Uncovering Manchester’s industrial past (part 3)

Mid-19th century machine bed associated with the Salford Iron Works © Copyright ARS Ltd 2022
North-eastern boundary wall of the Salford Iron works with external drains and yard at the top of image © Copyright ARS Ltd 2022
Internal brick floor surface of the Salford Iron Works associated with the mid-19th century phase of the works © Copyright ARS Ltd 2022

Manchester became one of the greatest engineering centres in the world during the early 19th century. The growing textile industry, along with the development of the canal and later the railway network around the city region, spawned an engineering industry. In meeting the increasing demand for new textile machines and machine parts, Manchester led the way in developing new casting and wrought iron production techniques.

Late 18th century iron works

By the 1790s, iron works had been established in Salford and Manchester. This not only produced machinery for the textile industry, but also steam engines, cylinders, boilers, waterwheels, shafting and gear wheels for mill drives, and constructional ironwork for bridges and factory buildings. None of these early iron-working sites survive above ground. Archaeological investigations of the below-ground remains are of importance in discovering how Manchester became a leading centre for engineering. Archaeological Research Services Ltd has recently undertaken excavations at two of Salford’s largest engineering works ahead of redevelopment: the Salford Iron Works and Adelphi Iron Works. Both underwent a series of changes in ownership throughout the 19th century. The archaeological excavations revealed remains reflecting how the new owners invested in taking the works in a new direction.

Salford Iron Works

James Bateman set up one of Manchester’s early iron foundries in the late 1780s. In 1791 he established an iron foundry on Hardman Street in Salford with William Sherratt. Bateman & Sherratt’s Iron Works specialised initially in manufacturing steam engines and grew to become one of the largest manufacturers of cast-iron products and stationary steam engines. By the mid-19th century the works had been taken over by Mather & Platt as the Salford Iron Works, and became major suppliers of bleaching, dying and calico-printing equipment.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd recently carried out excavations of the remains of the Bateman and Sherratt Iron Works in 2021 at Audacious Church, Salford. Over the course of 18th to 20th centuries the iron works was extended to the south and south-east, more than doubling in size. Much of the site had been heavily disturbed when warehouses were built on the site in the late 20th century. Despite this, the remains of the north-eastern corner of the factory boundary wall, internal brick floor surfaces and probable remains of machine beds – one of which may have represented the furnace room – were recorded on the north-east side of the site. These remains were associated with two distinct phases of pre-20th century development of the Iron Works: a short section of a potentially late 18th/early 19th century wall and the more extensive mid-19th century structures associated with the expansion of the works under Mather & Platt.

Adelphi Iron Works

The Adelphi Iron Works was initially established around 1850 by Browning and Rigby on Adelphi Street, Salford, but was taken over shortly afterwards by Samuel Oddy. Oddy worked with a number of different partners over the following 20 years, producing largely textile machinery, until Sir James Farmer took over the works in the 1870s. In 1922, in partnership with William Norton, the company became Sir James Farmer, Norton and Co. Ltd, and began specialising in the production of machinery for the textile finishing trades, such as calendering machines and printing machines. By the late 19th century, the company produced printing machines and some metal-working machines, as exemplified by wire and rod drawing machines, for international markets. In the early 20th century, they added linoleum finishing machines to their repertoire, and continued producing various heavy machinery for the textile and metal working industries until the late 20th century.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd recently investigated parts of the site of the former Iron Works. Besides a large concrete crane bed, the below-ground archaeological remains we encountered included alterations and additions to existing buildings, largely in the form of wall footings and concrete surfaces, as well as a series of concrete stanchion bases associated with the large buildings that occupied both sides of Adelphi Street, which was connected by a first floor footbridge across the street.

Keep checking our website for more pieces uncovering Manchester’s industrial past – part 4 coming soon!

Archaeological Research Services Ltd