NLHF Launches New Guidance & Training on Heritage Digitisation

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is hosting a series of free webinars and panel discussions this spring 2023 to help raise awareness of the need for greater digitisation across the UK’s heritage sector. They are also publishing new, specially commissioned, guidance designed to help small, volunteer-led, organisations better prepare for digitisation projects while keeping their costs down.

The two guides –  commissioned by The Heritage Fund as part of its Digital Skills for Heritage initiative and authored by Dr Andrea Wallace and Dr Mathilda Pavis – are:

The free events include a panel discussion focused on Digitisation Leadership (31 March, 12-5pm, online and in-person at Hamilton House, London), which is open to the public and features experts from the UK’s leading digitisation organisations, discussing how the UK heritage sector can hope to get the best possible value from investment in digitisation.

More details here:

Anderton Boat Lift Awarded £574k for Urgent Repairs

Britain’s oldest boat lift has received a £574,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant towards essential repairs. This grant will be used to repair the hydraulics and computer system of the Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich, Cheshire, by the Canal and River Trust (CRT).

The lift on the Trent and Mersey Canal was built by Edwin Clarke in 1875 to allow boats carrying salt and coal to move easily between the canal and the Weaver Navigation 15m (50ft) below.

The lift, which is known as “Cathedral of the Canals” and also as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Waterways”, was in operation for more than 100 years until 1983 when it closed due to corrosion. The lift reopened to the public in 2002 after a multi-million pound restoration but has been out of action since August 2022 due to the failure of a safety mechanism.

Andrew Davison, inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, which supported the Canal & River Trust’s application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the boat was an “extraordinary feat of engineering, an outstanding product of Victorian technical ability and ingenuity…There is no substitute for seeing it in operation or experiencing sitting on a boat which is being lifted or lowered between the canal and the river.”

Rebecca Mason, enterprise manager at the Canal & River Trust, said they were “thrilled” to be awarded this development phase grant. She said the trust would work closely with partners and stakeholders including Historic England over the next 18 months “to ensure we can submit a really robust second-round application to the lottery in 2024”. Further details here:

Join the Blists Hill 50th Anniversary Celebration Day

Join the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust as they celebrate Blists Hill Victorian Town’s 50th Birthday with a day of entertainment, activities and lots of fun! The theme for the day is a traditional Mop (or Hiring) Fair.

Beginning back in the 14th century, Mop Fairs were an annual opportunity to match workers to employers, especially in rural areas. Farm workers, labourers, servants and craftsmen would congregate in their Sunday best displaying a symbol of their trade, so a farmer might display a piece of straw, housemaids held brooms or mops, hence the name mop fair. In Shropshire, young women employed to collect ironstone from the waste tips of local clay mines, known as Shroppies, often travelled to London to work from May until September during the fruit and vegetable season in order to earn extra money.

On Saturday 1 April, try your hand at different trades and decide which occupation you may have been employed in if you had lived in 1900 such as:

  • Tile making
  • Laundry
  • China Flower Making
  • Printing
  • Brick Making
  • Blacksmithing
  • Candle Dipping

Throughout the day you will also be able to join in in the parade to mark the departure of the Shroppies and enjoy the music of the Wellington Brass Band. The Town will be dressed for celebration with flags and bunting and the air will be filled with fun and laughter. Visitors will be able to see casting in the Iron Foundry and will have plenty of opportunity to hear about the town’s humble beginnings back in 1973. Activities are included in the admission fee. See:

AIA 50th Anniversary Conference September 2023

To celebrate 50 years of Industrial Archaeology the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) will be organising a 50th anniversary conference over six days in the city where the Association held its first conference: Bath. This will take place from 1st to 6th September 2023 at the University of Bath.

The Association will be looking not only at the achievements of the AIA over the past half century but also the spread of Industrial Archaeology to other parts of the world with several international speakers contributing lectures on the Saturday morning.

The seminar on Friday will consider the work currently being done by the upcoming generation of industrial archaeologists. In place of the traditional Rolt Lecture after the AGM on Sunday morning, the AIA will be celebrating the pioneering industrial archaeology achievements of the late Angus and Brenda Buchanan.

Both the seminar and the weekend conference events will be hybrid, allowing those members unable to attend in person to join the presentations. However, it is hoped that members will take this opportunity, after a break of three years, to attend in person to renew old friendships and form new ones.

The Conference programme is as follows:

  • Friday – Young Members Board Seminar, Evening Reception
  • Saturday – Celebration of the work of the AIA nationally & internationally, Award presentations, Conference dinner
  • Sunday morning – AGM, followed by a celebration of Angus and Brenda Buchanan with presentations by Sir Neil Cossons, Keith Falconer OBE and Prof. Marilyn Palmer MBE
  • Sunday afternoon – Visit to the museum of Bath at Work, Civic Reception
  • Monday – Choice of visits to local sites of IA interest, evening talk
  • Tuesday – Choice of visits to local sites of IA interest, evening talk
  • Wednesday – Choice of visits to local sites of IA interest

Booking is available in four packages covering the fill six days, the weekend events, the Friday seminar, or online access for the Friday & weekend. Go to the AIA website to see full details and to book:

Big Heritage Take Over the Running of the Wirral Transport Museum

The management of the Wirral Transport Museum, which is owned by Wirral Council and is based on Taylor Street in Birkenhead, is being transferred to Big Heritage, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company. It currently costs the council around £85,000 a year but the transfer to will mean that Big Heritage will take over the costs of running the museum. Big Heritage already run visitor attractions in nearby Chester and Liverpool.

