The Black Country Society has members with specialist interest in the area. Our Industrial Archaeology Group have a particular interest in the buildings and sites of historical interest. The IAG plan a programme of Talks and activities annually and members of BCS are welcome to attend and take part.

Please note the new venue this year; the Olde Swan, (Mrs Pardoe`s), Halesowen Road,  Netherton.

Access to the room is by a staircase at the back of the pub lounge. The Olde Swan has its own car park off Northfield Road at the rear the pub, from which the lounge can be entered directly. Please note there is no lift to the first floor, so stairs are the only option.

Industrial Archaeology e-News Bulletin January 2020

Welcome to the Association for Industrial Archaeology's regular e-news bulletin. Read on for updates on what we've been doing recently, and other industrial archaeology news from across the country. If you have a story you think we should feature in a future bulletin please get in touch!

Price's teapot factory partially demolished

Photograph: Price's teapot factory in 2019 (courtesy of Stoke on Trent Live)

The grade II*-listed Price and Kensington teapot factory in Stoke-on-Trent was partly demolished by the City Council at the beginning of November on safety grounds. The site has been on the Historic England 'At Risk' register for a number of years. The Council took the owner to court in October, after failure to comply with a repair notices that had been served in July. This latest action reflects the difficulties, often cash-strapped, councils face in protecting industrial heritage. Where owners do not maintain their buildings and ignore notices for their repair, the outcome is often the loss of important heritage, especially when there is no apparently viable alternative for re-use. Read more about this story on the BBC website. 

AIA Planning News

The AIA regularly comments on planning applications that affect Listed industrial buildings and sites of industrial heritage interest. In two recent cases the AIA’s intervention has had a positive effect. Following our objections to proposals for the residential conversion of a former malthouse in Banbury, a new application of a more suitable nature has been submitted, which we have supported. The second case concerns the former LittleJohns collar factory in Bideford, where the local authority and the applicant has taken into consideration our comments, with one of the historic buildings retained for conversion to residential use. AIA has also joined other bodies, including the Victorian Society and the Ancient Monuments Society, in condemning current plans by Sheffield City Council to replace its two part-time Conservation Officers with external consultants. For more information about this (and to sign the online petition) please click here. For more information about our planning casework please visit our website.  

Whitechapel Bell Foundry hotel plans on hold

Photograph: Campaign to save Whitechapel Bell Foundry (courtesy of Spitalfields Life website)

Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been given a temporary reprieve as the Government’s Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick has intervened to halt the proposed conversion of the site to a boutique hotel, to allow other options to be considered. The Whitechapel Foundry, which is where Big Ben, the Liberty Bell, Bow Bells and many of the world’s great bells were cast, ceased operation in 2017 and plans to convert the Grade II*-listed building into a boutique hotel were approved by Tower Hamlets Council in November 2019. The decision attracted widespread criticism, both locally and within the heritage community. We await the results of the current considerations with interest. For more information about the campaign to save Whitechapel Bell Foundry please visit the Spitalfields Life website

Loughborough Bell Foundry update

Meanwhile, plans to restore Britain’s now only remaining operating bell foundry, John Taylor’s in Loughborough, which we reported in the last e-News Bulletin, have progressed, thanks to a development grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the first phase of the project. Detailed plans are now being developed for a round 2 bid to the the National Lottery Heritage Fund to secure the future of the bell foundry. This would include the repair of the two bell foundry buildings, an overhaul of the existing small museum and the restoration of the unique carillon tower. Caroe Architecture have been appointed to lead the design team on the project. Professor Marilyn Palmer (AIA president) is acting as consultant. For more information please visit the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust website

Sudbury Gas Works awarded heritage grant

Sudbury Gas Works Restoration Trust has been awarded a grant of almost £1.4m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore the building as a community centre. The gasworks was built in 1870, to provide gas to Sudbury Hall and parts of the nearby village. The handsome works building (currently derelict) was designed by noted country house architect George Devey and is grade 2 listed. The heritage grant will fund the restoration of the retort house, installation of interpretation and the construction of a new circular main hall on the footprint of the demolished gasholder. The new hall will accommodate up to 100 people for a range of events, including weddings. The AIA awarded a restoration grant of £15,500 to Sudbudy gasworks in 2018 to support the conservation of its rare wrought iron retort house roof.

Power station cooling towers demolition continues

Photograph: AIA visit to Ironbridge power station in 2015 (Stephen Miles)The disappearance of Britain’s gas holders, potent monuments to an important energy industry, has received much attention from AIA (see Industrial Archaeology News issues 184 and 185). Less coverage has been given to the continuing loss of power station cooling towers which, as a result of the rapid move away from coal-fired electricity generation, are also fast disappearing. Two examples that have been demolished in recent months are at Ironbridge in Shropshire. and Ferrybridge in Yorkshire. At Ironbridge, the four iconic cooling towers adjoining the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site were built fifty years ago from salmon-pink concrete, to lessen their visual impact. Whereas the redevelopment of some gas works sites has retained some elements of the former gas holders, it is hard to imagine this happening with power station cooling towers.

