From sea to land

A winter view of Godolphin House

A winter view of Godolphin House

The out building next to the house

The out building next to the house

It’s amazing what is contained within all the estate and farm buildings the Trust looks after. Often while working on something else you notice other things of interest or the odd and quirky! While working at Godolphin cataloging  archaeological objects found on the estate, we went into one of the out buildings, were some worked stone and architectural pieces of wood are stored.

The upper room of the out building next to the main house was dark and full of portable  objects from small pieces of tile to large lumps of wood. But it was the only fixed object in the room that caught my eye.

Side view of the strange branch and machine

Side view of the strange branch and machine

It is a lovely wooden branch, chosen for the natural curve it had. This was fixed to the ceiling at one end  and the wooden floorboards at the other, and attached to it is a metal machine of some kind. There is a hopper at the top, an arm for a handle and a hole underneath.

The arm for the handle and the hopper at the top

The arm for the handle and the hopper at the top

What could it have been used for?   I needed to ask  Mal (the property development manager) whose family had worked on the estate for generation’s, he is a font of knowledge and sure enough he told us it was an oyster shell crusher!   Oyster shells and other shells were used for many things in the past, to add to clay to help stop pots exploding in the kiln, to add to mortar or help with leveling wall courses, or to help fertilize the land. Oysters have many other interesting facts attached to them especially in an archaeological context, but more of that another time possibly  from a  guest blogger :-)

closer view of the machine

closer view of the machine

Kingston Lacy South Lawn Day 4: Getting to the bottom of it

The formal garden shown on William Woodward's map of 1773. Traces of the pathways dividing the four lawns can be seen as parch marks and the geophysical survey but the semi-circular feature has not been detected during the surveys

The formal garden shown on William Woodward’s map of 1773. Traces of the pathways dividing the four lawns can be seen as parch marks and the geophysical survey but the semi-circular feature has not been detected during the surveys

We know about William Woodward’s map of 1773 showing the formal garden. This design might have included elements of the garden made for the house when it was first built in the 1660s.

From a plan of Kingston Lacy Park and Garden dated 1849, only 20 years after the obelisk was erected. The lawn is much the same today although the 17th century stable block on the right hand side of Kingston Lacy House was demolished and moved to the left in the 1880s (it's the restaurant now).

From a plan of Kingston Lacy Park and Garden dated 1849, only 20 years after the obelisk was erected. The lawn is much the same today although the 17th century stable block on the right hand side of Kingston Lacy House was demolished and moved to the left in the 1880s (it’s the restaurant now).

The garden was radically changed in the 1820s and it has looked much the same ever since but there are other things here which we can’t explain.

In spring 2013, Andrew, Nigel and I walked across the South Lawn discussing the Kingston Lacy park and garden conservation plan. For many years they had noticed strange brown patterns in the grass during dry weather.

A pencil sketch of the 1773 garden over the present garden with the geophysical survey features drawn onto the plan. The house is at the top of the drawing and the obelisk at the bottom.

A pencil sketch of the 1773 garden over the present garden with the geophysical survey features drawn onto the plan. The house is at the top of the drawing and the obelisk at the bottom.

We decided to try to find out what they were and carry out a geophysical survey of the lawn in July as part of national archaeology festival. We plotted the parch marks, walked up and down with the resistivity and gradiometer survey machines and in 2014 Paul brought the ground probing radar from Bournemouth University and added to the ‘non-invasive’ information.

The resistivity survey plot of the South Lawn. The blue band right of centre is the path and obelisk. Kingston Lacy House lies just beyond the top edge of the survey. The red block of colour marks the position of our trench on the left side of the circular feature picked up on the survey and seen as an earthwork on the ground.

The resistivity survey plot of the South Lawn. The blue band right of centre is the path and obelisk. Kingston Lacy House lies just beyond the top edge of the survey. The red block of colour marks the position of our trench on the left side of the circular feature picked up on the survey and seen as an earthwork on the ground.

The patterns were mapped but they do not correspond with any known garden. Were they really garden features? They seem to blot out the 1773 mapped garden design and are crossed by the 1820s path to the obelisk. There seems to be a very limited time frame to fit this potential design into.

Beyond historical evidence there is only archaeology…so we dug this week’s trench, just a small one in a very large lawn, to test a place which is clear on the geophysics and visible on the ground.

