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Traditional Industry, Modern Industry, Mining and Associated Housing, NHPP Activity 4B2

This page covers research into the significance of England's industrial heritage, carried out between 2011 and 2015 as part of the National Heritage Protection Plan.

A modern photograph of a mill building in Lancashire
Holmes Mill, at Clitheroe, Lancashire, a spinning mill dating to the 1820s. © English Heritage

Scope of the activity

Britain is of outstanding international importance as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. This was as much a cultural, social and economic revolution as a revolution in the techniques of making things. It radically altered the way in which people thought and lived.

Industry has had a profound effect on the environment. Historic industrial sites are a vital element of our tourist industry and feature strongly in most urban regeneration and rural land use programmes. They offer opportunities for sympathetic new use but also present challenges in achieving this.

Because of the large numbers of surviving industrial buildings and sites, it is important for us to fully understand the vast array of industrial activities, and to identify what structures and processes are of most significance in our history so that the best might be recorded, protected and managed.

20th century industry in particular can be challenging in terms of its large scale and in understanding the significance of industrial processes, building materials and innovations.

Expected protection results

A focus on industry allows us to make proper and measured decisions about appropriate statutory (legal) protection, and helps us to give advice on local designation. Designation (for example listing or scheduling) was one of a number of potential responses, which also included recording, development of policy and advice on management and conservation of industrial sites.

A modern photograph of a brick built mill building
Atswick Mill, Bedfordshire: a typical example of a small mill which experienced the ‘roller milling revolution’. The Mill dates from 1847, originally water-powered, a steam-driven roller mill was added in 1891. © Rob Shorland-Ball.

Projects in this activity

Roller flour mills

Flour milling has provided the flour for bread, the 'staff of life' for many centuries. Bread-flour can be made from various cereals but principally in the UK from wheat. 'The Mill' was an important building in most communities.

By the 1870s there were at least 10,000 flour mills throughout the UK and an estimated 30,000 millers. From the 1880s until the First World War entrepreneurs in the flour milling industry brought about extraordinary changes: by 1900, there were only about 2,000 flour mills left in the UK and a significant number were new Roller Mills.

From the 1880s  changes in the scale and  process of milling encouraged the introduction of roller mills. Steam initially provided the power. Flour production from traditional stone mills declined and many wind & watermills closed. This project increased our understanding of this significant technology and processes of roller mills and created a database of sites.

Underground mining

This project was designed to explore the significance of underground works and remains. Key results were:

  • A survey of the industrial heritage of Greenlaws Mine, Durham, aimed at facilitating an HPA (Heritage Partnership Agreement) management plan in association with Natural England.
  • The survey of the industrial heritage of one of the most important lead mines in England, Grassington in Yorkshire. This produced an assessment of its significance and a Conservation Statement for its above and below ground remains.

It is hoped that by understanding the significance and the threat to underground mining remains appropriate management and conservation regimes can be identified.

Ecton mines

The scheduled copper and lead mine site at Ecton Hill, Staffordshire, is internationally significant for evidence of mining history spanning 3,500 years. Mining at the site went on from the Bronze Age, with pioneering developments in mining technology in the 18th century, until it closed in 1891. It is one of only two known Bronze Age Copper mines in England. It lies within a National Park and because of its ecology and geology, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

English Heritage has funded novel research managed by John Barnatt, Senior Survey Archaeologist for the Peak District National Park Authority, into the significance of the site. This work has combined survey of both surface and subterranean evidence. A major monograph, Delving Ever Deeper: The Ecton Mines Through Time, published by the Park Authority, and funded by English Heritage, presents this research. An article by John Barnatt on the methods used in the survey, 'Underground surveying at mines: aiming towards understanding' was published in Mining History, Volume 18, No.5 2013, pp10-34. English Heritage also supported publication of an article on the prehistoric mining at Ecton by Simon Timberlake: 'Prehistoric Copper Extraction in Britain: Ecton Hill, Staffordshire', in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 2013, pp. 1–48; for further details contact Cambridge University Press Journals

The hat industry

As part of this Activity, English Heritage has published a volume in the Informed Conservation series:  The Hat Industry in Luton, which provides context to the protection of buildings relating to that industry in around Luton. You can also watch a video about the craft of the last hat block makers on our You Tube Channel.

National Record of Industrial Monuments

A project to incorporate data from the The National Record of Industrial Monuments (NRIM) into English Heritage's non-statutory National Record of the Historic Environment database (NRHE) has been completed. The records are available alongside many others relating to Industrial Heritage from the PastScape website. Users can select "industry" as a search theme on the PastScape advanced search.

A modern photograph of a mid 20th century Industrial installation
The D6 Building at Boots headquarters, Beeston and Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, Listed Grade I. © English Heritage

Links with other NHPP activities

This activity has links to the following other NHPP activities:

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