Throw back Thursday – Industrial beauty

We thought we would do a few ‘throw back Thursdays’ and re visit a few of our past posts from a few years ago for new followers, this one is from 2015 about one of our smaller properties, a hidden gem.

The forge

The forge

I started my digging life on an industrial site near Barnsley in Yorkshire, and my relatives worked in the mills and mines of West Yorkshire, so I have a soft spot for industrial sites from the past.

A while ago I visited one of our small industrial gems in Devon. I had some leather drive-belts to drop off for them to use from a large collection we acquired in order to get the  right sizes for some for our grist (corn and grain) mills.

leather drive belts of all sizes waiting for new homes

Leather drive-belts of all sizes waiting for new homes

The property was Finch Foundry near Okehampton, the last working water-powered forge in England. There are three water wheels powering hammers, shears and blade sharpening stones. This set up lead to the foundry becoming one of the South West’s most successful edge tool factories which, at its peak, produced around 400 edge tools a day, of many designs and types.

One of the waterwheels can be seen through the opening in the wall on the left

One of the waterwheels can be seen through the opening in the wall on the left

When you visit you are met by the smells and the noises of the machines, a taste of what it may have been like to work in this forge. But it is only part of the noise that would have been made, as not all the hammers, shears and grinders are in use during your visit!

Some of the workers and owners of the forge

Some of the workers and the owner of the forge

One of the water powered hammers

The water-powered hammers on the right and large shears on the left

There is also a carpenters’ shed at the forge. As the business grew Finch Bros expanded into providing carts, gates and even coffins. At the property you can see the  large variety of edge tools made at the foundry, along with a display of tools used by the wheelwrights and carpenters and learn about the Finch family. I recommend calling in if you have a spare hour, its not far from the A30, and there is a lovely garden and of course there is tea and cake 🙂

I hope this short video will give a flavour of the site, with all its squeaks, quacks, whooshes and clacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cotswold Way 1: Chipping Campden – Stanton (Snowshill)

We had walked all day…beginning at 8am on the wrong side of the M4. Kate told us 5pm was the deadline to complete the walk. She needed the train to London.

Now, weaving through the smart, city-busy shoppers and tourists, our goal seemed unlikely to achieve. Then, the Royal Crescent and Circus were behind us. We headed for the Pump Room and Baths …it might be possible. As we approached the Abbey Tower the mechanism was whirring. ‘Come on Kate!’ I touched the stone as it struck one, Emma at two. Kate pulled a face.. paused… and touched on the stroke of 5.

Walking the Cotswold Way has been an ambition for some years now. Long distance walks have been a hobby since the 80s. The beginning was the Pennine Way ..which is raw, bleak and wonderful….but the peat bogs, the peat bogs.

The Cotswold Way is extraordinary in a different way and very beautiful, particularly in May, so, as a significant birthday approached, I persuaded my daughters to accompany me and took the train to Honeybourne.

The route of the CW is a like a string that ties a series of National Trust properties together.. many have not previously featured in this blog and therefore our journey will be an excuse to unfurl them for you.

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Chipping Campden Market Hall

Chipping Campden is the beginning of the walk: One of those essential Cotswold towns. The end marker stone for the walk is at its centre beside the Market Hall (cared for by National Trust) built by Sir Baptist Hicks for the town’s merchants in 1627 . The other NT property is further along the street beside the parish church. The Coneygree was once a rabbit warren but is overlain by the earthwork remains of 17th century designed garden features, part of Sir Baptist Hicks new Campden House (now a ruin) completed c.1610.

However, during the English Civil War, after a short life,  the property was occupied and fortified by Royalist forces and then abandoned… and left as a burnt out shell to prevent its re-use by the enemy.

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The Coneygree next to the site of Campden House.

Usually a walk will interweave with fellow travellers and sure enough on the first morning, the arrival at the start stone coincided with a family from Iowa. We took group photos for each other to mark the beginnings of our treks.

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The Start Stone

A hot day, we climbed out of the town and soon realised that carrying our packs all the way to the end was quite deviant. There were sherpa services that could do all that for us these days and our fellow walkers travelled much lighter. The father and son from Iowa cruised past us as we stopped in a field for a break.

Then, at the top of the rise, was NT’s Dovers Hill which, of course, as we should all know, is where the Olympics Games were revived in 1612 or Olimpicks as Robert Dover named them. Back then, among other events, they included shin kicking and dancing. Closed in the 1850s, because of Victorian sensibilities it seems, they restarted again in the 1950s and in between these dates, in 1893, the modern international games began. We were just a few days too early for this year’s games though the flyers had been in the windows at Chipping Campden.

