Power & Industry

Power/Industry - two words that often seem inseparable. While Britain relied on wind, water and muscle power alone, we remained a largely agricultural society. When power-driven machines were devised that could work faster and more cheaply than human labour, our country began to change into the first fully industrialised nation in the world.

To show the key role that different kinds of power and energy have played in shaping our lives, this second broadsheet from The British Land Company PLC looks at how they leave their mark on the landscape. Each of the buildings, past and present, that is shown here has a story to tell. Consider how ideas have gradually evolved over the centuries - the modern wind turbine harking back to the medieval windmill, for instance, or the way industry, with changing technology, was able to move away from its energy source. The design of the buildings too is interesting - functional and distinctive, yet often betraying an elegance born of its fitness for its intended purpose. Though they may no longer do the work for which they were originally built, examples of each type still exist and visitors are welcome to see how they work.

The way that we have harnessed the power available to us, or have learned to produce our own, has always been a central element in the way that our society develops and assumes its particular shape. At first there was only the natural power of wind and water, and life was essentially based around agriculture. Even textile manufacture and milling - two principal industries of the Middle Ages that made use of natural power - were largely an extension of this rural economy. When we discovered ways of creating power for ourselves, an industrial society emerged.

This series of broadsheets from The British Land Company PLC is essentially a study of buildings in the landscape, and many of the buildings dotted around our towns and countryside are all about power. By identifying these buildings and looking more closely at them, we can learn a great deal about design, technology, economics, social history, geography, even politics - all these factors come into play. At a simple level, we can begin to understand why a building assumed a particular size and shape - the engine house at a Cornish tin mine, for instance, was an integral part of the mighty beam engine it contained. We can see how technology gradually develops over very many centuries, how old and new co-exist in various forms.

We hope that this broadsheet will stimulate further study and discussion of this fascinating aspect of our architectural heritage.

The British Land Company PLC, (Educational Publications), 10 Cornwall Terrace, Regent's Park, London NW1 4QP
British Land Broadsheets

1400’s - Norse Mill