Exploring the Wery Wall and Roman bath house in Lancaster

General view looking east of the Wery Wall bastion and bath house

General view looking east of the Wery Wall bastion and bath house

The report produced for our assessment of the Wery Wall and Roman Bath House on Castle Hill, Lancaster is now available online. This understated and easily overlooked site is well worth a quick look around if you ever visit Lancaster. Back in the winter of 2010/11 we undertook a survey of the Wery Wall, a fragment of the late Roman coastal fort wall, and the adjacent Roman bath house remains located on Castle Hill. I seem to remember the weather being bitterly cold and snow lay on the ground for some of the time.  Festive cheer was also severely lacking at the time!

The surviving fabric on the west side of the Wery Wall bastion

The surviving fabric on the west side of the Wery Wall bastion

The Wery Wall is a surviving fragment of the late Roman coastal fort wall located on the eastern scarp of Castle Hill at the north-east corner of the Vicarage Fields, and is immediately adjacent to an earlier Roman bath house relating to an earlier fort, which it now partly overlies. The surviving remains of the Wery Wall are thought to represent the core of a polygonal external bastion on the north wall of the defences. Only the inner rubble core of the wall survives, its facing having been robbed for re-use in other buildings at some time before the early eighteenth century.

The 1970s excavations in the bath house caldarium (Lancaster Museum)

The 1970s excavations in the bath house caldarium (Lancaster Museum)

The wall and bath house were excavated in the 1950s and 1970s and the currently exposed archaeological features include at least three episodes of construction. Firstly there are walls associated with a courtyard building, secondly a bath house inserted into the courtyard building and, thirdly the surviving remnants of the Wery Wall bastion.

Detailed survey of the Wery Wall and Roman Bath House, Castle Hill, Lancaster

Detailed survey of the Wery Wall and Roman Bath House, Castle Hill, Lancaster

View looking west of the bath house caldarium and Wery Wall external ditch

View looking west of the bath house caldarium and Wery Wall external ditch

Surviving elements on site consist of extant walls on the north and west side of the caldarium, as well as one inserted through the tepidarium, are all associated with bath house inserted into the earliest courtyard building. These structures consist of the complete extents of the Caldarium and Tepidarium rooms and the partial survival of an annex room, the Praefurnium, on the south-west side.

View looking east of the bath house caldarium, Wery Wall bastion and external ditch

View looking east of the bath house caldarium, Wery Wall bastion and external ditch

The stump of bastion masonry called the Wery Wall, is the only visible evidence of the late Roman coastal fort, along with its external ditch which would have once surrounded the fort.  It was interpreted as being the inner core of a multi-angular bastion, being either a corner or interval tower set along the length of a thinner curtain wall. The external ditch was excavated and preserved where it had cut through either side of the caldarium room in the bath house.

The Wery Wall and bath house were subject to a robust scheme of consolidation works (and in some cases rebuilding) in the 1970s in order to improve their stability and to allow them to be left permanently exposed. The site has degenerated to a degree and is now in need of a phase of remedial repair works to stabilise the monuments and enable them to be subject to only minimal maintenance in the future.

Location of the Wery Wall and bath house in relation to previous excavations on Vicarage Field, Castle Hill, Lancaster

Location of the Wery Wall and bath house in relation to previous excavations on Vicarage Field, Castle Hill, Lancaster

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Upland Peat – Ingleborough

Ingleborough hillfort viewed from Simon Fell

Ingleborough hillfort viewed from Simon Fell

I am in the middle of spending a happy couple of weeks back out in the Yorkshire Dales in the vicinity of Ingleborough. We are doing another landscape survey in advance of a programme of peatland restoration works. The survey involves looking at peat erosion scars and any drainage gullies for exposed artefacts such as flint flake scatters. I haven’t managed to get to the summit of Ingleborough so far this year but I should do, weather permitting, by the end of the project.

Trow Gill, Ingleborough

Trow Gill, Ingleborough

As I have previously mentioned I am quite partial to limestone scenery and the patterns of erosion and the forces of nature that have shaped it greatly over time. The gorge at Trow Gill is a fine example and is located sandwiched between Ingleborough Cave and the Gaping Gill pot hole. It is particularly scenic at the southern mouth where you follow the footpath up into its narrow confines.

