It’s all in a name .. UPDATE

With some fresh eyes and a consensus of Mitchell ūüôā I found an Isaac Mitchell¬†on the 1841 and subsequent censuses¬†in Shapwick¬†(good work Carol you spotted him as well¬†)

Isaac (54 years old) is listed as a carpenter on all the census I looked at and on the 1851 one, which was clearer to read, he is married to a lady called Love (52 years old) and his son Dennis (23 years old) is also listed as a carpenter. It is interesting to see his mother-in-law,  called Hester Jefferies,  also lived with them  and is an amazing 95 years old!

All I want for Christmas……

It’s always exciting when¬†I am handed bags of finds from work done by archaeological contractors in and on our properties.

Box of delights

Box of delights

This week it was a few objects found by Ian, while doing a building survey, they were under the bedroom floor of a farmhouse in North Somerset. The main part of the house dates to the 18th century but it looks like it could go back  to the 16th or 17th centuries and was at times the home farm for a bigger estate.

I took out the bags and noticed it said wooden animal on all of them, so not the usual nails, fragments of wall paper, cigarette packets or chewed up paper from rat nests!

I took them out one by one, they were a bit nibbled but still recognizable as animals. But apart from the piggy they did not look like ordinary farm animals.

The wooden animals a pig, a Deer/Lama and a Sheep/?

The wooden animals a pig,  a Deer/Lama/?  and a long  legged Bear/?

I wondered if they could be from a¬†set of Noah’s Ark animals, I remembered seeing one at one of our properties, so I searched our collections database and found¬†quite a few images of very similar animals to the ones Ian found.

Wooden animal from the collection at Erddig, Wrexham

Wooden animal from the collection at Erddig, Wrexham

Wooden animals for Noah's Ark, from Felbrigg, Norfolk

Wooden animals for Noah’s Ark, from Felbrigg, Norfolk

Our animals have the remnants of paint on them so would probably have looked a little bit like the set below.

Wooden toy figures of Noah and his wife, and pairs of animals, next to the Ark, at Scotney Castle, Kent.

Wooden toy figures of Noah and his wife, and pairs of animals, next to the Ark, at Scotney Castle, Kent.

Close-up of the Pig showing evidence of paint

Close-up of the Pig showing evidence of paint

Close-up of the possible Bears head

Close-up of the possible Bears head

Probably more like this set from  Snowshill Manor

Close view of the wooden Noah's Ark with model animals made in the mid-C19th in the Black Forest area of Germany, collected by Charles Wade and displayed with other toys in Seventh Heaven, Snowshill Manor.

Close view of the wooden Noah’s Ark with model animals made in the mid-C19th in the Black Forest area of Germany, collected by Charles Wade and displayed with other toys in Seventh Heaven, Snowshill Manor.

So the¬†rest of ¬†the title would be¬†….. the rest of the Noah’s Ark animals, oh!¬†and an Ark to put them in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open the door

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 often get called in to check everyday repair work inside our great mansions, electric cabling, loose flagstones or finding where water is getting into the building. This kind of watching brief (monitor and record) gives us a chance to look beneath floorboards and behind paneling, it provides an opportunity to see how the buildings were put together and more importantly any changes done through time.

At Kingston Lacy wiring and ceiling checks are being done in some of the rooms with just a few floorboards being lifted. Having found scraps of  original wallpapers and notes left by previous workmen during work like this in the past we were called in to record anything we could see.

Floorboards lifted in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy

Floorboards lifted in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy

In the saloon we found that a lot of the material between the joists had been removed in the past with just a few wood shavings and the odd nail left behind. The most interesting areas were accessible via the doorway, with just enough room to dangle my camera into the void and between the joists. I set it to do 10 shots on the self timer setting and hoped for the best. This technique is a good way to see down and along voids, it had produced good results in the past at Chedworth roman villa when checking for hypocausts and wall alignments.

View along the hypocaust at Chedworth Villa in room 5b

View along the hypocaust at Chedworth Villa in room 5b

We were not disappointed an odd metal concertina like heating system, a large vaulted void, Pratt bricks from the original mansion, (now encased in stone) and an intriguing door mechanism.

The metal heating system on the left

The metal heating system on the left

A vaulted ceiling of a room below the Saloon at Kingston Lacy, the plaster can be seen oozing between the lathes

A vaulted ceiling of a room below the Saloon at Kingston Lacy, the plaster can be seen oozing between the lathes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two metal bars part of a cleaver mechanism

Two metal bars part of a cleaver mechanism

The Saloon is entered and connected to other rooms  by double doors, the lifting of the floor boards revealed how they opened exactly together, even when just pushing gently on only one door. This would help servants when carrying trays open the doors without putting the tray down or needing someone to help them, also when entering or exiting the room with swishing skirts ladies could move effortlessly through the doorways.

