There are still reminders of Lincoln’s industrial greatness to be seen, and some buildings have been skilfully adapted for new uses, such as The Engine Shed and University of Lincoln Library. Siemens (formerly Ruston) and James Dawson and Co are active companies that remain on sites established in the 19th century.
Agriculture to industry
In the 18th century Lincoln was little more than a market town. Its industry was largely at craft scale and primarily serviced the surrounding agricultural community. Towards the end of the century the combined factors of transport development, particularly the re-opening of waterways such as the Fossdyke, and a national movement towards the mechanisation of agricultural processes, provided an opportunity for considerable growth in the city.
Famous names of Lincoln’s industry
Although comparatively late to take advantage of the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, Lincoln saw a rapid expansion of manufacturing in the period after 1850. The growth of heavy engineering, initially in steam-powered agricultural machinery, transformed the city from a quiet market centre into an industrial hub, with an explosion in population, housing and wealth. The major players, Ruston and Proctor, Clayton and Shuttleworth, Robert Robey and William Foster, all built large factories along or close to the Witham in the period 1850 - 1900. To take advantage of railway transport connections at St Marks, there was then a partial relocation to New Boultham, now Beevor Street and Firth Road.
Made in Lincoln
Products evolved into new areas such as mining engines, railway rolling stock, steam rollers, excavators, pumps, automobiles, and during World War 1, aircraft and tanks. Ancillary enterprises, such as Clarke’s Crank and Forge, Duckerings, Rainforths, Newsum’s timber mills, James Dawson’s leather and belting works and Singleton and Flint tarpaulin manufacturers, helped to service the heavy industry and create their own markets.
Alongside engineering, Lincoln saw the growth of other industries - chemicals, leather and glue works, confectionery, milling and brewing, ironstone mining, brick making and rope making among others, as well as the basic infrastructures of warehousing, power generation, water supply and transport. As these industries developed, so Lincoln’s population expanded and the breadth of the city’s economic activity grew.
Industrial archaeology today
There has been great interest in Lincoln’s industrial past in recent years, with the Made in Lincoln project and an Industrial Archaeology Survey carried out for the City Council by the City of Lincoln Archaeology Unit 1998. The Society for Lincs History and Archaeology has been at the forefront of recording and studying the county’s industrial past since 1960s. The Museum of Lincolnshire Life has preserved many aspects of the industrial past and organises regular working displays.
A large number of industrial sites from this period survive in full or partial use, particularly at Stamp End (Clayton and Shuttleworth and Rustons), Canwick Road (Robey) and Beevor Street/Firth Road. James Dawson and Co remain on the site they first moved to in 1886. Of the large employers, only Foster’s, the pioneers of the army tank in 1916, has completely disappeared. A major challenge for the city is to assess the significance to the community of this important collection of sites and to help to find an agreed way forward in their management and promotion.
The Lincoln Heritage Database contains entries for over 1,000 industrial sites covering the period 1700 to date, compiled mainly for the 1998 survey and is continuously being updated.