragment of oyster shell with holes where button blanks had been punched out” (May 2014 p.15).

Figure 13. Excavation of the central yard of Court 13, Pea Croft – now Solly Street, in 2006 (SYAS)

Associated research into documentary sources for Court No. 13 found that on the 1851 census, 61% of the occupants were listed as being involved in the metal trades, with other trades listed including “comb makers, button makers, house decorators, tailors, shopkeeper, and service trades” (ibid p 13). ArcHeritage add “There is no clear suggestion that any of the residents had workshops in the yard, though this cannot be ruled out on the basis of available evidence, and many may have worked from home” (ibid). It is interesting to think, with regard to such home-based, craft activity that we may well be seeing industrial activity by women, as well as by older children – work carried out in a domestic setting. More evidence and further research is still needed to clarify the picture within Sheffield – and work is needed in other South Yorkshire towns, to look for comparable evidence.

Any material culture associated directly with the occupation of these courts may help us understand the lifestyle of the occupants better. Finds from the cess pit structure within the residential court off Edward Street, Sheffield, discussed above, included a number of bone china toys and a glass marble (Wooler 2015 p.324), presumably lost during play  – can we find evidence for play from other residential courts to compare with this? One particular type of find identified at a number of sites within Sheffield is the pottery ball or knurr used in the game of ‘knurr and spell’, described by Wikipedia as ’once popular as a pub game’ ( Finds of these ceramic balls are not confined to excavations within the residential courts – examples were recovered from the former Sylvester Wheel site (described under ‘Power supply’ above) – see Saich & Matthews 2010 p.151. What other evidence can we find for recreational activity within these growing urban settlements?

Physical remains of workers’ housing and associated features can be expected in archaeological excavation but evidence has also been found within standing buildings. Another recurring feature of investigation within Sheffield has been the identification of what was housing, incorporated by an expanding works. An example of this was identified in the recording of the John Watts cutlery works on Lambert Street, Sheffield [NHLE 1390052]. Here recording by ARCUS in 2003 identified that:

John Watts Works can be sub divided into five separate property divisions all of which developed as independent sites and only amalgamated c1910 by John Watts. The earliest structures are a series of small cottages that front onto Lambert Street. These were separated by narrow alleys, providing access to rear yards each surrounded by more houses or small workshops. Elements of the former cottages, along with the premises of a former scissor manufacturer, ‘the Norbury Works’, are now incorporated into later phases of the construction… The gradual expansion of each property during the nineteenth century has resulted in a complex series of rooms and structures” (Jessop, Roberts & May 2003 p.4).

Standing building evidence may also help us to understand other aspects of life in towns in this period. As well as incorporating former housing, later works expansion may have preserved evidence for other buildings, too. At the former Lancaster complex on Ball Street, Neepsend, building recording identified that the complex included a pair of dwellings and the former Cardigan Tavern, built as a single phase in 1855 to 1859, with a curved corner frontage. Inside, there was “considerable evidence of their original form and function, notably in the provision of multiple public rooms in the tavern… [alongside] vestigeal evidence of former gaslight fittings, and considerable evidence for various phases of decoration, including the interior of the former tavern, which remained in use for a century” (Duckworth & Jessop 2006 Amongst the decoration identified were numerous layers of wallpaper, samples of which were taken. The samples included a design ascribed to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, from the rear bar room and the upstairs function room – a pale orange/pink ground with an outline design of black printed leaves and flowers that is described as having “the advantage of disguising dirty marks and general discolouration” (ibid addendum 4.7).

Later map evidence demonstrates that slum clearance operations often left particular types of building, such as pubs, still standing. Another category was institutional buildings, such as schools and churches or chapels. An example of this can be seen in the survival of the St Luke’s National School building on Garden Street, Sheffield (SYSMR 5241). Here building recording and associated research identified that the school was built in 1873 on the site of an existing Sunday School – it was built in a classical style, and was named St Luke’s after the nearby church (now demolished). National Schools were built as an Anglican mission to provide education to the poor but the building fell out of use as a school (having been taken over by Sheffield’s new Board of Education) following clearance of neighbouring housing in the 1930s. The building was later incorporated into an adjoining works but the recording demonstrated that much of the original layout was still visible. The ground floor “was divided into two rooms, each with its own fireplace, whilst the first floor comprised originally of one largeroom… The layout suggests that the building could be operated as ground-floor meeting rooms, which may have doubled as schoolrooms during the day, with a separate access to the schoolroom on the first floor” (Wooler 2016 p.56).

Figure 14. Excavation of cleared properties on White Croft, looking towards St Vincent’s RC church and (right) the rear of the former Ragged School, latterly Croft Board School, in 2006 (SYAS)

One further category of institutional building to mention here, hinting further as it does at both the lives of the urban poor and emerging social concern, is the mission hall. An example of such a structure, incorporated into a later works, has recently been recorded ahead of demolition: Birch Hall on Trippet Lane, Sheffield. This opened in 1903 as a Workmen’s Mission hall, designed to encourage Christian teaching and to draw the poor away from the public house; it remained open as such until the 1930s and the impact of nearby housing clearance (Jessop & Beauchamp 2015). The results of this recording project are eagerly awaited.

Other significant institutional buildings of this period that might be considered under ‘social welfare’ did not survive long enough to receive such detailed recording. This includes, sadly, the Hall of Science built on Rockingham Street, Sheffield, and opened by Robert Owen, the socialist philosopher, in 1839. This Owenite Hall of Science was described by John Salt as an educational centre, to encourage “the attainment of social harmony and the moral and physical excellence of the people through the determination and propagation of universal truth” (Salt 1960 p.134). Active as such for only about a decade, by the time of its demolition the building was last in use as a Christadelphian chapel; it was photographed externally, as such, by the RCHME in November 1995 (NBR Index Number 94613).

Adaptive re-use of existing buildings rather than rebuilding seems to be a norm in Sheffield, giving us the opportunity to examine some structures that we might otherwise expect to know only from below-ground evidence. Further opportunities to consider any such standing evidence remains invaluable and opportunities need to be taken, in all South Yorkshire’s towns, if we are to understand the social impact of the growth of towns in this period. Similarly, although documentary evidence for the earlier part of this period may be rare, particularly when dealing with poorer areas of towns, the increase in records in the 19th century means that there are real opportunities to boost our knowledge by considering archaeological evidence alongside documentary evidence.

