AIA e-News Bulletin April 2022

Welcome to the Association for Industrial Archaeology’s regular e-news bulletin. Read on for updates on what the AIA have been doing recently, and other industrial archaeology news from the UK and beyond. If you have a story you think should feature in a future bulletin please get in touch with the AIA.

Industrial sites receive government support for cultural recovery

Elsecar Heritage Centre (image courtesy of Barnsley Museums)

In March it was announced that more than 60 galleries, museums, libraries and cultural venues across England – including nationally important industrial heritage sites – will receive financial support from the Government’s Cultural Investment Fund (CIF) delivered by Arts Council England. Almost £50 million is being given to projects that help to improve people’s access to the arts, safeguard cultural assets for future generations and support economic growth and recovery through culture in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Elsecar Heritage Centre in South Yorkshire (managed by Barnsley Museums) will receive a grant of £3.93million to create new creative studios in derelict historic spaces, maker and museum galleries and new indoor and outdoor areas for events and cultural activity, helping Elsecar to become an internationally recognised visitor attraction.

Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust (IGMT) will receive a grant of £1million to fund urgent infrastructure and maintenance work at Blist Hill Victorian Town. This will include repairs to the Hay Incline Plane – used to raise and lower tub boats on the Shropshire Canal between Blists Hill and Coalport, installation of new perimeter fencing around the site, and improved energy efficiency throughout. The IGMT will also receive a further £9.9million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF)’s Cultural Assets Fund to support essential repairs to 35 industrial monuments and listed buildings within the gorge. Visitor numbers in Ironbridge, which has also recently experienced devastating floods, dropped by almost 75% in 2020 due to the pandemic (compared to 2019) with volunteers also unable to provide their usual support with regular maintenance work. 

Press release from Barnsley council about funding for Elsecar
Press release from IGMT about Blists Hill funding
Press release from IGMT about the Cultural Assets Fund

New Strategy for Oldham’s Textile Mills Launched 

Earl Mill, Hathershaw, one of many of Oldham’s textiel mills. Image by Alan Murray-Rust (courtesy of Geograph under Creative Commons licence)

Oldham Council has published its Mills Strategy (March 2022) setting out how these historic textile buildings can play an important part in the future of the borough. The study, one of the first of its kind in the country, was commissioned by Oldham Council and Historic England to explore the mills potential for future use. It is seen as key in reducing Oldham’s green belt allocations, with mill sites able to provide space for around 800 new homes. The Oldham Mills Strategy identifies mills across the borough and assesses how important each one is to the local heritage and landscape. It also establishes how they could be repurposed, including conversion to new homes, employment or other uses. This has the added advantage of minimising the area’s carbon footprint by reusing previously developed sites. Oldham has 103 surviving textile mills (excluding Saddleworth) built between the mid-18th century and the 1920s. Of these, only 14 are listed buildings. 

Link to the Oldham Mill’s Strategy 

Closure of FLAME Gasworks Museum, Carrickfergus

FLAME gasworks museum (image courtesy of Ian West)

AIA was saddened to learn of the recent closure of FLAME Gasworks Museum in Carrickfergus. The coal-gas works at Carrickfergus ceased operation in 1967 but survived remarkably intact. In 1991 it was leased by the Northern Ireland government to an independent trust, to operate as a museum called FLAME, and underwent a major restoration, with the help of a £1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It remains one of the largest and best-preserved examples of a coal-gas plant in Europe. Sadly the museum closed at the end of March and the lease handed back to the Northern Ireland government’s Historic Environment Division. Discussions are ongoing about the museum’s collections and the hope is that the site may reopen as a museum once vital improvements have been made to the infrastructure.

More mill fires

AIA is also sad to report another mill fire, this time at the Hermitage Mill, a Grade II listed building in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The mill dates from the late 18th century and has housed both textile and hosiery manufacture. It is regarded as a significant part of the town’s industrial heritage. From the 1950s it was used as a builders’ merchants but has remained vacant for many years, with several potential redevelopment schemes failing to get off the ground. In a repeat of an all-too-common story, the building was severely damaged by an arson attack at the end of March, leaving its future even more uncertain. A recent article in the Yorkshire Post draws attention to the large number of fires at iconic textile mills in West Yorkshire in recent years. 

Yorkshire Post article on mill fires

International Women’s Day highlights forgotten female industrialists

Adeline Jackson, the UK’s first female glass technician (courtesy of Barnsley Archives)

In celebration of International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, many cultural organisations have been sharing stories of inspiring women, including some lesser-known women industrialists. Someone we hadn’t heard of before was Adeline Jackson, the UK’s first female glass technician. Barnsley Archives published an interesting blog about her and her technical notebooks, which they have recently discovered in their collections. Tim Dunn shared the story of another Yorkshire pioneer, Hilda Margaret Lyon, who helped to design the R100 and R101 airships. Moving further North, Go Industrial published a fascinating blog about women ship builders in the Clyde shipyards during the first and second World Wars. Their work didn’t just make an important contribution to the war effort, but changed the face of the ship yards forever. 

