the historic environment, Vol. 2 No.
1, June, 2011, 49–67
Archaeology, Community, and Identity in an English New Town
Nexus Heritage, UK
It has been widely accepted that elements of the historic environment have been deployed to create an ‘authorized heritage discourse’ which supports the ‘top-down’ reinforcement of particular identities. Archaeology can be a vehicle for the expression of alternative identities. This article looks at the ways in which the historic environment has been used in Telford, an English new town created in the 1960s, both to support the creation of this new place, and in opposition to it. A community archaeology project undertaken by the author in 2010 is described, and forms the basis of a discussion on the role of communities in heritage, the ways in which community identities may shift, and how relationships between communities and the historic environment profession may evolve.
keywords archaeology, community, England, heritage, identity, museum, new town, public engagement, Shropshire, Telford
The historic environment is central to the construction of identities. Identity, of the individual, of groups, of regions, and of nations, may be shaped by many factors, including heritage, of which the historic environment is the most obvious material manifestation. Yet heritage and the historic environment are not the same things. Heritage, as Brian Graham and Peter Howard suggest, ‘has little intrinsic worth’; rather, it is a situationally determined construct.1 Cornelius Holtorf regards heritage as a vehicle containing cultural memory — a collective understanding of the past in a given social and historical context. The past is ‘presenced’ through what Holtorf calls ‘history culture’, the mechanism by which historical memory guides and augments collective identities.2 Historical memory certainly incorporates the historic environment, and what we now call ‘historic environment resources’ have long been ´ deployed to reinforce particular identities. Åsa Boholm has described how nonChristian sites and landmarks in medieval Rome were appropriated and manipulated to enhance Papal authority.3 Similarly, in early modern England, the new owners of former monastic estates legitimized their usurpation of the hegemonic order through
© W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2011
the historic environment features they came to possess.4 More recently, earlier pasts have been used to construct national identities. For example the megalithic monuments of southern England were used to establish a ‘British’ identity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.5 Twentieth-century totalitarian societies went further. Andrzej Boguszewski has recently reminded us how the uncontrolled past is ‘always one of the biggest enemies of any totalitarian ideology’; Heinrich Himmler sought to ‘project into the dim and distant past the picture of our nation as we envisage it for the future’.6 Heritage, therefore, selectively deploys elements of the historic environment to provide what Gregory Ashworth describes as ‘contemporary creations for contemporary processes’;7 meanings, as Stuart Hall reminds us, ‘will always change’ between different cultures and periods.8 This, to most readers of this journal, is self-evident. The Faro Convention describes heritage as a medium through which society’s ‘constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions’ are reflected and expressed.9 However, implicit in the theorization of heritage and identity is the notion that the physical fabric of the historic environment may incorporate certain objective truths. The evidence of earlier human activity — which can equally be buried in the ground as ‘archaeology’, encapsulated within the remains of standing buildings, or evident as marks on the palimpsest of landscape — bears witness to earlier human activities and their cultural meaning at the time of their creation. This evidence may be in contrast to official documentary records, as archaeologists are well aware. Examples are so numerous that it is easy to find one by flicking though the pages of the previous issue of this journal: Lilia Basílio and Miguel Almeida describe how the Rua Nova (‘New Street’) in Coimbra was ‘not documented before the fifteenth century’, yet the archaeological evidence of the standing buildings clearly revealed the earlier existence of a vibrant and wealthy medieval Jewish community. This was physically suppressed in the mid 1500s; forgetting was officially encouraged by the act of renaming the very ancient street at the heart of the Jewish social and cultural world ‘New Street’.10 Laurajane Smith has used the term ‘authorized heritage discourse’ to describe the ways in which heritage is deployed by the dominant social, religious, political or ethnic groups in any given society to reinforce their position.11 In apparent contrast to such hegemonic heritage (often, but not always, sponsored by the state) is the idea of resistant, or perhaps ‘unauthorized’, heritage. Tensions between authorized and unauthorized heritage (both in the past and in the present) have often been expressed in simple binary terms: colonizer versus colonized, indigenous versus outsider, élite versus underclass, professional versus amateur. However these relationships are rarely straightforward dichotomies of domination and resistance. The historic environment provides tangible evidence through which multiple alternative political and cultural identities may be articulated. Thus the discovery of the African Burial Ground in New York prompted significant debate which recast the ways in which the long and complex history of African Americans was interpreted and understood.12 In Western Australia, development on the Burrup Penninsula threatened significant indigenous heritage: a public campaign against the government’s ‘dominant development ideology’ characterized heritage as both an entitlement and a place of engaged citizenship.13 Indeed the Faro Convention regards heritage as a universal human right: ‘everyone, alone or collectively, has the right to benefit from the cultural heritage and to contribute towards its enrichment’.14