This summary has mentioned just a few of the building types that were constructed in towns in this period. In particular, the range of public buildings added to the townscape was considerable – and many survive, some still in their original use. We have, as yet, had little opportunity to examine these archaeologically. Perhaps the neatest summary of this topic – given in relation to Doncaster – was by Derek Holland:

It is impossible in the space available to deal fully with all the late nineteenth century public buildings erected… They included public baths in 1862, an infirmary in 1865, a free library in 1869, together with all the schools from the railway schools of 1858 to the various denominational schools, boardschools (in the suburbs only), and eventually local authority schools like the Municipal High School for Girls in 1910. In total these public buildings afford a bird’s eye view of several important aspects of… social progress from the 1850s to 1914” (Holland 1980 p.50).

Public Parks

When considering urban growth and social change in this period, we also need to look at the development and provision of public open space. Historic England note in their guide to registering urban landscapes:

in the 1830s, concerns about urban overcrowding and the condition of the poor grew into the Public Parks Movement. In 1833, a Parliamentary Select Committee provided the first survey of the provision of public open space… The Committee recommended greater provision of open spaces for leisure pursuits and suggested that parks would provide alternatives to drinking houses, dog fights and boxing matches” (Historic England 2017a p.9).

They add “The 1875 Public Health Act was particularly important, as it enabled local authorities to use income from the rates to develop and maintain public parks, part of a wider range of mid-Victorian measures to keep the populace fit, and the working class orderly and sober” (ibid p.11).

The resulting parks are still much-loved open spaces and it is interesting to note that both Locke Park, Barnsley [NHLE 1001518]  and Boston Park, Rotherham [NHLE 1001500] were apparently known as ‘the People’s Park’ when first opened, in 1862 and 1876 respectively (see register descriptions online:

Sheffield is fortunate to have had a study of parks and gardens of historic interest produced to supplement the national register, giving us a good oversight of surviving parks and gardens within the city. For example, Firth Park, which was formerly part of the grounds of Page Hall, was donated to the public by Mark Firth while Mayor, and opened in 1875 – it was the first such donation by a public benefactor and is described as “a typical example of a Victorian municipal park” although some features, such as the bandstand, have been lost (Sheffield City Council 1997 Appendix 5  – Local Schedule: Site Descriptions). Some research into urban parks and their features (both earlier and designed) has been undertaken by the University of Sheffield, through their Dig It! engagement programme. This included work in Firth Park, which identified remains of the demolished Edwardian bandstand (Fennelly and Merrony 2016).

It is to be hoped that research can extend across South Yorkshire, to help us better understand the design and use of public parks, in this first phase of such provision.

Religion & Ritual

One category of building that is of such importance that it needs to be considered separately, is that of the church or chapel. Peter Ryder has noted for this research framework, in relation to the Anglican church:

St James’ Church,  Ravenfield, of 1756 is a delightful essay in Gothick, built (along with the nearby Hall) by John Carr.  With industrial growth in the 19th century more new churches were built, and a more scholarly Gothic came back into vogue; the best Victorian church is probably the cathedral-like St George in Doncaster, by George Gilbert Scott, erected 1854-8 to replace its burnt-out medieval predecessor, although he chose a Decorated rather than the original Perpendicular Gothic style. At nearby Cadeby, Scott built a much smaller church in 1856, which is very much a by-product of the larger. At Wentworth the Fitzwilliams funded their new Holy Trinity Church of 1875-7 by J.L.Pearson, a ‘scholarly piece of Gothic revival’, although to persuade the congregation to move into it the old church had to be deliberately ruined….

The 19th century of course saw the ‘restoration’ of almost all earlier churches, which in some cases amounted to almost total rebuildings, retaining little more than the odd outstanding architectural features of their predecessors, like the south door and chancel arch at Rossington; others saw piecemeal repair and refacing and renewal of stonework to the extent that relatively little genuine fabric is now apparent, as in Sheffield Cathedral. There are a great number of lesser 19th and early 20th century churches, their architecture reflecting changing Victorian taste. A Romanesque revival in the 1840s was in the eyes of many thankfully short-lived, but gave us Dodworth of 1844, by B.Taylor. With 20th century redundancies and losses comes the need to record even the less architecturally-distinguished buildings, and take some note of their furnishings and fittings.

An example of such recording is that of the former St Peter’s Church, Machon Bank, Sheffield. The church was built in 1893-5, to replace a temporary mission church (built to encourage church attendance in an area of urban expansion) and reflected confidence in the need for a place for worship here, in the new City of Sheffield. St Peter’s, designed in the Early English style by local architect Joseph Norton, was a very large structure, of imposing height, but this exacerbated the problems of keeping it in use once congregation numbers fell (Saich & Matthews 2007 p. 103-4). Recording by Ed Dennison Archaeological Services took place ahead of demolition; the site has since been landscaped.


Peter Ryder added, for Nonconformist chapels and meeting houses in South Yorkshire:

What is known as the New Dissent was largely the product of the talent and labours of just one man, John Wesley (1703-1794). In 1738, when already an Anglican clergyman (and having briefly been a missionary to America) he experienced a dramatic turning point in his career in the form of an experience of God when he felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’. Wesley went on to become an indefatigable preacher and evangelist throughout the country, with a novel and systematic approach to his mission.  His converts, who became known as ‘Methodists’ were organised into societies, made up of smaller groups, classes; the societies were gathered into circuits, groups which shared preachers, each of whom might preach up to three times, to different societies, on a Sunday.

A highly controversial figure, Wesley always saw himself as an Anglican, working for a renewal of the Church of England. He died in 1791, after which Methodism both finally split from the Church of England, and was itself subject to frequent division, although most of the resultant groups retained the name ‘Methodist’. The New Connexion Methodists broke away in 1797, primarily over details of church government. The scenario of the Annual Conference, the governing body of the new church, being unable to impose its authority on local groups was repeated again and again; most splits were over the degree of autonomy permitted to local societies, but the Primitive Methodists (1812) had different emphases on doctrine and practise, seeing themselves as being true to the original spirit of Wesley in open-air preaching. Their  great ‘camp meetings’ – an early import of an American tradition – disturbed the Wesleyan establishment; at a time when the French Revolution was recent history, large gatherings by the working class were seen as a threat by the government.  As it was, some authorities consider that the redirection of the passions of the populace into spiritual rather than political matters actually saved England from revolutionary violence.  Further internal disputes produced the Protestant Methodist Connexion (1829), Wesleyan Methodist Association (1835) and Wesleyan Reformers (1849), all of whom amalgamated in 1857 to form the United Methodist Free Church. In 1907 this reunited with the New Connexion and the Bible Christians (a group concentrated in the South West of England) to produce the United Methodist Church.

A similar pattern of growth and fission was experienced by older nonconformist groups, in particular those of the Presbyterians and Congregationalist traditions; the controversies that produced the Anti-Burgher Group and United Secessionists are somewhat opaque to modern eyes.  Similarly the Baptists divided into General and ‘Strict and Particular’ groups, depending on the criteria used to judge whether a person might be in communion with them.

