40 Years of Saving Greater Manchester’s Industrial Archaeology: A Conversation with Norman Redhead

In the latest installment of the Archaeotea Podcast I talk to Norman Redhead about his career as a planning archaeologist in Greater Manchester, and especially his role in promoting the excavation and exploration of the city region’s industrial archaeology from the 1990s to his retirement in 2021.

Norman gave the Brian Grimsditch Community Archaeology Memeorial Lecture at this year’s (2022) Greater Manchester Archaeology Day, drawing on his many decades of experience to look at how the exploration of the archaeology of the region has changed since the mid-1980s: three universities with archaeology courses, as opposed to one; 19 local archaeology society’s exploring the past from flints to textile mills whereas there were just half a dozen in the 1980s; and more than 30 commercial archaeology units digging sites and recording buildings each year, in contrast to just the work of the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit in the 1980s. The downside of this activity is the huge volume of redevelopment going on across the centres of Manchester and Salford, which continues to erode the historic core of these two Roman and medieval cities.

However, my interview with Norman earlier this year focused on the early days of recording the city region’s industrial archaeology, such as the first Greater Manchester Textile Mill Survey of the 1980s and the early struggles during the mid to late 1990s to convince developers of the need to excavate 18th and 19th century sites. This is something now taken for granted as being part of the planning process, and fingers crossed archaeology will remain a material factor in the planning process.

Much of the current approach to exploring industrial archaeology and heritage across the region, from developer-funded recording to community excavations, and popular publications such as the Greater Manchester’s Past revealed series, can be traced to this formative period in the mid-1990s. Indeed, a series of strategic meetings between the planning archaeology team at GMAU and the senior staff of UMAU in the aftermath of the issuing of PGG16 and PPG15, planning policy guidance notes that helped to consolidate the new commercial archaeology sector in England, established the current approach to both developer-funded recording and the community involvement of groups in Greater Manchester’s industrial archaeology and heritage.

You can listen to the podcast with Norman by following this link: https://soundcloud.com/user-740332959/9-interview-with-norman-redhead?si=c7b8f47b39dd421db53b87c8b24e5779&utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

Noman Redhead (centre) explaining the importance of the medieval period iron bloomery at Holcombe Moor in 2018.

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