Excavation of a Viking-Age Cemetery at Cumwhitton

I thoroughly recommend purchasing this book, as it is a great piece of work by OA North on what is one of the most important Viking sites to come up in Britain over the last few years.

Heritage Calling

Little did Peter Adams know, when he pulled a metal object from the ground in 2004, that he had made one of the most exciting discoveries in Viking-age archaeology in England for many years. He had been metal-detecting, with permission, on farmland to the west of the quiet village of Cumwhitton in the Eden Valley and, until then, it had been a fruitless search.

The object was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and proved to be a brooch that was identified as a rare Viking oval brooch of ninth – or tenth – century date. These are mostly found in pairs and in a burial context. He therefore returned to the site and did, indeed, find a second brooch.

One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd

The Portable Antiquities Scheme commissioned Oxford Archaeology North to investigate the site as it was under immediate…

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All done at Blelham Tarn, so many many thanks to everyone who helped out

All done and trenches backfilled

All done and trenches backfilled

Friday was the final day out on site at the bloomery at Blelham Tarn so we finished backfilling and reinstating the trenches as well as doing the last bit of survey and drawing up of the earthworks. A massive thanks should go to all of the volunteers who have given their time to come out and explore the four bloomeries around Windermere. Thanks should also go to Jamie, Wilm and Andy at OA North, Ian at EAS Ltd, Jamie and the field rangers at the National Trust and John, Eleanor and Holly at the National Park for giving their professional guidance on site.

We will now try to get some interim descriptions of what we found in each of the trenches on this site, and then as the analysis of the results takes place we will keep you informed of what we have learned, in particular what dates come back from any radiocarbon samples.

Blelham Tarn – The excavation starts

The geophysics results look great!

Windermere Reflections

Today was a fairly epic day at Blelham Tarn. We got the initial geophysics results back, which were spectacular, and on the back of that we were able to select an area for excavation and open a trench. The magnetometry survey had on the previous day extended over the area of the bloomery and was undertaken at a much higher resolution than had previously been undertaken and makes very exciting viewing.

The magnetometry survey in progress The magnetometry survey in progress

The initial magnetometry results from Blelham Tarn The initial magnetometry results from Blelham Tarn

The long black linear feature on the right is the tail race, and  at the top of that is a square white feature, which must correspond with a wheel pit.   To the left of that are two circular, very highly magnetic, features, which we are interpreting as the furnaces.  To the left of the tail race is a large rectangular structure, which we are tentatively suggesting was…

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St Paul’s Square, Liverpool – Report

St Paul’s Church, by John Harwood, 1831

St Paul’s Church, by John Harwood, 1831

Once every three years or so I am brought down from the moors and mountains and I get to dust off my (t)rusty trowel and am let loose to dig things. This watching brief/excavation, one of many undertaken in the transformation of Liverpool in the last ten or so years,  was almost the last time I have done so.

The report for the project can now be found online via the Oxford Archaeology Library.

In 2001 proposals were submitted to construct five large multi-storey buildings on a former municipal carpark at St Paul’s Square, Liverpool. During the most recent three phases of watching brief in September 2006, March-June 2007 and September-October 2009, it was possible to record, and latterly piece together, a range of features relating to St Paul’s Church, which was built 1763-9 and demolished 1931-2. Although often truncated, the majority of the building’s footprint was exposed, and consisted of a main inner square of load-bearing structural sandstone walls, with stepped porticoes/extensions on all sides, and a circle of plinths in the centre that originally would have supported the octagonal dome.

A really bad aerial shot taken in bright sunlight from the adjacent building that shows some of the foundation walls of St Paul's church.

A really bad aerial shot taken in bright sunlight from the adjacent building that shows some of the foundation walls of St Paul’s church.

The central foundation plinths for taking the pillars that originally supported the dome of the church.

The central foundation plinths for taking the pillars that originally supported the dome of the church.

A subterranean crypt was found in the area of the church’s main, south-west, entrance, and comprised a series of at least 23 two-storey red-brick vaulted bays flanking a central corridor. Although these bays had once been sealed by substantial doors, all those investigated had been emptied of their original contents and backfilled with demolition debris and broken gravestones.

Partially excavated brick burial vaults from beneath the front entrance steps to St Paul's church.

Partially excavated brick burial vaults from beneath the front entrance steps to St Paul’s church.

Development groundworks within the graveyard surrounding the church revealed fragmentary evidence for the yard’s sandstone wall at the south-west end, and also on the eastern corner of the development. Thirteen burial features were encountered in the graveyard, amongst which a possible charnel pit and two graves fell within the limit of impact and were investigated to their bases. One truncated grave contained the partial articulated remains of an adult skeleton, but generally, articulated burials were absent, whilst scattered loose bones were not infrequent. This, coupled with the horizontal truncation suggested by the shallow depth at which the bases of investigated graves were encountered, lends credence to the premise that the graveyard was systematically cleared. Removal of the vast majority of the 12,333 burials recorded in the registers of St Paul’s Church is likely to have taken place during 1894, when the graveyard precinct was acquired under the 1887 Open Spaces Act and landscaped by Liverpool Corporation to create St Paul’s Gardens.

One of the many smashed gravestones that were backfilled into the site during demolition of St Paul's church.

One of the many smashed gravestones that were backfilled into the site during demolition of St Paul’s church.

Considering the limited space within the churchyard, almost all of these must represent the practice of making multiple interments within family graves, and many could have been closely packed pauper’s burials. Indeed, evidence of the wide social and professional spectrum of the church congregation, which ranged from merchants and Aldermen to weavers and labourers, is provided by cross-referencing the church burial registers with some of the c 140 recovered gravestone fragments.

Truncating these earlier features were the fragmentary remains of a series of red-brick external and internal wall foundations, encased H-shaped steel stanchions, and areas of flooring. These corresponded with the south-western and north-eastern ends of the rectangular Liverpool Stadium that was constructed in 1932, directly over, and to the same alignment, as the then recently demolished church.

Plan of features exposed at St Paul's Square, Liverpool

Plan of features exposed at St Paul’s Square, Liverpool