South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference 1985
" Industrial Archaeology: Natural Energy"
Saturday 13 April 1985, hosted by
School of Continuing Education,
University of Kent at Canterbury
Rutherford College, University of Kent at Canterbury0945 Introduction and Notices
1000 Gun Powder Mills with Special Reference to Screening - A Percival, MEE FSA
1115 "Crystal Palaces": Orangeries, Conservatories and Glass Houses - B Fagg
1210 The Early History of Kent Coal Mines - JH Plumtree
1415 Tide Mills with Particular Reference to the Eling Tide Mill Restoration - D Plunkett
1500 The Wealden Iron Industry - DM Meades
1600 Industrial Applications of Wind and Water Mills - J Preston
1645 Summing Up
SERIAC is a recently formed grouping of Societies with Industrial Archaeology
interests in the South-East of England. These include
Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society,
Surrey Industrial History Group,
East Kent Mills Group,
Kent Archaeology Society,
Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society,
University of Southampton Industrial Archaeology Group,
Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum Trust, and
Council for Kentish Archaeology and the Croydon Airport Society.
Synopses of Lectures
Crystal Palaces: Outline History of Conservatories and Greenhouses
Brian R Fagg
This subject, rarely touched upon by lecturers, is both fascinating and instructive in that it brings together horticulture, botany and architecture. Essentially, greenhouses were introduced for the benefit of housing plants.in specially created surroundings. The Romans successfully 'forced' food plant and flowers in 'pits' or frames aided by sheets of thin mica, glass not being introduced until the 1st century AD. A building identified as a forcing house was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. There are isolated recorded instances of greenhouses in Mediterranean countries, mainly Italy and France, but it was not until the 16th century that they became popular.
Voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th century launched world trade resulting in merchandise flooding the markets. Exotic fruits, hitherto unknown in European countries were becoming popular with the wealthy and botanists, such as Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) one time President of the Royal Society, travelled universally, returning with many new and rare plants and fruits.
The colder climate necessitated protection for these introductions and this situation gave birth to buildings which go under several and confusing names.
Citrus fruits were housed in orangeries usually glazed on the south facing side only. The citrus bushes would be housed in them during the winter taken out in the summer.
The greenhouse, usually of plainer design was for the forcing of plants. The glasshouse or conservatory did not house plants in pots but in the earth over which the building stood. The Palm House at Kew is a good example. So elaborate became some of these conservatories that they became an extension to the house and capable of taking many plants and trees with intertwining pathways. They were 'indoor gardens' pleasant to walk in during winter months. Peach houses are long and narrow with glazed lean-to fronts and roof against brick wall against which the trees would be trained.
Buildings became so elaborate in architectural design that their purpose became obscure and they frequently failed in their function and defeated their own ends. William Robinson in 1883 (author and horticulturalist) deplored the elaborate limits reached and gained public support in discouraging further buildings; thus began their decline. Today, these remaining buildings are looked upon as architectural features, usually protected by 'Preservation Orders' and only the greenhouse survives as a feature in the gardens of hundreds of homes or as nurseries for forcing edible crops and plants.
The names of John Louden and Joseph Paxton are outstanding among architects, engineers and botanists for their research into horticulture and requirements of heated houses. Louden introduced a rib design which allowed flexibility of roof shape, including domes. Paxton, as a engineer, is best known for his 'Crystal Palace'.
Scientific research has found that the angle of sides and roof can be advantageous or otherwise. The 'Dutch greenhouse' with sloping sides achieves greater benefit from the sun than vertical sides. Herman Boerhaav, botanist and physicist, carried out much valuable study of light rays and its effect through glass. This led to domes and curved roofs in designs.
Today we shall see some early designs; some superfluous and some famous. We shall see the 'humble greenhouse' and we shall see the great 'Crystal Palace'. Are not all these buildings 'crystal palaces'?
The Wealden Iron Industry
Mrs DM Meades
The Wealden iron industry began in pre-Roman times. It had two great periods of expansion during the Roman and Tudor/Stuart periods. Ironsmelting in the Weald ended in the early nineteenth century. In the earlier period the man-powered bloomery furnaces produced wrought iron by the direct process. In the late 15th century, a new process was imported from France together with key workers. This was the water-powered indirect process: cast iron produced in a furnace was refined into wrought iron it a forge. Moulding and casting techniques were introduced and evolved to make use of this 'new' cast iron.
Both periods of expansion were associated with the needs of war. In the Roman period, there is evidence that at least part of the industry was controlled by the supply fleet of the Roman army. In Tudor times, the discovery of a satisfactory way to cast iron cannon led to the granting of monopolies and contracts to Wealden ironmasters and thereby established the Weald as the premier arms-manufacturing area.
The demand for suitable sites for ironworks, for wood, charcoal, transport, maintenance and supplies, brought prosperity to Wealden communities. However, the pressure on raw materials, particularly wood supplies, provoked many complaints from other users. The rise in the price of wood was an important factor which led ironmasters to set up in other areas. Coke-smelting and further improvements added to the slow decline of the Wealden iron-smelting industry.
Archaeological and other remains are still to be found in many places in the Weald. Slag and charcoal, ponds, bays, pits, and some fine houses built by successful ironmasters remain to remind us of this once-great industry.