The Council has signed a 25-year lease with Big Heritage, whose intention is to create a “compelling visitor attraction” and bring in more than 40,000 visitors a year. Currently the museum only welcomes around 6,000 visitors a year. The Wirral Transport Museum was opened by the local council in 1995 and features nine historic trams, as well as buses, cars, and motorbikes. A preserved section of tram runs for 1km to the Woodside Ferry Terminal. Trams first ran in Birkenhead in 1860, making the network the first street tramway in Europe.

Rob Jones, Secretary of the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society Limited (MTPS), who have run the site since 2014 with 50 volunteers, said: “Our main concern has been knowing what are we charging for people to come in, who are asking us questions that we really don’t know the answer to. That worries our members.

“I am all for the Big Heritage asset transfer. I’m 68 and I’m one of the younger people in the group.” The volunteers will still be involved in the running of the museum. For further details of the museum and the tramway trust follow this link:

Rare K8 Phone Boxes Listed

Nine rare K8 phone boxes in and around Hull have been listed at Grade II by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England. The K8 was designed in 1965-66 by architect Bruce Martin who was commissioned by the General Post Office, owners of the public telephone network. In contrast to the intricate glass panelling of Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic K2 and K6 boxes, it is notable for its modern and minimalist appearance, which made it simpler to repair and maintain.

The K8 kiosk is the last generation of the classic public telephone box. They were massed-produced between 1968 and 1983, when 11,000 K8s were installed across the UK. However, only around 50 remain in their original position. This is because most were removed by British Telecom following its privatisation in 1984 to be replaced by the sleek silver KX100 kiosk, and other variants. These in their turn have been made largely obsolete by the rise of mobile phone ownership in the early 21st century.

Most of the identified surviving K8s are in and around Hull and survived because they were not the property of British Telecom. Hull is the only place in England where the local council actively ran the public telephone network, having been granted a licence to operate from 1902 to 2007. Today, the network continues to be run by an independent company, Kingston Communications.

As a signal the network’s independence, the K8 phone boxes (and the earlier K1 and K6s) in Hull are painted cream, rather than the red used elsewhere in the country.

A white K8 phone box in Hull. Image courtesy of Historic England

Swingate Water Tower, Kimberley, Notts, Awarded Grade II Listed Building Status

In February 2023 the Swingate Water Tower, Kimberley, Nottinghamshire was awarded Grade II listed status through Historic England. The square-plan water tower was designed by Ritchie and Partners for the Corporation of Nottingham Water Department, in neo-classical style. It was built in the late 1940s and commissioned in 1950. It remained in use into the early 21st century. The water tower was topped with a tank capable of holding 80,000 gallons and the adjoining reservoir was built with a capacity of 4,000,000 gallons.

The listing describes the building as: “unusually architectural for a reinforced concrete water tower, and is designed with pleasing proportions in a striking neo-Georgian style”. It also noted that “the water tower forms an unusually architecturally-refined ensemble which goes far beyond what would be necessary merely for utility.” It has also been deemed as being historically interesting “as an expression of civic pride”.

This is in contrast with most post-war water towers, which were generally utilitarian structures of reinforced concrete, designed principally with practical considerations in mind.

Spring 2023 Round of Industrial Heritage Network Meetings

The next round of Industrial Heritage Network (IHN) meetings is taking place over Spring 2023. The IHN networks are a chance to meet, online (and later in 2023 in person), those working, volunteering, or researching in the industrial heritage sector. IHN members will have an opportunity to discuss the theme for this latest round of IHN meetings – how the post-COVID lockdown recovery is impacting industrial heritage sites, large and small. Is it business ‘as usual’ or has the COVID pandemic led to permanent changes in the way sites and organisations deal with the public and staff? How is your site coping with any maintenance backlog, recruiting volunteers, and reaching out to schools?

If your industrial heritage site or group would like to join one of the ten regional Industrial Heritage Networks run in England by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, with funding from Historic England and support from the Association for Industrial Archaeology, email the Industrial Heritage Support Officer, Dr Mike Nevell at:

Cromford Mills Receives Funding for Next Stage of Conservation Works

The Arkwright Society has been awarded a £249,599 grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. This will support engagement activities at Cromford Mills and aid education about this internationally important textile site.

Critical to the long term sustainability of the site is the next phase of regeneration at Cromford Mills, which will focus on the repair and repurposing of the remaining buildings on the site, in particular the iconic ‘First Mill’ built by Sir Richard Arkwright in 1771.  With £20,000 match funding from the Duke of Devonshire Charitable Trust, a refreshed masterplan will be commissioned, outlining a roadmap for the continuing regeneration of the Mills and a business plan for their future use. Sustainability is also a key theme for the Society, highlighted by the forthcoming installation of a turbine powered water wheel in one of the historic wheel pits at Cromford Mills. This work will help the Society make informed decisions as it writes the next chapter in the Cromford Mills story.

For further details follow this link:

Cromford Mills courtyard

Climate Change and Heritage Case Studies wanted

Historic England is seeking heritage sector partners to help them create a digital case study resource. They are looking for case studies under a range of themes relevant to industrial heritage sites and organisations, including climate change and heritage, retrofitting, reuse and regeneration, design and communities. 

The case studies will be used within Historic England’s e-learning courses to support learners within the sector to develop knowledge and confidence in the management of the historic environment through the planning system.   If you have worked on a case or project that you feel demonstrates good practice and could help others, please take a look at the procurement information by following this link: