industrial archaeology

Heather Stoddart and Ali McCaig – Measured Survey for Historic Environment Scotland

Heather Stoddart, Measured Survey Manager, Architecture and Industry Section and Ali McCaig, Measured Survey Manager, Landscape Section at Historic Environment Scotland

We have chosen an Industrial Archaeological site on the River Clyde called Hyndford Mills, near Lanark, which we are surveying as part of an HES programme called ‘Discovering the Clyde’

The site sits very close to the river and floods regularly. It consists of a series of roofless buildings and archaeological remains that have been excavated by a local community group the Clydesdale Mills Society.

Panorama view of Hyndford Mills © HES

On our first visit, we explored the site and discussed the general interpretation with Miriam McDonald, Industrial Survey Manager at HES and with representatives from the Clydesdale Mills Society. At that point we agreed on the end product that we wanted to achieve – a detailed plan of the extent of the site which will show the upstanding walls, lades, tail-race and ground works in reasonable detail.

Hyndford Mills is quite a complex site, with multiple phasing. It appears on Pont’s map of Glasgow and the County of Lanark (Pont 34, c.1583-96)  and may be much older still. The site has been used for many small-scale industrial and agricultural processes over many generations including grain milling, flax processing and animal bone crushing (for agricultural manure).

To start this survey we used two different techniques, alidade and GPS. The GPS was used to set out framework control for the site and to collect data which is used to create the detailed scaled plan and a sectional elevation drawing. The initial task was to undertake two alidade surveys which we did together, involving Ali on the survey staff and Heather on the survey board, recording the survey points. This allowed us both to discuss the survey points that needed to be taken and our evolving interpretation of the site. Once the framework of the site was complete, we split up to record and plan the features in more detail. The end product will form an annotated scaled plan and sectional elevation at 1:200.

A detailed photographic survey of the site was also undertaken by Steve Wallace, Field Photography Projects Manager at HES.

Ali producing a scaled plan at one of the mill buildings at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Ali producing a scaled plan at one of the mill buildings at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES


Heather adding finishing touches to one of the scaled plans at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Heather adding finishing touches to one of the scaled plans at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Light at the end of the (Glenfield Railway) tunnel

I’m Helen Wells, I’ve been the Historic Environment Record Officer at Leicestershire County Council for over 10 years.  My job is basically curating what we know about buried and built archaeological remains in Leicestershire and Rutland.  I don’t usually get to leave the office, but I’m going to tell you about a rare trip away from my desk – into the Glenfield Railway Tunnel.  The tunnel is recorded on the Leicestershire and Rutland Historic Environment Record and I’d always wanted to go inside.

So, as part of the Festival of Archaeology, I recently accompanied a group of others into the dark, damp, chilly, disused railway tunnel.  Not publicly accessible, the only access to the tunnel is via special trips.  A footpath runs past the portal.  Since us archaeologists are in a team with ecologists at the County Council I should also say that the tunnel is a hibernation roost for bats, and it’s illegal to disturb them…

Expedition into the tunnel!

Expedition into the tunnel!

The tunnel was one of the earliest railway tunnels in the world, designed by George Stephenson; its construction was supervised by his son Robert.  It opened in July 1832. Due to the pioneering nature of the engineering works, there were various unexpected hitches.  One of these was that the trial borings had suggested clay and stone, but running sand meant the tunnel had to be completely lined in bricks.  It cost £17,326 to built instead of the budgeted £10,000 – well over a million pounds in today’s money.

Glenfield Tunnel in 1969

Glenfield Tunnel in 1969

It closed in 1966 and was bought by Leicester City Council in 1969 for £5.  The east end of the tunnel was filled in by a housing company, so though you can walk through a door in the mainly blocked up tunnel portal at the west end, the east end is only accessible via a manhole and a steel ladder.

(The following two pictures were taken by a colleague in 2007.  The 1969 aerial photograph higher up the page shows the railway line before it was filled in.)

