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

Into the West: Cornwall

Cornwall is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

A Neolithic dolmen above New Town in west Cornwall with the familiar outline of a 19th century tin mine engine house behind.

A Neolithic dolmen above New Town in west Cornwall with the familiar outline of a 19th century tin mine engine house behind.

As a soft easterner and Wessex archaeologist now united with Devon and Cornwall, it was time to travel to the uttermost west and find out something about it. This is based on two days last week looking with a stranger’s archaeological eyes on a new world.

The view from Cotehele, of the dovecote and the woodland garden that leads down to the River Tamar.

The view from Cotehele, of the dovecote and the woodland garden that leads down to the River Tamar.

When I started with the National Trust, I asked Tony, the old experienced curator, “which is your favorite property?” “Cotehele!” he said without blinking an eye and so it went on my list of places to visit.

We eventually got there, wound our way round Plymouth, crossed the Tamar and threaded our way along narrow roads. A medieval fortified manor house revamped in the Tudor period. A beautiful setting above the border river between Devon and Cornwall.

Cotehele medieval manor house. Cotehele river front lies below the steep slope of the wooded gardens to the right.

Cotehele medieval manor house. Cotehele river front lies below the steep slope of the wooded gardens to the right.

My 1977 guide book (which I dusted down.. found on the shelves of my home office Eastleigh Court… amongst others that had washed up there over the decades) summed up medieval Cotehele “in the south-west peninsula the landed classes still lived lives of semi-barbarity”. Not very PC but I guess stuff took time to get there. The Romans didn’t leave much of an impact and the Anglo-Saxons barely registered.

The place-names are different…very celtic.

Apparently there was a feud between the Cotehele Edgecombes and the Willoughby’s of Bere Ferrers across the river and his henchmen attacked Cotehele and in 1483 Richard Edgcumbe escaped his pursuers by putting a stone in his cap and throwing it in the river. Seeing the cap sinking they rode on thinking he had desperately drowned himself rather than be captured.

So Cornwall was a bit wild west but also very industrial. The mining industry here has World Heritage Site status. The craggy rocks are full of precious things. Cotehele had copper and arsenic mines and down at the water front beside the Tamar, we found mills and kilns where rock was burnt to create lime used for mortar and improve the quality of the local acid soils.

Map of Cornwall and the Godolphin Estate

Map of Cornwall and the Godolphin Estate

We headed further west to Godolphin. The family here made their money out of tin mining and the medieval house was upgraded in the 17th but there are many different phases to the house. One wing stops short as though the money ran out and the grand design was never completed. The guides in the King’s Hall told us about the house and the Godolphin family…there was so much more to be discovered. The Trust have not owned the house for long.

The various phases of Godolphin House. The Neo-classical house is unfinished,

The various phases of Godolphin House. The Neo-classical house is unfinished,

Cornwall is famous for its wild coasts so we went to Godrevy near Redruth. Here, excavations had found an Iron Age and Romano-British farmstead beneath the remains of the small medieval manor. No villas here though. The odd sherd of samian pottery but the native ’rounds’ continued into the Roman period.

Godrevy, a disused  stone-edged field boundary bank eroded by a footpath and cut away at the cliff edge.

Godrevy, a disused stone-edged field boundary bank eroded by a footpath and cut away at the cliff edge.

The field systems retain elements of their prehistoric form, small and irregular earth banks faced with stone. We found one eroded and cut by the sea cliff. This is a land of Neolithic dolmens and subterranean Iron Age fogous. I have much to learn. Even the WWII pill boxes were of igneous rock rather than my familiar brick and concrete.

Stone WWII pillbox guarding Godrevy beach.

Stone WWII pillbox guarding Godrevy beach.

I got back on the A30, drove across Bodmin and Dartmoor to reach the rolling chalklands of home.

I Dig Godolphin comes to an end.

I’m very sad to say that this will be the last update on I Dig Godolphin, as the dig has now come to an end. We’ve had a great time at the property over the past two weeks, we’ve answered a lot of questions about Godolphin, and also created many new ones!

Here’s an update on the final day’s digging, and some possible answers to the many questions we have about Godolphin…

We now know that a road exists between the earthwork bank and the side gardens, and this could be the medieval Breage-Trescowe/Vanes Lane road.

Louisa does a final clean of the medieval trackway.

Louisa does a final clean of the medieval trackway.

The bank which runs along the orchard, from the Cider House to the side garden wall seals an original land surface, and is probably 16th century in date. This forms part of an outer enclosure, perhaps dividing the orchard into ornamental (west) and more wild-looking (east) planting. The ornamental planting would have been closer to the house, to create a formal orchard on this side.

Unfortunately we didn’t find structural evidence of an earlier Cider House, but it’s clear that the ramp is made (at least in part) of good quality dressed granite, possibly derived from the earlier building.

The fully cleaned Cider House ramp, which we hpoe to keep uncovered for visitors to see.

The fully cleaned Cider House ramp, which we hope to keep uncovered for visitors to see.

The medieval drainage gully was also given a final clean, ready for recording…

The survey equipment.