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Archaeology is a uniquely accessible process through which communities can engage directly with the historic environment, and, through that engagement, articulate identities that may run counter to that of the ‘authorized heritage discourse’. Archaeology looks at expressions of identity and power relations; it tries to understand relationships between groups of material culture and the cultural identity of groups. Archaeologists also recognize that heritage can be multi-vocal, and in particular that subaltern heritage is valid, valuable, and vibrant. However, recognition is one thing; delivery is quite another. The UK has a long history of multi-vocal engagement with the historic environment by people who are not historic environment professionals. The amateur archaeological society has proved an enduring element since the nineteenth century, and many continue to make significant contributions.15 Archaeology’s popular appeal further developed in the mid twentieth century by those who, in Bruce Fry’s phrase, had a ‘determination to make archaeology interesting and accessible to a wide audience’, such as Sir Mortimer Wheeler.16 A strong extra-mural teaching tradition in British universities peaked during the post-war period,17 and early ‘rescue’ excavations during urban redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s were often reliant on amateur expertise. Increased awareness of the historic environment, and its inclusion in the wider planning process from 1990, led to the professionalization of archaeology, leaving some amateurs isolated. After the first decade of the twenty-first century two main strands of community archaeology are evident in the UK. The first is effectively a continuation of the local society tradition, often involving long-term projects with dedicated participants (usually white, middle class) and sometimes quite independent of the profession. Indeed in many cases, these groups may not see themselves as doing archaeology at all. In the Vale of York, for example, Jon Kenny has gently encouraged ‘historical’ groups who look at documents to develop archaeological directions through landscape approaches such as mapping earthworks, field boundaries, and deserted villages.18 A recent study of community archaeology by the Council for British Archaeology acknowledged this by including ‘in its remit any groups that have conducted research into the physical remains of the past’.19 The second strand of community archaeology takes the form of outreach by professional archaeologists and others. Such projects are usually formally constructed, developed, and managed by professional archaeologists and are guided by academic research frameworks; they occur both in the public sector (that is, directly through local authorities and universities) and in the private sector (either subcontracted to public sector bodies or done as part of developer-funded projects).20 There are of course difficulties with both strands. Over forty years ago Sherry Arnstein devised a ‘ladder of citizen participation’, containing eight rungs representing three levels: non-participation, tokenism, and citizen power. The bottom rung is ‘manipulation’; ‘citizen control’ is at the top.21 Many community archaeology projects aspire to be near the top of this ladder. However, as Carol McDavid has pointed out, otherwise well-intentioned community engagement may be compromised when it is designed by heritage professionals who make no allowance for their own cultural background.22 At worst, projects run the risk of becoming what Gabriel Moshenska has characterized as a ‘bureaucratic pantomime’.23 Pat Reid has argued
for community archaeology to be ‘a living process, embedded in a local community’.24 Rachael Kiddey and John Schofield go further in advocating archaeology as a vehicle for social change and personal empowerment.25 On the extreme margins, archaeology may well be a place to begin re-engagement with the disenfranchised. Yet where a democratic ‘archaeology from below’ is attempted, its fragile structures may be fatally compromised by a ‘struggle for political power’ amongst archaeologists which may serve only to alienate sections of the community, as events at Sedgeford have shown.26 The reality, as Mike Nevell has recently acknowledged, is that most community archaeology tends to hover around the ‘tokenistic middle’ of Arnstein’s ladder.27 Does this really matter? Does community archaeology have to be ‘bottom-up’ to make it worthwhile, or can useful social outcomes result from ‘top-down’ approaches?
Telford new town: authorized and authentic heritage
Archaeology and community have interacted in various ways in Telford. Telford did not exist fifty years ago; it was the result of centralized government planning. However, Telford was not built on terra nullis, although to many of its designers, who regarded themselves as pioneers at the cutting edge of new society, it may have seemed that way. Before Telford there was the East Shropshire coalfield, an area of largely Carboniferous geology containing economically important minerals such as coal, iron, limestone, and clay. Early medieval settlement and monastic estates resulted in an agricultural landscape and economy. This was supplemented by coal mining from the later middle ages, leading to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century ironworking; eighteenth-century developments in the use of mineral fuel for iron smelting ended the iron industry’s reliance on renewable resources (wood and water), and enabled massive economic growth through the use of fossil fuels and steam power.28 The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also saw the development of other industries in the East Shropshire coalfield, such as brick and tile manufacture. By the end of the nineteenth century it was an interconnected industrial landscape containing mines, furnaces, kilns, and settlements linked by roads, canals, and railways.29 Exhaustion of mineral resources, together with development of industrial centres elsewhere, resulted in economic decline in the mid twentieth century. With high unemployment, ruined buildings, and a polluted landscape, the perception of East Shropshire industrial communities was, as Roger White and Harriet Devlin have suggested, that they were ‘dying on their feet’.30 Regeneration was identified as the solution, although the primary role of new towns was never intended to be regeneration. The idea had developed from the ‘garden cities’ that were built in England during the first part of the twentieth century, themselves influenced by late-nineteenth-century company housing.31 A Royal Commission reported in 1940 that ad hoc development created economic and social imbalances: these ‘constitute[d] serious . . . dangers to the nation’s life’ and could only be corrected by strategic development, decentralizing, and dispersing industry and population.32 This and other reports33 informed the New Towns Act of 1946, which created development corporations with sweeping powers.34 The first phase of eleven new towns, largely London overspill, were built from 1946 to 1960; the following decade saw a second phase of nine further new towns. Designated in 1963, Dawley
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New Town (as it was then called) was one of these; it was to draw its initial population of c. 50,000 from Birmingham. Within two years further enlargement was already being considered, to ‘accommodate overspill from the West Midlands conurbation’.35 The extended area included the towns of Wellington and Oakengates to the north of Dawley, as well as Madeley to the south-east and the Ironbridge Gorge to the south (Figure 1).36 The decision to proceed with the enlarged plan (with an intended population of 225,000 by 1991) was made in 1967.37 The population in 2009 was estimated at 162,000.38 The creation of Telford radically altered physical landscapes, and required large adjustments in people’s mental landscapes, as they struggled with this new, centrally imposed post-industrial space. Heritage was deployed from the outset to create a unified identity which would assist the transformation from an ‘assemblage of industrial hamlets’ into a ‘contiguous urban mass’.39 The symbolic first act was rebranding: in choosing an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century engineer with local associations, Telford became the only English new town not to take its name from pre-existing settlements.40 This ensured that no individual pre-existing settlement had a preeminent position: all were equally included or excluded, from prosperous middleclass Wellington in the north to semi-derelict and geologically unstable Ironbridge in the south. The Telford Development Corporation (TDC) was fully aware of the