Ash tree growing out of a shake hole, Ingleborough

Ash tree growing out of a shake hole, Ingleborough

The shake hole pocked area is a contrast between elevated sparse grassland with swathes of blanket peat and lower scarp slopes with exposed limestone pavement fringes. It is on these lower slopes where the greatest concentration of archaeological sites are to be found.

Peat erosion at Lord's Seat, Simon Fell, Ingleborough

Peat erosion at Lord’s Seat, Simon Fell, Ingleborough

Today I was quite taken with the colour differentiations between the grassland, eroded areas of peat, standing water and sphagnum mosses.

Bright green moss

Bright green moss

Close up of bright green moss

Close up of bright green moss

East Coniston Woodland – Report online

View overlooking Coniston Water from the east

View overlooking Coniston Water from the east

The landscape survey report for this small yet important tract of moor and woodland located on the east side of Coniston water is now available online via the OA Library.

In early 2010 we undertook an historic landscape survey for the National Trust on their small parcel of landholdings on the eastern side of Coniston Water, Cumbria for estate management purposes.

Location of the East Coniston survey area

Location of the East Coniston survey area

The study area comprises long-established coppiced woodland that has been providing wood for fuel and as raw materials for a considerable period. The history of the area is closely linked into woodland industries, and in 1339 a grant was awarded to Furness Abbey to enclose woods and make parks, including Lawson Park, Parkamoor and Water or Watside Park, all of which fall within the survey area. To extend the useful life of the woodland, the monks employed the traditional practice of coppicing.

Following the Dissolution of Furness Abbey in 1537, the King’s Commissioners found little timber of any value, and what remained was let by the commissioners to William Sandes and John Sawrey to maintain their three iron smithies. Two definite bloomeries have been identified in the study area and both have been subject to geophysical investigation, revealing significant sub-surface deposits. Neither has been securely dated.

Ruins of a woodsmen’s hut at Grass Paddocks

Ruins of a woodsmen’s hut at Grass Paddocks

In the post-medieval period, the woodland on the steep valley side was sub-divided into enclosed woods, presumably owned by different speculators, farmers and landowners. The woodlands were further sub-divided into coppice hags, to differentiate between blocks of coppiced trees in different stages of a rolling cycle of growth and harvest. Coppice management and associated industrial processes were labour intensive there is evidence for at least five potential woodsmen’s huts where workmen would have lived for an extended period of time.

Old photograph of a charcoal burner's hut

Old photograph of a charcoal burner’s hut

Charcoal burning platforms are the most ubiquitous of the archaeological remains left by charcoal burning. There were 164 examples recorded by the present survey, which were distributed in a densely-packed swathe along the steep wooded enclosures of the valley side. Many platforms were located adjacent to access trackways and/or streams, as water and transport were integral parts of the process. A network of at least 23 sinuous trackways were recorded.

One of the many charcoal burning platforms found in Bailiff Wood

One of the many charcoal burning platforms found in Bailiff Wood

Coniston Lake Charcoal Burners by Alfred Heaton Cooper

Coniston Lake Charcoal Burners by Alfred Heaton Cooper

There is a painting by Alfred Heaton-Cooper of charcoal burners at work c 1908 that is most likely to be of the study area on the western edge of High Barn Woods.

Old photograph of a bark peeler's hut

Old photograph of a bark peeler’s hut

Evidence for the peeling of bark, a primary process in the tanning industry, is moderately well represented throughout the study area, with six surviving examples of bark peelers’ huts. Evidence is limited for potash production, with just three surviving large circular potash kilns located near to the lakeside road.

Low Parkamoor farmhouse

Low Parkamoor farmhouse

It seems that post-Dissolution the Parkamoor farmed landholdings (not The Park) were eventually sub-divided into Low and High Farms in c1614. The extant farmhouses have elements of surviving seventeenth and eighteenth century architectural design. The survey identified two areas of building platforms, one at each of the farmsteads; they may relate to a further domestic sub-division of tenements at each farm in the early eighteenth century.

