Tristram Hunt’s milestones in our industrial journey

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V&A director Tristram Hunt has chosen the ten most important sites in England’s industrial history.

The list, released today, includes The Old Furnace in Coalbrookdale known, the home of Morris Motors in Oxford, Cromford Mills with the first water-powered cotton spinning wheel, and an ancient brewhouse, as part of Historic England’s campaign Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places.

Main image, inside there Blue Anchor Helston

Hunt, the former MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, is one of ten personalities who are choosing chosen sites for different aspects of the country’s history, including Robert Winston (science and discovery), Tanni Grey-Thompson (sport and leisure), Mary Beard (loss and destruction), and Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral (faith and belief).

Tristram Hunt

“Each of these 10 places chosen by Tristram Hunt demonstrate that many different industries and enterprises, from brewing and coal mining to financial services, have defined who we are as a nation and although some have changed uses, they remain a central part of our lives today” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England. The project is sponsored by Eccesiastical Insurance.

The ten are:

The Old Furnace in Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire wherea discovery in 1709 is believed to have been the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution which transformed England and the world, Abraham Darby’s method of smelting iron fuelled by coke rather than charcoal, allowed the hotter furnace huge quantities of high quality iron. “The work of Abraham Darby was so revolutionary in providing the power, energy and might that would transform the steel industry and generate the wealth from which modern Britain emerged” Hunt said. 


Cromford Mills, Matlock, Derbyshire, built in 1771 by Sir Richard Arkwright with the first water-powered cotton spinning mill, and – now a World Heritage site - known as the birthplace of the modern factory system.  “This not only shows the power that water and rivers could produce” said Hunt, “but it also represents the beginning of factory production and mechanisation - the raw, sociological underpinnings of industrialisation”.

The Rochdale Pioneers Shop, Toad Lane, Rochdale, Greater Manchester.  The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, or Rochdale Pioneers, were a group of 28 men, mostly weavers, who wanted to improve their quality of life. In 1844, at the height of difficult times in the working community, as the mechanisation of industry was forcing more and more workers into poverty, they opened a co-operative shop to sell a simple selection of high quality goods at honest prices.



The Piece Hall, Halifax, West Yorkshireis an architectural and cultural masterpiece. Built in 1779 as a place for local merchants and buyers to come together and trade pieces of cloth, it is now the oldest remaining cloth trading hall in England whc Hunt described as the “Piazza San Marco of Yorkshire” embodied the vital importance of the cloth trade to the pre-industrial economy of Yorkshire, from the Middle Ages through to the early 19th  century.

Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester was the end point of the Bridgewater Canal built between 1759 and 1761 to be the country’s first industrial arterial canal. It was revolutionary because it used cuttings and tunnels to cross land without having to follow the course of a river.

Dunston Staiths, Gateshead, Tyne & Wearis 1,709 feet long and 50 feet wide, a huge wooden jetty that curves out across the River Tyne and one of the largest timber structures in Europe. Staiths once lined the Tyne and were landing stages for shuttling coal from the North East’s rich coalfields onto cargo ships, allowing the region to export its wares and trade globally. “This is a reminder of Britain as the workshop of the world” said the V&A director. “It reminds us that the coal and manufactured goods which came out of Britain needed railways, ports and docks to connect to the world”.

The Lloyd’s Building, Lime Street, London, Richard Rogers’s “Inside Out building” of 1986, is one of the most distinctive in the City of London and symbolic of the Square Mile’s status as a late 20th and early 21st century financial trading centre. Lloyd’s takes its name from Edward Lloyd, a Welshman who opened a coffee house nearby in 1688 that became a meeting place for seafarers, ship-owners, merchants, and for the first underwriters who insured the ships and their cargoes.

The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwallbegan in the 15th century as a rest house run by monks, who also brewed mead on the site, and later a tavern and a brewery, today selling its own ales. Beer, brewing and pubs have long been central to our culture and the traditional “English Pub”, which the Blue Anchor encapsulates, is an international symbol. 


Middleport Pottery, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. The town is affectionately known as The Potteries and officially recognised as the World Capital of Ceramics. Burslem is called the “Mother Town” of The Potteries and Middleport Pottery, in the heart of Burslem, has made its famous Burleigh pottery since 1889. It is now the last working Victorian “model pottery” of its kind. 


Former Morris Garage, Oxford. Once the home to one of Britain’s best-known motor manufacturers of the 20th century, MG Motors, which was originally called Morris Motors, created by the engineer and entrepreneur William Morris who went from riunning a cycle repair shop in his parents’ Oxford home to opening the garage in 1909 and producing his first car, the affordable Bullnose. “For me this rather humble and modest site symbolises the essential force in 20th century industrial life - the motor car” Hunt said.

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