It works by using what look like bicycle chains and smooth cogs, a simple but effective mechanism.

The chain and smooth cog, with a metal rod up into the door

The chain and smooth cog, with a metal rod up into the door

There are more planned surveys to be done at Kingston Lacy in other rooms, I wonder what awaits to be found under the next floorboard………….

 

Hearth & Home 545 Kingston Lacy

Buildings archaeology tends to be less straightforward than dirt archaeology. Standing structures in 3D are not sealed beneath the ground. You have to work out whether the thing you are uncovering is an original piece of the building, in its right place, or part of an older building moved and recycled from somewhere else.

Fireplaces are good evidence. Usually the massive inglenook fireplace has been infilled by a nest of smaller and smaller fireplaces as fashions, usage and the technology of heating changed. These days it’s all the rage to open up and expose the original large fireplace again and this unseals evidence of the everyday lives of the families who lived there centuries before.

The centre of a building is the hearth. It’s where the warmth is. Where the meals are cooked. The 4500 year old Neolithic houses recently found at Durrington on the Stonehenge Estate had hearths at their centres.

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The dark circle in the middle of the white rectangle is the hearth in the centre of the 4500 year old house excavated at Durrington Walls in 2007

The ordinary medieval cottages at Kingston Lacy would have had open hearths with the smoke seeping out through the thatch, but by the 16th century some would have had two closely set roof trusses to catch the smoke and direct it out through a vent ( a smoke bay). By the early 17th century, when brick was becoming more common in Dorset, cottages were getting fireplaces.

People worked out various ways to use the heat from the fire to get various jobs done. When an inglenook is opened up there is usually more than a fireplace. There may be hooks to hang meat or other things on… A small alcove perhaps for keeping salt dry, perhaps the remains of a mechanism for turning a spit and very often a bread oven and if you’re lucky its iron door, complete with catch still in place.

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  • An oven built into a fireplace on the Killerton Estate, Devon. The detached iron door has been left in the oven

I had tea with an old couple in their cottage at Corfe Castle about 25 years ago. They still had their bread oven and told me how their parents burnt the gorse on Corfe Common to make ‘blackstock’ this was harvested by the tenants of the Corfe Castle Estate to burn in the bread ovens. When the oven ¬†was hot enough the ash was raked out and the bread could be baked.

Last week I went to 545 Abbot Street on the Kingston Lacy Estate. This was one of the last cottages on the Estate to be repaired up to modern standards. It has been a long process to find the money to repair all the hundreds of cottages across the Bankes Estates.

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545 Abbot Street before work started. The brick infill was probably originally wattle and daub traces of this survive inside.

It is an early 17th century timber framed building, originally infilled with wattle and daub but this was largely replaced with bricks  in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the centre of the building  is a large brick structure containing a massive infilled fireplace. When I first went there in 2014 there was a 20th century range built into the blocking.

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The infilled inglenook fireplace at 545 with the range inserted.

When I revisited, the original fireplace had been exposed. Not one but two brick bread ovens side by side but on the left another opening with a circular void continuing up to the first floor. At this level, the blocked entrance to the chamber could be seen cutting through the original wattle and daub screen infilling the roof truss there.

I’d only seen one other of these features at Kingston Lacy: a cottage at Tadden where the void turned out to by a curing chamber. This was a good way to preserve bacon by smoking it next to the fire. The meat was cut up into joints and hung on a rack from the first floor placed on a tray which would allow the smoke to circulate evenly. There are recipes for the smoke, burning ash or oak was usually favoured and perhaps a few juniper berries mixed with sawdust to improve the flavour.

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The surviving wattle and daub infill on the first floor  of 545 above the inglenook. Cut into the collar are two inserted posts for a door into the curing chamber which was later blocked.

But was it a curing chamber? It might have been for drying corn either for milling into flour or for seed corn for the next crop. Another possibility  is that it was used as  a kiln for drying barley as part of the malting process to create beer. All these processes have been found in fireplaces across the West Country. Tony is making the archaeological record as the building is repaired and he will hopefully find the evidence that will give us the answer.

