Samlesbury to Helmshore Pipeline

Project Profile

Project Title :

Samlesbury to Helmshore Natural Gas Pipeline

Client :

National Grid

Type of Work :

Watching Brief, Excavation, Strip,
Map and Sample, Post-Excavation Reporting and Analysis

Project Gallery 

Base of clamp kiln   Plan of base of clamp kiln  
Early 18th century farmhouse   Plan of early 18th century farmhouse  


Excavations along the Samlesbury Pipeline

Industry Medieval and Modern

Working with National Grid, NAA undertook a series of excavations in advance of the construction of a new natural gas pipeline between Samlesbury to Helmshore in central Lancashire. The eastern end of the route passed through lowland agricultural areas of grazing land, characterised by small villages and many isolated farmsteads, while the central and eastern sections, to the south and east of Darwen, passed through an upland landscape of enclosed rough grazing land and open high moorland. Today, this upland landscape is scattered with abandoned farmsteads and buildings; the result of depopulation during the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

NAA monitored soil stripping along the entire 29km (18 miles) route of the pipeline and excavated a medieval pottery-making site at Samlesbury, together with excavation and photographic recording of portions of seven post-medieval farmsteads at various points along the route; six of these lay in the upland areas.

The Samlesbury kilns
The Samlesbury pottery production site lay south of the River Ribble, on either side of a road known as Potter Lane. Excavation uncovered the bases of a type of primitive kiln known as a 'clamp', together with ditches and pits from a nearby settlement, and over 10,000 sherds of pottery. Three separate locations in the Samlesbury area produced evidence of pottery production, stretching over a distance of nearly half a kilometre. The recovered pottery dated from the 13th to the 15th centuries indicating the operation of a widespread and long lasting rural industry. Most of the recovered pottery was utilitarian, and examples have now been identified at both Wigan and Lancaster, with parallels found from Lancashire to North Wales. Excavated kilns and associated pottery assemblages are rare both in Lancashire and North-West England as a whole, and the excavations at Samlesbury are an important contribution to the study of the medieval industry in the north.

The Farmsteads
Other key sites along the route were a series of 18th and early 19th century farmsteads including a lowland farmhouse at its western end which was surrounded by a large drainage ditch and included a room for spinning or weaving. Smallholdings of this type, with mixed farming and textile production, are known historically throughout the region. Parts of five further, probably 18th century farmsteads, were also investigated across both the upland farming and high moorland zones.

As a direct result of an increase in agricultural demand, brought about by a rising population and the gradual expansion of the new industrial centres, there was a general increase in the number of farmsteads across the area during the late 18th century. The rise in demand saw the introduction of a range of agricultural improvements including changes to land ownership and the rationalisation of the field system following enclosure; all of these were to transform the British landscape. However, in the later 19th century, the very process which had seen the emergence of many of these farmsteads also led to their demise as a series of poor harvests and a fall in grain prices saw many smallholders and agricultural workers lured away to the ever expanding industrial centres across the north-west.

In the past, research in this area has largely been reliant on landscape and standing buildings surveys. Therefore, the chance to excavate such a number of post-medieval buildings along the pipeline route has provided a rare and welcome opportunity. The investigations have revealed much about the original form and layout of these buildings and their subsequent alterations over time, helping inform our understanding of agricultural and industrial development across the region during this period.

icon-pdf-smallDownload the Publication Report