ﬁgure 1 Location of Telford and of the sites mentioned in the text. Source: author
‘valued historical associations’ of the Ironbridge Gorge, so incorporation of this area (helpfully located in a peripheral, difficult-to-develop, and subsidence-prone part of Telford) provided reflected historical light in which the new town could bask.41 In 1967 TDC established the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust as a mechanism for the ‘preservation, restoration, improvement [and] enhancement’ of ‘features and objects of historical and industrial interest’ in the wider East Shropshire area.42 In 1968 work began to transform a former industrial site at Blists Hill into an openair museum, where historic environment assets affected by the creation of Telford could be relocated. The first exhibit was a pair of steam-powered blowing engines from the Lilleshall Company’s Priorslee works. Meanwhile the former company offices at Priorslee Hall were adopted as the TDC headquarters — a classic appropriation of prominent heritage assets to provide legitimacy of antiquity. Over time Blists Hill’s focus changed from relocation of buildings to the creation of a ‘Victorian Town’; this required entirely new buildings which replicated existing or imagined ones — an approach which the first director acknowledged would ‘always be regarded critically from a conservation point of view’.43 The question of authenticity in a World Heritage Site is an important one, as the debate over the status of the reconstructed Mostar Bridge has shown. In that context Christina Cameron has remarked how ‘authenticity refers to the truthfulness of a cultural place and is defined through physical attributes found in various historical layers’.44 In this sense Blists Hill, however faithfully executed, does not constitute an authentic heritage of the East Shropshire coalfield. Moreover, as Stephen Mills has pointed out, even the relocation of buildings results in a loss of context, which blurs ‘the distinction between museum exhibit and heritage site’.45 Such historical re-creation also subdues the most important aspect of historical enquiry: debate and discussion. Ironically, less than a kilometre from TDC’s preparations for a repository of ‘authorized’ but inauthentic heritage at Blists Hill, the same organization was busy reshaping the authentic but ‘unauthorized’ historic identity of Madeley. Here, the centre of the town was comprehensively remodelled. Opposition was most fiercely articulated at Robert Moore’s bakery on the High Street, which had been established by his grandfather at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, this socially and economically viable historic business stood in the way of a proposed roundabout. Moore refused to move, despite a compulsory purchase order, and continued to trade as a roundabout was built around him. He was eventually evicted on 22 April 1968 amidst the protests of Madeley housewives buying the last loaves from the independent family-run bakery (Figure 2).46 A TDC spokesman acknowledged the locals’ dissatisfaction, but argued that ‘we will get a different attitude from the people’ once they had learned to appreciate ‘the tremendous advantages they will gain’.47 TDC’s desire to impose unity of identity through heritage was also manifested through their creation of the Telford Archaeological and Historical Society in the 1970s, and, later, their funding of a Victoria County History volume on Telford.48 The only volume in the century-old series not to observe ancient and historically coherent units of study, its publication represented ‘the readiness of Telford to establish its historical identity’ over and above that of existing communities.49 Since the winding up of TDC in 1990, ‘improvement and enhancement’ of the historic environment in Telford has tended to be less dramatically divisive. Telford
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ﬁgure 2 Authentic but unauthorized heritage? A low-resolution contemporary image of the eviction of Robert Moore from his bakery at the bottom of Madeley High Street on 22 April 1968; the long-established business stood in the way of a roundabout which linked the new town to Blists Hill, the repository of authorized but inauthentic heritage. Photograph © Alan Eaton
and Wrekin Council is more open to multi-vocal interpretations of the past. The emphasis of the ‘authorized heritage discourse’ continues to be on the monumental achievements of great men. However, several community initiatives have developed in recent years which have sought to rebalance the distribution of heritage away from this narrative and into more interesting trajectories. Certainly many of these have sprung from an initial opposition to ‘authorized’ heritage, but the subtleties and complexities of the subject matter itself as well as the act of engaging with it have, in Graham Fairclough’s phrase, ‘taken heritage out of its separate box’ and made it part of wider debates.50
Vanished voices: the archaeology of Hinkshay
This is not to say that there are not still tensions between ‘authorized’ and ‘authentic’ heritage. These were clearly articulated during a recent community archaeology project, which took place in the Telford Town Park. This is an area of approximately 170 hectares to the south and west of Telford town centre. Both the Town Park and the town centre occupied parts of Dawley and Stirchley parishes, characterized during the development of Telford as a ‘derelict mining area’;51 their creation