One of our chunks of brick and below it the two fragments of post-medieval pottery we found, typical white ware and blue and white wares of the late 18th to early 19th century. Below them, the black blob is a late prehistoric piece of pottery over 2000 years old.

One of our chunks of brick and below it the two fragments of post-medieval pottery we found, typical white ware and blue and white wares of the late 18th to early 19th century. Below them, the black blob is a late prehistoric piece of pottery over 2000 years old.

We found the lawn soil overlying a surface with lots of black clinker, the odd iron nail and bit of brick. Just a thin skim above a deeper soil but it was always moister towards the obelisk path. That’s where the water stayed during the heavy rain. That’s where the soil was deeper mixed with fragments of lime (was it reused as a garden bed? lime to make the neutral acid soil more alkaline?). The soil overlay a 250mm deep mixed clay deposit filling a curved edge cutting through the natural sand.

The slot across the natural sand and clay filling of the feature. The photo shows the edge of the pond, the soil difference between the clay filling and natural sand is clear.

The slot across the natural sand and clay filling of the feature. The photo shows the edge of the pond, the soil difference between the clay filling and natural sand is clear.

The earthwork on the surface reflects this clay-lined feature which the rain water wouldn’t soak through. So our reasonable interpretation is that this was a pond and part of a garden that we have not found a documentary reference for. None of our maps show it.

So here is a story to fit the evidence. At the end of the 18th century, Kingston Lacy was re-designed by architect Robert Furze Brettingham for the then owner Henry Bankes. A new house deserves a new garden and perhaps this is shown by our geophysics and excavation..except Henry’s son William was given an obelisk from the Island of Philae in Egypt so he persuaded his father to create a garden for this extraordinary possession and the newly designed garden was swept away..

However, such formal gardens indicated by our geophysics, with a small pond like the one we found, would not be at all fashionable c.1800, a more open landscape/picturesque style might be expected so an alternative story is that the pond is earlier than the 18th century brought closer to the surface by the landscaping out of the 18th century garden in the 1820s…If we had found a good date-able piece of pottery or a white tobacco pipe bowl in the pond clay filling we would have been able to provide a more definite date for the feature.

Some of the flint from the  South Lawn. The top grey chunk has been worked but then burnt in a fire. The other flakes also date to the Neolithic or Bronze Age. They probably haven't moved far but were disturbed during 17th-19th century gardening work.

Some of the flint from the South Lawn. The top grey chunk has been worked but then burnt in a fire. The other flakes also date to the Neolithic or Bronze Age. They probably haven’t moved far but were disturbed during 17th-19th century gardening work.

The prehistoric pot fragments and the burnt and flaked flint show that there were people living here long before Ralph Bankes first commissioned Kingston Lacy House in the 1660s, before Henry de Lacy’s medieval manor of the 13th century, before the Saxon royal farm, before the Roman town at Shapwick and even before the Iron Age hillfort of Badbury Rings.

The end of the excavation, the trench backfilled .

The end of the excavation, the trench backfilled .

KL Lawn Day 3: The house, the obelisk and the gardens

Day 3 was probably the most changeable. The winds were the strongest, the rain the heaviest and the variations of sunlight and cloud most extraordinary.

The inclement weather gave some great brooding clouds and bright sunlight moments.

The inclement weather gave some great brooding clouds and bright sunlight moments.

No point putting the gazebo up and the interpretation table was blown over and we decided to weight the legs and leave the pictures in a vertical position. We resorted to the scaffolding around the obelisk for shelter.

The storms across the south lawn kept blowing the table over so we weighted the legs with a shovel and mattock and Matt talked through the layers of historic gardens with the drawings in a vertical position.

The storms across the south lawn kept blowing the table over so we weighted the legs with a shovel and mattock and Matt talked through the layers of historic gardens with the drawings in a vertical position.

The trench kept collecting water so quite hard to keep it in a photograhicable condition but things got a little better by the end of the day Matt and Rohan cleaned the surface and we could now see that the multi-coloured clay was the filling of a feature cutting through the sand. Our circular earthwork with a raised island in the middle was indeed a pond not shown on any map but clear on the geophysics.

IMG_8406

KL lawn Day 2 – Squalls and water features!

Day 1 for me but day 2 for the boys, started a bit breezy and with blue skies and lots of clouds of all hues. Matt was finishing the section of the trench at the obelisk end, Martin was just setting up the maps and plans for everyone to see. The remaining gazebo was set up only half way, hoping it would not go the way of the other one, which flew across the lawn in the high winds and got a bent leg.