The Primitive Methodists – initially popularly known as ‘Ranters’ – were the first to champion teetotalism, which became an abiding concern in many Victorian circles.  Then came a movement, of global significance, which saw its origin in South Tyneside.  In 1861 William Booth, then a minister with the Methodist New Connexion in Gateshead, resigned to form the East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 was rebranded the Salvation Army and enjoyed  conspicuous success; one London survey in the 1880s showed more attending Salvationist meetings than Anglican services, which frightened  the established church into an attempt to annexe the new movement, which was unsuccessful but resulted in the creation of  the Church Army.  Booth with his dictum ‘some of my best men are women’ was radical in introducing gender equality in ministry between women and men (early on the Primitive Methodists had championed women preachers but this and other radical departures were reined in within a few years).

Despite all this, nonconformity and in particular Methodism was already in numerical decline by the late 19th century, although, having attracted many businessmen and industrialists, it could afford to build bigger and better chapels than ever before. The last of the major divergent groups, Pentecostalism, came at the very end of the period covered and is largely of Transatlantic origin.

The 20th century has seen this decline continue. In 1932 the three main Methodist groups, Wesleyan, United Free and Primitive came together, resulting in a general surplus of chapels. It has been argued that the First World War produced a crisis of faith, and in particular shattered the optimism characteristic of the theological  liberalism typical of early-20th century Primitive Methodism, which expected continued national and international  progress unhindered by such calamities.

Not all Methodist groups joined in the 1932 Union; around Sheffield a group of Wesleyan Reform churches remained independent and are still active.

The Buildings

Church of England buildings are the product of ritual and liturgy that have developed over many centuries focussed, in ritual terms, on the Sacrament – the baptism (of infants) and the ceremony of the Mass/Holy Communion. Nonconformists, by and large, tended to focus on the Word – preaching and Bible exposition – and buildings were predominantly auditoria, where a large congregation could gather and be within earshot of the preacher. The pulpit was predominant, the altar (or Lord’s Table) traditionally the focal point of an Anglican (or Roman Catholic) church, barely apparent.

The first nonconformist buildings were often very plain, partly in a deliberate contrast to the more elaborate architecture of the established church – and also, in the earlier days, when  active persecution or mob violence was a real possibility so as not to draw attention to themselves (early Methodists provoked enough controversy to generate physical attacks, as indeed did the Salvation Army a century later). In the first and most vigorous days of the spiritual revivals buildings were not a prime concern.  Groups could gather in any suitable structure, a barn, or perhaps a  workshop. The Primitive Methodists made a special virtue of preaching, and meeting for worship, in the open air, and held Camp Meetings, sometimes commemorated in field names.  But as practices became established, and organisations developed, chapels and meeting houses were set up, often built by local members.  At first these were simply functional, the Presbyterian (later Unitarian) Fulwood Old Chapel of 1729 being a good example. By the end of the 18th century rather more elaborate and larger scale buildings were being erected, such as the Congregationalist Loxley of 1787, as prestige and the desire for social acceptance became clearly manifest.

Few of the larger 19th-century chapels now survive; the big  ‘town chapels’ of the early and mid-century, ringed by galleries, are now only represented by the Unitarian Upper Chapel of c1700 (but largely rebuilt 1846-7) and the Wesleyan   Carver Street, in Sheffield (1804-5), and Westgate in Barnsley (1792-4 enlarged 1811).  Later examples of a similar form perpetuated a Gothic guise, of which the 1823 Ebenezer Chapel in Acorn Street, Sheffield, is an unusually early example.

An adjacent pair of Wesleyan chapels in Wath-on-Dearne provide an instructive example of the development of nonconformist architectural taste through the 19th century; the simple Classical building of 1819, retained as a church hall, was supplanted in 1894 by what is very much an Anglican-style properly Gothic parish church.

By the later 19th century a pattern typical of many large towns had been established; whilst small chapels were dotted throughout the growing areas of working-class housing, each denomination would have its own town-centre ‘flagship’ church or chapel. The days of simple meeting houses were behind; top architects were now being employed, and the Gothic style, once the preserve of the Established Church, was firmly embraced, replacing the plain Georgian or Classical styles favoured earlier in the century.

One very distinctive group was the Salvation Army, who were under orders that their barracks (later citadels) looked as little as possible like churches, but more like music halls or theatres. Most were built in the last two decades of the 19th century, but relatively few now survive. The sadly decayed Sheffield Citadel is an excellent example, with its bright orange brick and crenelated parapets.   

A word on nomenclature may be necessary at this point.  ‘Chapels and meeting houses’, is the blanket term that was used by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments to cover nonconformist buildings.  The term ‘meeting house’ was associated with several branches of the ‘Old Dissent’, although only retained today by the Society of Friends. Early Methodist buildings were almost always termed ‘chapels’ but the use of the term ‘church’ has steadily become widespread, and is now all but universal, although it can lead to confusion – it can be applied both to the worshipping congregation (the old term ‘society’ now seems long redundant) and (but not necessarily) the building in which they meet.  The Salvation Army, in keeping with their military terminology, preferred ‘Barracks’  or ‘Fort’, which then gave way to ‘Citadel’; it took until the end of the 20th century for a body of Salvationists to call themselves a church. Individual buildings quite often took on a Biblical name, such as ‘Salem’ or Bethel’ (favoured by New Connexion Methodists), ‘Zion’ (often Primitive Methodist) or ‘Bethesda’. The usual Anglican practice of dedications to (well-known) saints or the Holy Trinity occur only occasionally with Methodist churches (usually quite recent ones),  but more commonly with Presbyterians or Congregationalists (with whom St George is popular).

Decline and Loss –  The Twenty and Twenty-First Centuries

Nonconformist congregations were already in decline by c1900, and the First World War is perceived as striking a severe blow. The 1932 Act of Union left many Methodist buildings as surplus to requirements, and chapels were either demolished or converted to secular uses. Some, especially larger buildings that were expensive to maintain, did not survive such conversion for very long; in some areas pressure for redevelopment saw their end.  Although the growth of new groups  has provided congregations for several older church buildings.


There has been relatively little academic interest in the built heritage of nonconformity, although one exception was the series of books on Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting Houses produced by Christopher Stell, of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. These beautifully-produced volumes record a selection of buildings in each area, but they are selective, showing a bias towards the overtly-historic and architectural (see Stell 1994).

In most parts of the country redundant nonconformist chapels, often after years of deterioration whilst in secular use,  continue to be demolished, and relatively few are subject to adequate recording. There is scope for posthumous recording work in gathering material – photographs, drawings and historical records – relating to chapels that have now gone. More could doubtless be retrieved if an appeal were made to the public through the local media; experience shows that a considerable amount of valuable archival material pertaining to nonconformist buildings is still held by private individuals, who are often very happy to loan it or pass it on to anyone who shows interest.”

