Twice a year the Archives and Collections Committee (ACC) run a study/work day at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. 

The study/work day is based on two topics: care of the archive collection, particularly the Ronnie Tylecote photographic archive and care of the slag collection. After brief introductions the day will mainly consist of workshops with ‘hands on’ work. In the archive with sorting photographs and assisting with storage for the safe care of the images, and in the warehouse sorting, identifying, re-boxing and cataloguing the Tylecote Slag Collection.

The date for the next event is the ...

To be confirmed! But will be held at The Long Warehouse, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Telford, Shropshire TF8 7DQ.

For further details of future events please contact Eddie Birch (Tel 01226 370331) or Louise Bacon This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Having enlisted as a volunteer with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum to be involved with industrial archeology projects in the Gorge, I was forwarded the notice for the Historical Metallurgy Society Archives and Slag Collections open day. As a conservator specialising in metals, I have known about HMS for many years, but the open day, held almost on my doorstep, sounded intriguing, too good to miss, and provided the spur to join at last.

The day started with a welcome and brief introduction to the archives from Louise Bacon to the small group of us attending the open day, some like myself, new to the Society's activities and others who were established HMS activists. Louise gave us a description of the archive and its care.

David Dungworth followed with a description of the slag collections and for those of us new to the HMS, it was fascinating to learn from the two speakers, how much has been achieved in such a relatively short time, and it was pleasing to learn that there is such a close collaboration between the Society and the Ironbridge Institute.

Despite the two introductions, I still did not quite know what to expect when we were about to start the hands on workshop sessions. It soon became apparent though! I started with the paper and photographs group and a daunting quantity of partially archived material, mostly photographs, with some notes and a few reports that comprise the Tylecote archive. The earlier archiving had assembled the material into logical associations, but it needed our second sweep to refine it into directly related material, and for me at least, there was lots of 'ah, yes, this photo of a hole in the ground with a bit of a lintel is the same as one I saw earlier but from a different position - now where did I put that?' Very quickly we started working as a team, cross checking with each other, and the personal recollections of the 'old hands' were invaluable, often making sense of indecipherable images. Gradually things started to fall into place, and even link up with objects the slag collection group were finding.

After a break for lunch, a visit to the Museum of Iron and a walk around the old foundry site with Shane Kelleher of the Institute, who gave us an insight into the objects on display, the history and archeology of the site, most of us swapped activities and I went into the chilly stores to pick though boxes of slags, ores and a few bits of actual metal.

The materials are all part of the Tylecote Slag Collection, which is a distinct historical collection housed at the Institute, but owned by HMS, as opposed to the National Slag Collection, which is owned by the Institute, although both the Institute and HMS have a say in what is added to the National Slag Collection.

The Tylecote Collection was kept in an ad hoc selection of boxes in the Institute's stores. In the boxes were plastic bags of samples, labelled in various ways and our task was to catalogue them. The samples were re-bagged in numbered bags which corresponded with new archival boxes and the information was entered up by David Dungworth on a database as we progressed. Deciphering some of the labels in, shall we say 'distinctive' handwriting on damaged labels was a challenge, but again, the 'old hands' were often able to come to the rescue, recognising a vital clue and recalling a past expedition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, it was informative, fascinating, friendly, there is much more to do, but there was a sense of making a useful contribution and a job well done. I was a bit worried about how I'd tell my friends at 'The Golden Ball Debating and Philosophical Society' how I had spent my Saturday. Given the potential for puns on the main object of our attention, there aren't many ways that don't leave you open to ribaldry, but, to their credit, they didn't sink to the occasion and were genuinely interested - a bit mystified, maybe, but interested.

Review written by Andrew Naylor for The Crucible 83




This list is still under construction, if you know of any other HMS conferences or events do get in touch. Links to event pages will be created with photo galleries, programmes, abstract books and reviews.


9th November, Research in Progress Meeting, held at University of Liverpool, Liverpool

17th June, The metallurgy of our portable heritage and AGM meeting held at UCL Institute of Archaeology, London


29th November, Research in Progress Meeting, held at University of Birmingham, Birmingham

17th-19th June, Anniversary of Cyfarthfa Ironworks and AGM meeting held in Merthyr Tydfil


13th November, Research in Progress Meeting, held at Brunel University, London

12th-14th June, Celebrating Street Furniture Conference and AGM meeting held in Stratford upon Avon

11th April, Archives and slag collection study day, held at Ironbridge


14th November, Research in Progress Meeting held in Oxford

3rd-6th October, Metallurgy in Warfare: A spur to innovation and development conference held in Salisbury

31st May-1st June, Metals used in personal adornment conference and AGM meeting held in Birmingham

12th-13th April, Irish Iron, an Archaeology Committee workshop held in Co Cork, Ireland

8th of March and 27th September, Archives and slag collection study days, held at Ironbridge


19th-20th October, 100th Anniversary of Stainless Steel at Cutlers' Hall in Sheffield

10th October, Research in Progress Meeting held in Exeter

14th-16th June, HMS 50th Anniversary Conference and AGM meeting held at Friends House in London

