A detail photograph of rusting industrial machinery.
Rusting machinery at a historic industrial site. © Historic England
Rusting machinery at a historic industrial site. © Historic England

Industrial Heritage Research Strategy

Our industrial heritage is of international significance since Britain was the first major industrialised country.

The historic industrial environment is the cumulative product of mankind’s industrial intervention on his environment. It is all around us having fashioned much of the present landscape and its below ground element while less obvious, may contain the only physical evidence of historic industrial processes that have long since disappeared. Its investigation is vital to our understanding of the development of industry generally and the impact of industry on society. It encompasses:

  • The extraction, production and processing of all types of raw materials – mineral and organic.
  • The working, manufacturing and marketing of those products. 
  • The supporting infrastructure settlement, utilities, transport and communications.

It is also constantly changing. Many of the industries that developed over the last three millennia have, in the last century, contracted enormously and their environmental legacy is extremely vulnerable and fragile. New industries have developed in the last century to replace many of the traditional industries but the significance of their legacy is still to be gauged.

 Britain is justly proud of its industrial heritage not least because it is a heritage which is universally recognised as being of profound international significance in the development of global industrialisation. It is a heritage with which we can still identify and share and the understanding and appreciation of this heritage must be passed on to future generations.

The strategy

This draft Thematic Research Strategy for the Historic Industrial Environment is primarily intended to serve Historic England’s needs by identifying research which underpins corporate objectives. Historic England works in close partnership with many other agencies, and the draft strategy also seeks to express wider concerns and reflect views from the different communities engaged in the understanding, care and protection of the historic industrial environment.

If you have any queries about our research approaches, please email us using the contact details below.