Adeline Jackson the UK’s first female glass technician
Hilda Margaret Lyon airship pioneer

Women ship builders on the Clyde

Bath Stone Quarry Museum Trust call for help

The Bath Stone Quarry Museum Trust are looking for help with cataloguing and safeguarding their collection. The museum is a charity set up by the late David Pollard 30 years ago. Until his untimely death in September 2017 he collected a huge number of items, documents and photographs relating to the quarrying and transport of Bath Stone, with the eventual intention of opening a museum. The collection is safely housed in an industrial unit at Corsham and a distillation of David labours was published last year. The trustees recently commissioned Dr Peter Stanier to assess the collection. He reported that it was the most complete collection of its kind, and of national importance.  It is unique in including tools that would have been recognised by Roman quarrymen right through to massive machines in operation into the 21st century. Work has started on cataloguing the collection but the Trustees are looking for help to support this important work, as well additional trustees who could take forward the vision of a museum. There is more information in a recent blog on the Bath Newseum website (link below). If anybody can help please e-mail us and we will put you in touch with the museum trustees. 

Bath Stone Quarry Museum blog

New tide mill database launched

Tide Mill at Poplar Grove, Virginia, USA (courtesy Tide Mill Institute)

We have been interested to read this month that the American Tide Mill Institute has recently launched a database which seeks to list the location of all known tide-mill sites worldwide.The use of tidal power for electricity generation is gaining renewed interest at present, but the idea of harnessing the power of the tides is not a new one. Remains of a few such mills, once used for grinding corn, can be found in the UK, but many more survive on the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

Link to the Tide Mill database

York University drops popular railway studies degree

Along with many people interested in industrial heritage, AIA were very disappointed to hear that York University have decided to drop their Railway Studies MA degree, which was the only course of its kind anywhere in the World. Course leader, Dr David Turner, broke the sad news on Twitter in February. The decision has been met with dismay from many in the sector, including the Journal for Transport History, who have called the move devastating and short-sighted.

Yorkshire Post article on York University’s decision to cancel Railway Studies MA

AIA Liverpool Weekend 17-19 June 2022

The iconic 1938 airport terminal at Speke (photograph by Ian West)

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, AIA has been unable to organise physical events for industrial archaeology enthusiasts for two years, and many people have missed the opportunity to visit places of interest in the company of knowledgeable guides and others who share their interests. With the help of the Merseyside Industrial Heritage Society, this is being rectified with a weekend event in Liverpool. It starts on the Friday 17 June with a full day touring the dock area of Liverpool. On Saturday 18 June there will be visits to a number of important sites connected with transport in the area, including the 1938 Speke Airport terminal, and Sunday 19 June will feature industries in the nearby town of St Helens. On the Saturday evening there will be a dinner at the Liverpool Marriott Hotel at which AIA’s awards for the past two years will be presented. Accommodation is available at the Marriott at a preferential rate. 

Booking details for the Liverpool Conference 

East-West Workshop on Industrial Archaeology 21 May

After the success of the first East-West Workshop on Industrial Archaeology organised by our AIA Young Members in 2021, a second East-West workshop focusing on the work of young researchers in academic and professional industrial archaeology is being planned. This will provide an opportunity to share knowledge across international boundaries and is being jointly organised by the Institute for Cultural Heritage and History of Science & Technology (USTB, China), and the Association for Industrial Archaeology’s Young Members Board. It will take place on line on Saturday 21 May, between the times of 06.30-08.30 (Brasilia time), 10.30-12.30 (BST)  and 17.30-19.30 (Beijing time). The subjects of the four presentations are:

  • Electronic industry heritage: the example of the Chinese display industry
  • Digging industrial Britain: two case studies from Sheffield and Normanton
  • The Millanos’ woollen mills in Portugal: an archaeology of absence
  • Rubber production and entanglements in the Brazilian Amazon region

The event is free. Registration details in the link here: Registration details for the second East-West industrial archaeology workshop

Cultural Landscapes of Energy: constructing histories in the aftermath of  energy production, Leipzig Neuseenland, Germany, 15–16 September 2022

All types of energy production have affected the ways people worked, resided and lived in the affected landscapes. This upcoming conference in Germany will explore different historical perspectives surrounding work, habitation and leisure in the aftermath of energy production. More information and a call for papers can be found on the TICCIH website

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