The Archaeology of Warwickshire from 1750: a preliminary note
Warwickshire County Council
The primary problem in approaching this period is the sheer profusion of data: record offices and newspaper archives full of documentation, photographs, widespread survival of physical remains, artefacts in vast quantities – clearly there has to be some degree of selection. The County SMR is inadequate for the period; indeed if historic mapping was better integrated with the SMR it would be possible to lose a lot of the records which simply repeat mapped information, and concentrate on more focused data gathering. Fortunately historic mapping is now widely available digitally, so a recasting of the SMR data will in due course be possible.
Another difficulty with the period is the relatively recent acceptance that any of this is archaeology, or something with which ‘mainstream professionals’ should be concerned. The recent past can be an emotive issue, and archaeologists do not, on the whole, like to admit to being emotive. Yet this is a period in which the scope and demand for cross-disciplinary work is greatest. We need to be concerned not merely with recording the physicality which survives but addressing the issues of social relations, symbolic associations of material culture, the collective memory of the 20th century and so forth.
The study of Industrial Archaeology in Warwickshire has not been systematic and has relied more than most other periods on amateur involvement. Warwickshire Industrial Archaeology Society have carried out various pieces of work, as well as other groups including the Wind and Watermills group, the Midlands Warplane Museum and Aircraft Recovery Group, and various local societies who have undertaken surveys, such as that of the memorial inscriptions in the Lower Arrow valley by Alcester Local History Society. Other professionals also have an interest in the period; the work of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Panel for Historical Engineering Works is a case in point, and over the years members of the panel such as Dr Roger Cragg, their bridges specialist, have passed on valuable data.
Studies of specific industries have been undertaken as part of the Monuments Protection Programme, now regrettably abandoned; as far as I am aware this has not been integrated with any re-listing surveys.
There has also been work by Warwickshire Museum and others arising from PPG15 & PPG 16 – related recommendations for planning conditions; whilst much valuable recording has been done by this route such work is by its nature opportunistic, nevertheless development-related work is now the main driver for archaeological research.
Enthusiasm to clean up and obliterate industrial landscapes also means that much has been lost. In some communities there may even be an antagonism towards commemoration of the industrial past.
There is also a tendency to deal with artefacts in a different way. These survive in profusion but many categories scarcely register on the archaeological map. Traditional archaeological concerns such as pottery have been relatively well-served, but we are probably less familiar with, for example, glass bottles, even though the detection and recovery of material from bottle dumps has been a widespread amateur endeavour. Similarly the focus of our attention on the material which metal detectorists come to show us is focused on earlier items; the volume of ‘dross’ is such that it is normally ignored. Bigger items – the reaper binders and power tools which replace the objects which archaeologists studying earlier periods would have been content to catalogue and study – are likely to be categorised as Social History and dealt with by a different group of specialists.
Quite apart from what we can classify as Industrial landscapes, many elements of the present landscape emerge during the last 250 years. The processes of the evolution of the modern landscape will be assessed by the County’s Historic Landscape Characterisation project. Enclosure had been going on since the late middle ages; certainly by the time of Murray’s General View of Agriculture of the County of Warwick for the Board of Agriculture in 1813 he comments, with evident approval, that the extent of commons and unenclosed land in Warwickshire is far less than for most counties. Other aspects meet with less approval from Murray, for example the irrigation of meadow land is much neglected and he claims that there is a lack of understanding of water management amongst the people of the County.
Many minor features of the landscape which nevertheless add to local distinctiveness date from this period – many of which are small sites, such as sheep washes and cattle pounds that until recently have not impinged greatly upon SMRs. In some cases the availability of funding streams such as Local Heritage Initiative has stimulated studies of particular categories of site and some worthwhile restoration and conservation project. The study of Cotswold sheepwashes (ref) has provided valuable data, as well as enabling restoration of sheepwashes at Warmington and Sutton-under-Brailes, whilst a local group recently completed repairs to the cattle pound at Clifford Chambers. There are numerous other sites, some relatively unusual, which contribute to local distinctiveness even though they may add little to the aesthetics (at least in any conventional sense), such as the drying kiln at Flecknoe constructed between the wars – indirectly protected due to its location within an area of Scheduled medieval earthworks even though excluded from the scheduling.
