Walking to Maryland…Brownsea

You can’t be late for meetings on Brownsea.

Brownsea the largest island in the middle of Poole Harbour, Dorset. I took this photo from a light aircraft in 96.

Brownsea the largest island in the middle of Poole Harbour, Dorset. I took this photo from a light aircraft in 96.

There may be a queue through Shaftesbury or perhaps roadworks at Wimborne but even if the drive through Dorset is smooth, Poole will trip you up. It’s a busy place.. and by the time your car is skirting the harbour to Sandbanks, the clock is ticking perilously close to sailing time.

Then there are all the builders’ vans carrying out the latest refits to the Sandbanks mansions. Getting a car space can be problematic..so as you run for the ferry you know you’ve missed it. Nothing more defeating than standing on the jetty with the wind in your face watching it disappear towards Brownsea Castle.. after a long tense journey.

The castle and quayside cottages, (most old coastguards accommodation). This is the east end where most people live these days. We're heading west to where most people used to live.

The castle and quayside cottages, (most old coastguards accommodation). This is the east end where most people live these days. We’re heading west to where most people used to live.

If you get there though..it’s another world. The Castle looms towards you as you approach by boat and underneath it all there is a 1540s Tudor fort. Since the 18th century, it has been owned by wealthy men who bent the building and island to their will..This is a mini-kingdom, once with all the trimmings, many now decayed and hidden in the woods.

Brownsea Church built in the 1850s as part of Colonel Waugh's great development of the island.

Brownsea Church built in the 1850s as part of Colonel Waugh’s great development of the island.

The residents live mainly in the east. Once past the castle and the old coastguard cottages you are crossing the green, the Victorian church on the right and the model farm buildings on the left. The oldest visible building remains lie within the farm buildings. If you know where to look, the stones of a medieval chapel and the thin bricks of a fort governor’s house can be found. Medieval bodies lie beneath the farm cottages.

Brownsea's 1850s model farm built over older structures within this range are remains of the medieval chapel and a 17th century castle governor's house.

Brownsea’s 1850s model farm built over older structures within this range are remains of the medieval chapel and a 17th century castle governor’s house.

If you made the 8.30 staff boat, then once past the farm buildings the Island is yours. A scene from Bambi with red squirrels and deer mixing with the peacocks and seagulls. They cross your path as you progress west.

The first stop is the beach to view what the sea has done to the brick kilns. Each winter the storms cut a new trench into the south shore cliff and take away another chunk of industrial archaeology. We cleaned and excavated a section along the cliffs here in 2005 drawing and photographing what we saw. Each year Gill and Alan monitor the cliffs and record new exposures.

Along the south shore are remains of industry washing from the cliff. This is the 18th-19th century Barnes brick  kiln used in the 18th-19th century but further west are 16th-17th century copperas works and brick kilns.

Along the south shore are remains of industry washing from the cliff. This is the 18th-19th century Barnes brick kiln used in the 18th-19th century but further west are 16th-17th century copperas works and brick kilns.

Brownsea’s industry has been episodic. Rich men wanting to get richer, investing money for a while and then abandoning the place when things didn’t work out. The evidence for their efforts lies in the cliff face. There has been brick and tile making here at least from the early 17th century. The cliff is striped with bright red, orange and black debris soils and heaps of burnt clay and brick and kiln waste spew onto the beach. There are pits with thin hand-made bricks but the most visible kilns are 18th-19th century.

The south shore is lovely and it was a great place to work but back past the Victorian dog kennels and the scout camp towards Maryland.

To the right, among the conifers, are deep hollows stamped into the ground with a ridge around their lip. Once, I saw dinosaur footprints like this in a Purbeck quarry but they were half a metre across. These are ten times the size and not caused by a massive sauropod trudging through the mud. In the 1940s, German bombers were tricked into dropping their load on the island by a ‘starfish’ mock-up of Poole, created with wires and cordite by Elstree film men.

The entrance to one of the cottages. The front  door lock lying beside the threshold.

The entrance to one of the cottages. The front door lock lying beside the threshold.

At last I arrive at the west end and start to walk among brick ruins. A crescent shaped terrace of houses was built beside the sea in the 1850s for Colonel Waugh who believed the Brownsea clays would make him rich. This was his pottery workers settlement which he named after his wife Mary. Each family had a garden out the back and there are still fruit trees and paths and edging tiles showing their plots.