22nd-24th March, Archaeology Committee Workshop in the Hull Area


6th November, Research in Progress Meeting held in Newcastle

6th-7th October, Not so much gold, silver, bronze - more copper, zinc and brass held at the SS Great Britain and in the Bristol area

25th-27th May, Furnaces, foundries and forges:Ironmaking heritage revisited and AGM meeting held in the Birmingham Area


9th November, Research in Progress Meeting held in Sheffield

17th October, Metal Objects held in York joint with the Roman and Medieval Finds Groups

16th-18th September, HMS Annual Conference held in Cardiff joint with Historical Committee of the German Steel Institute

4th-5th June, Royalty, Religion and Rust! and AGM meeting held in Helmsley


10th November, Research in Progress Meeting held in London

16th-18th September, Experimental Conference held at West Dean College

?, AGM meeting held in Cumbria


10th-12th November, Archaeometallurgy Conference and Research in Progress Meeting held in Bradford

?, AGM meeting held in Cambridge


The magnificent Cutlers’ Hall in Sheffield was the setting for our HMS Annual Conference. I cannot think of a more fitting location to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Stainless Steel than in the city of its birth. The conference was a reflection of the history of HMS and the story of stainless steel, its conception, its development, through to modern day industrial practices and contemporary uses of this dynamic material.

The delegates included a diverse mix from the worlds of industry, academia and amateur. This made for a multi-faceted perspective which was highly informative and thought provoking. The day began with an overview of the history of the Historical Metallurgy Society, which was given by two of the journal’s editors, Justine Bayley and David Crossley. This presentation included a diverse collection of images which provided a fascinating look at how the society has progressed over its fifty years. This presentation served as a fitting introduction to an exciting programme of talks to follow.


The day continued with a presentation by David Dulieu, the author of 'Stay Bright: A History of Stainless Steels in Britain'. This presentation provided a thorough introduction to Brearley and his discovery of stainless steel in 1913. The presentation provided an excellent overview of the early development of the stainless steel industry in Sheffield, as well as discussing some controversial moments within its history. This was followed by John Beeley of Outokumpu Stainless, who discussed the stainless steel industry 100 years on. He explained through various company mergers half a million tons of the metal is still being melted per



After lunch we were invited to the Muniments Room. This gave us the opportunity to view a selection of historic knives, in particular the multi-bladed Norfolk Knife by Joseph Rodgers and Sons’ Norfolk Street Works. This display consists of a comprehensive collection of 72 knives constructed in a Swiss army like form for the Great Exhibition of 1851. In addition, copies of ‘100 Years of Stainless Steel’ were made available for purchase.Joan Unwin took us through the history of the knife drawer, including an overview of the progression of the domestic knife set and the changes that are evident in the design of blade and handle type. She discussed how the stamping out of cutlery rather than the traditional assembly method changed the industry in the 1960s. She highlighted the fact that the local industry changed irrevocably due to the importation of less expensive metal from developing countries. This was followed by an informative discussion by Peter King who gave an in-depth analysis of the statistics of the iron and steel industry 1860-1886.

After refreshments the afternoon session began with a presentation by Mick Steeper and Jonathan Aylen on rolling mills and their development from the steam-powered (the

Rive Don engine being a prime example), to electricity and finally to the modern computer mechanised. The paper ended with an overview of today’s metal-forming industry and the effects on Sheffield.

The day ended with a stimulating paper from Robert Booth, a sculptor in stainless steel and an avid performance caster. The paper displayed his work ( and showed the aesthetic beauty of the material rather than focusing purely on its functional use.

An interesting and informative weekend culminated in a field trip to the Kelham Museum on the banks of the River Don on Sunday morning. For the first time visitor this really is a thrilling experience. The visit was topped off by viewing the River Don Engine fully operational, complete with reverse gear change at full speed (this is worth the journey alone).On a final note, HMS would like to take this opportunity to thank all delegates for participating in what was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. In particular the society owes a great debt of gratitude to Ellie Blakelock for producing yet another first class meeting. A special thanks should also be noted to Joan Unwin for her contribution throughout the day.

Written by Vanessa Castagnino for The Crucible 84

The Society holds a number of meetings throughout the year. The Annual General Meeting is usually held in different part of the UK in May or June each year. Visits and fieldtrips form a part of many of our events and these cover a range of different activities from visiting mines, to the remains of furnaces or workshops, visiting working mills, seeing live metallurgy experiments or even going behind the scenes of museums or exhibitions. In the autumn the Research in Progress meeting provides a forum for the presentation of current, usually unpublished research. At these meeting there is an award for the best student presentation by a current or recent student (within 12 months of graduating).

HMS also manages a list of events that might be of interest to our members.

To see photos and details of our past events please visit our Past HMS Events page. Or if you have any photos or memories of our past events that you would like to share please get in touch with the events team.


Upcoming HMS Events
HMS 2019 AGM
Power and Control over Metallurgy Production
8th June 2019
Reading Town Hall 

Research in Progress Meeting
14th November

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