Over the past three of four years Warwickshire Museum has increasingly been requesting the use of photographic recording conditions to mitigate development and to secure basic and inexpensive recording of minor features, such as non-listed agricultural buildings. Whilst this has been developed particularly with agricultural features in mind, since these are frequently subject to conversion proposals, this is a response which can be used in a variety of situations.
Great Houses and Gardens.
The processes of aggrandisement and rebuilding noted during the previous seminar continue in this period; there was a spate of building and aggrandisement in the mid-18th century, influenced by what their owners had seen on the Grand Tour and what they could afford on rising agricultural revenues and (in the case of those such as Sir Roger Newdigate of Arbury) the fruits of mining and industrial enterprises. A considerable number of new houses are also built in the 19th century, often the endeavour of ‘new money’. The development of Country Houses in the County is covered by Geoffrey Tyack’s work (Tyack 1994). On the whole, however, there has been little archaeological work on these later houses in comparison to the research on the greater houses of the 16th to 18th centuries.
Work on the houses was complemented by alterations to designed landscapes. Sanderson Miller, one of the moving spirits behind the Gothic Revival, took his first steps in architecture and landscape design on his own estate at Radway in the 1740s (Wood & Hawkes 1987), whilst at Arbury Hall, David Hiorn of Warwick constructed several garden structures for Sir Roger Newdigate. As with the earlier post-medieval period, Jonathan Lovie’s review for the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens contains a comprehensive review of the evidence (Lovie 1997)
Relatively little archaeology has been specifically focussed upon this period; as with the earlier post-medieval period there is a still a sense in which the deposits of this period are sometimes viewed as the material to be scraped off in order to reach more interesting remains further down. Yet the opportunities for integrating study of physical remains with documentation is greater in this period than any other. Towns such as Leamington Spa which emerged during the 19th century (Chaplin 1974), and settlements such as the minor and largely unsuccessful spa at Bishopston (where the Royal Victoria Spa of 1837 is believed to be the first building named after Queen Victoria: Bearman 1975; Jones and Palmer 2001) are surely worthy of attention.
Civic consciousness is manifest in the increasing number of public buildings constructed. There have been some systematic studies; the English Heritage survey of prisons (ref) and some work on court buildings by the former RCHME. A conservation statement for Warwick Shire Hall, designed by Sanderson Miller in the 1750s and now incorporated with the slightly earlier Court House, probably by Francis Smith of Warwick, is currently in preparation.
Hospitals. The principle site-specific study is that undertaken by the University of Lancaster Archaeological Unit at Hatton Hospital in 1996, prior to redevelopment. Hatton Hospital was constructed as an insane asylum in 1849 and incorporated an unusual roof structure based on iron trusses and angle-iron tiling battens, together with a ventilation system conceived as an integral part of the heating system reliant on natural convection – two chimneys provided sufficient differential pressure to draw the ventilation air through the system via square-sectioned brickwork ducts. The use of curved corrugated iron sheeting for the ceilings would have been particularly innovative for the time of construction, but features such as the stack ventilation system, not so very different from a mine ventilation chimney, came to be used in a number of C19th institutional buildings where windows could not readily be opened, such as Dartmoor and Pentonville prisons (ref).