effectively removed the settlements of Malinslee, Old Park, Dark Lane, and Hinkshay. Parts of the Town Park close to the town centre were landscaped with varying degrees of formality; features include playgrounds, a sensory garden, a cherry orchard (donated in the early 1980s by a Japanese manufacturer) and a children’s fairy-tale ‘Wonderland’. However most of the park consists of informal woodland and agricultural land, with pools and paths which reuse industrial features. The Town Park’s potential was never fully realized, and in 2009 Telford and Wrekin Council was successful in a ‘development phase’ bid to the ‘Parks for People’ project, a joint initiative between the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG Lottery Fund. The project described here was funded under that phase; a second bid in autumn 2010 was also successful and further work is intended in 2011 and 2012.52 The project included a community archaeology element, which was undertaken by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and Nexus Heritage; the former supplied links with the ‘authorized’ heritage and educational expertise and fieldwork, and the latter undertook research, fieldwork, and outreach.53 The first stage, undertaken by Nexus Heritage, comprised a desk-based assessment and walkover survey of the whole of the Town Park ‘to determine . . . which areas are suitable for a community archaeological excavation programme’.54 This revealed thirty-one archaeological sites in the Town Park, dating from the medieval period to the twentieth century; this was the first indication that both ‘authorized’ and ‘unauthorized’ versions of the Telford story had misrepresented aspects of the new town’s development. Of these, six were shortlisted as potential excavation sites, and the site of an industrial hamlet emerged as the strongest candidate. This was because it had an interesting and welldocumented history, it contained remains in a good state of preservation likely to generate a wide range of artefacts, it was accessible with minimum intervention to ensure the health and safety of participants, and it offered the greatest potential for community engagement. The excavation took place over six days in April 2010, and had three main aims. These were, in order of priority: to provide experience of archaeological fieldwork and post-excavation processing for volunteers and community groups (especially encouraging non-traditional audiences); to engage with local communities and to encourage closer links between existing groups; and to undertake archaeological research.55 It was at this stage that discussions began with community groups. Accordingly this was clearly a top-down project and, before the beginning of the excavation, still in the ‘tokenism’ area of Arnstein’s ladder. Despite this its primary objectives were not archaeological ones. Hinkshay was built in the 1820s by local entrepreneurs Thomas and William Botfield to house workers in their nearby ironworks and mines. In 1790 the Botfields had established the Old Park ironworks; this developed rapidly, and by 1806 it was the largest ironworks in Shropshire and the second largest in the country.56 In c. 1826 the Botfields expanded production with two pairs of blast furnaces at Hinkshay and Dark Lane.57 Workers’ housing was constructed at both sites. Originally a row of forty-eight back-to-back cottages (‘Double Row’) and a row of twenty-one blind-back houses (‘Single Row’), Hinkshay was later enlarged with the addition of ten doublefronted blind-back cottages, called ‘New Row’ or ‘Ladies’ Row’ (Figure 3). Communal wash-houses, each shared by several houses, were incorporated into the rows.58 The houses had land attached, and residents rented further plots to create extensive
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ﬁgure 3 Hinkshay. A photograph of the settlement taken in c. 1965. The still-extant Stirchley chimney is visible on the left-hand side of the photograph, with the Ever Ready factory on the right. The building in the foreground is the Anglican Mission Chapel. Double Row (left) and Single Row (right) run down the hill away from the photographer; the back of Ladies’ Row is visible to the rear of the Ever Ready factory. Photograph courtesy of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
areas of garden allotments incorporating pigsties and other outbuildings. There were playing fields to the south, and a rubbish tip at the eastern end of the site. By the 1870s the three rows of houses had been joined by nine other buildings, including an Anglican Mission church and school. The northern end of Double Row was truncated between 1882 and 1903, and further demolition of parts of the rows took place in the twentieth century. Census returns suggest that skilled workers such as iron puddlers lived in Ladies’ Row; unskilled ironworkers and miners, and later agricultural labourers, brickmakers, and chemical workers, lived in Single Row and Double Row. Job prospects improved in 1953 with the construction of the ‘Ever Ready’ battery factory on the former playing fields. In the 1960s the factory extended further north, demolishing Single Row and the Mission to create a car parking area. Double Row was demolished in c. 1969 by the TDC as part of its slum clearance programme; the residents were relocated, and the gardens, pigsties, roads, and tip all became overgrown and forgotten. The Ever Ready factory closed in the early 1990s and was itself demolished in 1994, although the gates and railings are still extant. The excavation took place at the western end of Double Row, with the intention of excavating a group of adjoining houses (Figure 4). Demolition debris overlying the site contained a range of twentieth-century material including pottery, glass,
ﬁgure 4 An archaeological perspective. Clockwise from top left: view of one of the backto-back houses, with the concrete ﬂoor of the wash-house in the background; the concrete ‘fold’ and adjacent rubble path (note the depression in the ‘fold’ left by a stone doorstep); assorted artefacts recovered from the communal tip; electrical fuse box from demolition rubble; assorted artefacts from garden soil. Source: author
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architectural furniture, and electrical fittings. The foundations emerged beneath this. Outside the houses, space was similarly arranged on both sides of the row: originally a compacted cinder road separated the houses from the gardens, and the garden walls were dry-built using reclaimed rubble. Later, a roughly laid path of reused bricks and stone was created adjacent to each house. Later still, strips of concrete had been laid abutting the outer walls and over the earlier paved surface. This feature, known locally as a ‘fold’, provided protection from rainwater. On the south side the ‘fold’ had been cut through by the later insertion of a gas pipe; its northern counterpart retained the depression left by a stone doorstep. Numerous sherds of pottery, glass, clay pipe, and other artefacts were recovered from both garden soil and roadway — in the latter case comprising extremely small fragments of exclusively nineteenthcentury date. Inside Double Row, excavation revealed four rooms. Two of these were clearly back-to-back houses; they measured approximately 3.8 m by 4 m in plan and their fireplaces shared a common chimney in the central wall. The brick and quarrytile floors had been heavily robbed during demolition, but enough survived to surmise the original locations of entrances and stairs. A third room was noticeably narrower; this had a concrete floor which overlay two earlier (tiled) floor surfaces, and appeared to be contemporary with the creation of the exterior ‘fold’. This room was one of the communal wash-houses. The fourth room was larger than all of the others, the result of a poorly executed modification which created a double-fronted house with two rooms on each floor. It would also have permitted greater privacy within