Blocked eastern end of the tunnel

Blocked eastern end of the tunnel

Metal ladder at east end of the tunnel

Metal ladder at east end of the tunnel

The tunnel is not far below the ground, and whereas it originally ran through fields, today it is covered in houses.  This has led to problems!  In 2007-8 strengthening works were carried out, with reinforced concrete arches inserted into the weakest areas of the tunnel.  This work cost £500,000, which makes the original £1,000,000 spent to build the tunnel look rather more of a bargain!  (And the £5 it cost to buy the tunnel in 1969 less of a good deal…)  The reinforcements were a striking feature of the tunnel during my recent trip.

Concrete reinforcements inside the tunnel

Concrete reinforcements inside the tunnel

Though a fascinating place to visit, it is very difficult to know what can be done to re-use the tunnel.  The eastern end being buried does mean it’s tricky to re-use as a cycle path, for example.  Though it has turned into a maintenance headache, if it hadn’t been bought in 1969 who knows what would have happened to it.  It’s a brilliant bit of early railway history.  If you get the chance to visit I’d definitely recommend it!

Want to find out a bit more?

This article at Forgotten Relics has some great pictures, one of which demonstrates the tight clearances this tunnel had.

The Leicestershire Industrial History Society have some great resources on the tunnel.  Keep an eye on their events for further tunnel expeditions!

Finally, a quick mention for Story of Leicester, who provided many of the facts I used here.

We can be heroes, just for one day

Hello!  If you’re reading this perhaps you want to know what it’s like to be a HERO (Historic Environment Record Officer), just for this one day.  (I know it’s a bit tenuous but I wanted a quote for my title and I love David Bowie, so…!)

I last blogged as part of the Day of Archaeology in 2011.  If you want to read my blog from back then please read a day in the life of a HERO.  There’s a fair bit there that I don’t really want to cover again, like how I became a HERO.  I think today I’ll just blog about what I’m up to.

View from my office, County Hall, Leicestershire

View from my office, County Hall, Leicestershire

I work for Leicestershire County Council in the Historic & Natural Environment Team (part of Planning, Historic & Natural Environment, so we sit with various planning officers). The other people in my team consist of a war memorials project officer, conservation officer, 2 planning archaeologists and our team leader – we’re also in the same team as several ecologists. There used to be more of us but due to the ubiquitous cuts that’s the team at the moment.  The conservation officer and our team leader don’t work full time, also because of the cuts.  So they’re not here today.

I’m in charge of the Historic Environment Record for Leicestershire & Rutland, which is basically a database that attempts to record all known archaeological remains and historic buildings in the county.

The first job of the day is to check the Heritage Gateway upload that I set running last night. About 70% of our HER records are available on-line through the Gateway (our Heritage Gateway update page details what’s on-line at the moment). Yesterday I added some new records (and edited some old ones), so I thought I’d better upload them!  The new records include a rather interesting medieval cruck-framed house, 5-7, Market Place, Whitwick (MLE20894) that is due to be demolished as part of a scheme to build a new Co-op.  (It’s not listed.) Our planning archaeologists have been commenting on the scheme, hence the reports that have provided me with new sites.

Then it’s time to do some fun map regression!  I love the part of my job that’s basically detective work, though sometimes it’s infuriating not to get definitive answers to questions…  Yesterday the Principal Planning Archaeologist brought several things in Ashby-de-la-Zouch to my attention.  First is an early ‘tramway’ that ran from the Ashby Canal to Ticknall.  This was on the HER already, but the mapping wasn’t quite right.  Then there are a whole bunch of industrial sites dating from the C18th-C20th.


Historic maps (1735, 1837, 1888) and HER extract for Ashby-de-la-Zouch

The sites are (the links will work when I’ve done the next Gateway upload!):

The next job is something that brings in money – a commercial data search.  Searches are requested by land agents and solicitors as well as commercial archaeology units, to help inform land purchases, planning decisions and as part of fieldwork.  For a fee, I send various digital files (maps, GIS files, gazetteers etc) out containing all the archaeological sites and historic buildings on the HER.  (Non-commercial enquiries are free.)  Interesting sites in Appleby Magna, where this search was for, include Moat House (MLE10939), a C16th house that sits within a moat.  The moated site, along with formal gardens, fishponds and village earthworks, is a Scheduled Monument (National Heritage List Entry No. 1011458).

