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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Industrial Archaeology.
by Graeme K Horner.

A correspondent in Newsletter Number 4 voiced the difficulties of many archaeologists in determining for themselves the scope and meaning of Industrial Archaeology. This note attempts to lay down some guide lines to the subject. It may, perhaps, be pertinent to suggest, that until many obvious gaps in our knowledge of the recent past have been filled, it is too early to require precise definitions of what should or should not be included. Since industrial archaeology is a relatively new term, having only recently assumed importance, we are free within certain limits to construct our own definitions.

It is the industrial revolution which provides the watershed from which industrial archaeology begins to flow. The revolution, despite its name, was a slow not a sudden process. Its precise origin is arguable but broadly, industrial archaeology is the study of remains revealing our urban, economic and industrial history over the past two hundred years or so. The industrial revolution gradually changed our way of life. Archaeology studies the remaining material records of this change and thus constructs a picture of the period such as can never be recreated from written records alone.

Industrial archaeology is a vast subject but it can be divided conveniently into several categories, though many of these overlap. The broad divisions are Heavy and light Industry, Power, Transport, Industrial and Commercial Buildings and Domestic sites and features. Each of these may be subdivided. For example Power may be considered under Wind, Water, Electricity, Steam and Internal Combustion. Transport may be split into Road, Rail, Air, River, Canal and Sea (Docks and Harbours). Heavy and Light Industry are best considered under their particular products but Quarries may be separately treated as a Heavy Industry as may Coal mines. Industrial and Commercial Buildings include Warehouses, Customs Houses, Shops (Fronts and fittings). Domestic would include Household equipment, door knockers, street furniture and many further items.

There is thus a huge area of choice for anyone wanting to take part in these studies. Some may be drawn to heavy machinery or warehouse, some to specific industries, others to street lamps or milestones. It will be clear that for many parts of the subject no previous knowledge or experience is necessary.

More and more areas of recent historical interest are being redeveloped and this means the destruction of the immediate past just as much as of more ancient periods. All traces are worthy of recording, some of preservation. At this stage we need to know what we have in Kent and who is working, or would like to work, in this field. To this end the KARGC is anxious to help anyone with a potential interest in recording these remains, to find the subject and method most suited to him and most useful to the overall study. We should try to put like-minded people in touch with one another. The work need not be difficult. The current emphasis must be on recording what still remains on record cards, by photography, by measured drawings or from the written record of maps, wills, advertisements and directories. If you are able to help in this urgent work, if any of your friends, or if your Society or School, wishes to contribute, you are asked to write to the Honorary Secretary of the KARGC.

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