The survey equipment.

Final dig of the medieval drainage gully.

Final dig of the medieval drainage gully.

 The Mike Dodd/Peter Schofield kiln in trench D was a much more complex structure than originally thought, and highlighted an interesting point in archaeological interpretation: despite photos, memories and written accounts of events only 40 years ago, the scant remains of the kiln made it difficult to understand. It’s interesting to think that archaeologists then make assumptions about the use of the earthwork bank from a few sherds of Late Medieval pottery!

The orchard area has been cultivated since the earliest phases of Godolphin, with pottery from the 14th-16th centuries represented in high numbers, incorporated into the soils by manuring from the house and farm. Later material was less prolific, although industrial material from the 19th century had been dumped in the area to the south of the Cider House (mining kibble handle and chain, boiler waste (slag) and stone).

Although there was no direct evidence, the flint scraper from trench B (probably Bronze Age circa 1500 BC) and fragment of well-worn prehistoric pottery found in trench E, support the idea for prehistoric origins at Godolphin. This could be associated with activity on Godolphin Hill.

The last two weeks at Godolphin have been fascinating, and as you can see, we have discovered lots of interesting and unexpected finds. After cleaning and processing all the finds, they will be kept here at Godolphin, and some pieces will be added to our archaeological handling collection for visitors to enjoy. On behalf of the Godolphin team, and our visitors, I’d like to say a big thank you to the archaeologists, both staff and volunteers, for all their hard work on site.

A helping hand from Smeggle the dog.

A helping hand from Smeggle the dog.

James the archaeologist hard at work.

James the archaeologist hard at work.

The final day's team. Sadly this picture is missing many other volunteers who have also worked so hard over the past two weeks.

The final day’s team. Sadly this picture is missing many other volunteers who have also worked so hard over the past two weeks.

The penultimate day’s digging

The dig site at Godolphin was a hive of activity today, as the archaeologists began a final clean of all the trenches, before beginning to draw (cross)sections and use surveying equipment to record the trenches and finds.

More of the medieval road was revealed today…

The road is revealed.

The road is revealed.

…and a section was cut further in to it, to test the depth of the road.

Testing the depth of the road.

Testing the depth of the road.

Both trenches D and F look great after a final clean today. Trench D shows the full extent of the remains of the Cider House pottery kiln, while trench F contains the remains of the Cider House ramp.

Volunteer Barbara does a final clean of the ramp in trench F.

Volunteer Barbara does a final clean of the ramp in trench F.

 

The kiln volunteers do a final clean up too.

The kiln volunteers do a final clean up too.

To save the best until last, today trench D provided us with a wealth of Peter Schofield/Mike Dodd pottery. Some pieces are almost entirely intact, with only minor chips, while others are unfortunately more broken. This was such an exciting find for us today, as the volume of pottery means that we can use some objects as part of our handling collection, to help us tell the story of Godolphin and the families that lived here. What a great find, well done Alex!

Alex finds a significant dump of pottery.

Alex finds a significant dump of pottery.

The big kiln clean up.

I’m afraid today’s post is an update from yesterday at I Dig Godolphin, and another post on today’s finds will follow later on. Two for the price of one! So first for yesterday’s update…

Our volunteer Louisa has started digging a ‘feature’ in trench B. This looks like a ditch that runs beneath the Late Medieval soil. This can only be seen as a slight difference in the colour of the soil, and shows how subtle some archaeology can be- it’s not always hunting for treasure!

Louisa excavates a ditch below the late medieval topsoil.

Louisa excavates a ditch below the late medieval topsoil.

A big clean up of the kiln has started in trench D, ready for being photographed and a survey today. We will then have to think about how we preserve the kiln under the soil, before trench is refilled next week.

The fully excavated kiln site.

The fully excavated kiln site.

Volunteers Keith and Graham carried on revealing the Cider House ramp yesterday. We have discovered late medieval tile and 19th century china/ironwork here!

Cleaning the ramp.

Cleaning the ramp.

It appears that our volunteers may have found the edge of the medieval Breage-Trescowe road in trench E, so almost the entire width is now visible.

Volunteers get to the edge of the medieval road.

Volunteers get to the edge of the medieval road.

To finish today’s blog we have a great action shot of our volunteer Chris swinging a mattock!

Chris swings a mattock.

Chris swings a mattock.

Fame for the kibble handle!

Today we welcomed Chris, another new volunteer to the dig site. He got stuck in to trench A… with a Cornish shovel!

New volunteer Chris in trench A.

New volunteer Chris in trench A.

In trench B, we have now discovered a faint brown line in the clay, running the length of the trench. This could be a ditch cut into the natural (subsoil). Can you spot the archaeology in the photo below?

Spot the archaeology.

Spot the archaeology.

I’ll give you a clue, it’s on the right hand side of the photo. Our volunteer Louisa is going to investigate more of this tomorrow.

More progress has been made on the Breage-Trescowe track, and it has been a great talking point with visitors today.

The medieval track emerges.

The medieval track emerges.

