The COVID-19 health emergency and pandemic continues to severely affect the voluntary archaeology and heritage sector. Although many local societies are finding online ways of researching, training, and working, meetings and field work remain impossible, as do conferences and day schools.
Amongst the many events postponed due to the current emergency are this year’s CBA North West spring meeting, and the CBA North West Industrial Archaeology Conference (NWIAC 40), due to be held at the end of September. This has been a mostly annual event, first held in 1977, bringing together the latest research on industrial archaeology and heritage in the region. The last time a year was missed was in 2009, around the time of the financial crisis (remember that?). In other years CBA North West have combined their autumn meeting with the industrial archaeology conference, and this is one way in which it might be possible to stage the conference in November of this year.
A particularly successful example of just such a combined conference was held on 19th October 2002 at the Salt Museum (now the Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse in Northwich), with around 60 people attending. The theme was recent research on Roman salt making in Britain under the title ‘Brine in Britannia’. The day school was introduced by the CBA North West chairman, Adrian Tindall, and included eight papers ranging from Roman Droitwich and salt making in the Fens, to recent excavation work on the Roman salt making sites at Middlewich and Nantwich, and experimental salt making by the Lion Salt Works Trust, and included a tour at lunch time of the museum. Most of these talks ended up in a publication based upon the conference, which was launched at another CBA North West conference in 2005.
This conference proved very timely since the 2000s saw many Roman industrial sites in Cheshire experience extensive redevelopment. Detailed publication of this material would take more than a decade, so to have interim statements on this important fieldwork helped with the planning and mitigation of later developer-funded work. The final publication was dedicated to the memory of Stephen Penny, who died in 2005. Stephen was Curator of the Salt Museum at Northwich and a former CBA NW committee member. He was instrumental in researching the series of Roman lead salt pans found at Shavington in central Cheshire during the 1990s.
The volume concluded with some suggested research directions for Roman salt production in Cheshire, and which were incorporated into the first version of the North West Regional Research Framework for archaeology. Looking at these 15 years on many are still valid. These included the likely prevalence of coastal salt production in the region, further research on the details and development of Roman inland salt manufacture, and the extent of the industry in Northwich.
Whilst we await the significant lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions I am making available as a free downloadable pdf the ‘Brine in Britannia’ monograph, which I co-edited with Andrew Fielding. This is the second in a three North West Roman archaeology themed monographs I will be making available.