Figure 15. Elsecar Methodist Chapel in 2004 (SYAS)

Peter Ryder is unfortunately right that chapel buildings are still lost but hopefully relatively few are now lost without recording, with which information we can hope to build an understanding of the wave of spiritual feeling that reached across South Yorkshire in this period. In Sheffield, in 2001, Matrix Archaeology recorded the Methodist chapel building on Walkley Bank Road, ahead of demolition – built in 1862 in a restrained classical style and with little internal decoration, the chapel building was thought to reflect the New Connexion’s belief in the virtue of austerity (Saich & Matthews 2006 p.86). ARCUS recorded the Wesleyan Reform Church, Elsecar, in 2005, ahead of demolition; the internal layout of meeting rooms and offices on the ground floor and chapel on the first floor was still apparent and the datestone in the front gable could still be read: ‘Mount Zion, hitherto the Lord helped us, 1859’ (Saich & Matthews 2010 ps. 73-4).

Other chapel buildings have found a new use and recording has taken place ahead of conversion works. An example is the Methodist Chapel on School Road, Crookes, Sheffield, which was recorded by ARCUS in 2003; originally constructed in 1836, with simple classical detailing, the building was extended in 1870 to provide additional meeting/school rooms – the floor of the main hall was raised at this time, which necessitated the removal of the original gallery seating; a row of blocked joist holes for this gallery was noted during the recording (Saich & Matthews 2007 ps.102-103).

Churchyards, Chapelyards and Cemeteries

A focus for research in any period will be burial evidence, alongside investigation of the treatment of the dead and of associated memorialisation. A number of graveyards in use in this period have seen some excavation, particularly in Sheffield, but these have not always reached full final analysis, reducing their potential to provide comparable information. As an example of what can be done, available information on coffin furniture and grave goods from four Sheffield graveyards pre-dating the 1855 Burial Act has been usefully pulled together by Mahoney-Swales, O’Neill & Willmott (2011), to examine mortuary practices. 

One of the graveyards examined was that of the Unitarian Upper Chapel on Norfolk Street, where work included a gravestone survey, evaluation and a watching brief during which four inhumations were recovered. The identification of substantial multi-occupancy graves and possibly gold-plated shroud pins were thought to suggest that these burials were from a relatively high status community, when compared to other excavated burial grounds in Sheffield (Baker, Baker & Symonds 2011). As this demonstrates, even relatively small-scale interventions can be informative.

Another sample excavation, by Archaeological Services WYAS at Rotherham Minster, found contrasting evidence. The construction of new steps and landscaping led to investigation in 2009-10 and a total of 60 burials were identified, believed to date to the early-mid 19th century. Osteological analysis suggests that the individuals interred here were from the poorer end of society and were “severely affected by the diseases so rife in Victorian industrial centres, where fast population increase, cramped conditions, lack of sanitary provisions and nutritious food, pollution and poor hygiene caused susceptibility to a large number of infectious diseases, work-related conditions and nutritional deficiencies” (ASWYAS 2011 p.32).

Given the potential for such telling evidence to survive within graveyards, it is clearly imperative that detailed recording takes place whenever they are to be affected by works – and that the evidence gathered reaches final analysis and publication. It may well be that surviving skeletal evidence has the most to tell us about living and working conditions in South Yorkshire at this time – and about the impact of disease and industrial pollution on at least certain sectors of society. The Burial Acts of the 1850s led to the closure of urban graveyards and an expansion of the provision of cemeteries on the then edge of town, including both designed buildings and grounds. South Yorkshire is fortunate to have two examples of early ‘garden cemeteries’ both now registered parks & gardens: Sheffield’s General Cemetery of 1836 [NHLE 1001391] and Rotherham’s Moorgate Cemetery of 1841 [NHLE 1001653] – with designs by local architect Samuel Worth for their original extent, respectively for the Sheffield General Cemetery Company and the Rotherham General Cemetery Company.

Figure 16. Burngreave Cemetery and symmetrical chapels in 2014 (SYAS)

Slightly later public cemeteries, provided by Burial Boards, can also be found – an example is Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield, constructed 1859-60 (for the Brightside Burial Board), which is also a registered park & garden [NHLE 1001603]. Brooks notes, of cemeteries of this period: “The difficulty of catering for different denominations within the same cemetery… was an architectural problem… An initial solution was simply to pair the chapels… From the 1850s, however, a new building type emerged – one unique to cemetery design – in which the two chapels [Anglican and Nonconformist], designed symmetrically and set either parallel to one another or end to end, are linked by a porte-cochère, frequently topped by a steeple” (Brooks 1989 p. 67). This is the design solution that can be seen at Burngreave, where the two symmetrical chapels and central clocktower are listed buildings [NHLE 1246676]. Other cemeteries of this period in South Yorkshire are not currently included on the national register as designed landscapes but may have their associated buildings listed, e.g. the chapels and central tower constructed c.1855 at Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster [NHLE 1314876]. Research into locally significant parks & gardens is important and Hyde Park Cemetery is proposed for identification as local historic park/garden in the Doncaster Local Plan (see: There is still research needing to be done on many other designed landscapes within South Yorkshire.

In addition, there is a wealth of social information recorded on grave markers and the grave markers (and other memorials) themselves warrant study. The changing styles and designs displayed may help us to consider changing attitudes to death and religion. Archaeological input to conservation projects within these cemeteries, such as the ongoing work at the General Cemetery, are to be welcomed  ( accessed 3-10-20)

Rural Landscapes

Polite Landscapes

Designed landscapes around country houses continued to evolve in this period, into the form of park that we think of today as the quintessential English landscape garden. Historic England note, in their guide to registering rural landscapes, that:

Informal landscapes evolved rapidly from the middle of the eighteenth century… Landscapes around houses were transformed, or laid out from scratch, in an idealised ‘natural’ manner, with pasture ground running uninterrupted from the house (animals being kept at a distance by an unseen ha-ha) into gently undulating grounds studded with clumps of trees, and with the world beyond screened by plantation belts around the park edge. The key feature of interest was usually a lake in the middle distance, ideally contrived to resemble a great river curving through the park“ (Historic England 2018a ps.9-10).

Tom Williamson notes of perimeter planting belts “Belts were essential only where the lie of the land opened up distant prospects… it was not just the crowded cottages of the rural poor and the fields of their labour from which the gentry increasingly wished to retreat… industrialisation might fund the development of gardens and parks but few wanted to view its consequences” (Williamson1995 p. 102).

