thanks to the work of a Shropshire-based video production group,
the old ways have been recorded before they die out completely.
Recordings is a group of enthusiasts who make a permanent record
of past and present industry using the latest video technology.
unlike other industrial archaeologists, who concentrate on the remains
of long gone industries, their approach often involves recording
processes while they are still working. This means the knowledge
of these old industries is kept for posterity.
for the past 20 years, I.A. Recordings have been dutifully recording
the living processes of working industry.
by hand in Willenhall
example of this is the John Bradley Ironworks in Stourbridge. The
firm was started in 1800, the locomotives 'Agenoria' and 'Stourbridge
Lion' were made there, but in 1982 the rolling mill was suddenly
threatened with closure. The skills and techniques of the ironworks
were recorded on video, just before the place closed.
photographs can't capture a dynamic industrial process, so the I.A.
Recordings team saw the need for a dedicated group with film making
skills to be available to visit such sites, possibly at very short
notice, but working in their spare time. Their idea was to build
up a permanent moving picture archive of recordings of industry,
which will help the historians of the future to understand the processes
practising the techniques with a low quality hired portable video
kit in 1978, they decided to set up I.A.Recordings in 1982 and purchase
their own much higher quality gear. They had to start with second-hand
equipment, much of it ex-BBC and ITV, but over the years they have
replaced it piece by piece until now they use up-to-date broadcast
order to pay for all this equipment, the rather expensive tapes
they use, travelling costs and so on; from time to time they edit
some of the material from the archive into programmes and make them
available for sale on VHS cassettes.
editing is extremely time-consuming and so far they have only been
able to use a small part of their archive.
spare time at a premium, they always have to give priority to 'rescue
recording' work, when people tell them of a site that needs to be
recorded quickly before it closes.
first such call out was when W.K.V.Gale, the leading historian of
the iron and steel industry, asked them to record John Bradley rolling
mill - the week it was due to close!
Telford's Pontcysllte Aqueduct near Llangollen
well as being best for capturing the details of people's working
lives, they often find that moving pictures can help even when recording
an empty building or a derelict industrial area.
can be difficult to visualise how a complex works was laid out from
a collection of still photographs, but a video camera can pan from
place to place and the editor can cut between close-up and wide
angle views; all helping to show how one part of the subject relates
to another, and helping to give a more complete impression of the
means that they record the remains of old industries as well as
working ones: exploring old Cornish mine workings as well as filming
last tin mine before it closed; disused ancient coke ovens in Durham
and working coke plants in Yorkshire; derelict dockyards in Gloucestershire
and working docks on Humberside; old textile workshops converted
to houses next to new automated factories; the oldest canal boat
England and the most modern one in the world; and even a wartime
underground factory which became a nuclear bunker.
first I.A.Recordings concentrated on the UK as the main birthplace
of industry, but they have also recorded various industries in the
USA, coal mines and canals in France, Belgium and Germany and the
fascinating remains of mining in Ireland.
they have been careful not to neglect their native Shropshire. Subjects
in the archive, only some of which have been released on VHS so
far, include: Clive copper mine, the 'Shropshire Union' canal, Muxton
Bridge coal mine, the Shropshire tub-boat canals, The Iron Bridge,
the Severn trow 'Spry', the Stiperstones lead, zinc and barite mines,
a forgotten icehouse, an ancient lost tunnel, and the annual Shropshire
Mines Trust displays at Onslow Park Steam Engine Rally.
famous Snailbeach lead mine has been covered in some depth, in both
senses of the word.
far they have already released three VHS tapes: A history of the
mine; part one of an underground exploration which involved descending
a 100 metre deep shaft; and a tape specially commissioned for showing
the Snailbeach visitor centre.
has been helped by the use of specialist equipment - not least the
Mine Cam, a remote-controlled high quality video camera with a powerful
light attached. Packed with sophisticated equipment, it can be sent
down mine shafts to film where people can't go.
on these has been greatly helped by the I.A. Recordings team's membership
of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club and the Shropshire Mines
video archive continues to grow, they try to make more and more
of it available for viewing on VHS and from time to time are commissioned
by national organisations, trusts and museums to make special documentaries
they don't receive any grants or external funding for day-to-day
running costs. Indeed, if they hear of a subject which needs recording,
they will frequently do so at their own expense and try to recoup
the costs later by selling tapes.
in any case, by the time they get to hear about a new project, there
often isn't time to try to find a source of finance before the person
retires, the factory closes or the site is redeveloped.