National Mills Weekend 2023

Each year the Mills Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) holds a National Mills Weekend. For 2023 this will take place on 13th & 14th May and will focus on ‘Millwrighting – Past and Present’ to celebrate the repair of wind and watermills up and down the country.

SPAB hopes that many mills will be able to be open to welcome visitors during the weekend of the 13th & 14th May. SPAB are advising contacting any mills you are planing to visit during the National Mills Weekend, prior to the visit to ensure that they will be open. To find mills that are open to visitors and see which are participating in National Mills Weekend follow this link:

If you are a mill owner, mill manager, or mill volunteer, and intend opening a mill for the National Mills Weekend please consult SPAB details for how to register. The website has more information and a downloadable support pack about the National Mills Weekend here.

Further Funding Secured for the Power Hall at Manchester SIM

The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £225,000 to support the regeneration of its Power Hall gallery. The Power Hall houses one of the UK’s largest collections of working steam engines, and has been temporarily closed since 2019 to allow for conservation works to the roof and an internal re-display.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £225,000 will see the introduction of a volunteer programme and green technology added to the regeneration project. The Heritage Fund grant will support the development of a volunteer programme dedicated to historic working machinery, and a decarbonisation scheme which will see the museum run its fossil fuel-powered engines with green technology. It will also aid the conservation and maintenance of the machines, keeping them operating in line with the museum’s net-zero goal.

The funding adds to and £14.2 million provided by DCMS to fund repairs to the building announced in February 2023, and the £3 million donation from The Law Family Charitable Foundation last June. The Power Hall’s restoration is part of a multi-million pound regeneration project taking place across the museum’s seven-acre site.

Historic England Webinar on Industrial Elsecar Now Available

The recording of Historic England’s recent industrial heritage webinar on the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone is now available to view on-line. It provides an overview of the project, which ran from 2017 to 2020, including the research programme, protection and management strategies, community outreach and engagement, and how Barnsley Museums are building on this legacy with an ambitious programme and vision for the village.

Elsecar is an industrial estate village of the later 18th and 19th century near Barnsley. It retains important buildings relating to the coal and iron industries from this period, as well as extensive workers’ housing. The first major colliery, Elsecar Old, was sunk in 1750 and taken over by the Marquis of Rockingham in 1752. The small village next door was then transformed from the 1790s at the direction of the 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse, with the sinking of its first deep colliery (which retains its original Newcomen pumping engine in situ), the cutting of a canal, the building of two ironworks and associated housing designed by architect John Carr of York. Elsecar is thus one of the first model industrial villages in the UK.

Follow this link to watch the webinar:

This is one of a series of industrial heritage themed webinars run by Historic England. The recordings of the other four industrial heritage webinars can be found here –

English Industrial Heritage Sites Invited to Take Part in the 2023 ERIH Barometer Survey

Since 2018 the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH) in cooperation with the Department of Statistics and Survey of the Regionalverband Ruhr (Ruhr Regional Association) has carried out an annual survey of industrial heritage sites in Europe. The survey for 2023 is now open.

The data from this pan-European survey helps ERIH to engage with policymakers, the press, and the public. It also helps ERIH to prioritise its activities and projects in order to be most effective in expanding and developing the network and strengthening the sector.

The deadline for this year’s survey is 20th April. There are more than 20 site sin England signed up to to ERIH, and more in Scotland and wales. However, all industrial heritage sites in England with tourist potential are invited to participate, whether they are ERIH members or not.

To take the survey follow this link:

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