Over 200 people once lived at Maryland. We have their memories and the census returns describe the families and lodgers who occupied this place. Each day the children would go to school at the east end. We uncovered the pub in 2007 and brought in cider to toast the place, re-occupying the Bentinck Arms 80 years on.

Reusing the place after 80 years.  A drink with the volunteer archaeologists at the Bentinck Arms, Maryland.

Reusing the place after 80 years. A drink with the volunteer archaeologists at the Bentinck Arms, Maryland.

It’s all very Enid Blyton and full of stories. Now a tranquil place but once full of family life and industry.

Object of the month – an archaeologists best friend

Having been on holiday and not quite back in the flow I decided that this object of the month could be an object from the present day.

A nearly new trowel

A nearly new trowel

It’s a trowel!  We are all told when we start digging to get a solid cast WHS 4 inch pointing trowel, no bigger and definitely not a round-nosed builders’ gauge trowel, or a garden trowel!

Other pointing trowels are often too thin and can slice bone when digging, or they are too bendy and if not solid cast they can snap when digging up stones or attacking a hard sun-baked layer.

The stages in the life of a trowel

The stages in the life of a trowel

Over the years they shrink as the metal is worn away, and eventually the old favourite trowel has to be replaced with a new one as it is just too small for most work. You can tell whether the archaeologist who used a particular trowel was right or left-handed or even ambidextrous, which most of us are, due to the shape of a trench with a section on the left and one on the right, unless you turn round!

A predominantly right handed digger

A predominantly right-handed digger

An ambidextrus digger

An ambidextrous digger

Archaeologists are very protective of their trowels, as they wear with you and become just right for your hand and digging technique. This often leads to carvings and other kinds of decoration to identify it if it gets mislaid, or ends up on the spoil heap by mistake! The project run by Barbara Bender and the University of London at Leskernick included anthropologists who looked at the temporary homes of the diggers and how they personalized them or not. I’m not sure if they looked at diggers’ trowels as well.  http://www.ucl.ac.uk/leskernick/articles.html

Diggers 'tag'

Diggers ‘tag’

Painted handle, very worn!

Painted handle, very worn!

Archaeologists in future will be able to tell quite a lot about a trowel that may have been left down a trench. At Caerwent we found the remains of a brush and hand shovel that an antiquarian had left behind many years earlier, sadly no trowel.

How would you decorate your trowel, you have to remember how it’s held so there are no lumps and bumps to rub your hand. 🙂

Object of the month – A lovely little fellow..

As we near another dig at Chedworth Villa, I thought I would make an object from there our object of the month 🙂

This little stone altar is one of a few found at the Villa and from sites nearby.

The figure on the alter holding a spear and sheild.

The figure on the altar holding a spear and shield

We like his spiky hair!

This little figure as a faint inscription at the top which seems to suggest he is Lenus Mars.  Simon Esmonde Cleary in his recently published History Press book on “Chedworth – life in a Roman villa” says that ‘Lenus was a native god from the Moselle valley in Germany where he seems to have had healing properties; his assimilation with the Roman god Mars suggests he also had warlike qualities – this identification with Roman gods is often the only way to know the name and character (or aspect of the character) of indigenous gods and goddesses.’

We are not sure why he was being worshipped at Chedworth and if he is who we think he is! Maybe a digital scan of the stone work may reveal more, wonder if we can persuade one of the Birmingham students, who’ll be digging with us, to do a little project on our altars?  Lots of tea and cake may work 🙂 off to the kitchen we go, watch this space 🙂

An artist’s perspective.

Today I spent some time on the dig site with Godolphin’s artist in residence Nicola Tilley. Nicola has been recording life on the archaeological site daily. She is capturing the orchard as a moment in time, and recording the site as it is before the trenches are filled in, and the landscape changes again.

Below are some of Nicola’s sketches from the site…

Josiah by Nicola Tilley

Josiah by Nicola Tilley

Chris by Nicola Tilley

Alex and Pam by Nicola Tilley

Alex and Pam by Nicola Tilley

Emma by Nicola Tilley

In trench D the pottery kiln is still being revealed, and many bricks and other kiln furniture have been discovered today. We are still thrilled to have uncovered so much in this trench, despite it being the newest artefact the archaeologist James has ever excavated!

Kiln furniture close to the chimney stack.

Kiln furniture close to the chimney stack.

Bricks and kiln furniture.

Bricks and kiln furniture.

Progress has also been made today on the Cider House ramp in trench F, although the ground around the ramp is full of roots, making excavation difficult. We hope to leave the ramp exposed, as when work begins on the Cider House conservation project, it will be useful to understand the original ground level, and the way the landscape has developed around the building.