Churches. The most important church of the late c18th in the County (and according to Pevsner the most impressive in England) is Bonomi’s French-inspired church at Great Packington. The expansion of population in the nineteenth century saw an increase in the number of new churches being built, and the trend continued into the 20th century . The influence of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century was accompanied by a great deal of re-ordering and in some cases new building. Some of these are particularly distinctive, such as the high church St Andrew’s, Wilmcote of 1841, presumably by Butterfield like the adjacent vicarage and church, with its rather later interior of stencilled and painted zinc panels, and Galley Common, west of Nuneaton, 1909 by P Morley Horder in Arts and Crafts style, using steel stanchions and roughcast hollow terracotta bricks specially commissioned from Rimini, and allegedly paid for by compulsory contributions taken directly from the pay packets of Sir Alfred Hickman’s employees at Haunchwood colliery. Also worth note are Hampton Lucy (by Thomas Rickman, 1822-6), Rugby Holy Trinity (Scott, 1852-4) and Rugby St Andrew (Butterfield 1877-85). The period from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries also saw the growth of non-conformity and the appearance of a wide range of chapels, many of which were considerably more ostentatious than the meeting houses of the Old Dissent.
Virtually none of these church sites has been the subject of any archaeological attention. One of the few exceptions is the Methodist Chapel at Hartshill, constructed for the local brickworkers in 1887 with an interesting use of brick and imported terracotta, and where recording work was undertaken by Warwickshire Museum in advance of conversion to residential use.
In less rural areas than Warwickshire the archaeological record is heavily biased towards industrial sites. In Warwickshire the physical residue of the industrial age has probably received less attention than is merited. Over the past decade the Monuments Protection Programme, now sadly abandoned, has resulted in the production of a number of national surveys of specific industries (refs to MPP stage 1 reports).
Coal mining. The history of this industry, important in the North of the County, has been studied by several authorities (eg Grant 1982; Cook 2001; see also the bibliography in the British Mining Database: www.ap.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/bmd.htm). Nothing of the extensive below-ground remains has been recorded archaeologically, and relatively little of the surface remains. There is likely to be some potential for recording at Daw Mill (the last working mine), Keresley on the boundary with Coventry, [??? and Pooley Hall, with one of the oldest pithead bath buildings][check].
Sandstone Mining. A probable late C18th or early C19th sandstone mine at Baxterly Hall Park, near Atherstone, has been described by Alan Cook (Cook 2001); the operation was evidently short lived. There were four adits or drifts, one of which may have contained a shaft to the Spirorbis Limestone a few metres below, and possible remains of a steam-powered winding mechanism were noted.
Quarrying has also been a significant influence on the Warwickshire landscape, but again one which has been insufficiently studied. Eric Tonks’ work on Midlands ironstone quarries (Tonks 19**) includes details of the quarries at Edgehill, together with the light mineral railway associated with it from 1922-25, and Burton Dassett, where ironstone was mined intermittently from the 1870s to the 1920s, with an overhead tramway taking material off the hill during the 1920s.
A number of other extractive industries in the Nuneaton area have been mapped by Dr Alan Cook (Cook 2001) although further work remains to be done on identification of the physical remains associated with them. The manganese mines at Hartshill Hayes are a relatively unusual feature, although the remains, mapped by RCAHM, are fairly small scale (Brown 1997?).
Cement is still an important industry. Lime production began at Rugby Cement works in the1820s, and chalk slurry is pumped to here from Dunstable some 57 miles away. There were also extensive works at Stockton near Southam, now mainly demolished but with a good probability of below-ground survival of C19 structures. This was associated with a model village at Long Itchington constructed in 1912 for workers at Southam cement works, which has been studied by Lyndon Cave of Warwickshire Industrial Archaeological Society (ref).
Hatting was an important industry in Atherstone; a number of structures survive and have been recorded by the local archaeological society (refs).
Canals. It is difficult to separate the archaeology of the canals from that of the industries which they served. Warwickshire contains several important sites. Seeswood reservoir, now a fishing lake a little way west of Nuneaton is claimed to be the oldest canal reservoir in the UK, built 1764 to supply the canals of Sir Roger Newdigate on his Arbury estate. The feeder channel was 1 mile long and was itself made navigable up to the reservoir in 1777.
The Coventry Canal was an important link between the Trent and the Thames. Designed by Brindley it was begun in 1768 at the Coventry end; by the time the navigation had got to Atherstone the capital of £50,000 had been exhausted, but in 1777 it had been joined to the Oxford canal and had attained some level of viability, and eventually it was completed in 1790.
