SIHG Home SERIAC List Societies 2011 2012 2013


South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference 2012

Saturday 28 April 2012, hosted by
Berkshire Industrial Archaeology Group (BIAG)

St Bartholomew's School, Newbury, Berkshire

0900 Registration - displays set up, tea/coffee & biscuits available.
1000 Welcome by Cllr Peter Argyle, Chairman West Berkshire Council, &
        Dennis Johnson, Chairman Berkshire Industrial Archaeology Group.
1015 The Times of Plenty by Ellie Thorne, Archivist, Berkshire Record Office.
        A delve into the archives of the 200 year old Newbury engineering company Plenty & Son,
        whose products have included ploughs, lifeboats and steam marine engines.
1055 Comfort Break
1110 20th Century Military Sites in West Berkshire by Duncan Coe, Archaeological Officer, West Berkshire Council.
        The talk will look at the area's military archaeology including Greenham Common, Aldermaston and Burghfield.
1155 The Steam Mechanisation of Agriculture by Jane McCutchan,
        University of Reading. Jane's talk looks at steam ploughing from 1840 to 1920.
1235 Lunch - hot meal available.
1350 Mapledurham Watermill: its History and Recent Developments by Mildred Cookson.
        The building dates from the 15th century. In 2011 an Archimedes screw turbine was installed for
        electricity generation to replace an earlier 1920s system.
1435 Allens of Oxford by Jonathan Brown, Museum of English Rural Life.
        John Allen & Sons (Oxford) Ltd were agricultural and general contractors, and made agricultural,
        horticultural and civil engineering equipment, including the Allen Scythe.
1515 Refreshment Break - tea/coffee & cake available.
1545 200 Years of Boulton and Watt at Crofton by Jon Willis, Chairman Crofton Beam Engines.
        The talk will cover the story of Crofton as well as the issues facing its continued operation and
        plans being developed to preserve its future.
1625 Closing remarks by Dennis Johnson and Invitation to SERIAC 2013.
1640 Conference Ends - displays dismantled.
1700 Depart for Site Visits

A Greenham Common - a walking tour looking at some of the WWII and Cold War features led by Duncan Coe.
        Unfortunately there is currently no internal access to buildings such as the cruise missile shelters.
B Ridgeway Military and Aviation Research Group Museum, RAF Welford.
        RMARG concentrates on WWII. The museum is within an active military installation.
C Historic Newbury - a walking tour from the school to include the Kennet & Avon Canal
        and some other sites of industrial archaeological interest.
D Crux Easton Wind Engine - a John Wallis Titt "Simplex" self-regulating geared wind engine,
        erected on the site c. 1891-2 to pump water from a well, restored 2000-2.

The Times of Plenty
Ellie Thorne, Archivist, Berkshire Record Office,,
At the turn of the 19th century William Plenty moved from Southampton to Newbury and set up as an iron founder manufacturing agricultural tools. The Plenty name was to remain associated with engineering in Newbury for the next 200 years. During this time the company expanded and diversified, remaining at the forefront of engineering innovations. Products designed and produced by Plentys range from ploughs to marine steam engines and from lifeboats to motor vehicles and in later years to pumps, filters and machinery used in the oil industry. When the company was taken over at the beginning of the 21st century the historical records where deposited at Berkshire Record Office and have since been catalogued and made available to the public for research. This talk will use these records to chart the development of the family company, not only looking at the machinery produced but also at the characters involved and how they shaped the direction of the company.
Ellie Thorne is an archivist at Berkshire Record Office. Her main cataloguing and research interests include the archives of local businesses and architectural records. She has previously catalogued the records for the Reading based Berkshire Printing Company and architectural plans for local authorities. She is currently cataloguing the records of local architect Conrad Birdwood Willcocks.

20th Century Military Heritage in West Berkshire: The Role of the Local Authority
Duncan Coe, Archaeological Officer, West Berkshire Council,,
The growing appreciation of the historical and archaeological value of military sites and features in the landscape has led to a significant change in the way that local authority archaeological teams treat this component of our heritage. West Berkshire is blessed with a number of important 20th century military sites, a significant part of the GHQ stop line in the Kennet and Sulham Valleys, a number of airfields that played a major role in allied airborne operations towards the end of WWII and a number of sites that played a key role in the Cold War and the peace protests associated with that era.
Managing these features, ensuring that the most significant elements are protected and that an appropriate record is made of those that are to be lost through development activity is now a normal and everyday part of our work. This paper will explore some of the issues encountered and will show how planning guidance and policy is used to inform planning decisions affecting 20th century military sites in the district.