the house through the insertion of partitions. Archaeologically unremarkable, the Hinkshay houses represent a common type, albeit an example which was particularly badly built and incorporated certain vernacular peculiarities. Direct comparisons can be made with other local examples.59 In terms of the project’s first aim — providing archaeological experience for volunteers, especially from non-traditional audiences — the project was moderately successful.60 Twenty-nine people actively participated in the excavation, of whom a quarter were children (Figure 5). Of these there were about half a dozen committed regulars, all white and middle class. Most were happy to join in at the level which best suited them and responses to the project were overwhelmingly positive. However nontraditional audience participation was harder to achieve. That is not to say that non-traditional audiences were not encountered during the project; rather, connection failed. Evidence of unconventional use of the park, for example, was recorded during the walkover survey; we came across two makeshift shelters, one on the Hinkshay site. The soft ground of the former Hinkshay tip was ideal for rabbits, and poachers with dogs and traps walked through the site on three occasions whilst we were there. The poachers followed the same paths they always had, walking alongside the edge of the excavated area, avoiding eye contact, and effectively refusing to acknowledge the existence of the excavation. The Hinkshay project was most successful in its aim of engagement with local communities and encouraging closer links between existing groups. Over 200 people came to the site during the four open days. These included members of local history groups who had formerly been shy of, and in some cases hostile to, the ‘authorized’ heritage represented by the Museum and the Council. These are what the Faro Convention calls ‘heritage communities’, consisting of ‘people who value specific
ﬁgure 5 Participatory excavation in action: a particularly busy moment during excavation and recording. Source: author
aspects of cultural heritage’.61 For these groups, Kate Page-Smith provided a way in; cheerful and enthusiastic, crucially she was not a representative of the ‘authorized’ heritage.62 A typical response was: ‘it is good to see interest in our history outside the Gorge’.63 Despite overt identity-building by TDC, many of these local groups remain small and mutually wary; one very positive outcome of the project was to provide common ground for dialogue between them. Two public open days developed an enthusiastic momentum that led, ad hoc, to a third. Nineteen former residents and their families, together over seventy people, visited the excavations (Figure 6). Memories of people, places, and events were retold; a community which had been dispersed over forty years ago was briefly brought together again. Relationships between place and identity were strong; relationships between place and memory, however, were more tenuous. Not all of the memories were consistent with the physical evidence; indeed many memories were inconsistent with one another. This is perhaps not surprising as all of the former residents had been children or teenagers when they lived at Hinkshay. Memories revolved around childhood activities such as fetching water on washing day (‘we always had wet feet on Mondays’, recalled Alan Harper who had lived at 8 Single Row); other recollections incorporated the playing fields, the tip, private ceremonies of remembrance and acts of childhood rebellion. Interestingly, the excavation only acted as a springboard for remembrance. Although all of the former residents did spend time considering
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ﬁgure 6 A formerly local community. Top: meeting old faces and recalling old memories; Kate Page-Smith (Nexus Heritage) facilitating a discussion amongst former residents, who are focused on documents and photographs and have their backs to the excavation. Bottom: members of the Poole, Corbett, Tonks, Ellis, and Morgan families reunited at Hinkshay forty years after its demolition. Source: author
their relationship to the physical remains (indeed about half initially declared that this was their old house), only one person was genuinely able to establish a direct relationship between her own life and the excavated remains: Barbara Whitney (née Corbett), a former resident of 11 Double Row who recalled using the wash-house (Figure 7). As discussion of the old community gathered momentum there was actually much more interest in the photographs, electoral rolls, maps, plans, and drawings than in the archaeology. None of the former residents wanted to excavate the site. Nevertheless, through an emotionally powerful combination of the physical and remembered past, the project arrived at a very reasonable re-creation of the social layout of the Hinkshay rows: who lived where and how they got on with whom.
Conclusion: archaeology and community
As already noted, this particular community archaeology project was ‘top-down’. It could not be described in Pat Reid’s terms as a community-embedded living process,64 not least because there is no extant local community who can identify as stakeholders. All former residents now live elsewhere, and the site is isolated and unpopulated (except by transient poachers). Thus it was not possible to develop what Shelley Greer and others have called an ‘interactive approach’ using ‘contemporary community identity’ to inform research agendas and methodologies.65 So who are the community, as Faye Simpson and Howard Williams have asked, and what do ‘they want from and value in these community archaeology projects’?66 Leaving aside for the moment the notion that historic environment professionals themselves form a community (as explicity noted by the Faro Convention), at Hinkshay there were two mutually exclusive communities. The first, and most emotionally involved, were the former residents. However, the interest of the former residents focused on the reunion which took place at the excavations; their encounter with archaeology has not then encouraged further engagement for them with established ‘heritage communities’. For them, engagement with memory was much more important than direct engagement with historic environment professionals or the archaeological process. The experience of memory at Hinkshay supports John Boardman’s assertion that people are ‘motivated by faith and imagination more readily than historical “facts” of the type we think we can glean from texts and from the ground’.67 The second community, and perhaps the most important for the future, were the numerous ‘heritage communities’ of Telford. The distinction made at the beginning of this article between ‘the historic environment’ and ‘heritage’ is important, since the former may exist objectively but is only understandable through the latter which is culturally constructed. Peter Groote and Tialda Haartsen see heritage as a communicative practice which ‘brings the socially constructed and contested nature of heritage to the forefront’. They argue that professional heritage managers (in their words, ‘agents in the policy discourse’) are more concerned with the material remains of the past, whereas non-professionals (‘agents in the lay and popular discourses’) appear to be better equipped to engage with the socially constructed, pluralist, and narrative understandings of heritage.68 This view is echoed by Laurajane Smith and Emma Waterton, who note the dysfunctions and frustrations caused by the ‘compartmentalization’ of experts from communities.69 However, this was not the experience of the Hinkshay project. This is not to say that the project was not extremely open to
