Archaeology on our site

In September 2016 we had an exciting weekend public dig with 110 participants directed by 7 archaeologists. The dig, located next to the Museum, was at the site where the Albion Foundry was erected in the 1820s.

Check out scenes from the Dig weekend. Most of the photos are by Tony DeCoste courtesy of Industrial Heritage Nova Scotia.

More information will be posted here as we learn more from the finds from the dig.

 

About the Albion Foundry

The Albion Mines foundry was located just behind these buildings associated with the Foord coal mine. The foundry pre-dated these structures by more than thirty-five years, being built in 1827 or 1828 to support the first coal mines of the General Mining Association.

 

The Albion foundry was one of several buildings erected by the General Mining Association (GMA), a British mining company, when it came from England in 1827 to establish the first deep coal mines in Nova Scotia. They called the settlement they established Albion Mines (now Stellarton). The GMA brought the technology of the British Industrial Revolution so that they could successfully mine much deeper than anyone in the colony had done before. The foundry was an important part of this mining operation because it made parts for machines, hand tools, rails, hardware and items for the miners’ homes. The foundry poured iron, copper and brass. It was the first foundry in Canada to use coke instead of charcoal to create the heat to melt metals. The first steam engine built in Nova Scotia was made at the Albion Foundry in 1835.

There are no photos to tell us what the foundry looked like, but descriptions of the time say it was a large brick building. Several functions related to making items out of metal would have been carried on under its roof. In 1830, Joseph Howe described the foundry as follows:

“It is formed into three divisions – in one of which the casting is carried on, the machinery works in the centre, and in the other contains a workshop where moulds and woodwork are prepared, and where the castings are finished off after coming out of the furnace.”

That same year the foundry was leased to William Davies for five years. The foundry flourished under his leadership. By 1841 a local newspaper described it as having “casting houses, fitting shop, Pattern Making shop, Blacksmith’s shop, Engine house and Saw-mill; with two smelting cupolas for iron, one for copper and brass, also a large reverberatory Air Furnace, (capable of smelting five tons of pig iron at one time), a drying stove, powerful crane, etc….” (The Mechanic and Farmer, Pictou Sept. 1, 1841). It employed over 100 people in a variety of jobs.

Davies operated the foundry until 1855 when he moved to Pictou and opened a foundry there. The date the Albion Mines foundry ceased operation is unknown.

 

More about Archaeology on our site

Before the Museum was built, test pits and a dig were conducted to make sure buried remains of buildings and other evidence from early coal mining would not be disturbed by the construction of the Museum. Subsequent digs in the 1980s confirmed the location of the foundry, a small house and a locomotive shed. For more information on these digs, check out this Curatorial report.