Many of the canal features have changed considerably since originally built. Hatton Locks – a flight of 21 locks over some two miles, on what is now the Grand Union canal, was opened in 1799. The locks were built to a 7’ narrow gauge. In 1929 the Warwick and Birmingham Canal Co. became part of the Grand Union and 1932-4 the locks were rebuilt completely to take 15’ broad gauge boats; however the old lock chambers were usually retained alongside the new as an additional reservoir or overflow weir.
Bearley (Edstone) Aqueduct on the Stratford canal was constructed in 1816 and is the longest English aqueduct, 479’ long (Telford’s Pontcysyllte aqueduct is 1027’ long), carried on 14 spans and with a trough 8’10” wide and 5’ deep, bolted together in sections with the towpath an extension of the baseplate. The Stratford canal was fed by reservoirs at Earlswood, and the 1822 pumping station still stands, although without its original Boulton & Watt Engine, removed in the 1930s.
Much canal heritage remains as distinctive features in the landscape, but in some cases excavation adds to the story. At Saltisford, Warwick, recent work by *** has revealing traces of the wharf buildings (report in prep). Other recent pieces of work include the recording of lock-keepers’ cottages at Dunton Wharf on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, built 1783-90 as part of Brindley’s ‘Silver Cross’ of waterways linking the Trent, Mersey, Severn and Thames, and the recording of Curdworth Top Lock prior to its rebuilding to accommodate the new M6 toll (both by Oxford-Wessex Archaeology; report in prep) , and also the work by John Selby on the Fenny Compton tunnel on the Oxford Canal built between 1775 and 1777 and demolished in the mid c19th, where a brickyard with kiln was constructed in 1840 to exploit the resulting clay spoil (Selby 2000).
Railways. The oldest railway remains in the County are those associated with the Stratford to Shipston on Stour and Moreton in Marsh tramway, engineered by William James, who had also had a hand in a number of canal works. The Act for the tramway was passed in 1821 and it was opened in 1826. The key site is probably Rugby, initially on the London-Birmingham Railway but rising in importance from 1840 when the Midlands Counties line from Derby and Leicester joined, then lines from Stafford in 1847, Stamford (1850), Leamington (1851) and finally the Grand Central direct line from Leicester to Marylebone in 1890. The various dismantled railways have been plotted on the SMR, but beyond this there has been little detailed archaeological work.
Roads. The earlier part of this period saw the extension of the system of turnpike roads begun in the early 18th century. A number of tollhouses still survive, although no systematic study of the remains of the turnpikes has been undertaken. The preliminary survey of County road bridges undertaken by Warwick Museum in 1997 (unpublished; archive at Warwick Museum) was mentioned in respect of the earlier post-medieval period and contains material relevant to the industrial period.
During the 20th century ‘communication’ came to encompass other formats including radio and television. The Rugby radio mast site, constructed 1924, with masts 820’high, is the site which has had the single greatest impact on the landscape, although the insidious proliferation of mobile telephone installations and satellite television ‘dishes’ has had a significant adverse cumulative impact on the historic environment. Again, this is a topic which we may identify as warranting further work, rather than one where much has already been done
Water supply: Initially this is represented by refurbishment and enlargement of wells, many on sites which had been in use for centuries (such as that at Southam), but by the 19th century public initiatives began construction of larger facilities required by growing population, such as the supply at Alcester which is the subject of a recent study (Johnson 19**).
Gas: The key site is Saltisford Gas Works of 1822 in Warwick, stated to be one of the most important historic gasworks buildings in the world, and complementing the structures recorded in Birmingham. The surviving building incorporates the two original octagonal gasometers, recently recorded in advance of conversion of the building to residential accommodation; in addition there has been evaluation of the area to the rear, which has revealed structures provisionally interpreted as remains of the retort house, as well as series of features from the later phases of the works.
Electricity. A small hydro-electric plant at Alscot Park of c1912 surveyed by Lancaster University in 1997 provided details of a small-scale estate-based power system, with survival in situ of the water turbine and power take-off system (Lancaster University 1997). There has also been recording work undertaken of the recently renovated estate hydro-electric plant housed in C18 mill buildings at Warwick Castle().