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ﬁgure 7 Different communities. Barbara Whitney (née Corbett), a former resident of 11 Double Row, revisits the wash-house she used as a child. In the background, Brian Savage of the Telford Historical and Archaeological Society is recording the remains. Source: author
non-professional critique of methodology and research objectives: quite the opposite. The admittedly rather loose ‘archaeological’ aims expressed in the original project design were readily changed as the project went along to incorporate ideas and initiatives from the enthusiastically engaged representatives of those groups. Understanding was enhanced by wide-ranging discussions with participants and visitors, bringing extensive life experience to bear on all aspects — from the interpretation of individual artefacts to the complex evolution of the landscape. However, the communities involved in the Hinkshay project weren’t actually seeking ‘citizen control’; rather, they valued the input of experts who validated the archaeological process and provided formal approval. In a way they were seeking to become part of the ‘authorized heritage discourse’, not necessarily to challenge it. This has important implications for the way archaeologists engage with communities in the future. By developing approaches that seek inclusiveness, archaeologists have encouraged multi-vocal, bottom-up, and decentralized interpretations — arguably an agenda which the ‘big society’ (if taken at face value) is itself articulating. This is reflected in the language of the Faro Convention and its notion of ‘heritage communities’, which place the aspirations of groups possibly unconnected in conventional ways by time or space on a more or less equal footing with professional expertise. Noel Fojut has described this as a ‘shift in the balance of power’ between expert and public.70 Graham Fairclough further notes that many elements of the historic environment have a social and economic value which is independent of their expert-defined status: ‘not all heritage needs public subsidy, and not all heritage needs designation’.71 Indeed developers argue that ‘they are willing to pay the extra money to ensure their developments are not jeopardized by a skills shortage’.72 This is a long-term shift, nothing to do with recent changes in UK government. Seven years ago Roger Thomas argued that the authoritative state ‘expert’ was rapidly evolving into more of a ‘guide and facilitator’ — a trend also reflected in Malcolm Cooper’s article in the previous issue of this journal.73 Some professionals see the multivocality resulting from decentralization of authority as an erosion of their expert status, and therefore a threat. Although this is precisely the outcome that many of the more radical community archaeologies have been attempting to create, it is not a threat. The sort of community approach represented by the Hinkshay project has been criticized for reinforcing a ‘top-down’ approach which excludes marginalized groups. In fact this project, and others like it, only exclude those groups which choose to be excluded (like the poachers); a wide range of participants experience positive social outcomes. Could there be a danger of going too far, and alienating the mainstream? The archaeological profession has been articulating a desire to see itself as a socially relevant and positive force for social change. Perhaps it already is.
The Hinkshay project was realized thanks to the unwavering enthusiasm of Joanne Ridgeway of Telford and Wrekin Council, and her colleagues Nicola Allen and Becky Eade; it was only possible thanks to all of those who participated. The author is extremely grateful to Roger White, the anonymous referee, and Nexus Heritage colleagues Gerry Wait, Anthony Martin, and Kate Page-Smith for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.
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Brian Graham and Peter Howard, ‘Introduction: Heritage and Identity’, in The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity, ed. by Brian Graham and Peter Howard (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 181–94. Cornelius Holtorf, Monumental Past: The LifeHistories of Megalithic Monuments in Mecklenburg–Vorpommern (Germany), electronic monograph, University of Toronto: Centre for Instructional Technology Development (2000–2008), http://hdl.handle.net/1807/245 [accessed 20 September 2010]. ´ Åsa Boholm, ‘Reinvented Histories: Medieval Rome as Memorial Landscape’, Ecumene, 4, 3 (1997), 247–72. Paul Belford, ‘English Industrial Landscapes: Divergence, Convergence and Perceptions of Identity’, in Crossing Paths, Sharing Tracks: Future Directions for Post-Medieval Archaeology in Britain and Ireland, ed. by Audrey Horning and Marilyn Palmer, Society for Post-medieval Archaeology Monograph 5 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2009), pp. 179–94. Mark Gillings and Joshua Pollard, ‘Breaking Megaliths’, in Written on Stone: The Cultural History of British Prehistoric Monuments, ed. by Joanne Parker (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), pp. 36–48; David Harvey, ‘“National” Identities and the Politics of Ancient Heritage: Continuity and Change at Ancient Monuments in Britain and Ireland, c. 1675–1850’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 28, 4 (2003), 473–87. Andrzej Boguszewski, ‘The Massive Corruption of Clever Minds’, paper delivered in the session Archaeology under Communism: Political Dimensions of Archaeology at TAG (University of Bristol, 17 December 2010); Himmler cited in Bettina Arnold, ‘The Past as Propaganda’, Archaeology, July–August (1992), 33. Gregory Ashworth, ‘In Search of the Place-Identity Dividend: Using Heritage Landscapes to Create Place-Identity’, in Sense of Place, Health and Quality of Life, ed. by John Eyles and Allison Williams (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 185–99 (p. 187). Stuart Hall (ed.), Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (London: Sage/ Open University, 1997), p. 61. Council of Europe, Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro: Council of Europe Treaty Series no. 199, 27 October 2005), Article 2a. Lilia Basílio and Miguel Almeida, ‘The Baixinha de Coimbra Project (Coimbra, Portugal) in the Context of Portuguese Buildings Archaeology’, The Historic Environment: Policy and Practice, 1, 2 (2010), 185–202. Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage (Oxford: Routledge, 2006).
