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Notes and news — January 1973

In this issue:

British Industrial Archaeology Conference 1972

Several GLIAS members attended the British Industrial Archaeology conference in Glasgow on 15-17 September 1972. The very interesting programme included several papers ('The Distilleries of Scotland' (with free sample!), 'The Heavy Engineering Industries in the West of Scotland', 'The Locomotive Builders of Springburn', 'I.A. on the Isle of Man' and 'The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Project'), a coach trip to Robert Owen's New Lanark and considerable time for brief contributions from members of the conference. The importance of the conference lies not only in what one can learn of the work being done in other parts of the country but also in meeting people with similar interests. This year's conference will be held in September on the Isle of Man.

The most important result of the 1972 conference was the decision (taken with surprisingly little dissension) to set up a committee to draft a constitution and a statement of aims and objects for a national society for Industrial Archaeology. This committee will report to the 1973 conference. Anyone with views on the advisability or otherwise of setting up such a society or on its constitution and aims (which will virtually amount to a definition of Industrial Archaeology) should communicate with the chairman of the committee, Dr J. Butt, of the University of Strathclyde.

GLIAS Workshop at Kingston, 8.12.1972

For the third year running, the winter Workshop was held at Kingston Polytechnic. Our hosts, Bryan Woodriffe and the Kingston Archaeology Society, had arranged a varied programme, while the displays around the room provided a diverse background during the interval which is such a valuable opportunity for conversation at these Workshops.

The organised part of the evening began with a talk from Mr Brian Clarke, who has been engaged on the restoration of part of the Wey and Arun Canal. His slides gave a good idea of the problems facing anyone attempting to bring a derelict canal back to life. Next, Mr Ian West spoke on excavations on the site of the old Kingston Bridge, pointing out that so-called 'dirt archaeology' has an integral part to play in the work of the industrial archaeologist. Mr Grant-Nelson outlined the early history of the tin-plate model railway industry, dealing particularly with Germany's contribution. His talk was illustrated by part of his large collection of models, many of which are now rare survivors of the toy manufacturer's craft.

The evening ended with an illustrated talk by Mr Neil Cossons, director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Beginning with a short but illuminating account of this part of Shropshire which has come to be seen as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, Mr Cossons preceded to outline the remarkable progress that has already been made in the Trust's short life. The aim is to recreate the industrial past on an extensive site, with as little intrusion from the present day as possible. The visitor to the museum will leave his car in a concealed parking area, before entering a building which will provide the basic information to enable him to understand the exhibits. Thereafter, he will walk through the museum undisturbed by signposts and other paraphernalia. Many heavy items of machinery have been removed for re-erection; a derelict canal has been dug out; and perhaps most important of all, the Iron Bridge of 1779 has been saved from otherwise inevitable collapse by an engineering operation which will prevent future inwards movement of the Severn's banks.

All this of course costs a great deal of money and perhaps the most impressive achievement of the Trust and its helpers has been the raising of a six-figure sum from industry, local authorities and the public 'by a remarkably successful campaign'. Credit in great part is due to Mr Cossons' crusading efforts, as those who heard his talk will appreciate. This rounded off a very enjoyable evening and provided a valuable appetiser for those who will be visiting the museum on 3 February.

BFI/GLIAS Film Shows, 12.1.1973

Both the shows of industrial archaeology films organised by GLIAS at the National Film Theatre were sold out: there will be another showing in the autumn. The programme may also be shown at regional Film Theatres.

Kenneth Hudson presented the programme extremely well, emphasising the value of the films, either as records or for the impression they gave, rather than commenting on details: he encouraged the audience to evaluate and interpret the films.

The programme opened with a collection of very short 16mm films, including a London Fire Brigade turnout (1901) and a mammoth blow by a French bottle maker (1909). 'Service', showing London trams in operation, was lent by British Transport Films.

The Regent's Canal, from the Thames to Paddington, was shown in a 1924 film; many GLIAS members know this stretch of canal and were surprised to see how little it has changed since this film was made.

A film made in the late '50s showing three paddle steamers in action, illustrated the value of film as a record: the steamers have since been broken up.

A recent film on Ironbridge, from the BBC 'Industrial Grand Tour' series, used many sophisticated techniques; Kenneth Hudson questioned whether these added anything valuable to the film as a record of industrial archaeology.

The programme ended with 'A day in the life of a miner', a splendid film illustrating the work in a coalmine in 1910.

A short discussion was held after the second performance. The audience made many useful comments and had obviously enjoyed the show. John Huntley of the British Film Institute was pleased and amazed that the show had attracted such a large audience.

The success of this programme will help to encourage the Institute to support further similar projects.

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© GLIAS, 1973