A general study of watermills has been carried out by Seaby and Smith (ref). Some site-specific work has also been undertaken, for example at Kingsbury Mill where a recent evaluation has recently found the mill-race (ref). Warwickshire Museum has also done recording work prior to the conversion to luxury accommodation of Rock Mill at Leamington. This is probably the site of the two mills at Emscote mentioned in Domesday. There was a fulling mill here in C16th. In 1792 Benjamin Smart, a Leamington Quaker, established a cotton mill here employing c100 people, but it was not successful and by 1830 it had been converted to flour milling (ref).
A study of windmills by the Midland Windmills and Watermills Group in the 1970s contains a gazetteer of nearly 200 sites (Booth 19**).
Another type of mill is met in the Arrow valley, whose needle industry has been studied by Dr Paul Collins. The industry was certainly in existence by the 1730s, when Washford Mill in Studley was converted from a corn-milling establishment to needle making; most needle mills were conversions of corn mills, and the concentration of endeavour was initially in Studley and moving south to Alcester during C18th, before moving up to Redditch when the process became more heavily mechanised during the 1820s, although at its height the industry was evidently producing 5 million needles per week (Collins 1994).
Away from the main urban centres and the larger industrial enterprises, much industry will have been small-scale, in many instances the continuation of traditional crafts. One striking example which has recently come to light is the Wellesbourne wainwright’s shop, constructed probably during the 19th century, where cart-manufacture was undertaken without the benefit of any electric power tools until the 1970s; the building is still more or less as left when last used, containing many of the original tools and stock materials.
Large-scale industry brings with it the associated infrastructure of houses, schools, public buildings, hospitals, leisure facilities, public houses, churches and chapels, some of which have already been noted above. Until the mid 20th century much welfare provision was down to individual benefactors.
Almshouses: Bedworth, 1840s structures replacing the original almshouse built 1715 by Nicholas Chamberlain [also Knowle, Berkswell]
A society’s attitudes towards the treatment of its dead members is one of the characteristics most susceptible to archaeological analysis. In this period the growth of urban cemeteries and the more widespread adoption, at least amongst the middle classes, of funerary memorials is notable. The concomitant of this evidence, as with others, is that data which occurs in more or less manageable quantities for other periods is now overwhelming. The potential of the material for providing insights into thanatological fashions, consumption of luxury good such as exotic stone for memorials, and the social relations of funerals have not been realised. The strategy for re-use of cemeteries advocated in the recent Home Office consultation paper on burial provision may signal a shift in cemetery management which may require careful archaeological consideration on occasion; the proposals have the potential for divorcing remains from the monuments which accompany them.
Military & Aviation.
The distribution of evidence for the defence of the realm during the 18th and 19th centuries is largely concentrated away from the centre of the country, and so on the whole this is not an area rich in remains. Nevertheless, it is likely that significantly more survives within Warwickshire than has been recorded in the SMR. The advent of aerial warfare in the 20th century saw a significant change in the pattern of defence, and the Defence of Britain project undertaken in the 1990s under the aegis of the Council for British Archaeology (refs) provided an impetus for recording the 20th century contribution to military archaeology, although when set beside the information now recorded for Worcestershire, and described in Malcolm Atkin’s paper, the level of detail for Warwickshire is not as extensive as it might be. Amateurs have played a major role here. There are around thirty airfields in Warwickshire, including operational training units. Remains of WW1 buildings have been identified on the Rugby Radio Mast site between Rugby and Daventry; one hangar from this site was subsequently re-erected in Rugby and still survives [check](Mark Evans, pers comm). More in the way of buildings survives from WW2, such as the Miskin Blister hanger on the periphery of RAF Warwick, recently removed and re-erected at an aviation museum at Fecthorpe in Norfolk.