Industrial heritage sites amongst most-endangered in Europe

In December, Europa Nostra announced its shortlist of 14 most-endangered heritage sites in Europe. This included three industrial sites: traditional wine-making vessels in Armenia, the 1920s power station in Szombierki, Poland and a 100-year-old tram depot in Madrid. For more information please visit the Europanostra website. It had been hoped that a visit to the power station at Szombierki could be included in AIA’s Spring Tour to Poland in May but sadly the owners do not allow visitors of any kind. Nevertheless the tour features a wealth of other industrial heritage in Poland stretching from Gdańsk in the north to Katowice in the south, and covers shipbuilding, canals, salt, textiles, metalworking, coal mining and more. (see below for more details). 

Early Engines Conference

The second International Early Engines Conference is taking place from 15 to 17 May 2020 at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, close to the site of Newcomen’s first successful steam engine installation. The first Early Engines conference was held at Elsecar in 2017. The proceedings of this conference are now available. For more information please visit the Early Engines Conference website

New heritage protection for Hull fishing industry mural

An imposing post-war mural celebrating Hull's fishing heritage has been given listed status, despite being initially turned down for listing in 2017. Hull City Council had been planning to demolish the mural, and the connected British Home Stores building, as part of an ongoing £130million city centre redevelopment. The three ships mural, and a second fish mural inside the building, were both created by artist Alan Boyson in the early 1960s. 

New advice on recording historic gasworks

Historic England have published new guidance for evaluating and recording former gasworks and redundant gas holders. This is to help in establishing the significance of individual sites, and, where sites are to be demolished, to make sure these are properly recorded, including using oral histories and community research. The guidance is free to download from the Historic England website. For more information please click here

North Wales slate industry study weekend

Next year's AIA study weekend will be held on 24-26 April 2020 and will focus on the North Wales slate industry. The weekend will be based at the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, which is housed in the former Dinorwic quarry workshops. The area has recently been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Click here for more details and to book a place. 

AIA Spring Visit to Poland (May 2020)

The AIA Spring Tour, run by Heritage of Industry, is now open for booking. The tour will focus on Poland’s industrial archaeology, and has been organised with the assistance of Polish TICCIH representative Dr Piotr Gerber. The tour begins in the north with the shipyards in Gdansk and the ship lifts on the Elbląg Canal. Travelling south we will take in the salt works at Ciechocinek, the textile manufacturing city of Łódź and the historic metallurgical plant at Maleniec. Finally, in Silesia, we will go 320m underground at the Guido Mine, the deepest mine in Europe open to the public. We will also visit the historic water supply station “Zawada” at Karchowice and the Walcownia Zinc Rolling Mill. Click here for full details and to make your booking.

If there are other people in your organisation who might like to receive this in future, please contact



Industrial Archaeology e-News Bulletin April 2020

Like all voluntary and charitable organisations the AIA’s activities have been severely affected by the current COVID-19 crisis. In the short term we have had to cancel our Ironbridge weekend looking at the slate industry in Wales, which was due to take place at the end of April. We hope to run this again once the current crisis has eased. However, we are still hoping to deliver our annual conference at Liverpool in August and preparations for this are continuing. At this stage the only change we have made is the waiving of the late booking fee. We are following the Government’s health guidelines and are in contact with Liverpool John Moores University; we will act accordingly nearer the time should the health restrictions remain in force.

The wider Industrial Heritage and Industrial Archaeology sector has been severely hit by the health crisis. All museums are closed, all local society meetings cancelled, educational charities such as the Workers’ Educational Association are now only functioning online, and professional archaeology fieldwork is mostly suspended. These are worrying times and the financial viability of many museums and archaeology units is in danger of being undermined. Both the Arts Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund have launched emergency grant funds to support museums and heritage visitor attractions. However, that leaves the local voluntary sector, and in particular industrial heritage and archaeology groups and societies who rely on membership income, in suspension, with no prospect of external support. It is very likely that some of these groups, who look after local industrial heritage sites, but are not part of the registered museums sector, will be forced to close as a result of loss of income and members.

The AIA is looking to see what it can do to support these groups over coming months, including lobbying for support from Government and working with other heritage organisations to make sure that industrial archaeology is not forgotten in the wider picture. If you have any particular concerns that you'd like to share with us, or thoughts on how the AIA can help, please get in touch. 

