In the 1950s Rowe began work on the consolidation behaviour and permeability of clays, initially using samples from the Derwent Reservoir site and the Manchester Ship Canal deposit grounds. Existing equipment proved inadequate, and so Rowe developed at Manchester the Rowe Consolidation Cell. This enclosed the sample between the body of the cell and a convoluted upper rubber membrane, allowing the hydraulic pressure to act across a membrane. This achieved uniformity of loading and allowed the testing of samples of up to 0.5 m. A detailed analysis of the uses of the cell can be found in Peter W. Rowe and Laing Barden, 'A new consolidation cell', Géotechnique, vol. 16 (1966).
The ring shear apparatus was designed to measure the 'residual strength' of drained soils, i.e. the lowest shearing resistance, when a shear plane is formed and sliding continues on that plane. The load was applied centrally to the cell body through a steel sphere and machined spigot.
Both the ring shear apparatus and the Rowe Consolidation Cell were developed by Rowe at Manchester and manufactured commerically by the Armfield Hydraulic Engineering Company Limited of Ringwood, Hampshire. Rowe also provided detailed instruction manuals.
The series comprises diagrams of Rowe Cells; an instruction manual and commericial catalogues issued by Armfield Hydraulic Engineering; and correspondence relating to manufacturing, marketing and patent issues.