Early Industrial Archaeology in Manchester & Beyond – an Interview with David George

My first podcast of 2022 is something of a departure, as it’s an interview with an old industrial archaeology friend of mine, David George, formally of Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) and a founding member of the Manchester Region Industrial Archaeology Society (MRIAS). This is the first of a number of podcasts where I shall be talking to some of the key figures in the development of industrial archaeology in North West England over the last 50 years.

David George: ‘I came here in ’66 to a new college, called the John Dalton College of Technology on Oxford Road and I was appointed as a lecture in what they called Inter-disciplinary Studies. I had floated industrial archaeology at the interview so I was looking forward to developing something in those areas…The structure of the college was in its early days – there were only as few degree students and they were London University externals, but the vast majority of students were on what was called advanced technology courses – engineering, chemicals, business studies – and within the programmes there was an option system…These were under the heading of complementary studies. This was an opportunity to put together two varieties of Industrial Archaeology. I had the co-operation of the new North West Museum of Science and Industry which was just across the road from John Dalton College and they agreed to take students once a term under the heading of the history of science and technology in the North West. And back at the college I was to provide a more general Industrial Archaeology course so students had the opportunity of one or the other…those two courses complemented each other.

Small groups were formed from these classes who went out to do recording – primarily photographic in and around Manchester. Obviously the two hours [lesson slots] put limits on the geographical spread but what the students employed apart from cameras was the new CBA Record Card. Part of the exercise was for them to complete a whole range of CBA Record Cards. And those cards eventually, with the photographs, became part of the MRIAS Archive in Chethams [Library]. This was very much recording and outline surveys and the idea of excavation developed somewhat later.

I wanted to go one better after these recording activities and actually set up some kind of Industrial Archaeology excavation to which students could volunteer to participate. It had to be at weekends so as not to disrupt the normal timetable and the opportunity arose with roadworks in west Cumbria at a place called Bridgefoot.

After somewhat lengthy negotiations with county planning and the county architect and the contractors, who were very co-operative, I was able to take students to a fenced off site to spend two long weekends excavating the site of an 18th century coal mine. We were very lucky in that a local man who lived nearby had spare accommodation and agreed to accommodate the students for a couple of nights at time to save travelling, obviously. I stayed with one of my ex-colleagues from Workington College. We were fortunate with the weather and Dr Hills came up from the Museum of Science and Industry to interpret what we were finding. Eventually some of our discoveries, some of the objects, were taken back to the museum of science and industry. The name of the site was real Fitz Pit. It was a late 18th century coal mine and was threatened by bridge works and road works…in 1975-76…’

Follow this link to hear the rest of the interview: https://soundcloud.com/user-740332959/8-interview-with-david-george

David George at the Real Fitz Pit dig in 1975, by a fragment of late 18th century steam pumping engine.

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