Matt working in the obelisk  end section of the trench

Matt working in the obelisk end section of the trench

I set to marking out the middle section next to the small sondage (a hole to find out what layers there are and how deep) and started to take off the thin layer containing clinker and brick, down to a soft layer on the path side and a very hard sandy/clay layer on the other side. There were lots of flint flakes and worked flint coming from most layers including a couple of lovely borers (like a prehistoric bradawl). Possible features were just starting to appear when the rain started, a few spits and spots, then the wind got up and large drops of rain began to increase. The call to retreat to the gazebo rang out and we made it just in time to hold the tent down as the squall hit; we had to shout to hear each other! When it stopped we went back to the trench and found we had a number of water features!

A very wet trench. the different colours of the layers showed up well after a drenching!

A very wet trench. the different colours of the layers showed up well after a drenching!

A quick bail out and it was back into the soggy trench.

A hand shovel makes quick work of the water. Must remember a sponge next time.

A hand shovel makes quick work of the water. Must remember a sponge next time.

The middle section seems to have an archaeological feature in it, that may continue just into each end section. The middle section also contained a very small piece of pottery, age not certain, looks prehistoric! Matt also found a small piece of probably 18th century pottery, and some very fine glass.

The yellow hard sandy layer on the lft and the softer more humic layer (feature)on the right

The yellow hard sandy layer on the left and the softer more humic layer (feature) on the right

Martin decided to dig another sondage, to check if the hard orange/yellow surface was natural bedrock or a re-deposited layer, it looks interesting. Tomorrow will be make or break so watch this space :-)

Martin digging his sondage

Martin digging his sondage

 

 

 

 

KL Lawn Day 1 Hard sand with moister areas.

Matthew and I arrived this morning to find Iggy and Gordon just taking the last of the turf from the 5m by 1.4m wide trench which will be our home for the next four days. Kate arrived soon afterwards and we began to trowel..

The trench early this morning carefully stripped of turf by the Kingston Lacy garden team

The trench early this morning carefully stripped of turf by the Kingston Lacy garden team

A dry compacted sand with nothing in it. The trench has been positioned following resistivity, fluxgate gradiometer and ground probing radar surveys. There is a strange pattern of features across the lawn but at this location is a circular hollow about 10m across with a small mound in the middle. Possibly an ornamental pond? This and the other features are not shown on any maps of the park. They seem to hide the formal garden shown on the 1773 and 1786 maps but underlie the straight path leading to the obelisk. So is this part of a short-lived unrecorded garden c.1800…. or something else.

In front of us Kingston Lacy mansion and behind us the obelisk. It was brought to Kingston Lacy for William John Bankes and finally erected in 1829. It is covered in scaffolding at the moment while the inscriptions dating to c. 116 BC are laser scanned.

The obelisk. the eastern of a pair which once stood in front of the temple of Isis on the Island of Philae dates to the late 2nd century BC. Sent to Kingston Lacy by William John Bankes. The Duke of Wellington laid its foundation in 1827 and it was finally erected in 1829. With the Rosetta Stone it helped solve the riddle of hieroglyphics as inscribed on it are Ancient Greek and  Egyptian versions of the same text. It is currently being laser scanned hence the scaffolding.

The obelisk. the eastern of a pair which once stood in front of the temple of Isis on the Island of Philae dates to the late 2nd century BC. Sent to Kingston Lacy by William John Bankes. The Duke of Wellington laid its foundation in 1827 and it was finally erected in 1829. With the Rosetta Stone it helped solve the riddle of hieroglyphics as inscribed on it are Ancient Greek and Egyptian versions of the same text. It is currently being laser scanned hence the scaffolding.

A cool strong gusty wind and our gazebo shelters rattled and shook while the information sheets to explain the shocking hole in the lawn were sent into the air and towards the house.

Bit windy our gazebo shelter were in danger of being swept away. Our maps and interpretation were regularly swept from the table and sent across the lawn

Bit windy our gazebo shelter were in danger of being swept away. Our maps and interpretation were regularly swept from the table and sent across the lawn

We gave up troweling and tackled the sand with mattocks. Very little in the top 100mm and then a layer sprinkled with black clinker and occasional fragments of brick.

Below the hard sandy topsoil was a similar sandy layer but with lots of black fragments of clinker in it.

Below the hard sandy topsoil was a similar sandy layer but with lots of black fragments of clinker in it.