The Steam Mechanisation of Agriculture 1840 - 1920
Jane McCutchan, University of Reading, or,
Jane won a Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) scholarship in 2009 to study 'Steam Mechanisation of Agriculture 1840 - 1920' and is a 3rd year PhD student in Economic History at University of Reading. The current scholarly consensus is that the widespread development and adoption of the steam plough was a failure, so the topic warrants little attention in the literature. Her work builds on available records, with the help of information collected and maintained by members of the Steam Plough Club, shedding new light on a neglected sector of an important Victorian industry.
Jane was a carer when she went back to school, giving up a career in the Voluntary Sector and Local Government to look after Mum. Berkshire Industrial Archaeology Group invited her to talk about her work in September 2011, and with her 'steamy past' as Project Manager for STEAM - Museum of the GWR, Swindon and experience as a Trust Fundraiser, she is hoping for new challenges when she graduates this year.

Mapledurham Watermill: its History and Recent Developments
Mildred Cookson Address: The Mills Archive Trust, Reading,,
Mapledurham watermill is the last traditional working mill on the River Thames. In the last few years timbers have been dated in the mill showing the earliest to be 1646.
The mill was built by the lord of the manor as a grist mill for producing animal feed for the many farms on the estate. The first wooden undershot wheel was put on the Thames side of the mill, this drove two pair of stones. Later a second wheel was installed on the land side of the mill; this again drove another pair of stones. Still later in the late 1700s a third wheel was added for fulling cloth. This process did not last very long and by the end of the 1700s is no longer mentioned in the deeds.
Both the other wheels continued in full working use until 1920, when the wheel on the Thames side was taken out and a few years later a Gilkes turbine replaced it for generating electricity. This worked up to 1995 and remained in place till 2010. The mill has continued working producing wholemeal flour with the landside waterwheel to date.
In 2010 work commenced to take out the old Gilkes turbine and replace it with an Archimedean screw to once more generate electricity. After much engineering work the screw was finally fitted and working in October 2011.
Mildred took over the milling operation in 1982 and as miller was also responsible for the maintenance of the machinery, including the dressing of the French stones. The talk will illustrate the life and times of the mill and miller from the earliest records to date, and finish showing the Archimedean screw working alongside the old wooden wheel.

Allens of Oxford
Jonathan Brown Museum of English Rural Life, Reading,,
The village of Cowley is now part of Oxford's built-up area, its growth the result of suburban expansion and the works of Morris Motors constructed in the 1920s. The transformation of the village had begun much earlier, from the 1860s when Messrs Eddison and Noddings set up their Oxfordshire Steam Ploughing Company, which dominated Cowley for many decades. This firm was one of the new breed of agricultural contractors, taking steam ploughs out to farmers in the Oxford clay vale. Before long there was a workshop at Cowley in which ploughs and steam engines could be repaired. Contract work expanded from steam ploughs to include threshing, road rolling and transport. As the contract hire fleets grew so did the workshop. It moved from repair work only to fabricating new parts, making ancillary equipment, rebuilding steam engines, and in 1908, the building of the company's first new steam ploughing engine.
After the First World War the manufacturing side of the business, now called John Allen & Sons (Oxford) Ltd, expanded still further. Several new products were introduced, most important of which were trench digging machines, mobile cranes, and the famous Allen 'Scythe' grass cutter. The transformation of the company was completed after 1945 with the sale or closure of the remaining contract hire departments.
This medium-sized family business had a remarkable ability to adapt and reinvent itself, and its story provides some insights into the nature of the British engineering industry.

200 Years of Boulton and Watt at Crofton
Jon Willis, Chairman, Crofton Beam Engines,,
At the opening of the Kennet and Avon canal in 1810 a wooden beamed Boulton and Watt engine was installed at Crofton, near Marlborough in Wiltshire, to pump water from the nearest natural source of water to the summit of the canal some 40ft higher. The two engines that remain today - a Boulton and Watt engine of 1812 and a Harvey engine of 1846 - are both fully operational using a 100-year-old Lancashire steam boiler. Still in its original location and able to do its original job the Boulton and Watt engine is the oldest working beam engine in the world and on the 18 or more days a year when the engines are run, British Waterways switch off their electric pumps and Crofton comes to life again.
The engines have been restored and well maintained by volunteers for the past 40 years and we are now preparing a Conservation Plan to ensure that they continue to operate, in steam, for the foreseeable future. The building and engines are Grade 1 listed and the plan seeks to ensure that the unique heritage of the site is maintained, whilst safely allowing the public to visit. Surveys have identified building and structural timber decay, which needs urgent attention. The engines themselves appear to be in a remarkably good condition; nevertheless these magnificent machines are currently being subject to a thorough inspection programme by our skilled engineers.