As a fun Friday afternoon activity I think I’ll go through a book I’ve just bought (another HER officer recommended it to me).  It’s called ‘Actions Stations: Military airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands’, by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny.  We’ve been trying to put World War I sites onto the HER in advance of the First World War Centenary next year and I’m hoping it can add a bit more information.

Short 184 Seaplane

First World War Short 184 seaplane built at the Brush Works, Loughborough

Reaching the end of the day, the book doesn’t contain much First World War information (I’m up to ‘L’ in the gazetteer), but it does have some information about the Brush Works at Loughborough (MLE8697), which built aircraft in both the First and Second World Wars, and Loughborough Meadows (MLE15968), where they test flew their planes. The updated information will be on the Heritage Gateway after my next upload.

As you can see, for an ‘archaeology database’ the HER contains quite a few records that are pretty modern, as well as things like castles and medieval houses.  It certainly makes for an interesting job, learning about all sorts of different things on a daily basis!  You never quite know what the day will hold…

Moving a dune, eroding archaeology on Scotland’s north east coast.

The sand dunes at Brora, Sutherland, on Scotland’s north east coast, are over four metres high. Buried within them are the remains of the late 16th / early 17th century saltpans. Over the centuries, the wind had blown sand over the site, completely covering it until it became forgotten about.

Sand dune at Brora

Sand dune at Brora

In recent years, coastal erosion had exposed part of the front wall of one of the buildings, and on the Day of Archaeology, we finished machining and started cleaning up the site.

We knew that masonry remained buried in the dunes as we had uncovered half of a building in 201. Although we had seen the front wall of the buried portion, we did not know how much would survive.

In order to uncover the site, we had to remove hundreds of tons of sand and had spent the previous two days landscaping the dune. Removing the sand would allow us to work safely , but we had to make sure that the wind would not blow away the reshaped dune, so were replacing the turf on the remodelled dune as quickly as possible.

Machine stripping of dune

Machine stripping of dune

We were finished with the machine by 9:00am (the machine driver had another job to go to so started early, one of the benefits of long summer days up in the north!). The machine had taken out the bulk of the sand while we dug close to the walls to ensure that the machine bucket didn’t damage the masonry.

Cleaning site by hand

Cleaning site by hand

When the machine had gone, the walls plotted with the EDM, and loose of unsafe masonry was drawn, photographed and then removed.

Using an EDM for survey

Using an EDM for survey

There was also much collapsed masonry within the building, and once the machine had left, this had to be removed by hand.

Heavy work, moving stones

Heavy work, moving stones

We also spent time videoing Calum, a young volunteer who helped us out last year also, and had been inspired to use the Brora dig for a school project.

By the end of the day, we had cleared enough sand to reveal a small room, roughly 4 m x 4.5m, with a doorway facing the sea and a fireplace in one wall. While machining we had seen the lintel of the fireplace and it seemed to have initials carved into it. As we removed more sand from around it, we could see that there were further initials on one of the jambs; the other had nicks etched into its edge, perhaps where people had sharpened their knives.



The project had been initiated due to Jacqueline Aitken’s passion for, and concerns about, the archaeology of Brora. Jacquie remembers playing on eroding masonry (now long gone) when she was a child and was worried that Brora’s industrial heritage was being washed away by the sea. A member of the Clyne Heritage Society, she contacted SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) and a joint project, (also involving the University of St Andrews where Jo and I are based), was established. Thanks to funding from Historic Scotland, a small bit of Brora’s past is being recorded before it is lost forever.

Clyne Heritage group members

Clyne Heritage group members

A Snapshot of Discovery

Life as an archaeologist often starts like anyone else’s day, an early morning, a hearty breakfast, reading the news online, and getting dressed. Where it differs is, I am going to uncover objects that are lost and buried sometimes right beneath your feet, or right under your garden. I look at neighborhoods not as they are today, but as they were, perhaps a hundred years ago, or perhaps a thousand years ago. My thoughts are locked in a mode where every fragment of brick raises questions, and every piece of stone a new discovery. Perhaps you’ve walked right past an archaeologist in the street, his or her eyes gazing toward the ground, examining every detail, looking for something out of place. This is just the start of the day.