‘Capability’ Brown is the name most associated with this type of landscape and we are fortunate to have parks & gardens within South Yorkshire identified as probably by Brown. Sandbeck Park, which incorporated and landscaped the remains of Roche Abbey, is included on the national register and described as ‘Pleasure grounds and park of c 1760-78 by Lancelot Brown for the fourth Earl of Scarbrough incorporating elements of a C17 park and mid C18 landscaping – with C19 alterations’ [NHLE 1001161]. These works were undertaken alongside remodelling of the main house, where an earlier building was encased and extended c1760 by James Paine for the 4th Earl of Scarbrough [NHLE 1314665].  Recent research suggests that Brown was also responsible for designing the landscape around Aston Hall, for the Earl of Holderness in the 1760s – concurrent with the rebuilding of the hall to a design by John Carr (SYSMR 5789); more research is needed into the extent of this park in the 18th century and survival of historic landscape features.

Other notable designers who worked in South Yorkshire in this period include Richard Woods, who is known to have worked at Cannon Hall. Here the grounds were laid out between 1760 and 1765 for John Spencer – again, concurrently with works to the hall itself, which was remodelled 1764-8 by John Carr, with later alterations also by John Carr [see NHLE 1151805]. The landscape is included on the national register and described as ‘Gardens and a park laid out in the 1760s by Richard Woods, and parkland added in the late C18/early C19’ [NHLE 1001159].

Woods was also responsible for the design of the landscape at Cusworth Hall. Here the grounds were laid out by Richard Woods to provide the setting for a recently built country house built in 1740-45 by George Platt for William Wrightson, with alterations 1749-53 by James Paine. The designed landscape is included on the national register and described as ‘A landscape park laid out 1761-5 by Richard Woods to provide the setting for a mid C18 country house’ [NHLE 1000412]. Good documentation for Woods’ work survives for Cusworth, including detailed planting instructions and accounts of earthmoving. Recent restoration works allowed archaeological investigation of some surviving features, for Doncaster MBC. The work included investigation of the ornamental rock arch, a grotto at the end of the upper lake, and of the cascade between the upper and middle lakes – as well as the site of a bridge at the junction of the middle and lower lakes  (Saich & Matthews 2007 p.59). The work undertaken here, by ARCUS, allowed an assessment of the implementation of Woods’ instructions, which had been followed closely, as well as a hypothetical reconstruction of the bridge, which had been designed and constructed to disguise the dam between the two lakes (Jessop 2011).

Figure 17. Landscaped park for Cusworth Hall shown on Jefferys’ map of Yorkshire of 1771 – complete with perimeter planting, serpentine lakes, tree clumps and evidence for re-routing of the road away from the park (from

Although this period is often seen as one of landscape design rather than garden design, Williamson points out:

Pleasure grounds did indeed continue to be created and maintained at most country houses in this period, but they were now usually hidden away from the main facade of the house, placed to the side or rear… If walled gardens lay away from the main facade, owners were more likely to retain them… Even when the rising tide of fashion dictated the removal of walled gardens, some of their recreational and ornamental roles migrated to the kitchen garden, still walled but now usually hidden away behind the stable block or – more rarely – in the distant recesses of the park’ (Williamson 1995 ps 89 & 92).

The walled kitchen garden at Owston Park is an example of adopting this approach. The designed landscape at Owston has been researched and identified as a local historic park/garden in the Doncaster Local Plan (see: accessed 21-Jan 2021). Humphrey Repton was commissioned to refashion the grounds for owner Bryan Cooke and a Red Book produced by Repton and dated 1792 survives. Some elements of Repton’s design are thought to have been carried out. However, the large brick walled kitchen garden [NHLE 1314851] is thought to pre-date Repton’s involvement. The walled garden is remote from the hall (modified and extended c.1794-5 by William Lindley for Cooke [NHLE 1286676]). Research by Chris Scurfield, as part of a recording project, identified that the garden is referred to as the ‘New Garden’ on a sketch plan of 1788; as it was constructed largely of brick, Scurfield suggests that it pre-dates the introduction of the brick tax in 1784 (Scurfield 2011 p.20).

Ensuring an appropriately designed landscape could extend to more than blocking an unpleasant view and hiding the gardens. Williamson notes:

many landowners deliberately reduced the size of settlements, and those villages which were unquestionably cleared to make way for parks had usually already experienced a substantial measure of contraction… in order to limit the number of people who might, through age or ill health or illegitimacy, become claimants for poor relief. Nevertheless, emparking did have an important impact on settlement, especially in areas characterized by nucleated villages” (Williamson 1995 p.103).

Alongside this, Williamson adds “public rights of way – roads, tracks or footpaths – were frequently, indeed almost invariably, terminated or diverted when parks were laid out” (ibid p.104).

Evidence for such alterations are still often visible in the landscape and earthwork evidence may survive, likely to be associated with buried archaeological evidence. At Owston Hall, the Repton proposals included relocating the house but instead the public road was moved further eastwards to extend the parklands (see ). The amended route is clearly visible in plan and a shrunken settlement is recorded near the parish church, nearby (SYSMR 2912). Earthwork evidence for croft boundaries from such a shrunken/relocated settlement at Cusworth, between the hall and the present village, have been scheduled [NHLE 1019080].

Other evidence within the park may also relate to an earlier landscape. Williamson notes that:

Careful examination of eighteenth-century parks reveals how painstakingly their makers utilized existing trees… when an area was enclosed to make a park the hedgerows within it were invariably levelled and their accompanying ditches filled, but a proportion – often a very high proportion – of the hedgerow trees were allowed to remain… many parks still contain trees that were already old when the former were first created” (Williamson 1995 p.95).

As yet, this aspect of historic parks has seen little investigation in South Yorkshire and there is clearly scope to do more. There is a growing recognition of the presence of “ghosts” or remnants of former woodland in the countryside (see, for example, Rotherham 2017) – it is hoped that similar cross-disciplinary research can be encouraged to supplement our understanding of remnant evidence within the designed landscapes of rural South Yorkshire.

Pleasure gardens had made a return late in the 18th century, under the influence of Henry Repton, and continued as a dominant feature of design in the 19th century –  but as an addition to the landscape park, not in place of it. Williamson notes “Increasingly flamboyant displays were placed on broad open terraces of a loosely Italianate inspiration” (Williamson 1995 p.163), from where a good view of the park could be obtained, whilst hidden from view from outside by dense perimeter planting. Williamson adds “as in the previous century, a personal fortune made in mines and factories was soon invested in a rural estate, complete with a mansion – and a park”(ibid).

