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Information for Heritage Specialists

Historic England has produced a large amount of advice and information on the understanding, management and conservation of England's industrial heritage.

This will be of help to local authority historic environment officers (both archaeological and historic buildings conservation officers), consultants and contractors who offer their services to developers and the voluntary sector, especially those who comment on development proposals.

Weavers' Triangle, Burnley: a partnership involving the local authority and others are working to transform this conservation area into a vibrant new inner urban neighbourhood
Weavers' Triangle, Burnley: a partnership involving the local authority and others are working to transform this conservation area into a vibrant new inner urban neighbourhood

Issues and challenges facing the sector

Our industrial heritage is the focus of the winter 2011 edition of the 'Conservation Bulletin', which you can download below.

It provides an introduction to the subject, considers the key issues and contains articles from many of the organisations involved.

The contributions are arranged around six related themes - understanding, protection, managing, the voluntary sector, the international dimension and the role of grants.

Help for those dealing with planning applications

Historic England has also published guidelines for those working on sites where the remains of 17th - 19th century industries are likely to be present.

'Science for Historic Industries' describes the methods and techniques for evaluating and excavating these sites together with the role of archaeological science.

'Understanding Historic Buildings: Policy and Guidance for Local Planning Authorities' and 'Understanding Historic Buildings: A Guide to Good Recording Practice' provide advice and information on historic buildings in general although many of the case studies relate to the industrial heritage.

Understanding industrial sites

Our Research pages will contain information that will be of help in understanding the significance of industrial sites. These will then be developed and added to as further material becomes available.

The themes will include:

  • Extractive industries
  • Processing and manufacture
  • Public utilities
  • Transport, infrastructure and communications

For individual sites the National Record of the Historic Environment, maintained by Historic England, contains information on 45,000 different industrial sites. These can be searched for via Pastscape.

Local authority historic environment records also hold information on industrial sites within the local area and further details, including website addresses, can be obtained from the Heritage Gateway.

A 'Guide to Industrial Collections' has also been produced which describes the industrial holdings within Historic England Archives. These include photographs, plans and drawings as well as individual site reports prepared by the Historic England survey teams.   

Handbook on industrial archaeology

Working with the Council for British Archaeology and the Association for Industrial Archaeology, we have supported the publication of a 'Handbook on Industrial Archaeology'.

The book gives concise summaries of the history of different industries, together with descriptions of the structures and below-ground remains that are likely to be found. Extensive suggestions for further reading are provided, as well as an explanation of the current legislative situation for industrial remains and history of protection for these sites.

The excavated remains of a 19th century pottery oven in Stoke-on-Trent showing multiple flues around the oven
The excavated remains of a 19th century pottery oven in Stoke-on-Trent showing multiple flues around the oven © Stoke-on-Trent Archaeology Service

New uses for industrial buildings

Industrial buildings can often provide flexible space which is suitable for a range of new uses, but sometimes imagination and flair are needed to get the best out of a building. Our page on: Re-using Industrial Sites has further advice, including the findings of research we have carried out with developers, and examples of the successful conversion of industrial buildings, as has 'Constructive Conservation'.

The Heritage at Risk case studies also provide examples of sites that have been saved together with those that are still on the Register.

Redundant industrial buildings

In the current economic climate it may not be possible to find a new use for a redundant industrial building immediately and some schemes have been put on hold. What should I advise the owner to do?

An abandoned building will rapidly deteriorate and a limited amount of money spent on making sure that the roof, rainwater goods and windows are sound will preserve its value. The best way to protect a building is to keep it occupied even if the use is on a temporary or partial basis. To help reduce the risks facing empty buildings Historic England has recently produced 'Vacant Historic Buildings: An owners guide to temporary uses, maintenance and mothballing'.

Our advice on 'Stopping the Rot: A guide to enforcement action to save historic buildings' has been revised and updated. This provides local authorities with practical information on how to make effective use of their statutory powers when it becomes evident that a building is being allowed to deteriorate.

Formerly on the Heritage at Risk Register, the Calder and Hebble Navigation Warehouse, Wakefield has been converted into office accommodation
Formerly on the Heritage at Risk Register, the Calder and Hebble Navigation Warehouse, Wakefield has been converted into office accommodation

Protecting our industrial heritage

The statutory designation of industrial sites is considered on the page for protection. The updated selection guides are described including those for industrial, transport, utilities and communications. It also highlights those activities contained in the National Heritage Protection Plan that are of relevance to the industrial heritage. 

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