Industrial Prosperity
Mining & Quarrying
Iron & Steel
Manufacturing & Production
Leisure Industry
Industrial Architecture
Enterprise Success Stories
Working Lives
News and Events
About the Route
Photo gallery
For Journalists
Links to industrial heritage in the East


The Region's Main Industrial Themes

Regional Theme Routes offer a wonderful way of discovering more about the regions of Europe. Industrial heritage sites are full of fascinating connections not only with Europe but with the rest of the world. Find out about the paper mills of Hertfordshire and their connections with Germany going back to the early 1800´s. See how Dutch engineers reclaimed the Fens and how the French Huguenots brought silk weaving to Essex and how it is still woven today in the region. These things and more are awaiting your discovery.

We are in the process of adding additional historical material to this website exploring these important themes. by studying local history you can explore industries in your own area. This web site will help you to place local information in the wider context of economic history and technological change.

Textiles - The European Thread

Textile manufacture in the East of England has a long history. In the Middle Ages this was one of the most important woollen cloth producing centres in England. Weavers and spinners were scattered throughout the towns and villages of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex in a swathe from Norwich in the north to Braintree in the south.

Mining & Quarrying - The Assets of the Earth

Grimes Graves, in Norfolk, is one of the oldest mining and industrial sites in Europe. Flint - a form of natural silica - was extracted here from the Neolithic period onwards using a technique of deep shaft mining, excavating down from the surface towards the horizontal bands of flint.


Iron & Steel - Foundries and Iron Making

Sir Henry Bessemer, the inventor of cheap steel, was born near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, after the family had emigrated from France during the French Revolution. A blue plaque marks the house where he carried out early experiments. Bessemer developed and patented his world famous Converter process, which injects air at high pressure into molten steel, in the process burning up surplus carbon.


Manufacturing & Production - Goods for the World

In the minds of many people, manufacturing and industry are the same. Manufacturing is the process of turning raw materials and part-manufactured products into finished or semi-finished products. Many factories have been set up based on a subcomponent which was then incorporated into a larger unit.


Energy - Application of Power
Apart from wood, eastern England lacks essential fuels forcing the workers in the region to be pioneers in the use of natural power. Hundreds of mills in the windswept expanses of fenland and coastal marshes harnessed wind power for milling and land drainage. more
Transport and Communication - Tracks of the Industrial Revolution
River Navigations and Canals:
With so many large rivers traversing the region from the Thames in the south to the Nene in the north it was inevitable that they would be opened to navigation as soon as resources and technology became available. Great engineers such as John Rennie advised on the placement of locks on the important rivers to allow the passage of barges.


Water - Blue Gold

Historically, life in eastern England has been dominated by both a shortage of drinking water and a surplus of water on the land. Until the industrial era, these problems were battled using relatively primitive technology. Drinking water was largely obtained from wells which in the chalk lands of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire could be up to 200 metres deep, but quite shallow in the more densely populated areas such as south east Essex.


Leisure Industry - Enjoying the Fruits of Labour
Eastern England has an important place in the history of film and television. The British Film industry was first developed in Hertfordshire and continues to operate there today. Elstree, Bushey and Borehamwood are the centres for this important leisure industry that still competes for audiences with Hollywood. Recent films made here include Star Wars and the Indiana Jones Trilogy. more
Industrial Architecture - Celebrating Style & Function

Nowadays, industrial buildings tend to look the same as each other. Modern factories are often large featureless shed-like structures, clad in steel on a steel frame and set in extensive car parks.


  The Industrious East

  The rise of factories

  Foundriesand iron making