The Faversham Gunpowder Industry
Arthur Percival MBE BA FSA
For centuries Faversham was one of the main centres of the UK's explosives industry. The first gunpowder factory in the town was certainly in operation by 1653 and, according to Edward Jacob (1774) may have opened about a century earlier. This would put it among the first UK factories of its kind - the only earlier records are of powder being made by the Government in the Tower of London in 1515 and by private enterprise at Rotherhithe in 1535. Since the Rotherhithe works was on a site which belonged to Bermondsey Abbey, and Faversham Abbey and Bermondsey were kindred houses, it is tempting to speculate whether monastic enterprise may not have been behind both initiatives. Faversham's last Abbot, John Caslock, was a great entrepreneur.
Though primitive powder-making was undertaken by hand and horse-power was used for some processes till well into the 18th century, the existence of a suitable watercourse was a main reason for the establishment of the first Faversham factory. High-quality powder could only be made by subjecting the ingredients to a series of processes, and for each of these power was needed. Wind- power was intermittent, so what more natural than to harness a watercourse and locate the different processes in a succession of water-powered process houses? Till within living memory, even if some of the processes had become steam- or electrically-powered, all powder works followed this pattern. Like the first Faversham factory they therefore tended to be long and narrow - about a mile long by 220 yards wide in this particular case.
No dark Satanic mills, though, these. Except for massive blast walls sometimes brick-built on one flank to provide protection in the event of an accidental explosion ('blow'), the factories consisted of smallish timber shed-like structures, separated from one another by trees to provide more protection. To avoid the risk of sparks being struck by horses' hooves, much transport within factories was by water, networks of tiny canals usually being constructed. Hence the factories were places of considerable beauty and indeed the latest of the three Faversham powder factories (opened 1786) also served as a commercial orchard.
All three Faversham factories closed in 1934, some staff and plant being moved to Ardeer in Ayrshire. The last powder was made here in about 1981 and no working powder mills survive in the UK, our needs being met by powder imported from Germany.
The three Faversham factories were 'decontaminated (ie largely destroyed) after they closed. However interesting fragments of all three survive. On the Home Works (the oldest of all) the Chart Mills were rescued by the Faversham Society in 1967 from imminent demolition and restoration is now nearing completion. Only one complete mill (out of four) survives, but this is now the only gunpowder mill in the country and also the oldest (c 1769) known to survive anywhere in the world.
Since 1985 is being celebrated as Huguenot Heritage Year, it should be added that Faversham, like many other towns in the South East, served as refuge for a number of French Protestants following the revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes. Some, or most, of them were proficient in powder manufacture and, one suspects, brought with them a newer technology than prevailed locally at the time.
History of the Kent Coalfield
The coalfield was the last to be developed in the Country because it is "concealed". It was discovered in the 1890s by continuing a bore hole put down in connection with explorations for a possible Channel Tunnel. There was intense exploration activity before the First World War because it was hoped to obtain coal for the London domestic market with shorter transport than from any existing coalfield. Most of the early ventures failed often due to water problems. Water has always been one of the biggest problems for the coalfield. The coal was not suitable for the domestic market but would have been suitable for making coke for steel works.
The development of Snowdown and Betteshanger Collieries in the 1920s by Pearson & Dorman Long hoped to use iron ore from the Coraleian beds near Folkestone but this proved disappointing.
During the development of the coalfield between the two World Wars miners transferred from most other coalfields which were suffering from the depression. But it was a common experience that the best men tended to stay put and the less good and more restless ones were those who transferred. This is one reason for the difficult industrial relations history in Kent.
There was difficulty in the coalfield during the Second World War as it was in what was generally known as "hellfire corner".
It is assumed that "history" stops at the Second World War and events after that are outside the scope of the paper.
Southern Tide Mills and Eling Tide Mill Restoration
Harnessing the energy from the sea by using tidal movement, has been a little known branch of the English corn-milling tradition for over 900 years. In centuries past, tide mills probably existed in all the principal tidal estuaries of Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Kent, the greatest concentration being in the Solent region of Hampshire. A pattern of historical Medway sites is slowly emerging during current research and is increasing our knowledge of coastal sites in Kent.
The three basic forms of tidal mill operation will be discussed, together with the historical development and large scale capital funding of the 18th century, rising to form the peak of tide mill development that remains to the interested mill enthusiast or historian today.
Of the ten working tide mills recorded by Rex Wailes in the 1930s, only one has been restored to full working to date, and that is Eling, near Southampton. From a very weak shell containing two sets of main gearing and some ancillary plant in 1975, Eling has been very carefully preserved and restored over an initial period of four years, to become one of the best I. projects in recent years. A summary of the main stages of the restoration project will be described and illustrated - right up to 1985.
Some Industrial Applications of Natural Power
The lecture will be a brief survey of some of the main uses of natural power in the county of Kent. Although reference will be made as far as possible to existing sites, the lecture will include information on sites and equipment that has long since disappeared.
Very brief mention will be made of horse power in the brickmaking industry, and for driving agricultural machinery. Although again brief mention will be made of the iron industry and the gunpowder industry, both subjects of earlier lectures, the talk will concentrate on four main areas of activity where wind and water power were used extensively. These are corn milling, fulling, paper making and oil seed crushing. For each industry some reference will be made to location and distribution in relation to means of power, sources of raw materials and markets. Particular attention will be paid to fulling and paper industries of the Len and Loose streams and the interchange of activity between industries. For oil seed crushing, Tutsham Mill at West Farleigh, for which there exists some detailed description and illustration, will be used as a typical example for the nineteenth century. For each industry, the type of wind or water powered machinery will be illustrated, and comparisons, where possible, made with machinery in other industries in other parts of the country. For example, the use of stamps in oil seed crushing and tin ore crushing in Cornwall.