Progress is made revealing the ramp.

Progress is made revealing the ramp.

Today the medieval Breage to Trescowe road has been uncovered in trench E. This is excellent news, as we understood the road would have covered this part of the orchard, however this is the first piece of evidence we have found on site to support it. Tracie is very pleased with this discovery…!

The medieval Breage to Trescowe road.

The medieval Breage to Trescowe road.

Other interesting finds on site today include a bucket handle, possibly from a bucket that would have held the cider apples, and a very impressive quartz crystal. Fingers crossed for lots more finds and some dry weather tomorrow!

The bucket handle.

The bucket handle.

Sandra with the lovely quartz crystal.

Sandra with the lovely quartz crystal.

Up On The Roof

We had a meeting at Kingston Lacy on Thursday. Sarah and Chris have just been appointed to create a conservation statement for Kingston Lacy park and garden. They wanted to get a good view, so Rob the House Steward took us up on the roof of the mansion.

The north side of Kingston Lacy House. Designed by Roger Pratt for Ralph Bankes in the 1660s. Revamped for Henry Bankes by Brettingham in the late 18th century and then done over again by Charles Barry for William John Bankes in the early 19th century.

The north side of Kingston Lacy House. Designed by Roger Pratt for Ralph Bankes in the 1660s. Revamped for Henry Bankes by Brettingham in the late 18th century and then done over again by Charles Barry for William John Bankes in the early 19th century.

We used the servants’ route via the back stairs, avoiding the billard room with its Egyptology collection and the library with its stunning array of 17th century Lely portraits. This includes one of Sir Ralph Bankes, who had the house built once Charles II became king (Parliament took the Bankes’ estates from them and had their old home Corfe Castle demolished because they backed Charles I in the Civil War).

Rob slid the roof door open and we climbed out into the sunshine and onto the flat lead roof. The park and gardens lay beneath us, bounded by a belt of trees and beyond it, on its hill, to the west was Badbury Rings hillfort.

We talked about the south lawn first. In the early 19th century, William John Bankes had brought back an Egyptian obelisk from his travels. He got his dad to put it up as the focal point of the lawn along with scupltures from Greece and Rome.

Kingston Lacy south lawn from the terrace showing the path to the centrally placed Egyptian obelisk from the Isle of Philae. James the curator has found letters from William John that indicate that he helped Champolion decipher the hyroglyphic writing that enabled the understanding of Ancient Egyptian history. The obelisk like the Rosetta   Stone has an inscription in more than one language.

Kingston Lacy south lawn from the terrace showing the path to the centrally placed Egyptian obelisk from the Isle of Philae. James the curator has found letters from William John that indicate that he helped Champollion decipher the hieroglyphic writing that enabled the understanding of Ancient Egyptian history. The obelisk like the Rosetta Stone has an inscription in more than one language.

It is so dry at the moment that traces of earlier gardens can be seen as parch marks emerging from the grass. These include some strange parallel rows of dry circles and also earlier paths and beds. Historic maps reveal how each generation has adapted and changed the park over time leaving elements of earlier schemes in place. Next week we will survey the south lawn.

William Woodward's 1774 map showing a very different design. On this map north is bottom right. Note the 'crow's foot' design of vistas flanked by trees leading to the old line of the Wimborne, Blandford road. This survives as an earthwork but the road is now further north because the Bankes had it moved to extend their park.

William Woodward’s 1774 map showing a very different design. On this map north is bottom right. Note the ‘crow’s foot’ design of vistas flanked by trees leading to the old line of the Wimborne, Blandford road. This survives as an earthwork but the road is now further north because the Bankes had it moved to extend their park.

Then we walked across the roof and looked directly north across the park where there had once been a grand avenue of trees shown on the 1742 map. Later, two diagonal avenues were planted to create vistas to the north-west and north-east. This was all a bit too formal and they were swept away by 1800. Chris and Sarah are starting by analysing the evidence of the surviving phases of tree plantings and how they relate to the earthworks on the ground.

The north view from the roof in 1990. Beyond the tent is the darker line of the wide central vista. On the right of this just above the tent is a chestnut tree and right of this is a circular earthwork, the footings of a classical temple folly. The tree was planted on a raised path running parallel with the drive.  Sarah thinks that in the 18th century visitors to the house  would approach along this path rather than spoil the prospect from the house by bringing their carriages along the central drive. The tree was planted to break up the straight line of the path when the less formal Capability Brown naturalised landscape park movement was in vogue. Left of the tent is a fallen tree blown over in the January 1990 storm. This revealed old Kingston Lacy in its roots.

