In early March, we were treated to a fascinating talk about the origins of the Bristol Industrial Archaeology Society in the function room at Bath, Green Park Station. Formed in 1967, the first Chairman of BIAS was Dr Angus Buchannan, Senior Lecturer in Social History at Bath University of Technology and the Secretary, Neil Cossons, Curator of Technology at Bristol City Museum. It was with therefore most gratifying that for our keynote celebration event Professor Angus Buchannan opened the proceedings, introducing Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA FMA to deliver a talk on the origins and early work of the society.
The venue was most appropriate, the function room having been created out of the upper level of the former ticket hall of Green Park railway station. In 1964, Neil Cossons had been a member of a committee deciding on the future of the building. The station, dating from 1869, had closed in 1966 and there was a significant danger that the train shed and booking office would be demolished. But the structure was listed as Grade II in 1971 and after lying empty for a number of years, the train shed was adapted to prove a covered artisan market, performance space and car park and the booking office converted to a brasserie and function rooms. Green Park is therefore an example of how a former industrial building can be conserved by adapting it to a new use and a revenue stream created to maintain the building.
In its fifty years of operation, BIAS has achieved much. Our membership is currently very healthy with over 275 members and slowly growing. We have an ongoing programme of talks and visits and regularly publish the Bulletin and annual Journal.
The journal is a particular achievement, providing a valuable vehicle for publishing research, the quality of which is very high, both in terms of content and presentation. I commend the 2017 Journal to you which will include a reprint of the ‘Statement of Intent’ published in the first journal, plus an account by Professor Buchanan on the origins of Industrial Archaeology. It is interesting to reflect on the early work on industrial archaeology. The vision laid out in the 1968 ‘Statement of Intent’ for the BIAS Journal has stood the test of time and remains valid fifty years later as a vision for 2018. The early flagship projects remain flagships in the 21st century. The Kennet and Avon Canal and SS Great Britain are at the forefront of industrial heritage projects in the region. But industrial heritage does not stop there. There are many projects populated by bands of enthusiastic volunteers which keep the memory of our industrial past alive. Stuart Burroughs and I counted at least nineteen such projects. These include the M Shed, with the Fairbairn Crane, the tug Mayflower and fire-boat Pyronaut in their custody. The Floating Harbour is further represented by the Underfall Yard and Brunel’s bridge projects. The coal industry is well represented by the South Gloucestershire Mines Research Group and the Somerset Coal Life at Radstock Museum. The metal industries are represented by the Salford Brass Mill Project, the Kingswood Heritage Museum at Warmley and the Museum of Bath at Work. Railways are represented by the Avon Valley Railway and the Clifton Rocks Railway. The quarrying of stone is represented by the ‘Ralph Allen Corner Stone’ community hub and the Museum of Bath Architecture. Many industrial monuments are protected by listing or scheduling. This includes many of the turnpike boundary marks, which was the subject of the first BIAS Journal article. There is clearly a large tapestry of industrial heritage projects in our region and it is within this tapestry that BIAS continues to operate. In 1970 it was thought that most of the easily accessible fieldwork subjects in the Bristol-Bath region had been worked over and that it would be helpful to try another location. But those sites have continued to be worked and re-worked in the 47 years since that conclusion was drawn. New evidence continues to surface and perhaps we should take a lead from the nineteenth century lead workers who upon re-opening lead mines in the Mendip realised that there was much metal left in the slag and that re-working of that slag offered profitable gains.