Random Church Exploring – Marton, Cheshire

St James' and St Paul's Church, Marton, Cheshire - 2017

St James’ and St Paul’s Church, Marton, Cheshire – 2017


Having recently been working in Cheshire, I’ve encountered a few interesting places running back and forth between site and the accommodation. The Grade I Listed timber framed parish church of St James and St Paul at the village of Marton really stood out as we bombed up and down the A34.

Interior of St James' and St Paul's Church, Marton, Cheshire - 2017

Interior of St James’ and St Paul’s Church, Marton, Cheshire – 2017

Internal wall paintings in St James' and St Paul's Church, Marton, Cheshire - 2017

Internal wall paintings in St James’ and St Paul’s Church, Marton, Cheshire – 2017

St James' and St Paul's Church, Marton, Cheshire - 2017 St James’ and St Paul’s Church, Marton, Cheshire – 2017[/caption

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Surveying Longhouses and Shielings in the Duddon Valley

The domestic structure and surrounding walling at Tongue House High Close A

The domestic structure and surrounding walling at Tongue House High Close A

I’ve been lucky to be involved over the last week or so with some preliminary survey work that OA North have been undertaking to assist the Duddon Valley Local History Group (DVLHG) with their ongoing investigations of a series of potentially medieval period longhouse and shieling settlement sites in the upper reaches of the Duddon Valley.

The group have been successful in a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the Duddon Valley Medieval Longhouse Project to further investigate and then selectively excavate at several of these sites to build upon previous surveys and investigation undertaken between 2011 and 2013, and OA North will be providing professional expertise to assist DVLG in this project over the next few years.

We shall initially be concentrating at three probable domestic sites located in the rough upland pasture intakes on the east side of the Duddon Valley, with two separate examples at Tongue House High Close and one larger enclosure/farmstead with two longhouses at Longhouse Close.

Wintery conditions surveying at Tongue House High Close A

Wintery conditions surveying at Tongue House High Close A

As part of the project I am teaching detailed topographic recording along with helping out with various other strands of preliminary investigation, from UAV drone survey of the wider landscape surrounding the sites through to geophysical and palaeoenvironmental investigation. I will post some more detailed findings as we continue through the project.

Bring out the flags! – Topographic survey at Blelham Tarn bloomery

Bloomery excavation and survey at Blelham Tarn, Windermere

Bloomery excavation and survey at Blelham Tarn, Windermere

As the excavations have got underway and continued in earnest this week at Blelham Tarn, I have been there for several days in both sunshine and occasional heavy downpours undertaking detailed topographic survey of the site. When the survey is eventually drawn up it will complement both the excavations and geophysical survey results and will give us a really detailed picture of this complicated site.

Rough survey data and contours for the bloomery at Blelham Tarn, Windermere

Rough survey data and contours for the bloomery at Blelham Tarn, Windermere

Two days were spent investigating the field containing the bloomery mound(s), using survey flags to differentiate the edges of breaks of slope to each earthwork, and then recording them using either theodolite or total station. The rough survey data has been overlain onto contour data at 10cm intervals that was created using LiDAR data, in order to give the general natural topography surrounding the site. One day was spent recording a large dammed pond and water channel located on the hillside above the bloomery and a further day was spent doing basic walkover survey to identify sites in the wider landscape surrounding the bloomery field.

Surveying at Blelham Tarn bloomery, Windermere

Surveying at Blelham Tarn bloomery, Windermere

The rough survey results still need to be drawn up in the field to create detailed hatchured plans of the archaeological features. Initial results have revealed that the core of the site consists of a small sub-rectangular building platform with a flattened slag mound to the west. The gap between these mounds is a relatively flat platform and would have been used as a working area, and it contains the two furnaces identified during the geophysical survey (location of magnetometry grid shown in orange). The first excavation trench (open trenches shown in pink) is located on the inner edge of this building platform and is set across a wheel pit that would have once held at least one water wheel to be used to power the bellows on one of the two furnaces.

There is a flat triangular working area located south of the bloomery which extends out into a bog. There is slight earthwork evidence for small dumps of slag/spoil on the area, and possibly the eastern edge of some type of building foundation (shown in the geophysics results). Two trenches will be opened in this area to investigate these features, as well as another trench which has been opened to record the tailrace running away from the wheel pit. There is no surface evidence for the tailrace as it was infilled with slag, although this is picked out beautifully on the geophysics results.

Upslope to the north of the bloomery there is a slight gully or remnants of a field boundary (not a headrace to the wheelpit) which has a further small slag heap set against it.  On the steep slope above the site there is a large dammed pond with an overflow channel on the west side. It is probable that the pond was once used to power the waterwheel at the bloomery site but there is no direct evidence for this. The pond was heavily modified with a new dam in the Victorian era when it was used for hunting purposes.

Rough survey data for the bloomery and reservoir dam at Blelham Tarn, Windermere

Rough survey data for the bloomery and reservoir dam at Blelham Tarn, Windermere

Survey of the bloomery site at Cinder Nab, Windermere

Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

The beginning of the week saw the completion of the topographic survey at the third of the four bloomery sites presently under investigation around Windermere. This site, at the aptly named Cinder Nab, is located adjacent to the shore on the south-west end of the lake and is a little distance to the south-east of Stott Park bobbin mill.

Surveying at Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

Surveying at Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

The monument, consisting of a large turf covered kidney-shaped mound of slag, along with its location adjacent to a body of water, is typical of the surviving elements found at medieval bloomery sites. The mound is in a very picturesque setting overlooking lake and it looked particularly lovely as it was covered in a dense carpet of bluebells interspersed with a smattering of cowslips.