The north view from the roof in 1990. Beyond the tent is the darker line of the wide central vista. On the right of this just above the tent is a chestnut tree and right of this is a circular earthwork, the footings of a classical temple folly. The tree was planted on a raised path running parallel with the drive. Sarah thinks that in the 18th century visitors to the house would approach along this path rather than spoil the prospect from the house by bringing their carriages along the central drive. The tree was planted to break up the straight line of the path when the less formal Capability Brown naturalised landscape park movement was in vogue. Left of the tent is a fallen tree blown over in the January 1990 storm that revealed old Kingston Lacy.

A 20m wide raised linear earthwork runs from the mansion house to the old road line and this preserves the line of the central avenue. When the soil was dumped here to create it, over 300 years ago, it lapped over the earthworks of something much older but that is another story.

Kingston Lacy park looking north. Egyptian obelisk bottom of the picture. The central drive lies immediately north of the house. The old north-west 18th century vista is preserved in the present access drive.

Kingston Lacy park looking north. Egyptian obelisk bottom of the picture. The central drive lies immediately north of the house. The old north-west 18th century vista is preserved in the present access drive.

Godolphin has launched the archaeology festival for NT in the SW. Kingston Lacy will get involved tomorrow and Tuesday. We’ll be setting up display and activity tents, geophyzzing the south lawn and plotting the parch marks and also giving guided tours of the remains of the original Kingston Lacy in the north park.

It would be great to see you there.DSCN3104

Object of the month – Oldest and smallest

A bit of a cheat this month as I am featuring two objects not one. They are both made from (broadly) the same material, flint and are both what we call prehistoric. They are the oldest and the smallest flint tools we have found while excavating sites on trust land in the Wessex Region or I should say ‘old’ Wessex region as we are now joined with Devon and Cornwall and are the South West region and I still haven’t seen everything from those two counties.

The oldest and the smallest

The oldest and the smallest (2cm Scale)

The oldest tool from the Upper Palaeolithic  (12000 to 40000  years old) was found in High Wood on the Kingston lacy Estate in Dorset, during an excavation of an enclosure in the woods. It has a beautiful patina on the surface and amber areas were the soil conditions have stained it. I remember finding it in the semi darkness under the trees in a yellowish orange clay. At the time all I knew was that it was a large flint  tool, but was not sure of its date. Phil Harding at Wessex Archaeology, ‘as seen on TV’ (Time Team fame) did the flint identifying and report on all the flint from the site and was very pleased to say it was a special find 🙂

Upper Palaeolithic Tool 12000 to 40000 years old

Upper Palaeolithic Tool 12000 to 40000 years old

He says ‘The importance of this object lies in its discovery. There is nothing of a similar age at the site to confirm occupation of the hill at this time although the presence of iron staining makes it likely that it represents a casual loss or was discarded at the site rather than a curio that was picked up by occupants of the later prehistoric/Romano-British enclosure. Traces of Upper Palaeolithic occupation are known from Dorset but they are nevertheless rare, and all discoveries, including individual pieces such as this, add to and confirm the distribution of human groups in this period.’  So someone left it on the hill all those years ago, I wonder what they saw as they looked out across the estate that was yet to be.

The second object is our smallest, a Portland chert (a type of flint) barb from the Mesolithic period (6000 to 10000 years ago) excavated at Thorncombe Beacon on the West Dorset coast, the site  would have been many miles inland in the Mesolithic period (coastal erosion has cut the cliff back to where it is today) It is so small and every side has been reworked. Small half-moon chips have been flaked from it to sharpen the sides, how did they hold it to do the work on it! Any flint knappers out there let me know.

Mesolithic Portland chert barb

Mesolithic Portland chert barb

It would have been hafted into a wooden rod along with others to make the barbs on an arrow shaft.

Our little barb was used last year by an artist Simon Ryder as part of the  Exlab Project http://exlab.org.uk/ he worked with Southampton University and produced a ‘pelt’ of the barb and a larger scale 3D print in resin.

Part of Simon Ryder Exlab exhibition featuring the mesolithic barb, the 'pelt'

Part of Simon Ryder Exlab exhibition featuring the Mesolithic barb, the ‘pelt’

The 3D print of the microlith barb, part of Simon Ryders exhibition

The 3D print of the microlith barb, part of Simon Ryder’s exhibition