Context and Knowledge for Functional Buildings from the Industrial Revolution using Heritage Railway Signal Boxes in Great Britain as an Exemplar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Original languageEnglish
JournalHistoric Environment: Policy and Practice
Early online date10 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Mar 2020
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Accommodating equipment for controlling train movements, railway signal boxes are surviving representatives of functional buildings, a building category emerging during the Industrial Revolution specifically for occupation in support of an industrial process rather than occupied by people. Industrial Revolution buildings areindustrial heritage and there are issues concerning heritage authenticity in presenting these buildings, with diverse groups of people having different perceptions of the buildings. This research aims to identify varying perceptions of heritage functional buildings as a means of developing an effective conservation strategy by a research methodology of creating an original taxonomical model and applying this to a sample range of British signal boxes to determine representative signal box taxonomies and seeing these taxonomical findings in the railway landscape context. Findings, using this contextual data, are that skills and varying individual knowledge relative to signal boxes are specific and divergent. Conclusions are that context provided by the taxonomical model developed in this research determines the effectiveness of signal box conservation, this model is internationally applicable to functional buildings from the Industrial Revolution, and relevancy supports interpretation. Conservation policies must recognise these issues and understand the motivations where custodians, whether owners or conservators, make decisions concerning heritage functional buildings.