Eroded section of slag deposits on the lake shore near Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

Eroded section of slag deposits on the lake shore near Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

The mound was bounded by a slight linear bank on the west side and in the past was apparently contained within a small copse of woodland immediately on the shore of the lake. It is surrounded by several other features, including a pair of smaller spoil mounds and the foundations of a presumably much later kiln that has been inserted into the shore edge just to the side of the bloomery mound.

Foundations of a later kiln adjacent to Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

Foundations of a later kiln adjacent to Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

The lake shore immediately adjacent to the mound has been eroded back exposing nodules of slag onto the foreshore, including one rather large example. The eroded section was cleaned back and recorded, it revealed deposits of slag waste, burnt charcoal-filled deposits and burnt clay layers. Evidently material associated with the furnace at the bloomery, including waste slag, fuel and clay from the furnace structure itself were dumped on the lake edge.

Large piece of slag eroded out on the lake shore at Cinder Nab, Windermere

Large piece of slag eroded out on the lake shore at Cinder Nab, Windermere

There was no obvious evidence for in-situ structural remains of a furnace in the exposed section and the furnace(s) must be elsewhere on the site, and as usual cannot be seen above ground. The site will now be subject to geophysical survey to identify the presence of any furnaces and any other possible evidence for sub-surface archaeological remains.

Recording the eroded section of slag deposits on the lake shore at Cinder Nab, Windermere

Recording the eroded section of slag deposits on the lake shore at Cinder Nab, Windermere

 

Drawing the slag mound at Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

Drawing the slag mound at Cinder Nab bloomery, Windermere

Survey and test pitting at High Stott Park bloomery, Windermere

Surveying at High Stott Park bloomery, Windermere

Surveying at High Stott Park bloomery, Windermere

 We spent the Friday of last week surveying the second of the four potential medieval bloomery sites located around the lake that are to be investigated as part of the Windermere Reflections project. This particular site was at High Stott Park, and lay to the north of the Stott Park Bobbin mill, a popular visitor attraction in this part of the Lake District.

The low mounded area/spread of the bloomery at High Stott Park, Windermere

The low mounded area/spread of the bloomery at High Stott Park, Windermere

The site consists of a flat-topped but slightly mounded field located to the south of the farm at High Stott Park. There is no obviously defined slag mound to this site but the area has slag exposed in molehills across the area and within a small stream/drainage gully on the south side. It seems that the area may have been landscaped probably as gardens for the farmhouse and this could have spread out the slag spoil into a thin layer across the field. Equally the slag may have been brought from elsewhere and dumped within the field, but from above ground we can’t tell if this is so, or if there are any surviving furnaces associated with a medieval bloomery.

Breaking the turf on a grid of test pits at High Stott Park bloomer, Windermere

Breaking the turf on a grid of test pits at High Stott Park bloomer, Windermere

For this particular survey we set up a grid of shovel test pits across the site to check for the presences and concentration of slag surviving across the field. The results of this process revealed that slag was present across the entire field for at least 50mx30m. Concentrations of charcoal were present in places and burnt clay deposits were evident in the north of the field. The site will be subject to geophysical survey over the next few days so hopefully this will give us a better picture of what is going on at the site, to see  if there is any surviving evidence for furnaces associated with the slag material, and see if this is actually a real bloomery site.

Test pitting at High Stott Park bloomery, Windermere

Test pitting at High Stott Park bloomery, Windermere

Slag exposed in test pitting at High Stott Park, Windermere

Slag exposed in test pitting at High Stott Park, Windermere

 

Bloomery survey at Ghyll Head, Windermere

Surveying at Ghyll Head bloomery, Windermere

Surveying at Ghyll Head bloomery, Windermere

Over the last few days we have surveyed the first of the four potential medieval bloomery sites to be investigated this year. This is at Ghyll Head, an undulating wooded stream gully descending steeply into the east side of Windermere.

The sloping topography and dense vegeatation made the survey particularly challenging, but Holly from the Lake District National Park did sterling work on Monday with the strimmer and managed to clear a swathe across the site. That left the pungent reek of wild garlic to assault our nostrils for the next few days.

Searching for bloomery slag at Ghyll Head, Windermere

Searching for bloomery slag at Ghyll Head, Windermere

This particular site consists of a relatively large mound of iron slag which spreads down the steep slope on the north side of the stream and just above the main road running along the east side of the lake. There are several possible building or working platforms evident near the spoil mound where the individual furnaces and bellows may have been placed, and adjacent to these the stream has been enclosed by a large retaining wall. This may have been the base for a water wheel that could have been used to power the site. Simple medieval period bloomery sites consist of at least one spoil mound of iron slag ‘bloom’ and would each have each had one or more small furnaces with hand powered bellows to process the raw iron ore. Water-powered sites are thought to be later in date and were more complex in form and could fire the furnace to a much higher temperature.

Vegetation problems at Ghyll Head bloomery, Windermere

Vegetation problems at Ghyll Head bloomery, Windermere

The interpretation of this site purely from the surface evidence is particularly complex as immediately adjacent to it there is a large dam and the site of a much later bobbin mill. It may be that many of the features recorded at the bloomery are related to this later site.

The site is probably going to be subject to geophysical survey next week so this should highlight the sub-surface extent of the site (and possibly where any furnace was) and any features not visible above ground. We will then be taking a secure sample for radiocarbon dating.

Mill dam at Ghyll Head, Windermere

Mill dam at Ghyll Head, Windermere

Possible site of water wheel at Ghyll Head, Windermere

Possible site of water wheel at Ghyll Head, Windermere