Foundations of a building near High Parkamoor farmstead

Foundations of a building near High Parkamoor farmstead

Traditional woodland industries declined in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and by 1920 the furnace at Backbarrow had turned to using coke, stifling the last major market for charcoal in the region.

Peel Island on Coniston Water

Peel Island on Coniston Water

The plot locations in the literary fiction of Arthur Ransome found in Swallows and Amazons (1930) revolved around real-life places in the Lake District which he remembered from childhood and as a young man, he had friends who were charcoal burners in the Nibthwaite area. The lake depicted in the book is presumed to be Windermere, but with the surrounding landscape being akin to the Coniston area. Peel Island on Coniston Water formed part of the fictional camp of ‘Wild Cat Island’ in the novel. It is near here that the charcoal burners Old Billy and Young Billy work in the woods located just to the south of Wild Cat Island, in their hut described as a ‘Red Indian wigwam’. In the eleventh book in the series The Picts and the Martyrs (1943) a woodman’s hut called the ‘Dogs Home’ forms the main plot location; the real-life hut/cottage is located to the north of the study area.

Moist mossy exposures

Sunlight and brooding sky

Sunlight and brooding sky

Today brought a long car journey followed by a whistle-stop tour in the morning murk and driving rain around a small parcel of moorland near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. Thankfully the cloud lifted in the afternoon leaving a brooding and occasionally bright sky.

Dark day in the Dales

Dark day in the Dales

We were doing landscape survey in advance of a programme of peatland restoration works. The survey entailed looking at peat erosion scars and any drainage gullies for exposed artefacts such as flint flake scatters. This was difficult due to the area being quite waterlogged in places.

Tufty regrowth

Tufty regrowth

We also covered the ground looking for upstanding archaeological monuments to record, which must then be avoided by any vehicles coming onto the moorland to do any later remedial works. In these parts the archaeology is almost entirely associated with lead mining as is seen at the extensive lead mining complex nearby at Grassington.

Lead mining near Grassington, Yorkshire Dales

Lead mining near Grassington, Yorkshire Dales

I am a bit too fond of limestone scenery, especially limestone pavement, but unfortunately the light conditions and my poor photography didn’t do it much justice today!

Eerie limestone pavement

Eerie limestone pavement

I did really like these spooky trees that we found protruding from the limestone pavement as we headed back down into the valley, and I am quite partial to the different ways limestone erodes over time.

Eroded limestone boulder

Eroded limestone boulder

This week exploring Stonyhurst College park and garden

The Observatory Pond, Stonyhurst College

The Observatory Pond, Stonyhurst College

I have just spent a happy, and alternatingly torrentially wet/overcast/sunny few days exploring and recording the delights of the registered park and garden at Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire.

Here are a just a fraction of the nice photos of various photogenic sites etc.

Autumnal Colour at Stonyhurst College

Autumnal Colour at Stonyhurst College

Statue of St Mary Magdalene, Stonyhurst College

Statue of St Mary Magdalene, Stonyhurst College

Stonyhurst College Garden and St Peter's RC Church

Stonyhurst College Garden and St Peter’s RC Church

Statue of Regulus in the Observatory Pond, Stonyhurst College

Statue of Regulus in the Observatory Pond, Stonyhurst College

Flight of Garden Steps at Stonyhurst College

Flight of Garden Steps at Stonyhurst College

One of the Garden Pavillion, Stonyhurst College

One of the Garden Pavilion, Stonyhurst College

Front Tower of Stonyhurst College

Front Tower of Stonyhurst College

Stonyhurst College

Stonyhurst College

Approach to Stonyhurst College

Approach to Stonyhurst College

One of the Pair of Fish Ponds, Stonyhurst College

One of the Pair of Fish Ponds, Stonyhurst College

The Mausoleum and Burial Ground near Stonyhurst College

The Mausoleum and Burial Ground near Stonyhurst College

The Burial Ground near Stonyhurst College

The Burial Ground near Stonyhurst College