Introduction to Issue 11
Historic England's National Specialist Services Director Barney Sloane introduces highlights of research projects carried out by Historic England and partners.
This issue presents another wide-ranging review of our recent research. We explore efforts to gain a much better understanding of how the historic environment helps to improve quality of life and wellbeing. This understanding is fundamental to persuading policy-makers of the social (as well as economic) value of our shared heritage.
Keeping that heritage in good condition is often best achieved by finding new uses for historic structures. We report on research to understand the condition of the amazing group of historic textile mills in the north-west of the country, of which we have lost more than 500 in the last 30 years. Working in partnership with local authorities we hope to create a strategy to help preserve and repurpose these powerhouses of the industrial revolution.
Catastrophic loss is the subject of another article, but this time as a catalyst for renewed public interest in their heritage. A major fire at St Martin’s Island in Exeter in 2016 destroyed two originally medieval buildings and damaged several more, receiving significant international media coverage, but prompting local interest and a book on one of Exeter’s best collection of houses.
Fire features again, in ‘Waking the Birdoswald Dead’. Here we explore how heritage science disciplines are brought to bear on investigating Roman cremations from the vicinity of Birdoswald Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall, with some surprising and intriguing results.
The discovery is only one part of research and investigation: we also need to consider what to keep, where and for how long. A research partnership between the University of Reading and Historic England showcases the use of palaeoenvironmental archive resources to produce fresh interpretations of past environments and ancient ways of life, and exposes the challenges that these archives face.
Barney Sloane FSA
National Specialist Services Director at Historic England
Barney has extensive experience of working in the Cultural Heritage sector, including strategic management, commissioning research and in archaeology. He is a Fellow of Society of Antiquaries of London and Vice President of European Archaeological Council.