This collection contains the manuscripts and working papers accumulated by LTC Rolt over a lifetime as a writer and researcher, and those of his wife, Sonia Rolt.

Lionel Thomas Caswall Rolt (1910-1974) was a practical engineer and writer, noted for his published output and regarded as one of the founders of the mid-20th century waterways and railway preservation movements. His wide knowledge extended to motor vehicles, railways, canals, industrial archaeology and the worlds of civil and mechanical engineering. He was actively in a great many organisations involved with canals, railways, motoring, archaeology, and conservation as well as in academic circles. As a writer he was prodigious, being responsible for some sixty major works as well as a large number of reviews, articles and other publications.

Sonia Mary Fleming Rolt (née South – 1919-2014) was Tom Rolt’s second wife. They met through their involvement with the Inland Waterways Association and became a couple in 1951. Sonia had worked on the canals during the latter days of the War operating canal boats carrying vital goods and supplies. By the 1950s Sonia had taken on various social responsibilities – campaigning for working boat people – with the IWA. With Tom and after his death in 1974, she became a noted antiquarian, activist and writer in her own right – working for the Landmark Trust, publishing her book “A Canal People” (1997) and maintaining involvement across a wide range of organisations. She also kept Tom’s memory alive by keeping most of his books in print. She was awarded the O.B.E. in the 2011 New Years Honours for her services to Industrial Archaeology and to heritage.

On account of Tom Rolt’s connections with the beginnings of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and his involvement with the Museum from the outset – coupled with the breadth of his interest in industrial archaeology – it was felt that Ironbridge would be the best destination for his papers. This was eventually achieved in 2007 when the bulk of the collection was purchased from Sonia Rolt thanks to a generous grant made by Sir John Smith of the Landmark Trust. Sir John requested anonymity in his lifetime but it is right that his great generosity to the Museum should now be acknowledged.


Click here to view the LTC Rolt Collection Catalogue.




10 MAY 2024

2024 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the writer and biographer LTC Rolt, also known as ‘Tom’. To mark the occasion, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum trust partnered with academics from Keele University to host this event with the aim of celebrating the life and exploring the continuing legacy of LTC Rolt.

LTC Rolt was a prolific author of books and articles on a wide range of subjects – including Industrial History, Canals, Railways, Cars, Ecology and Fiction. His passion for the subjects, and accessible writing style, has meant that a large pool of existing fans of his work are regularly joined by new readers, who are just discovering his work. His publications played a significant role in the emerging field of industrial archaeology and industrial heritage preservation, and he was personally involved in the foundation of organisations such as The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA), the Talyllyn Railway, the Inland Waterways Association and the Vintage Sports-Car Club, to name just a few.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank our sponsors. This event was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the following organisations:

Hire! Freeman

Friends of The Ironbridge Gorge Museums

Shropshire Archaeological & Historical Society - Betton Fund