Display Notes

SERIAC Supported Research 1 - Isle of Wight Tin Structures
Mark Luis Earp, Project Manager, Kitbridge Enterprises Trust, Isle of Wight,,
In 1828 Henry Robinson Palmer invented the "Corrugation and Galvanisation" of sheet iron. Little did Palmer know that his invention would revolutionise the construction of cheap and affordable buildings all over the world for decades to come.
The corrugation and galvanising process resulted in an increase in strength which encouraged the rapid adoption of corrugated iron as a cheap and practical material. Suppliers such as William Cooper of Old Kent Road in London realized the economic benefit and the robustness of corrugated iron, and consequently rapidly adopted it as their primary building material sending sheets to destinations all over the world.
The growing British Empire required temporary buildings that could be quickly erected, and corrugated iron fulfilled these requirements. Soon whole buildings were manufactured and prefabricated to almost any specification, from a small pigsty to a cathedral. By 1854 some 30,000 buildings were shipped to Australia alone, where semi-skilled workers could erect the structures quickly and safely.
The heyday of corrugated iron lasted well over 100 years, until the invention of asbestos sheeting. However asbestos has possibly seen its day of reckoning and corrugated iron is starting to make a come-back in today's market place. The old problems of rapid corrosion have been dealt with by the inclusion of a zinc coating and far tougher protective coating applications. Modern processing methods have made a more durable material with a greater life expectancy.
This unique material has gone largely unnoticed and ignored, and yet you will find examples of corrugated structures in Britain and all over the globe. Many farms and industries used large quantities of corrugated iron, but possibly the finest example of its use is in the construction of tin churches. Many still survive today and are a testimony to this highly versatile but greatly underrated building material.
The Isle of Wight was once blessed with many tin structures, most likely as a result of the poor financial status that has historically plagued the Island. Although most have now gone or been incorporated into new builds, a legacy of photographs, maps and personal knowledge is still available - but only just. It is therefore imperative to record and research this information before it is completely lost, losing not only the structures themselves but the persons who knew of them.
Kitbridge Enterprises Trust, in association with the Isle of Wight Industrial Archaeology Society and with the support of a SERIAC Bursary, has been working to record all known structures of this type on the Isle of Wight. The results will take the form of a comprehensive gazetteer which will be produced in both hardcopy and CD-ROM formats.

SERIAC Supported Research 2 - River Adur Basin Bridges and Crossings
Martin Snow, Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society,,
The River Adur catchment area is located within West Sussex with the river mouth at Shoreham-by-Sea. It cuts through the Chalk of The South Downs from the Weald where it spreads out to drain the area from Ditchling and Haywards Heath in the east and almost to the Roman Road, Stane Street, in the west and stretches north to the High Weald AONB.
In doing so it crosses a number of geological types, sandstones and clays that alternately make up the Weald. There are stretches that have cut deep gullies that then spread wide on the softer terrain. Viewing the human communications that criss-cross the area requiring various types of mutual crossing places, bridges, culverts and even simple pipes it is plain that experience has taught the engineer to allow for substantially larger flow volumes than were present during the study period.
Crossings, road and rail over each other and of water range from mere pipes to the extensive 1970s 'clover leaf' Adur valley crossing and junction just north of Shoreham on the A27 Trunk route.
This project, supported by a SERIAC Bursary, sought to identify all present and past crossings and produce a complete record of them for comparison with the County Council highways database.
Much information has come from visiting each crossing; the likely (unrecorded) history of the crossing may be deduced and fitted with other sources where available. The routes of earlier trackways and roads appear to have avoided water crossings by keeping to ridges and watersheds where possible. Something we tend not to bother with when we have our network of roads, that have crossings as and when needed, we do not have to pay a toll every time - at least not in Sussex. Our bridges only bother us when they are flooded out or restricted for repair or replacement.
As will be seen each crossing is unique for its location, but styles betray common periods of design and preferred materials etc. that may be traced in the area.

Site Visits

A: Greenham Common Bury's Bank Road, Thatcham RG19 8BZ,
Duncan Coe, Archaeological Officer, West Berkshire Council,
The use of Greenham Common for military proposes can be traced back to the early 19th century, but it was the decision to build a WWII airfield on the site that led to prominence in international affairs at the end of the Cold War in the 1980's.
The walk will take in some of the more important surviving elements of the Cold War air base, the Control Tower, the remnant of the runway, the Cruise Missile shelters (no internal access). It will consider the WWII airfield, its role in D-Day and the Arnhem Operations, the reconfiguration of the site to allow for USAF Cold War long range bombers, the introduction of Cruise Missiles and the associated peace camps and its more recent return to common land and use for public recreation.
The walk will also explore some of the management/conservation issues related to the military heritage.