So the family living here in the 17th and 18th centuries were small-scale farmers and these tenants would have grown cereals in the open fields and kept livestock in the paddocks around the cottage. It is described as ‘house garden yards and orchard’ on the estate map of 1774 but at that time the land belonged to Sir William Hanham. The Bankes family bought it a few years later. The small farms were uneconomic and during the 18th-19th centuries they were absorbed into larger farms and the multipurpose fireplaces gradually went out of use..

I hope the new National Trust tenants enjoy their new home. They probably won’t be smoking bacon though.

 

 

 

 

 

Time Vault Town House, Corfe

Back in the 80s and 90s, soon after the Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle Estates were first given to the National Trust, many discoveries were made as its ancient buildings were repaired.

One day in 1990, sitting at my desk at the Kingston Lacy Estate Office, the phone rang. ‘Could you come to Corfe Castle please’ we’ve found a vault. The builders working at the Town House had disturbed a flagstone in the entrance passage and it had fallen into a hole.

330 Nov90 010 The picture was taken in 1990 from the Outer Gatehouse, Corfe Castle. Dorset in front of the church in the centre of the photo is the Town House. The door below the large window leads to the entrance passage.

When I arrived, the builders were clustered around the small hole in the floor and had let a ladder down. They shone a torch into the space and the beam reflected from a stone lined cellar. Its floor had a jagged uneven surface and the beam glittered off reflective surfaces.

I climbed down and they passed me my camera and drawing board.

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They lowered down a light bulb to illuminate a space with a vaulted roof 2.5m deep about 1.5m wide by 3m long. I stood on the bottom rung of the step and looked at a floor covered in pottery and glass bottles.

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We recorded them where they had been left and then asked Jo the pottery specialist to date them. Verwood earthenwares, blue and white fine glazed Chinese imitation wares all dating from the late 18th century. They had been hidden in the dark for over 200 years.

 

 

Uvedales, Corfe Castle from Town House to Poor House

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Old stone towns have ancient houses. This is certainly true of Corfe village in Dorset. A picturesque place dominated by the craggy ruins of Corfe Castle.

Much of Corfe belonged to the Bankes family who gave it to the National Trust in 82.. including Uvedales House. As you enter East Street and cross the bridge by Boar Mill you would be forgiven for missing it. There are far more dramatic views to be enjoyed by looking up to the castle.. and Uvedales is beside a busy road and next to the disused public lavatories.

Uvedales House on East Street, Corfe Castle. The large windows have the letters IV and HV carved into the stone on either side. Henry Uvedale.

Uvedales House on East Street, Corfe Castle. The large windows have the letters IV and HV carved into the stone on either side. Henry Uvedale.

Cross the road and look on either side of the two big windows. On the first floor are the letters H on the left and V on the right and on the ground floor I and V.

Back in 1774, the historian John Hutchins described painted glass windows which once told what these letters stood for.. but the windows have long gone. They included the coat of arms of local landowners the Uvedale family and the arms of the ancient borough of Corfe. John Uvedale was mayor of Corfe in 1582 and Henry became a churchwarden.

Many people have lived in the house since then. Its walls contain diverse stories and have been altered infilled and repaired over the centuries. The building is having a 21st century conservation refurbishment at the moment and needs a buildings archaeologist to record what is revealed as it is opened up.

Buildings archaeology is a specialised skill. Clues within walls, within roof structures under floorboards and beneath the ground as new service pipes and drains are laid.

Buildings like Uvedales have been repaired and adapted over 100s of years. Here a modern fireplace in the east sitting room of the central ancient Uvedales stack is only the latest in a nest of fireplaces which, like Russian dolls, have filled up the space within the the original inglenook.It can be seen emerging from under the wallpaper.

Buildings like Uvedales have been repaired and adapted over 100s of years. Here a modern fireplace in the east sitting room of the central ancient Uvedales stack is only the latest in a nest of fireplaces which, like Russian dolls, have filled up the space within the the original inglenook.It can be seen emerging from under the wallpaper.

I met Bob there a few days ago.. to walk round the house with him and to find out what he has discovered as earlier phases of Uvedales have been revealed beneath layers of wallpaper and modern additions.

What do you trust? Is that 17th century doorway where it began or has it been shifted from somewhere else. Read the clues. It’s not like buried dirt archaeology, the evidence is not sealed but chunks of building can be moved and reused.

The oldest parts of the house lie in the central stack with large inglenook fireplaces on the east and west sides. The west side is the most interesting. Underneath the modern layers was found a fine stone fireplace, probably earlier 17th century, but this had been inserted through an earlier fireplace. The later fireplace may have been salvaged from Corfe Castle following its capture and demolition by the Parliamentarians in 1646. Dendro analysis of part of the roof dated it to the 1650s. This evidence demonstrates extensive repairs to the house following the Civil War. Much needed, the village had been badly beaten up during the two sieges of the Castle in 1643 and 1645-6.