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Our feet walked over the undulations of ridge and furrow, now grazed by sheep, evidence that some of this land had been part of the common arable fields of the town in the medieval period.

Soon we were crossing newly ploughed land and, out of habit, my eyes were drawn to the ground. A flash of grey-black, foreign to the Cotswold stone,  and I reached down and handed Emma a flint. Nearest chalk is that of our Wiltshire homeland, upwards of 50 miles away. It had been brought here for a reason and sure enough the flint had been worked to create a tool. It fitted snugly between our thumbs and forefingers. Probably lost or discarded over 3000 years ago.

The girls laughed that a vlog  should be created of the walk to include a look-book and top tips of the day. It was not to be…but if there was a top tip for that day it would be…don’t put sun-screen on your forehead. Why? Because it mingles with the perspiration and irritates the eyes (an unexpected consequence of the long slogs uphill).

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NT Sheepscombe near Broadway Tower cowslips, buttercups and hawthorn blossom.

The NT land approaching Broadway Tower was a delight. A yellow wonder of cow-slips and buttercups and all the hawthorns far into the distance were snow-white with flowers. Emma went up the tower for the William Morris room because of her  interest in the Arts and Crafts Movement (he believed that even a worker’s desk should be made to be inspiring work of art). We had tea and descended into Broadway itself.

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Broadway Tower

This is a Waitrose plus-plus location, and tired walkers seemed out of place amongst the Scandinavian spa treatment, antiques and restaurant establishments. Amongst all this, we squatted under a tree for shade with our expensive deli lunch and then headed back out into the wild.

The Cotswold Way is a National Trail and well marked …but alternative routes can be problematic.. as we found when we took the Snowshill diversion. We tangled with a crossroads of paths at an unfriendly farm where signage was limited and confusing. We followed false trails and scratched our heads for a while.

Afternoon, and we had lost our first sparkle.

When we found the right route…in places the path was overgrown and difficult to follow ….but we eventually turned up at the ticket office. Kind people looked after our bags in the office but warned us that last entry to Snowshill Manor was 4.20.

Kate advised that there was enough time for a cream tea. We found a table under a parasol and drank gallons of water and tea. Emma favoured strawberry but we had a strong belief in blackcurrant jam.. and isn’t it extraordinary how finely everything tastes when you truly need it.

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Snowshill Manor, 15th century underlying stucture but note change of window architectural fashion c.1700 from mullioned to sash.

Charles Wade, during WWI, said that if he survived he would buy Snowshill and he did, so subsequently created and housed his great collection there. The NT now cares for this 15th century manor house full of so many fascinating and curious objects including oriental cabinets, suits of armour and musical instruments.

We met Jenny outside. She is one of the National Trust archaeologists with another job, House Manager for Snowshill. She has just completed the Historic Landscape and Archaeological Survey for Snowshill and Littleworth Wood. Her research has put the manor house and gardens in context using historic maps, earthwork remains and air photographic evidence.

It was getting late..we had tarried and still had miles to go before Stanton …which lay over the ridge. Up through Littleworth with its disused limestone quarries, using an ancient trackway terraced into the hillslope. Sadly, the bluebells were almost gone but the white flowered wild garlic filled the wood with its strong scent.

And then the walk down towards an idyllic, quiet Cotswold stone village. Time to contemplate whether the sore feet would make it all the way to Bath and whether some practice before starting out would have been a good idea.

Our hostess sat outside in the garden with a chilled glass of wine. ‘Oh, you’re carrying your packs, I wondered why they hadn’t turned up’.

Our companions from Iowa had arrived long before us.

 

 

Books & Our Landscapes

Books transport us, take us beyond ourselves- but to a recognisable place. Often we are ambushed by the words, words that touch us and unlock our heart.

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Blackmore Vale from Hambledon Hill, Dorset

We all view the world though our own unique experience and as an archaeologist I see the beauty of our countryside as the expression of the many generations that worked and shaped it, a precious jewel to be conserved. Writers evoke the many moods of places…places like Thomas Hardy’s Dorset or Winston Graham’s Cornwall .

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Hardy’s Cottage near Dorchester, Dorset: the birth place of Thomas Hardy

Through their writing, we are drawn to the locations that helped spark these authors into their creative genius – Hardy’s Cottage, Max Gate, Trerice. The buildings are the launch pad to their setting – the intricate majesty of the south west’s coast and countryside.

