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South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference 2007

Saturday 21 April 2007, hosted by BIAG

John Madejeski Theatre, University of Reading, Reading

After the welcoming address, the first lecture was given by Paul Sowan on Chalk Mines and Underground Quarries in Berkshire. There are extensive workings in the chalk, the existence or full extent of which may only have been revealed by the collapse of the ground above. Material was extracted for lime-burning, building stone, hearthstone, brick-making or as flints.

Alan Thomas then spoke on The Epsom Mental Institutions - History and Services. From the late 1890s until 1924 five large mental hospitals were built at Epsom, on what at the time was cheap land. At the peak the hospitals held over 8,000 patients. Prior to the building of the second hospital in 1902 it was necessary to find an adequate supply of water and provide sources of power and lighting. It was decided to build an electric power station to provide lighting and power for the water pumps and other motors for domestic purposes. An artesian well was dug and bored to a depth of 550 feet into the chalk, and from a depth of about 60 feet the water was pumped to an elevated tank from which it flowed by gravity to the hospital. A building erected round the well contained the pumps, boilers and electric generators. Generation ceased in 1935 and the building subsequently underwent three conversions, to a hostel for some patients, to a combined hostel and workshop and finally to a leisure centre. After the final conversion SIHG gave its Conservation Award for 2003 to the developers, the David Lloyd Leisure group.

David Buckley spoke next on the European Route of Industrial Heritage. This project is to foster the appreciation of industrial heritage by linking together existing sites with a key site in the particular area as an ‘anchor point’; for example the Waltham Abbey Gunpowder Museum is the anchor point for a ‘Regional Route’ round industrial sites in East Anglia. The scheme is Europe-wide and it is hoped later to extend it World-wide. (Visit

After an excellent lunch Dick Greenaway spoke on Woodland Archaeology in the Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, covering parts of Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Archaeological remains are difficult to find, but for this reason may have been preserved, thus allowing evidence to be found of extractive industries, woodworking, charcoal-burning and iron-working.

Stephen Capel-Davies spoke on six Civil Engineers in the Thames Valley in the 18th and 19th Centuries. These were John Smeaton (the first person to call himself a civil engineer), William Jessop, John Rennie, I. K. Brunel, John Hawkshaw and Joseph Bazalgette.

Finally Martin Andrew spoke on the Information Explosion and the 19th Century Printing Industry. Industrialisation and universal education created a great demand, not only for books but for advertising, stationery, catalogues and all the ephemera associated with commerce and industry. Printed text was supplemented by pictorial images. Wooden presses were superseded by iron, leading to the development of the hot-metal process.

After the lectures two visits were offered. One was to the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication of the University of Reading, led by Martin Andrew. The department contains a museum of printing presses and equipment, some being working examples, and a collection of ephemera illustrating the development of type fonts and illustrations.

A visit was also offered to the Museum of English Rural Life. This has recently been rehoused under a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, a public appeal and the University of Reading.