We stopped and photographed it and went and had a cup of tea in the gardeners’ bothy. It was nearing the end of the day and a glimpse beneath the clinker had revealed more sand.

The black clinker layer

The black clinker layer

Is there anything there? Paul from Bournemouth Uni found us with his GPR plot. We sat round a bench and he explained that there was a buried surface reflecting back beneath the soil. Perhaps 250mm down.

We will press on tomorrow but our latest finds are micro flakes of worked flint together with chunks of burnt flint. There is a feeling that we have moved much further back in time than the 300 years we had expected but let’s see.

A Trench by the Obelisk Kingston Lacy South Lawn

Today we cleared scrub at Hambledon Hill, torrential rain followed by a calm settling beauty over Childe Okeford. The Dorset landscape radiating far out to the horizon.

Tomorrow we dig a small trench beside the Egyptian obelisk on the south lawn behind Kingston Lacy House. We’ll let you know what happens but in preparation you may wish to read… Up on the Roof and The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Of course it’s entirely up to you.

Paul let me know that the ground probing radar survey carried out in July seems to show any potential archaeology as shallow features.. so the dig may be quite disappointing. We will see.

The South Lawn looking north towards Kingston Lacy our trench will be on the left side of the central drive leading to the obelisk near the bottom of the picture

The South Lawn looking north towards Kingston Lacy our trench will be on the left side of the central drive leading to the obelisk near the bottom of the picture

Down Among the Tin Mines, Levant and Botallack

Back in June, Jim (Devon and Cornwall NT Archaeologist) took me to Levant. In August, I spent a week at St Just, the local tin mining capital, a little south-west from Botallack and Levant along the West Cornwall coast.

Botallack mine a little south-west along the coast towards St Just from Levant mine.

Botallack mine a little south-west along the coast towards St Just from Levant mine.

Approaching the town, the landscape is studded with ruined towers and engine houses. On the skyline, two particular buildings stand out from St Just. On the left is the parish church tower and on the right is a much larger stone warehouse like building. Some great storehouse for tin ore perhaps.. no its the Wesleyan Chapel.

Tin mining here dates back to the Bronze Age but what you see when walking the beautiful rocky coastline are warning signs for deep shafts, piles of overgrown rock and debris and engine houses, lots of 19th century engine houses. Advances in steam engine technology were pioneered here. The mining remains have World Heritage Site status.. but how did it work and who was involved? Why would you need so many chimneys?

An array of engine house chimneys. Taking steam engine exhaust from machines with various purposes. To drain or ventilate the mine, to bring ore to the surface or transport miners to and from the mine shafts, to crush the ore into powder or to heat the furnaces to remove the arsenic from the powdered ore.

An array of engine house chimneys. Taking steam engine exhaust from machines with various purposes. To drain or ventilate the mine, to bring ore to the surface or transport miners to and from the mine shafts, to crush the ore into powder or to heat the furnaces to remove the arsenic from the powdered ore.

At Levant, we looked out to sea and Jim said that the best tin and copper ore veins went out under the ocean and that’s where the mine shafts lead, hundreds of metres out below the Atlantic. Sometimes the mines strayed too close to the sea bed in search of ore, the roof weeped water and was patched with wood and cement. In 1893, the Rev Horsefield described how the sea was an audible presence in the miners’ lives “and so near the surface of the bed of the sea that the rolling of the boulders to and fro and the roaring of the waves are distinctly heard by them”

The mine shafts continue for over a mile out under the sea bed. An 1840 beam engine still operates in the engine house here at Levant.

The mine shafts continue for over a mile out under the sea bed. An 1840 beam engine still operates in the engine house here at Levant.

That’s why so many engine houses are perched above the cliffs. Engines to ventilate the mines, to pump out the water that seeped into the workings, to bring up the ore …and at Levant they had a man-engine that took the miners down to the workings. They’d change in the dry-room, walk down the tunnel, take a lump of clay from their alcove above the shaft and then fix a lighted candle with the clay to the helmet. Not an easy place to work.. it was hot in the bowels of the earth..sometimes they just wore boots and helmets.