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Gunwalloe. Cornwall

The first book I recommend is by W.G. Hoskins. In his introduction, he tells the book’s story: he had searched in vain for a book which unravelled the intricate history of the landscape -therefore, in frustration, he created this pivotal work. He writes: ‘The English landscape itself, to those who know how to read it aright, is the richest historical record we possess. There are discoveries to be made in it for which no written documents exist, or have ever existed’ (The Making of the English Landscape).

At college, his book inspired me to go out and seek the myriad hidden stories held within ordinary farmsteads and fields.

However, landscape is far more than a museum of past lives: it is a work of artistry. The landscape has moods, light and shade, it constantly alters in weather and seasons, has memories.

How can our experience of it be captured? A book can guide us there, perhaps in a few pages describing an ordinary, though extraordinary, Mayday walk through fields to a village. ‘I seemed to capture everything together-medieval England, myself at ten, the summers of the past and the summer really coming….Dodie Smith writes a fabulous dream-like passage in ‘I capture the Castle’ such a surprising book… ‘Did anything as beautiful as this ever happen before?’

Our surroundings are so precious, internationally so. This was certainly the opinion of George Orwell who after escaping from the horrors of the Spanish Civil War wrote: ‘And then England – Southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way…to believe that anything is really happening anywhere’ (Homage to Catalonia).

Books grab us and encourage us to go and care for and experience our surroundings before it is too late. My last quote is from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Stephens, the butler, is given leave to escape his gilded cage, a great house in Oxfordshire (Dyrham in the film).

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Dyrham, Gloucestershire

To take a journey across the south west to meet a love he cannot acknowledge. He stops in unfamiliar surroundings and an old man invites him to take a path ‘you won’t get a better view anywhere in England’. The incident is a metaphor for the book. Take your chances while you can. Stephens is persuaded to climb the steep and winding path…. and is not disappointed.

That evening in Salisbury he recalls the moment.

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Marshwood Vale from Lambert’s Castle, Dorset

‘For it is true, when I stood on that high ledge this morning and viewed the land before me, I distinctly felt that rare, yet unmistakable feeling-the feeling that one is in the presence of greatness. We call this land of ours Great Britain, and there may be those who believe this a somewhat immodest practice. Yet I would venture that the landscape of our country alone would justify this lofty adjective’.

Open a book today, let it beckon you down a new path.

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Bibliography:

Hoskins, W.G., 1955, The Making of the English Landscape, Penguin Books, 14-15.

Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989,The Remains of the Day, Faber, 24-27.

Orwell, G., 1938, Homage to Catalonia, Penguin Books, Faber & Faber, 220-221.

Smith, D., 1949, I Capture the Castle, Random House, 177-185.

Industrial beauty

The forge

The forge

I started my digging life on an industrial site near Barnsley in Yorkshire, and my relatives worked in the mills and mines of West Yorkshire, so I have a soft spot for industrial sites from the past.

A while ago I visited one of our small industrial gems in Devon. I had some leather drive-belts to drop off for them to use from a large collection we acquired in order to get the  right sizes for some for our grist (corn and grain) mills.

leather drive belts of all sizes waiting for new homes

Leather drive-belts of all sizes waiting for new homes

The property was Finch Foundry near Okehampton, the last working water-powered forge in England. There are three water wheels powering hammers, shears and blade sharpening stones. This set up lead to the foundry becoming one of the South West’s most successful edge tool factories which, at its peak, produced around 400 edge tools a day, of many designs and types.

One of the waterwheels can be seen through the opening in the wall on the left

One of the waterwheels can be seen through the opening in the wall on the left

When you visit you are met by the smells and the noises of the machines, a taste of what it may have been like to work in this forge. But it is only part of the noise that would have been made, as not all the hammers, shears and grinders are in use during your visit!

Some of the workers and owners of the forge

Some of the workers and the owner of the forge

One of the water powered hammers

The water-powered hammers on the right and large shears on the left

There is also a carpenters’ shed at the forge. As the business grew Finch Bros expanded into providing carts, gates and even coffins. At the property you can see the  large variety of edge tools made at the foundry, along with a display of tools used by the wheelwrights and carpenters and learn about the Finch family. I recommend calling in if you have a spare hour, its not far from the A30, and there is a lovely garden and of course there is tea and cake 🙂

I hope this short video will give a flavour of the site, with all its squeaks, quacks, whooshes and clacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T. E Lawrence – rescue archaeologist

 

Clouds Hill near Wool, Dorset

Clouds Hill near Wool, Dorset

A few weeks ago I got chance to research and visit Clouds Hill, retreat of Thomas  Edward Lawrence, better known to us all as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

As part of a week-long event to commemorate the death of Lawrence in a motorbike accident in 1935,  we were invited to provide an archaeology display. I knew he had worked in Syria but was not sure how he had developed this interest in archaeology.