In South Yorkshire, we have a fine example of such an estate at Brodsworth, where a new house was constructed in the Italianate style for Charles Thellusson, in the 1860s [NHLE 1191614]. The house is surrounded by a ring of gardens, including formal terraces, flower gardens, a rock garden and shrubbery – with the landscaped park beyond [NHLE 1001250]. As with so many eighteenth century parks, this hall and landscape is known to have been superimposed on an existing landscape, evidence for which the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology has been investigating for a number of years. Examples of areas studied include the walled kitchen gardens, thought to date to the later 18th century and to relate to the older hall, demolished in the 1860s. Trenching within the former stovehouse identified that there was a series of buildings on the site before the construction of the walled garden itself (Hiscock, Klemperer and Merony 2010), which hints at further complexity. It is hoped that further reporting on the research investigations at Brodsworth will enable us to gain a better understanding of the impact of successive phases of construction and estate design on the rural landscapes of South Yorkshire.

Agricultural Improvement

The commencement of enclosure, of deer parks and open fields, has been discussed for the Post-Medieval period – this later period saw a continuation and acceleration of that process, through Parliamentary Enclosure of remaining open fields, commons and wastes. The Historic Environment Characterisation project in South Yorkshire has mapped evidence for this type of enclosure within the modern landscape, helping us to recognise areas and patterns of enclosure at this time – see SY HEC &

Areas of Parliamentary Enclosure would also have an impact on rural settlement. As Derek Holland notes:

Auckley Common Farm and Blaxton Common Farm were both built soon after the enclosure of Auckley Common and Blaxton Common in 1774-8. At Norton, in Campsall parish, Norton Common Farm was built after the enclosure of 1814-18… At Owston the commons and wastes were enclosed in 1760-1 but Owston Grange was not built among the new closes until 1808. This is a reminder that the considerable expense of enclosure often had to be offset by several years’ returns before there was money to spend on new buildings. This was especially so where the newly-enclosed land was wet or heavy clayland, as at Owston” (Holland 1980 p. 36).

In such wetter areas, the process of enclosure was associated with an expansion of existing drainage schemes (see discussion of the 17th century Vermuyden drainage scheme under Post-Medieval). Derek Holland adds “Sometimes drainage had proceeded independently of enclosure, and indeed was a pre-requisite for it… [here] the landscape is divided not by hedges and walls but by a whole series of drains at right angles to each other. This is the face of parliamentary enclosure in a predominantly wet area” (ibid p.37).

Holland goes on to note that maintenance of associated drains and improvements to drainage within the low-lying eastern area of South Yorkshire required co-operation on a regional scale, with the Court of Sewers for the Level of Hatfield Chase was set up in 1629. This strategic approach has continued through to modern internal drainage boards (see An Act of Parliament in 1862 ‘to incorporate the Participants of the Level of Hatfield Chase; to authorize the Construction of additional Works of Drainage in the said Level’ identified the South Yorkshire townships or parishes with associated liabilities as: Armthorpe, Cantley, Auckley, Finningley, Rossington, Hatfield, Blaxton, Stainforth, South Bramwith, Fishlake, Sykehouse and Thorne (ibid).

As well as the drains themselves, structures associated with the wider drainage strategy may be found. Examples include the pumping station at Kirk Bramwith, built 1878 (Bayliss 1995 p.4), and the nearby Drain Bridge, thought to be late 18th century in date, which has evidence of a mechanism for controlling water flow [NHLE 1151594].

Agricultural improvement at this time was also likely to involve drainage on a much smaller scale, particularly on heavy soils. Buried field drains, to encourage excess water to flow into nearby water courses, are a familiar feature found in archaeological fieldwork but have, as yet, still received little archaeological study. An overview by Mark Robinson suggests that many relate to a particular phase of agricultural improvement:

it was only from the beginning of the nineteenth century with the invention of clay drainage pipes that drainage became more widespread. After 1826 drainage tiles were exempted from tax… this began a period of intensive drainage which continued for about half a century, helped by loans from government and private sources” (Robinson 1986 p. 79).

Further research by Tony Philips has helped provide some additional details into the likely extent of such drainage works. Looking at underdrainage schemes on the Earl of Scarbrough’s Sandbeck estate (on the eastern side of Rotherham) in the second half of the nineteenth century, Philips wrote:

Only about 30 percent of the estate was drained. In absolute terms this was not a great amount, but it was virtually the area that was covered by marl, alluvium and peat, the parts of the estate naturally heavy and wet… Draining was aimed primarily at improving arable land… but, though less important, pasture was also drained with the lower valued lands being treated “ (Philips 1972 p.206).

Consideration of the location and nature of field drains identified in archaeological fieldwork would help feed into further research on this topic.

A more visible investment in agricultural improvement was in farm buildings across South Yorkshire. Construction of new farmsteads associated with areas of enclosure has already been mentioned (see above) but this period also saw improvements to existing farms. One notable innovation in this period was the introduction of power for mechanisation. Threshing barns with a projecting horse-engine house were one result and examples of such buildings can still be found. One such combination was found at Cockhill Farm, Edlington, where the structure was recorded ahead of demolition; the barn was thought to be late 18th century, with the gin house an early 19th century addition – the engine house has since been re-erected at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming (SYSMR 3499). At Manor Farm, Greasbrough, the horse-engine house is also thought to have been added to an existing barn. The barn here is thought to have a 17th century core, with the apsidal-ended horse-engine house being added in the late 18th/ early 19th century [NHLE 1191974]; recording was carried out ahead of conservation works in 2008 (Saich 2012 p. 75-76). The example of the barn and engine house at North Farm, Letwell [NHLE 1192675], is thought to have been built together in the early 19th century, and the engine house here has a more unusual square-shape; this complex has now been converted to residential use.

This period also saw the innovation of model farms, where whole farmsteads were constructed or redesigned in the 18th and 19th centuries, usually on a functional courtyard plan. Derek Holland mentions two near Rossington: Hunster Grange (now part of Hunster Grange Farm) and Mount Pleasant (now part of the Mount Pleasant Hotel), but suggests that model farms were not common in South Yorkshire (Holland 1980 p. 54). Other possible examples have since been identified. An example of such is the farm buildings south of Grange Lane, Burghwallis (SYSMR 5715), which were recorded by Archaeological Services WYAS ahead of conversion to residential use, in 1999. Built around a central courtyard, the buildings were thought to be early 19th century in date; the northern range included a stable with twelve king-post trusses supporting the roof, the southern range included a barn divided into five bays by four king-post trusses; the east and west ranges had limestone-built vaults, potentially for storage (Saich 2002 p.49-50). Another example is Low Laithes Farm near Wombwell (SYSMR 4998), where recording by CS Archaeology ahead of residential conversion, in 2006, identified that the current farm probably developed from a late 18th century model farm; the surviving historic buildings including a pre-1840 farmhouse and cartshed/dovecote, which were augmented by a range of buildings post-1840 (Saich & Matthews 2010 p.56).

