This week, I took the second-year Contemporary Past students on their 4th field trip for the module. Having previously explored:
- Chester’s cityscape,
- suburban housing and streets in Connahs’ Quay and Blacon,
- post-industrial landscapes at Gresford near Wrexham,
it was now the turn of a theme of transport and communication. We went out of Chester by minibus and conducted 3 short walks looking at post-industrial heritage and landscapes in a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and its environs. The WHS focuses on the Llangollen canal and two spectacular aqueducts paired by two amazing viaducts crossing the Dee and Ceiriog:
- Chirk canal aqueduct and tunnel, juxtaposed with the railway viaduct of the late 1840s;
- Ty Mawr country park and its art and memorials plus its viaduct;
- Pontycysyllte aqueduct itself
- the memorial landscapes of the country park at Ty Mawr,
- park benches as memorials
- the Plas Madoc Pillar
Rather than focusing in our field trip on the industrial archaeology of the very late 18th and early/mid-19th century, or its heritage management and conservation, our aim was to engage with the recent material cultures, including heritage material cultures and commemorative material cultures in the post-industrial landscape within a WHS. I see this revealed through art, memorials, signs, country parks and recreational spaces, as well as the broader inhabited landscape itself of post-industrial settlements.
Connecting all these elements together – industrial archaeology, post-industrial archaeology and its heritage, is the theme of the contemporary archaeology of transport and communication. The Llangollen canal and its aqueducts are part of heritage tourism but also leisure craft holidays and breaks. Moreover, heritage signs are in abundance.
At Chirk, we explored the tunnel, memorial benches, heritage signs and the aqueduct and viaduct.
At Ty Mawr, we explored a range of installations and features connecting the present-day country park to its industrial history:
Here are images of the art and some of the many heritage signs at Pontycysllte:
We encountered many memorial benches, but we also encountered a floral offering beside the path just before its narrowing to traverse the aqueduct. Was this to memorialise someone who had died?
In short, the field trip augmented the previous three and identified a series of interconnecting themes that archaeologists can tackle in the contemporary past.