Recent work has also shed light on the anti-aircraft defences of Coventry. The Heavy Anti-Aircraft battery at Banner Hill, near Kenilworth, has been recorded by a local historian who has tied this in with reminiscences of people stationed there. Recording of a similar battery at Fillongley has been undertaken by Warwickshire Museum in advance of their conversion to stables (Gethin and Thompson 2002), whilst another site from this defensive system at Stoneleigh, previously noted on aerial photographs, has been identified as surviving, though in poor condition, in woodland. Other defensive positions have also been recorded, such as a Bofors gun emplacement near Rugby, guarding a railway junction.
Very little of this figured on the Warwickshire Sites and Monuments Record until the Defence of Britain project. Recently the Museum has begun an exchange of information with the Midlands Warplane Museum and Recovery Group, whilst the guidance recently issued by English Heritage (2003) provides a useful context for the recording of crash sites.
The most extensive military site in the County is the Defence Munitions Depot at Kineton. There have been numerous changes to the site since it was first used in WWII. This is a significant 20th century military site, although military sensitivity about its present use has precluded any archaeological recording; until recently it did not even appear on Ordnance Survey maps. Limited archaeological recording was undertaken at the Cold Storage Depot in Warwick, constructed in 1939, prior to demolition in 2001; unfortunately asbestos contamination and the structural condition of the building precluded a full internal survey (Coutts 2001). A similar site in Stratford still stands.
The interest in 20th century defences also extends to the Cold war, with observer post information being gathered for entry on the SMR. Other categories of site, however, have seen no work at all [PoW camps – check with EW]
The archaeology of heritage
As heritage professionals we should not forget that our own management of monuments leaves a signature in the archaeological record. The design of the railings around the King Stone (Long Compton), one of the handful of sites on the schedule accompanying the original 1882 AM Act, was allegedly personally approved by Pitt-Rivers (probably an apocryphal story), and is now specifically included in the Scheduling.[check – not borne out in G.Lambrick’s report]
This brief account will have made it abundantly clear that our knowledge of the period is somewhat piecemeal, and despite some useful work having been done there are extensive gaps in our knowledge.
Historic Landscape Characterisation will commence in 2004, and in due course it is proposed to undertake an extensive urban survey. Warwickshire Museum is conscious of the need to enhance the SMR in respect of industrial data, which should assist with the recognition of the early evidence for industry. Unfortunately a joint bid in 2003 for Environmental Capital Action Plan funding by English Heritage, English Nature and the Countryside Agency failed; the Museum had intended to seize this opportunity to develop a programme of SMR enhancement in respect of industrial and related features in the Objective 2 areas within Nuneaton and Bedworth and North Warwickshire, which would have enabled the Museum not only to improve the database but also to enthuse others, generally raise awareness within those communities, assess the scope for integrating the conservation of this heritage strand within regeneration, and where appropriate improving access and management. Nevertheless, opportunities may arise in the future to integrate programmes of this nature within larger regeneration plans.
There are numerous thematic studies which could be undertaken: workhouses, sports arenas, cinema and theatres, mailboxes, schools, war memorials, milestones, aggregates extraction, brickmaking and pottery to take just a few examples; the physical evidence for several of these topics consists of buildings rather than below-ground remains, and emphasise the indivisibility of the historic environment.
The needs to integrate below ground archaeology with studies of standing fabric, particularly where the one informs the other, and to develop cross-disciplinary studies in partnership with others, were identified in respect of the earlier post-medieval period and are equally applicable here.
I am grateful to Ed Wilson, Martin Green, Alan Cook, who provided information. The author can only claim originality in respect of errors and omissions.
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The Fenny Compton Tunnel, Oxford Canal
by John Selby
The Fenny Compton tunnel in Warwickshire on the Oxford Canal was built between 1775 and 1777. It no longer exists, although in name it appears to this day on all OS maps (THE TUNNEL SP 4352). The article describes its building in 1775-7, its demolition (‘falling') in 1838-40 and 1866-9, and the construction and operation of a brickyard established to exploit the resulting clay spoil. A brick kiln was built in 1840-1, and continued production until 1917. The remains of the kiln are extant.
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