I’m a different kind of archaeologist, while I have studied Native American sites in the Northeast, and I have dug sites in the west, my primary focus is on industry and workers. I am an Industrial Archaeologist, I study class development with my focus on riverworkers in the Monongahela Valley in Pennsylvania. Namely, I study 19th and 20th century steamboat workers.

My day for the past few months has been to meet with my archaeology volunteers from the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Mon/Yough Chapter #3 ( and head out to a site that is offering a great window into the 19th century steamboat industry, a captain’s house! Actually we’ve excavated two steamboat captain’s houses from different time periods in the 1800’s.

Community involvement is important to the future of archaeology in the United States as federal and state monies slowly dry up. The community must value their past and take ownership of it, and archaeology is a great way to get the community involved and get them to value their past! You will see in these photos 3 age groups from Zander who is 6 years old, to Carl who is a venerated senior, archaeology has brought these different people together.

Here are some pictures from those excavations, we are in Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

The lock-keeper’s cottage

Today I’m working on creating an album of photographs  I took on a “canal camp”  for which I volunteered a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll upload it to my my web site in the next couple of days . The aim of the Waterway Recovery Group project is to help to restore the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal as it wriggles through South Wales towards Newport.

I go on these camps because they offer a great mix of the outdoors, exercise, team-building, learning, fun and industrial archaeology. I learn a lot about how the canals were constructed, and a little about who constructed them and operated them. This year,as we worked on Drapers Lock, near Cwmbran, Monmouthshire, we discovered the foundations of the lock-keeper’s cottage. Since the canal has been decaying for a century or so (the last boats travelled along it over 70 years ago), not much remains of the small stone-built cottage.

But by the end of the week I’d hacked away at enough jungle to discover the cottage fireplace and chimney-base, together with a scatter of sherds of transfer-printed ceramics (see below). These appear to underline our growing understanding that even the most “humble” working people, in this case a lock-keeper, often owned and discarded quite “fine”  wares. I especially like the design that includes an Oriental man (a musician?) with his long moustache. These tiny sherds give me a glimpse of the tastes of the long-gone cottage occupants, and I like to imagine these ceramics standing on a dresser bright with blue-and-white pottery  as, outside, barges full of coal worked their way through the adjacent lock on their way from the mines up the valleys down to the docks at Newport.

And here I am, sitting proudly on “my” cottage!


A day in the life of a CATP at GGAT

Hello! I’m Natasha,  I’m the CBA’s CATP (Community Archaeology Training Placement) person in post with the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust. I’ve been with the Trust for just over 3 months now and have loved every minute!

I’m based in the curatorial divison and my working day never seems to be the same from one week to the next! Over the past few weeks I have been organising our annual event’s day as part of the British Festival of Archaeology, so it’s been very hands on planning logistics, locating resources and packing vans! Not to mention the running of several activities on the day-the children who had a go at our Wattle and Daub demonstration liked it so much they covered the Wattle frame, themselves and me with the clayey, compostey, hay-filled mixture! Nothing like a bit of messy fun to encourage people to learn something new! The day at Swansea museum and the following week at Neath abbey were a great sucess and gave me some valuble events organisation experience.

We’ve got more projects in the pipeline looking to get underway soon but right now,  this week is a little more sedate for a change as I’ve been analysing all our feedback from the events and putting it into a report so we can assess what went well and what to build on for future events.

Today I’m spending most of my time making sure we have everything back that we should have and I’m carrying out an audit of all our display panels, the Trust does a lot of outreach so we have a huge amount! Often they’re lent out to societies or councils explaining some of the work we’ve carried out in the area or outling what the trust does in general and how you can get involved with our outreach and community and projects.  Currently I’m working through our catalogue and checking them off-bit of a difference from this time last week where we were packing tents ready for Neath Abbey’s Activity Day!


The week ahead…

I am still not entirely sure exactly what I’ll be doing on the Day of Archaeology, but most of my work this week will be desk-based. Having said that I have today been unexpectedly called on to visit a site tomorrow morning, so we’ll see how that goes.

For some background to the work I do please visit my personal blog:

To see what Nexus Heritage do generally, please look at our website:

It is very exciting to be involved with this Day of Archaeology; I look forward to seeing what everyone else is up to!