Lawrence was born in Tremadoc in Wales in 1888 and by the age of four he was able to read and by six he was learning Latin.The family ended up in Oxford, were his interest in monuments and medieval history developed. At the age of 15, Lawrence and his school friend Cyril Beeson bicycled around Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, visiting many parish churches. They were interested in the buildings and the  monuments and made rubbings of the monumental brasses they found. The Ashmolean Museum have some of these rubbings and there are two in Clouds Hill.

Lawrence  and Cyril  Beeson became ‘rescue’ archaeologists when they started  monitoring building sites in Oxford, undertaking small excavations, recording chance finds and  then taking their finds to the Ashmolean Museum.The Ashmolean’s Annual Report for 1906 said the two teenage boys “by incessant watchfulness secured everything of antiquarian value which has been found”.  Lawrence and Beeson toured France by bicycle, in 1906/07 collecting photographs, drawings, and measurements of medieval castles, Lawrence then won a scholarship to Oxford University to study History.  After
gaining his degree in 1910 Lawrence joined an expedition led by D. G.
Howgarth, from the Ashmolean Museum, to Carchemish – Northern
Syria.

He also worked with Leonard Woolley, and in a letter to his brother said he would contact him about the site his brother was excavating, in the letter he tells his brother ‘Don’t give up at once  if you don’t find anything. Digging is an excellent exercise ‘

A bevy of Brough bikes

A bevy of Brough bikes

As part of the event a bevy of Brough bikes arrived, these are the motorbikes that Lawrence loved. He had a Brough superior, like the one pictured, sadly he was killed in 1935 whilst riding his beloved Brough.

A Brough Superior motorbike

A Brough Superior motorbike

Object of the month – free gift inside

As keeper of the objects we discover on our excavations I probably keep more than I should! But I see stories and links to past lives in everything and  if more recent objects can help take people back in time and start the journey to prehistory then they are as valuable as a Roman statue with an inscription!

I was sorting my boxes of odd and miscellaneous finds and came across this collection of childhood related plastic objects. Some I can remember and still have in my own tin box of things I have saved from childhood!

Plastic toys

Plastic toys

A few of the objects are probably free gifts from cereal packets and some are pocket-money toys. There was always a fear in my home of one of  us choking on a free gift in our cereal, but they were usually too big to be a hazard. If the box said free gift on the outside it was a race to get to it first (the hope was there were two inside) as the youngest I had to wait until the others were too old for free gifts!

A mysterious cereal packet gift

A mysterious cereal packet gift

Part one of the magic

Part one of the magic

The finished magic!

The finished magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure if there are these kinds of free gifts in cereal anymore, the little plastic toys and games have been taken over by chocolate eggs wrapped in orange and white and fast food chains. The main difference now is they will found in their millions, so archaeologists who save everything, like me, will have to find bigger boxes!

Object of the Month – calling all gardeners

Another mystery object for you all, this time from the gardens at Dyrham. When working on another job at the property the gardeners asked if I could look at some of the things they had found when digging over the flower beds. In one box there were many of these long glass tubes.

One of the glass philes

One of the glass tubes filled with soil

They had been dug up from under a bush, and it looked like they had been put down in a pile next to the bush and forgotten about. They then had been buried over the years as fallen leaves turned to leaf mould and then, with the help of the worms, into soil.

They are roughly 26cm long and about 1cm wide, but each is slightly different in length, and width at the top and bottom. Most had broken ends, so it was not clear if they where meant to be closed or open, but we found one was intact. This had a hole at the end, so we can assume they all had.

A surviving end of the phile with rounded edges to the hole

A surviving end of the tube with rounded edges to the hole

The top has a flared rim, with rounded edges. As for age of the tubes we are not sure but they look like they are early 20th century.

Top of phile with flared rim

Top of the tube  with flared rim

I have asked our garden advisor if he has ever come across anything like them and what they may have been used for. He checked all his references and came across a reference to a ‘slender glass tube’ that was used for testing the water retention qualities of soil. You need to insert a porous bung into the bottom of the tube and then fill with soil; it is then inserted into the soil. Similar things can be seen in scientific equipment catalogues. Another idea is that they may have been used to feed plants directly to the root, or to water them. So, over to you all as I am sure you maybe able to solve this mystery, either with a new idea or to confirm our ideas 🙂