Of farm buildings of this period, Peter Ryder has noted for the Post-Medieval that “The principal rafter truss became dominant in farm building until towards the end of the 19th century” and has added, then “the king-post returned, albeit in a somewhat different guise, with the influence of copy book carpentry” (Ryder pers.comm). However, there has been no systematic survey of this phase of agricultural buildings within South Yorkshire to assess surviving evidence for continuity and change. Such a survey would undoubtedly be informative.

One further aspect of agricultural improvement that is worth specifically mentioning here is that at Hollow Meadows, to the west of Sheffield. Here, Derek Holland notes “during the 1840s the Duke of Norfolk leased patches of moorland to small-scale occupiers on long leases… One of the allotments (of 50 acres) was occupied by the ratepayers of Sheffield township, and in the early 1850s it was in the process of being cleared, drained and enclosed for cultivation by able-bodied paupers” (Holland 1980 p.36). Clarification of the rationale behind this can be found in the biography of Isaac Ironside, who had been inspired by Robert Owen’s views that the character of the poor was affected by their environment:

Ironside was one of two Chartists elected to the town council in 1846 and remained a councillor until 1868, first sitting for Ecclesall ward and latterly for Nether Hallam. He built up an ultra-radical grouping, calling itself the central democratic party… which forced several debates on the Charter and national education. On the practical side, Ironside established a health committee and, in 1848, gained council backing for the erection of a model workhouse farm at Hollow Meadows, near Sheffield, which by 1854 had seen 22 acres of wasteland reclaimed and farmed” (Lee 2007 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, accessed 3-11-19).

The associated Sheffield Union Workhouse can be seen on the first edition OS map of 1854; the buildings were later developed into an Industrial School and have since been converted to residential use.

There has been research into the relationship between towns and their rural hinterland, and how the growing towns of this period fed their population (see, for example, Janet Blackman’s article on Sheffield’s markets) but there is just not space to go into this here. This last example will have to stand as evidence that, although we talk of rural and urban as though they are separate topics, the two are clearly interlinked.

Industrial Settlements

This is a timely point at which to consider the impact on the rural landscape of settlement growth associated with industrial development. The Historic Environment Characterisation (HEC) project identified ‘industrial settlements’ such as that along Green Moor Road, Barnsley [HSY6241], where no houses were marked on the 1813 enclosure award map, when the land was open moorland/common, but where housing could be seen to develop later, in association with the growth of quarrying in the area; the settlement included a Methodist Chapel from an early stage – and a pub, the Rock Inn (according to the historic OS maps). Such growth was really an expansion of the provision of workers housing often seen in relation to industrial works in then rural areas, such as Norton Hammer Lane Cottages, Sheffield [HSY2089 ]  – stone built cottages associated with the site of Norton Forge / Norton Hammer, of 18th/19th century date [NHLE 1246836]; the cottages are shown on an 1863 survey for Midland Railway, with small garden plots that remain undeveloped to the present day.

Figure 18. Brodsworth Hall, Colliery and new settlement at Woodlands, shown on the 1920s OS map (reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland: Map Images website)

However, the scale of such industrial settlements was to increase dramatically, particularly with the development of the mining industry and its move eastwards into the concealed coalfield. The HEC project recorded the development of the settlement of ‘Woodlands’, associated with Brodsworth Colliery, with the earliest part of the colliery village being ‘The Park’, a development of houses built within and surrounding a preserved section of a late 18th / 19th century landscape park, originally associated with a large house called ‘Woodlands’ to the south east [HSY4892]. Sables provides more detail:

The village of Woodlands was created in open countryside in 1907 to house the miners of Brodsworth Colliery which had been sunk two years before… many of the houses built by the colliery owners are of a unique design and arguably of national importance… The village was designed by the eminent architect Percey Bond Houfton as a self-contained community in the style of what he saw as an English country village. He designed 16 different styles of houses which surrounded ten separate areas of green parkland, with the whole village surrounded by a stone wall pierced by four gates that were closed at sunset each evening. The colliery provided all the needs of the community by building a church and a co-operative society shop while the morals of the miners were protected by the banning of selling alcohol in the village” (Sables 2017 p.995).

Sables goes on to note that “Instead of learning about the British coal industry, the history of their families and the industry that supported them, the schoolchildren of Woodlands and surrounding mining villages are taken on visits to local ‘Notable Country Houses’… One of the large houses around which the children of the community are shown is Brodsworth Hall. Brodsworth Hall is just under a mile to the west of Woodlands and was the home to the former owner of the land upon which the colliery was sunk” (ibid p.999) – and challenges us to make the heritage agenda more inclusive. Hopefully, one outcome of the questions posed by this research framework will be to do just that.

Archaeobotanical Issues

Issues identified for the Post-Medieval period will also apply to this later period. In addition, Ellen Simmons noted in comments for the research framework, with regard to assemblages of wood charcoal that: “A later drain fill from the site of Sheffield Castle (Simmons and Jones 2020) produced an assemblage dominated by oak, including fragments of oak heartwood, indicating the continued availability of mature oak trees in the Sheffield region in the Industrial period.  Closely spaced annual growth rings on some of the oak charcoal fragments indicate restricted growing conditions, such as would result in well-established dense woodland, although this may also be an indication of poor growing conditions caused by factors such as poor climate or the local environment.” 

Industrial Research Questions


How can we better understand the post-Medieval and Industrial period mining landscape of South Yorkshire? What was the relationship between different components of that landscape?

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What was the early organisation of the metal trades industries and how did this change over the post-medieval and into the Industrial period?

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What evidence can we find for the relationship between existing and emerging technologies in the post-Medieval and Insustrial periods?

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How can we better understand the relationship between the extractive industries and production sites in the Post Medieval and Industrial periods?

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Can evidence be found for use of copper alloys in the cutlery/tool trade? How were these metals being sourced – were they brought in as ingots, bars, etc. or were raw materials brought in for production locally?

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Can evidence from waterlogged plant remains provide information on industrial activities such as tanning, cloth production and dying in the post-Medieval and Industrial periods?

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How can we better understand the local brick and firebrick industries?

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Can we identify specific clay tobacco pipe production sites?

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How can we develop a better understanding of the relationship between small-scale and large-scale industrial concerns? Can we see if and how this changed over time?

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What evidence can we identify for innovation and conversely for the retention of traditional practices in the industrial-period steel-making, edge-tool, cutlery and tableware industries?

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Can we find evidence of undocumented or poorly documented industrial processes that could add to our understanding of the range of industries active locally in the Industrial period?

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Why did the textile industry develop within Barnsley and surrounding areas in the Industrial period, and how did this industry link in with the wider regional textile industry?