The dry room, a large area laced with hot pipes where the miners would wash and change into dry clothes after a days work

The dry room, a large area laced with hot pipes where the miners would wash and change into dry clothes after a days work

I found Rev Horsefield’s book in the cottage I stayed in at St Just and he, a rector from Manchester, compared the Cornish miners with the coal miners of Lancashire. In contrast to many of the miners he’d known, he said that the Cornish miners were full of faith in God. They worshiped in the great Weslyan church of St Just and other chapels along the coast (the Botallack Sunday School building is huge) and they sang hymns on their way to work. ‘They sang in the mines’ said Jim. “Have you ever been down a Cornish mine”. “No I said”.. “The acoustics are wonderful”.

A more polite building to one side of the mine workings. The Botallack 'count house' short for accounts house or counting house. It was a more polite building where the management and administration of the mine took place. It was where the 'adventurers' or investors/shareholdes in the mine would meet.

A more polite building to one side of the mine workings. The Botallack ‘count house’ short for accounts house or counting house. It was a more polite building where the management and administration of the mine took place. It was where the ‘adventurers’ or investors/shareholdes in the mine would meet.

The Reverend goes through the whole process: the compressed air drill at the mine face, the transport of the ore to the summit. Gangs of men broke the rock into smaller pieces and it was taken to a crushing machine to smash into powder. The powder was taken by water into a furnace where intense heat burnt off the arsenic from the ore which was deposited on the walls as a white powder. This was scraped from the walls from time to time and sold as the first product. From the calciner the remaining ore was conveyed by water to a series of soup-plate like features or buddles where the heavy tin gradually settled out and was collected.. the second product. Beyond this, the remaining material, with the lighter copper, was carried by water to a tank filled with old iron. The copper collected on the iron and was scraped off for a third product. So not just tin mines… it begins to make sense of all the ruins, the pits and the towers..

The tunnel from the drying room to the 'man-engine that took the miners down to the work faces. On the right are rows of alcoves to hold clay and candles and other items needed for the mine or left behind by the miners for their return. This was the last walk from the surface for 31 men on 20th October 1919. A short time later the man-engine collapsed.

The tunnel from the drying room to the ‘man-engine that took the miners down to the work faces. On the right are rows of alcoves to hold clay and candles and other items needed for the mine or left behind by the miners for their return. This was the last walk from the surface for 31 men on 20th October 1919. A short time later the man-engine collapsed.

In 1919, less than a year after many miners returned from the horrors of the Great War trenches, the man-engine broke and the shaft bringing men up after a day’s work collapsed killing 31 of them.

These were dangerous places, abandoned shafts filled with water and were forgotten, sometimes new mine-shafts broke into them by mistake. This would release a tide of water which could drown the miners before they reached the ladders to escape. The Rev wrote of the 1893 Wheel Owles disaster near Botallack “As the torrent rushed into Wheal Owles it pushed the air before it, creating a great wind which blew out all the lights, plunging the terrified miners into absolute darkness. Those working on the upper levels narrowly escaped with their lives. Nineteen men and a boy were never seen again.Their remains are still entombed in the flooded workings.”
A meeting of 1000 miners took place at St Just demanding that the mine owners recover the bodies.. but it would cost £3000 and the mine was in financial difficulties.

Most of the Cornish tin workings closed in the later 19th century and the miners emigrated to find new opportunities in places like Canada and Australia. There are still many communities containing the descendants of exiled Cornish miners. A few years ago, we bumped into this global history at Greymouth on the west coast of South Island, New Zealand. A remote place, far from Cornwall, where tin miners had made a fresh life for themselves to quarry new veins of ore from under the sub-tropical bush.

Ding Dong, Levant and Wheal Jessie
Standing like bad broken teeth
in the jaw-bone of the Cornish land.

Are these the giants of the legends?

Singing in the man engine
Light song in the darkness and seeping damp
Songs of joy and youth in the open bath house

‘Old Hundred’chanting in the mist
and fog of the March dawn.
‘All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice’
Stump, stump of the engine’s heart beating.

Songs of glory and of joy,
Rushing up,up on the waves of heat,
From the rumbling intestines
of Earth’s great stomach (Scott Tutthill, ‘Song for Past Cornish Miners’)

Tin miners at Cook's Kitchen Mine 1893 during a lunch break 'croust'. Their light is produced by candles fixed to their helmets with lumps of damp clay. Miners would take advantage of the fine acoustics and sing hymns down the mines

Tin miners at Cook’s Kitchen Mine 1893 during a lunch break ‘croust’. Their light is produced by candles fixed to their helmets with lumps of damp clay. Miners would take advantage of the fine acoustics and sing hymns down the mines