B: Ridgeway Military & Aviation Research Group Museum RAF Welford, Newbury
Don Summers, Chairman RMARG,,
RMARG was formed in 1991 to collect, record and preserve WW2 history from the Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire area together with other military and aviation matters.
The items on show have all been collected and restored by amateur enthusiasts, and cover a wide spectrum in size and complexity. They range from individual small arms bullets to a section of a C-47 used on D-Day 1944, and many stages between.
The group takes pride in presenting the visitor with a range of unique displays. Although, for example, there are several complete C-47 (Dakota) aircraft still flying in this country, it is believed that nowhere else provides the easy opportunity for the visitor to climb inside and sit in the pilot's seat.
Similarly, there are other Link Trainers in the country, but the example displayed here is probably the only one fully functioning as a true simulator, and has even been altered so that on 'landing', the pilot feels a slight bump as the craft 'contacts' the runway.
RAF Welford was originally intended as a training base for RAF bomber crews. However, with the establishment of overseas training facilities and the need for operational bases in this country, it was allocated to the 9th USAAF as a Troop Carrier Base, along with its sister airfields (Aldermaston, Greenham Common, Membury and Ramsbury).
So, from late 1943 until war's end, this airfield was busy with C-47's and gliders, both the British Horsa and the US Waco. There are photos of the base on display, indicating its wartime activities.
After the war, the base was run down. As the Cold War began in earnest, its secure location made it an obvious choice for munitions storage for the USAF bases in this area, including the revamped Greenham Common, Brize Norton, Fairford and Upper Heyford, and it reopened in 1955. Most of the upstairs area is devoted to recognition of the base activities since then, under the auspices of the Friends Families and Veterans of Welford (FFVW). This organisation maintains links with current and former serving personnel, both US and British, and serves to encourage the camaraderie that exists between them.

C: Historic Newbury Walk
Led by members of local societies The Newbury Society, Newbury District Field Club and The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, / /
Historically Newbury has been an agricultural market town but its cattle market closed in 1969. It has had three main phases of prosperity - weaving in the Tudor period (up to the mid 16th century), the coaching trade in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and the current 'hi-tech' industries of the M4 'Silicon Valley' corridor that came to the town from about 1980 onwards. It is famous as being at a major transport cross roads and for its racecourse which opened in 1905. It is infamous for the Cold War connections of Greenham Common and for its bypass which opened in 1998.
Sites to be seen include:
Argyle Road - Historic Almshouses.
The Railway and the Station - at one time the junction for the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway and the Lambourn Valley Railway.
Visible in the distance (but not visited) is the retort house of the town's gas works. It was adapted for electrical cable manufacture following the introduction of natural gas and is currently the town's most notorious derelict industrial building.
Bartholomew Street: - the former Phoenix Brewery, the former Eight Bells pub, converted maltings and adjoining industrial building in Inches Yard.
The Kennet Shopping Centre - this was built in the early 1970s, in part on the site of Plenty's Eagle Iron Works. Many other historic buildings were lost then and in a later expansion.
St Nicolas Church reflects Newbury's prosperity as a cloth town at the time of the current building's construction in the early 16th century.
West Mills - Town Mills (by the church) and West Mills (by the swing bridge and mostly lost in a fire in 1965) have now been superseded by residential properties. These were used by grain companies.
The Kennet & Avon Canal, the booklet 'Working Waterway' supplied with these Conference Notes.
Northbrook Street (viewed from the Bridge). Pedestrianisation followed the opening of the A34 bypass in 1998. The Street was itself the A34 until the opening of the relief road (now the A339) in 1965.
Mansion House Street and Market Place. Historic buildings include the Town Hall, White Hart House and the Corn Exchange.
Wharf Street and The Wharf. The Cloth Hall and the main portion of the Granary now form the Town's museum (currently closed for refurbishment).
Main reference: The Story of Newbury by David Peacock, Countryside Books 2011.

D: Crux Easton Wind Engine Newbury RG20 9QF,
Carol O'Shaughnessy, Crux Easton Wind Engine Conservation Trust,
Crux Easton Wind Engine is a John Wallis Titt Simplex self-regulating geared wind engine for pumping water and grinding corn, erected on this site in 1891-92. It is an important rare example of a transitional design between earlier annular-sailed windmills and the 20th century fixed blade galvanised "prairie type" wind pumps. The 20ft wind wheel on a 32ft hexagonal steel tower has 48 canvas sails which can be adjusted in angle to allow for variations in the strength of the wind. A fan tail enables the engine to turn into the wind.
Inside the well house is an impressive 360ft well with the original pump rods still in place. CCTV footage of a survey of the well shaft can viewed. There are also displays about the history of the site and the restoration of the wind engine (which was completed in 2002), together with information about Geoffrey De Havilland's early flying in the area and a display of models of his planes.
The Wind Engine is open to the public on several Sundays during the summer and at other times by arrangement.