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Transport & Communications

How and why did transport infrastructure develop during the post-Medieval and Industrial periods and what was the impact of this? In particular, what was the impact of this development on existing infrastructure, such as inland ports?

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How can we better understand the overall operation of Industrial-period transport systems, as well as investigating their component parts?

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How can we better understand the role and significance of reservoir/feeder ponds and ancillary watercourses in the operation of canals?

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Can the relationship between packhorse routes and early turnpikes be better understood?

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How did different transport systems affect industrial and urban development?

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Can evidence for navvy camps used during the construction of Industrial period transport infrastructure be identified within South Yorkshire?

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Power Supply & Utilities

How did the changing technologies of power generation affect the development and distribution of industrial sites?

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How were existing Industrial period water management features maintained or adapted for later water supply purposes?

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How has construction of Industrial period water supply features affected the rural landscape?

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Can evidence for navvy camps used during the construction of Industrial period water supply infrastructure be identified within South Yorkshire?

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Urban Townscapes

What was the relationship between post-Medieval and Industrial towns and their surrounding rural areas, particularly in relation to the supply of provisions?

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Can we establish what opportunities and venues were available for both recreational & cultural pursuits within the urban setting in the post-Medieval and Industrial periods? What can these tell us about changing social attitudes?

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How can we better understand the living conditions and lifestyles of the urban poor during the Industrial and post-Medieval periods?

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To what extent was large-scale earth-moving and dumping a characteristic of 18th and 19th century urban development? Where were these dumps of material stored and how far did the material travel? Can material in these dumps help us to understand the local economy?

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What was the impact of municipal waste disposal on the conditions of urban life in the Industrial period?

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What was the impact of town planning on the character of urban settlements during the Industrial period? How did concerns about health and sanitation affect town planning decisions?

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How did buildings associated with government, public amenities and education develop during the Industrial period? What were their relationships to other elements of the urban townscape?

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Were all Industrial period residential courts and housing built in the same way and in the same style, or were there variations? Was there a differentiation in status between residential areas when built – if so, how can we identify this? Did this change over time?

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How did individuals shape urban development during the Industrial period, for example through land ownership and/or philanthropy?

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To what extent are survivals of buildings associated with social reform, such as mission rooms and temperance houses, with the labour movement, such as trade union halls, and with women’s suffrage understood, in terms of identifying types and recording significant examples?

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What was the impact of Industrial period expansion, beyond the historic cores of towns and cities, into a pre-existing rural landscape?

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What can investigation of any buried soils tell us about the pre-existing landscape affected by urban expansion in the industrial period.

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Religion & Ritual

What can studies of human remains tell us about demographics, diet and health, and how these changed during the post medieval and industrial periods?

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What were the roles of existing and new religious buildings within the Industrial period urban environment?

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How can we investigate the growth and changing nature of Nonconformism in the Industrial period?

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What were the characteristics and impacts of changing funerary traditions during the Industrial period?

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How can we better understand the development and evolution of cemetery design during the Industrial period?

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Can the study of grave markers and other memorials tell us about changing attitudes to death and religion in the Industrial period?

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What can the study of human remains tell us about the impact of industrialisation on local populations?

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Polite Landscapes

Can we better understand developments in high status estates & garden design and their impact on the landscapes of South Yorkshire?

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What was the impact of Parliamentary enclosure and associated improvements, including drainage, on the rural landscape?

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What evidence can we find for agricultural intensification during the Industrial period?

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What can palaeo-environmental evidence tell us about changes in agricultural practice and products during the Industrial period?

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What can animal bone assemblages tell us about animal husbandry in the Industrial period? Can we see changes in size and shape of breeds in the 18th and 19th centuries?

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How and where did planned farms develop during the Industrial period? What was their relationship to existing farm sites?

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Where and why did market gardens develop?

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Rural Settlements

Can we identify shrinking, removal or relocation of rural settlements in the post-Medieval and Industrial periods, as well as identifying the causes?

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How can we better understand the living conditions and lifestyles of the rural poor during the post-Medieval and Industrial periods?

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How did population growth affect rural settlements during the Industrial period?

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What was the relationship between extractive/industrial sites and rural settlement patterns in the Industrial period?

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Material Culture

Can we identify and explain changes in material culture use over the post-Medieval and Industrial periods?

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Can we characterise differences in material culture use between gender, age and class groups, and between rural and urban populations during the post-Medieval and Industrial periods?

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Can we identify evidence in material culture for particular Industrial-period religious or social groups, such as the Temperance movement?

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Can we understand how particular artefacts, such as clay pipes, were used to signal identity during the Industrial period?

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Can we find evidence for children’s play and for recreation in Industrial period material culture?

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Cross-Cutting Archaeobotanical and Geoarchaeological

QSY0349: What can sampling of waterlogged plant remains from latrine pits, moats, wells and deep features such as pits and ditches tell us about diet, trade, and access to imported foods during the post-Medieval and Industrial periods? Can differences in access be identified, for example between rural & urban settlements and between high & low status settlements?

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Found in the following Frameworks:
South Yorkshire Historic Environment Research Framework
Environmental sampling, Industrial, Excavation, Post medieval, Organic material

QSY0350: What can Industrial and post-Medieval period waterlogged plant remains tell us about the cultivation of garden plants and are there differences between gardens associated with high & low status sites and between rural & urban gardens?

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Found in the following Frameworks:
South Yorkshire Historic Environment Research Framework
Environmental sampling, Industrial, Excavation, Post medieval, Palaeoenvironmental analysis, Garden

QSY0395: What can assemblages of wood charcoal tell us about woodland management in the local environment during the Industrial period? Can identification of wood charcoal provide evidence for the importation of exotic woods and, therefore, trade?

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Found in the following Frameworks:
South Yorkshire Historic Environment Research Framework
Environmental sampling, Industrial, Excavation, Charcoal, Organic material, Trade

QSY0396: Can evidence for historic chemical contamination be found in Industrial period river sediments and in sediments from water management features (such as infilled goits and dams)?

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Authority to change status:
Date accepted:
Date of next review:
Found in the following Frameworks:
South Yorkshire Historic Environment Research Framework
Industrial, Borehole survey, Chemical techniques

QSY0397: Can evidence for chemical contamination of sediments help us to identify industrial sites from the Industrial period, particularly associated with the lead processing industry?

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Found in the following Frameworks:
South Yorkshire Historic Environment Research Framework
Industrial, Industrial site, Excavation, Borehole survey, Survey, Chemical techniques

Original text by Dinah Saich, South Yorkshire Archaeology Service (2021), with contributions from Peter Ryder (buildings), Chris Cumberpatch (pottery) and Ellen Simmons (archaeobotany)


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