On the west side of the stack another fireplace which has been opened up to reveal a 17th century fireplace cutting through an earlier (probably 16th century stone fireplace). Removing the wallpaper and plaster has revealed a bread oven on its left side and a blocked doorway and buried flight of steps to the first floor.

On the west side of the stack another fireplace which has been opened up to reveal a 17th century fireplace cutting through an earlier (probably 16th century stone fireplace). Removing the wallpaper and plaster has revealed a bread oven on its left side and a blocked doorway and buried flight of steps to the first floor.

In the 17th century, Uvedales House became the property of the Okeden family and by 1732 it was known as the ‘Kings Arms’. The Bankes family archive includes records of licence agreements. These list the alehouses allowed to trade in Corfe Castle. There is a detailed map of the town drawn by Archer Roberts and dated 1769. It shows the ‘Kings Arms’ and by this time it is owned by John Bankes.

The peeling of wallpaper uncovered a bread oven opening and left of this a blocked door and beyond a flight of stairs(very Enid Blyton) The steps had been covered in building rubble and as they were exposed, the wear marks of numerous feet on the timber treads could be seen. This change of stairway layout probably took place when, in 1796, Mr Bankes agreed to convert the building to a Poor House.

In that year, the overseers of Corfe’s poor agreed to take Mr Bankes’s house’and put as many poor in it as could comfortably be lodged’ the whole place was divided up into accommodation units and there are still little fireplaces inserted throughout the building and steep narrow flights of stairs.

On the second floor, the spaces beween the joists were found to be filled with sand. Insulation? sound proofing? It had been there for at least 150 years it seems because the latest coin found in the sand was 1838.

On the second floor, the spaces beween the joists were found to be filled with sand. Insulation? sound proofing? It had been there for at least 150 years it seems because the latest coin found in the sand was 1838.

Up on the 2nd floor, I met the builders repairing the joists and cleaning out the sand between them. Strange to find sand there but perhaps it was for insulation or sound proofing. Whatever.. the excavation became interesting work because coins kept turning up. It seems that over the years, various occupants had lost loose change between the cracks in the floorboards. The earliest was a florin of Charles II (1660s-80s) and the latest a penny of William IV (1838).

The coins sifted from the sand dated from late 17th to early 19th but mostly George III.

The coins sifted from the sand dated from late 17th to early 19th but mostly George III.

The 19th century census returns show Uvedales packed with labourers and men on low wages who were employed to cut clay on the heathland between Corfe and Wareham (great clay…it got shipped up to Staffordshire for Wedgewood’s potteries). By the 1850s, East Street was known as Poor Street. Quite a come down for the wealthy Tudor Uvedales’ family home.

Over the years the tenements were merged and became larger… and now the house is being rearranged again for its new 21st century occupants.

Battleships at Lodge Farm

This is quite a retro post. One of my first jobs with NT.

Lodge Farm with most of the lime render that once covered it removed. Easy to understand that it could be mistaken for an 18th century cottage but the thick walls and the gothic window tracery were clues to its early history once they were revealed.

Lodge Farm with most of lime render. Easy to understand that it could be mistaken for an 18th century cottage but the thick walls and the gothic window tracery were clues to its early history once they were revealed.

While I worked at Lodge Farm, songs like ‘Thorn in my Side’ were blasting from the builders’ radios and as I measured roof trusses in the attic, drifting up from the living room, the sound of Stephen’s guitar ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.

The medieval roof was open to the hall below in the 15th century but in the Tudor period a floor was inserted. The roof timbers were later hidden by layers of lath and plaster and reed. Behind this we found a 17th century spur, musket shot and a leather purse.

The medieval roof was open to the hall below in the 15th century but in the Tudor period a floor was inserted. The roof timbers were later hidden by layers of lath and plaster and reed. Behind this we found a 17th century spur, musket shot and a leather purse.

Lodge Farm happened while I worked on the Kingston Lacy Estate in SE Dorset. I was asked to be the archaeologist who recorded the building while it was refurbished. It was a luxury. I had the summer from May to September to photograph and draw it and to then excavate where the architect and structural engineer required me to dig.