Trench D has provided yet more pottery, as today the pottery dump was discovered. This contained a wealth of broken pottery and test pieces, which we will now wash, pack and record for the archive. Hopefully some of these pieces will then be added to our handling collection, currently on display in Godolphin’s King’s Room.

The kiln boys reveal a pottery dump.

The kiln boys reveal a pottery dump.

After some excellent research by our volunteers and archaeologist, it has been made apparent that yesterday’s bucket handle find, is not a bucket handle at all. It is the handle from a kibble – the bucket used to bring tin and copper up from mines. Later our volunteer Keith found the accompanying chain.

Fame for the kibble handle, as a local paper visits to photograph the progress on the site.

Fame for the kibble handle, as a local paper visits to photograph progress on the site.

Today the kibble was photographed as one of our interesting finds for a newspaper article. Look out for Godolphin in next week’s The Cornishman!

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.

Ready, steady, dig!

It’s been a very productive day on site, with both the archaeological dig and our family activities… so apologies for the very late post (a couple of hours later and it would be tomorrow!).

Cathy has sadly decided to leave the dig, as she will be returning to Canada. It’s been great working with her here at Godolphin, and we thank her for all her interesting finds- some of which are still a mystery!

The newly opened trench F is beginning to reveal the original Cider House ramp, as well as some other hard standing which would have been created to stop the carts sinking in to the softer ground of the orchard. We will be extending this trench further, in the hope of picking up some of the footprint of the original building (which we did not find in trench C at the rear of the building).

Beginning to reveal the Cider House ramp in trench F

Beginning to reveal the Cider House ramp in trench F

Trench A has been cleared, ready to draw the (cross)section tomorrow, and the bank also appears to seal a late medieval soil.

Volunteers disappear in to trench A!

Volunteers disappear in to trench A!

The late medieval layer seen in trench B.

The late medieval layer seen in trench B.

In trench E the digging continues, to search for evidence of the possible medieval Trescowe-Breage road.

The pottery in trench D has produced a Mike Dodd/Peter Schofield egg cup on the site of what we now know to be the Japanese climbing kiln.This was inspired by Bernard Leach’s 1920 Shoji Hamada kiln.

You may be wondering what the title of this post has to do with any of today’s news. Well, in trench D, the competitiveness has kicked in for the kiln digging race…

Timing the kiln digging race.

Timing the kiln digging race.

… or is one of our volunteers waiting for the next tea break?!

Week two and more discoveries at Godolphin!

The archaeologists are back on site for the second week of ‘I Dig Godolphin’, and we’ve had another successful day.
Cathy couldn’t stay away, and has decided to spend more time digging at Godolphin, rather than returning to Canada. We’re happy she decided to come back, as she uncovered another interesting find on site today! 

Cathy's iron object causes a lot of interest on site.

Cathy’s iron object causes a lot of interest on site.

Cathy's find.

Cathy’s find.

Our archaeologists think that this may be an iron masonry tie.

Dave, a kiln expert, visited the site today to help us identify the type of kiln we have uncovered in trench D. Dave has been dismantling a kiln in Lelant, and told us that Mike Dodd and Peter Schofield’s kiln was built in the style of a Japanese climbing kiln. This enabled the heat to be directed up and down on to the pots, and each individual chamber could benefit from controlled heat, ensuring the best firing for each style of pot.

Volunteers uncover more of the kiln in trench D.

Volunteers uncover more of the kiln in trench D.

Sandra has been washing pottery from the 1970's kiln.

Sandra has been washing pottery from the 1970’s kiln.

Trench A is getting deeper, and we have now uncovered a layer of medieval pottery. This will enable us to date the movement of the soil above, and hopefully point us towards a conclusion on the ridge in the middle of the orchard.

Digging deep in trench A.

Digging deep in trench A.

In other news, as well as the 19th century rum bottle, Trench E has produced what appears to be part of a 17th or 18th century decanter,  and some 15th/16th century pottery. Today we also saw the opening of trench F. This picks up the ramp leading up to the Cider House, and we hope to uncover more finds when we reach the base.

It’s been a very long day on the dig, in the drizzly rain- fingers crossed for a little more sun tomorrow!

A well deserved break…

It’s been a quiet day on the dig site today, as our archaeologists are having a well deserved break. They’ll be resuming their digging on Monday, so we will hopefully have more finds to update you on then!I thought it might be a good time to look back at some other photos from the week, which have not yet been published…

A rum bottle is found in trench E

A rum bottle is found in trench E

Find of the day

Find of the day

Cathy finds a lead musket ball

Cathy finds a lead musket ball

Godolphin's artist in residence Nicky is working hard on site

Godolphin’s artist in residence Nicky is working hard on site

This weekend, it’s all about the children’s activities. We have mosaic making, brass rubbing and the chance to hunt for some finds. Godolphin’s Visitor Services Officer had a great time making a mosaic today…

Siobhan makes a mosaic

Siobhan makes a mosaic

IMG_4346

So why not come along to Godolphin this weekend and get hands on with some archaeology?