Mike Nevell, AIA Chair

Several industrial heritage sites in the UK are counting the cost of the severe flooding which occurred in February. In the Ironbridge Gorge, the River Severn rose to its highest level for many years and, whilst the recently-restored Iron Bridge survived these relatively unscathed (as it has done all the other floods in its 240 year life), the Museum of the Gorge, housed in the 1796 Severn Warehouse, and the Coalport China Museum suffered significant damage, the cost of which has been estimated at £250,000. A fund-raising initiative and a publicity campaign to attract visitors back to the Gorge have been launched but were swiftly overtaken by the impact of coronavirus.

New life for historic Leeds textile mill

One of the most remarkable monuments to the power once exerted by Britain’s textile industry is Temple Mill in Leeds. It was built in the Egyptian style by John Marshall around 1840 and intended as an integrated flax spinning and weaving mill. Amongst its unique features were domed glass skylights and a flat roof covered with grass, on which sheep grazed. After Marshalls sold the site in 1886 it has had a number of uses, including home to the Kays catalogue mail order business. The Grade 1-listed buildings have been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register for many years, as various plans to find a sustainable future for them have stumbled. In February 2020 it was announced that the site was to become home to a new British Library of the North, as part of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse imitative.

Stockport Hat Works restoration underway

The Stockport Hat Works Museum, which celebrates the town’s important felt hat industry, is embarking on some exciting changes to create a more sustainable future. The redevelopment is restoring 30 hatting machines and their associated line shafting, create a vibrant space for visitors, with better interpretation, new learning facilities, and will put more of its collection on display. This work was funded in part by a grant of over £16,000 from the AIA Restoration Grants scheme. The museum is closed whilst this work takes place but is due to reopen in Spring 2021. Since its launch in 2009, the AIA’s Restoration Grants scheme has helped almost 50 different organisations, with grants totaling over £600,000. Visit our website for more information. 

There is more good news concerning the future of the Chance Brothers glassworks in Smethwick, described as ‘one of the most important industrial sites in the West Midlands’. The works opened in 1824 and produced glass for many prominent 19th-century structures, including many lighthouses, the Palace of Westminster and the Crystal Palace. In later years it produced laboratory glassware. It closed in the early 1980s and the site has been used recently by a skip hire company. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, with eight Grade 2 listed buildings and has been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register for several years. In February this year, plans were announced to redevelop the site as an urban village, with a mix of residential and commercial uses. The plans include a Heritage Centre and a 30m tall lighthouse to commemorate the site’s past. There is a video describing the history of the site, with a splendid 3-D depiction of the redevelopment plans on the West Midlands History website

Archaeologists working on the HS2 rail line have unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse, on the site of the proposed new Birmingham Curzon Street station. The roundhouse was situated adjacent to the old Curzon Street station, which was the northern end of the London and Birmingham Railway. This opened to passengers in 1838 and was Birmingham’s main station until New Street was opened in 1854.  Built to a design by Robert Stephenson, the roundhouse was opened on 12 November 1837, which predates the previous oldest example, in Derby, by almost two years. The L&BR terminus and was fronted by the grand ‘Principal Building’. This Grade I listed building is the world’s oldest surviving piece of railway architecture, and has stood, surrounded by waste land, neglected and forlorn, for many years but is to be incorporated into the new HS2 terminus. Read more about it on the Birmingham Updates website. 

AIA’s Planning Casework Officer, Amber Patrick, continues to review and advise on planning applications affecting significant industrial heritage sites, although the number of these has fallen in recent weeks due to the coronavirus. One notable recent example concerns the Grade II listed Marshall’s Mill in Halifax, part of the historic complex of textile mills at Dean Clough, including the Dean Clough dyeworks. An application to convert the mill to apartments was supported by the AIA, even though the current plans include the addition of balconies and some new windows, as the project will safeguard this otherwise-endangered building. You can read more about the AIA's planning casework on our website here

New research published into South Yorkshire early model industrial village

Photograph: Miners Lodging House in Elsecar, built c.1853 to house unmarried miners coming to the village to work for the Earl Fitzwilliam (courtesy Barnsley Museums)

Historic England have published some interesting new research on Elsecar, an early planned industrial village in South Yorkshire, built by the Earls Fitzwilliam in the 18th and 19th centuries. The research has been carried out as part of the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone, a 3-year partnership between Historic England and Barnsley Museums. The new research shows that Elsecar was a precursor to later model villages like Saltaire and was built as a showpiece – designed to impress royals and aristocrats, who were regular visitors throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Read more about it (and download a free copy of the report) on the Historic England website here

Waverley Paddle Steamer starts £2.3million boiler refit

Photograph: Waverley Paddle Steamer in Glasgow (courtesy of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society)

The historic paddle steamer Waverley left Glasgow in January, under tow to Greenock, for the start of her £2.3 million boiler refit. The funds were raised in around seven months, with donations from more than 8,000 members of the public and £1m from the Scottish Government. The work is expected to take around 4 months. For more photographs please visit the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society website

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