The original oak floor walked on by the medieval occupant of the lodge, the head forester and park keeper of Kingston Lacy (John Oak and later Henry Warren). This survived beneath an 18th century brick floor. The wood grain pattern shows that the boards were cut from the same tree dendro-dated to c.1420

The original oak floor walked on by the medieval occupant of the lodge, the head forester and park keeper of Kingston Lacy survived beneath the brick floor . The wood grain pattern shows that the boards were cut from the same tree dendro-dated to c.1420

Stephen had answered an advert placed by the land agent of the Bankes Estate. An 18th century cottage needed a tenant. It was quite isolated, half-way between Kingston Lacy House and Badbury Rings hillfort.. but he took it on. He soon noticed that the walls were very thick and of stone. He looked in a cupboard and found a very ornate arched window head. He started to think the place was much older. It was in a bad way though. There were deep cracks in the walls and when he went upstairs the curious brick floor had caved in. Then the National Trust was bequeathed the Estate by Mr Bankes and they took on the responsibility.

Stephen stands by the 18th century doorway cut through a medieval window.  The severe cracking in the wall to his left was the reason the building was underpinned.  The doorway in the centre of the picture once gave access to a room known as a garderobe (latrine).

Stephen stands by the 18th century doorway cut through a medieval window. The severe cracking in the wall to his left was the reason the building was underpinned. The doorway in the centre of the picture once gave access to a room known as a garderobe (latrine).


By 1986, NT had drawn up a plan to repair the building but it would require the walls to be underpinned because the foundations had apparently failed. After drawing the roof timbers and floors, I went outside and hand excavated the underpinning trenches.

The structural engineer stated that each trench should not be more than 1.2m long and no closer than 3m to the next. Once each trench had been dug, the foundations were reinforced with concrete. I gave each trench a letter in alphabetical order and assigned layer numbers to each.

Our first trench hit chalk natural at about 0.3m

Our first trench hit chalk natural at about 0.3m

This turned into a game of battleships to find the archaeology. Trench A at the south-west corner of the building..natural chalk bedrock at 0.3m. Trench B at the south-east corner..chalk bedrock at 0.25m…yawn. Trench C centre of the south wall chalk bedrock….where was it? Below the Victorian stuff, a fragment of Tudor pottery and below this clay tile and then a fragment of stone mortaria.. then a few oyster shells and something that looked like medieval cooking pot. Chalk was reached at 1.8m, at the curving base of a deep wide ditch.

The deer park ditch filling contained evidence of an earlier hunting lodge that was demolished in the 15th century.  Here is one of the fallow deer antlers that demonstrated Lodge Farm's link with the medieval deer park. There are also fragments of medieval cooking pot and clay roof tiles visible.

The deer park ditch filling contained evidence of an earlier hunting lodge that was demolished in the 15th century. Here is one of the fallow deer antlers that demonstrated Lodge Farm’s link with the medieval deer park. There are also fragments of medieval cooking pot and clay roof tiles visible.

The archaeology showed why Lodge Farm was collapsing. 600 years ago it was built on Kingston Lacy’s deer park ditch 3m wide and 1.5m deep, it ran under the south wall, turned in the centre of the building where we found a post-hole for the park gate and then out under the north-west corner of the building. The north side had a number of fallow deer antlers in and also rabbit bones along with ferrets used by the medieval warreners to flush them from their burrows.

This underpinning trench coincided with the centre of the deer park ditch and was almost 2m deep.

This underpinning trench coincided with the centre of the deer park ditch and was almost 2m deep.

In another trench we found some flinty pottery that looked a lot earlier. There were post-holes, ditches and a deep pit. The Lodge wasn’t the first use of the site. 2,500 years ago there had been Iron Age farmers here.

After the digging I wanted to know more. I took a trip to Dorchester and met Sarah the archivist. Mr Bankes had given all his family records to the National Trust and these included medieval accounts rolls for Kingston Lacy. They are on parchment, in a hard to read short-hand and in medieval latin. I had no chance of understanding them but Sarah had the skill. As she unrolled the first yellow document and weighted it down she said ‘they’re usually just summaries. It’s highly unlikely that any of them will refer to a single building’.

This was the account for the year from Michaelmas 1422-23. After a while she paused and read to me ‘the expenses of the park and warren of Badbury’ ..repairs to the park pale…. straw purchased to feed the deer in winter this year…underwood cut within the park…and on payment of 6d to William Hellier for two days work roofing the Lodge and …on the cost of two keys purchased, one for the park gate and for the door of the lodge there.

It’s good when fragments of history and archaeology merge and blend.

She rolled down the scroll a little further ‘and on the expenses of the repair of the manorial buildings of Kingston Lacy’….