Warren Perry, Jean Howson and Barbara Bianco (eds), New York African Burial Ground: Archaeology Final Report (Washington: Howard University, 2006); Edna Greene Medford (ed.), New York African Burial Ground: History Final Report (Washington: Howard University, 2004); US National Parks Service, Draft Management Recommendations for the African Burial Ground (Philadelphia: US National Parks Service, 2004), pp. 8–16, 18–21. Andrea Witcomb, ‘The Past in the Present: Towards a Politics of Care at the National Trust of Australia (WA)’, in Heritage and Identity: Engagement and Demission in the Contemporary World, ed. by Elsa Peralta and Marta Anico (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009), pp. 169–80. Council of Europe, Faro Convention, Articles 1a and 4a. To take three examples from three corners of England which have well-respected academic output and impressive portfolios of historic properties and museums: the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne (established 1813), the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society (established 1846), and the Sussex Archaeological Society (established 1846). Bruce Fry, ‘Reaching out to Bureaucracy and Beyond: Archaeology at Louisbourg and Parks Canada’, in Past Meets Present: Archaeologists Partnering with Museum Curators, Teachers, and Community Groups, ed. by John H. Jameson Jr and Sherene Baugher (New York: Springer, 2007), pp. 19–33 (p. 21). Notably at Birmingham with Philip Rahtz, Philip Barker, and Graham Webster, and at Leicester under W. G. Hoskins. Jon Kenny, ‘Heritage Engagement with Hardto-Reach Communities: Hungate and Beyond’, paper presented at On the Edge: New Approaches to Community Heritage, one-day seminar supported by the CBA and Gloucester City Council (Gloucester, 17 September 2010). Suzie Thomas, Community Archaeology in the UK: Recent Findings (York: Council for British Archaeology, 2010), http://www.britarch.ac.uk/sites/www. britarch.ac.uk/ﬁles/node-ﬁles/CBA%20Community %20Report%202010.pdf [accessed 21 September 2010]. Faye Simpson and Howard Williams, ‘Evaluating Community Archaeology in the UK’, Public Archaeology, 7, 2 (2008), 69–90 (pp. 73–76). Sherry Arnstein, ‘A Ladder of Citizen Participation’, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35, 4 (1969), 216–24. Carol McDavid, ‘The Death of a Community Archaeology Project? Ensuring Consultation in a Non-Mandated Bureaucratic Environment’, in World Heritage: Global Challenges, Local Solutions, ed. by Roger White and John Carman (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2007), pp. 107–11.
Gabriel Moshenska, ‘Community Archaeology: Against the Odds’, Current Archaeology, 213 (2007), 34. Pat Reid, ‘Community Archaeology: From the Grassroots’, Current Archaeology, 216 (2008), 21. Rachael Kiddey and John Schoﬁeld, ‘Digging for (Invisible) People’, British Archaeology, 113 (2010), 18–23. I am very grateful to John Schoﬁeld for sight of a paper about the Bristol project which he and Rachael have submitted to Public Archaeology. Neil Faulkner, ‘The Sedgeford Crisis’, Public Archaeology, 8, 1 (2009), 51–61 (p. 53). Mike Nevell, ‘Dig Manchester, Youth Offenders and Heritage Engagement’, paper presented at On the Edge: New Approaches to Community Heritage, seminar supported by the CBA and Gloucester City Council (Gloucester, 17 September 2010). Conventionally see H. R. Schubert, History of the British Iron and Steel Industry from c. 450 BC to AD 1775 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957); and T. S. Ashton, Iron and Steel in the Industrial Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1924). Many aspects of this process, and present-day consequences of it, were discussed at a conference in Coalbrookdale in 2009; the proceedings can be found in Paul Belford, Marilyn Palmer and Roger White (eds), Footprints of Industry (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2010). For background information see: Judith Alfrey and Kate Clark, Landscape of Industry: Patterns of Change in the Ironbridge Gorge (London: Routledge, 1993); Barrie Trinder, The Making of the Industrial Landscape, 3rd edn (London: Orion, 1997); Barrie Trinder, The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire, 3rd edn (Chichester: Phillimore, 2000). Roger White and Harriet Devlin, ‘From Basket Case to Hanging Baskets: Regeneration, Alienation and Heritage in Ironbridge’, in White and Carman, pp. 47–51. Dugald MacFayden, Sir Ebenezer Howard and the Town Planning Movement (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1970); Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of To-Morrow, edited reprint of 1902 edition (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), pp. 50–57, 138– 47. HMSO, Report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Industrial Population (Barlow Report), Cmd 6153 (London, 1940). HMSO, The Greater London Plan 1944 (Abercrombie Plan), Ministry of Works and Planning (London, 1945); HMSO, Interim Report of the New Towns Committee, Ministry of Town and Country Planning, Cmd 6759 (London, 1946); HMSO, Second Interim Report of the New Towns Committee, Ministry of Town and Country Planning, Cmd 6794 (London, 1946); HMSO, Report of the New Towns Committee (Reith Report), Ministry of Town and Country Planning, Cmd 6876 (London, 1946).
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New Towns Act 1946. The fact that these enquiries and their reports were undertaken during the Second World War, under the shadow of mass bombing and possible invasion, is itself interesting, and perhaps explains why the ethos of central planning was uncritically accepted by the post-war consensus. John Madin and Partners, Dawley, Wellington, Oakengates: Consultants’ Proposals for Development. A Report to the Minister of Housing and Local Government (London: HMSO, 1966); D. A. Bull, ‘New Town and Town Expansion Schemes. Part I: An Assessment of Recent Government Planning Reports’, The Town Planning Review, 38, 2 (1967), 103–14. George Baugh (ed.), The Victoria History of Shropshire. Volume XI: Telford (London: Institute for Historical Research, 1985), pp. 8–10. Ironically, Ironbridge is now the prosperous middle-class settlement, and Wellington has suffered economic decline. Maurice De Soissons, Telford: The Making of Shropshire’s New Town (Shrewsbury: Swan Hill, 1991), pp. 55–65. See http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pyramids/pages/00gf.asp [accessed 17 November 2010]. Rodney Tolley, ‘Telford New Town: Conception and Reality in West Midlands Industrial Overspill’, The Town Planning Review, 43, 4 (1972), 343–360 (p. 343). De Soissons, pp. 64–69. Emyr Thomas, unpublished MS, cited in White and Devlin, p. 48; Angus Buchanan, ‘Review’, The Economic History Review, 39, 3 (1986), 474. Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Memorandum and Articles of Association (Clause 3), incorporated 18 October 1967, amended 9 October 1990 and 27 July 2005. Neil Cossons, ‘Ironbridge: The First Ten Years’, Industrial Archaeology Review, 3, 2 (1979), 179–86 (pp. 184–85). Christina Cameron, ‘From Warsaw to Mostar: The World Heritage Committee and Authenticity’, APT Bulletin, 39, 2/3 (2008), 19–24 (p. 20). Stephen Mills, ‘Moving Buildings and Changing History’, in Heritage, Memory and the Politics of Identity, ed. by Niamh Moore and Yvonne Whelan (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 109–20 (p. 111). Alan Eaton, Madeley through Time (Stroud: Amberley, 2010), pp. 14–16. Dawley Observer, 4 October 1967. Brian Savage, personal communication. Buchanan, p. 474. Graham Fairclough, ‘New Heritage Frontiers’, in Heritage and Beyond (Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2009), pp. 29–42 (p. 40). Baugh, plate 32.
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See http://www.parksforpeople.co.uk/projects/ 65#telford [accessed 19 November 2010]. The present author was at the time Head of Archaeology at Ironbridge; work by Nexus Heritage was undertaken by Kate Page-Smith. Other Ironbridge Gorge Museum staff, volunteers, and trustees included: Gillian Whitham, Mel Weatherley, Rob Crumpton, Vanessa Hold, Paul Smith, John Powell, Simon Kenyon-Slaney, Neil Clark, and Ken Jones. Kate Page-Smith, Telford Town Park, Parks for People Project, Shropshire: Archaeological and Historical Desk-Based Assessment, Nexus Heritage Report no. 3035 (unpublished report for Telford and Wrekin Council, 2010). All the historical information in this section, unless otherwise referenced, is taken from this report. Paul Belford, Archaeological Excavations at Double Row, Hinkshay, Telford Town Park, Ironbridge Archaeological Series no. 307 (unpublished report for Telford and Wrekin Council, 2010). All the archaeological information in this section, unless otherwise referenced, is taken from this report. Barrie Trinder, Industrial Revolution in Shropshire, pp. 73–74, 83. Shropshire Historic Environment Record: 02885, 03882, 03883, 12907, 21536, ESA2713. In East Shropshire and the Black Country the term ‘brew-house’ (pronounced ‘brew’us’) describes a room or building used for laundry and also brewing and other activities. They were usually shared between several houses, and thus provided a communal meeting-place for women and children. Notably at Langley Fields, Carpenters’ Row at Coalbrookdale, and the former settlement at Dark Lane. See Paul Belford and Ronald Ross, ‘Industry and Domesticity: Exploring Historical Archaeology in the Ironbridge Gorge’, Post-Medieval Archaeology, 38, 2 (2004), 215–25; Dennis Rogers, Dark Lane: The Forgotten Village of Telford (Wellington: Wellington News, 2002). Paul Belford, Engaging with the Community: Interim Report on the Telford Town Park Community Archaeology Project, 1004–A (unpublished report for Telford and Wrekin Council, 2010). All of the
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information about engagement, unless otherwise referenced, is taken from this report. Council of Europe, Faro Convention, Article 2b. Outsiders, however much they may be ‘professionals’, can often ﬁnd a way of engaging which eludes local professionals. See Paul Belford, ‘Bridging the Atlantic: Archaeology and Community in England and Bermuda’, in White and Carman, pp. 97–106. Malcolm Peel, personal communication. Reid, p. 21. Shelley Greer, Rodney Harrison and Susan McIntyre-Tamwoy, ‘ Community-Based Archaeology in Australia’, World Archaeology, 34, 2 (2002), pp. 265–87 (p. 268). Simpson and Williams, p. 74. John Boardman, The Archaeology of Nostalgia (London: Thames and Hudson, 2002), p. 74. Peter Groote and Tialda Haartsen, ‘The Communication of Heritage: Creating Place Identities’, in Graham and Howard, pp. 181–94. Laurajane Smith and Emma Waterton, Heritage, Communities and Archaeology. (London: Duckworth, 2009), p. 52. Noel Fojut, ‘The Philosophical, Political and Pragmatic Roots of the Convention’, in Heritage and Beyond, pp. 13–22. Fairclough, p. 38. An initial response to Department for Communities and Local Government, Proposals for Changes to Planning Application Fees in England: Consultation (19 November 2010), http://www.communities.gov. uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1769286. pdf [accessed on 22 November 2010], at http:// www2.westminster.gov.uk/press-releases/2010/ukheritage-at-risk-as-councils-subsidise-planning/ [accessed 22 November 2010]. Roger Thomas, ‘Archaeology and Authority in the Twenty-First Century’, in Public Archaeology, ed. by Nick Merriman (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 191–202 (p. 197); Malcolm Cooper, ‘Protecting our Past: Political Philosophy, Regulation, and Heritage Management in England and Scotland’, The Historic Environment: Policy and Practice, 1, 2 (2010), 143–59.
Notes on contributor
Paul Belford is an archaeologist with diverse research and professional interests, including post-medieval industrialization, colonialism and urbanization, and relations between the different historic environment professions. A Sheffield graduate, Paul has worked on a wide range of projects in various parts of the world, and for ten years was the Head of Archaeology at the Ironbridge Gorge. He is now Principal at Nexus Heritage. Paul is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Council Member of the Institute for Archaeologists. Correspondence to: Paul Belford. Email: email@example.com