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.

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Windermere Reflections – Industrial Archaeology publication

Cover of the popular publication for the Windermere Reflections Project

Cover of the popular publication for the Windermere Reflections Project

The popular publication we produced for the Windermere Reflections project has now come back from the printers.  It will shortly be available to purchase directly from the Lake District National Park Authority. Whether you are interested in community archaeology, industrial archaeology or the history of Windermere and the wider Lake District in general it is worth having a look at.

The book concentrates on the surveys and excavation undertaken in the Windermere catchment over the last few years as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project. Themes covered in the publication include metal mines, slate quarries, bloomeries, fulling mills and woodland industries. There is even a picture of me on the back!

Allan Bank, Grasmere – Garden Survey Report

The house at Allan Bank, Grasmere, under renovation in January 2012

The house at Allan Bank, Grasmere, under renovation in January 2012

The historic garden survey report we completed in 2012 for Allan Bank, a National Trust property (and brief residence of William Wordsworth) located at Grasmere, Cumbria is now available online via the OA Library. This project recorded all the archaeological and historical features within the c 4.6 hectare gardens on the property in order to inform the future management of the estate. The work was completed in advance of remedial works to be undertaken before the gardens were opened to the public.

Allan Bank, Grasmere in 1861

Allan Bank, Grasmere in 1861

Deeds record the sale of the land at Allan Bank located above the head of Grasmere by a Mr Sawyer to a Mr Edward Partridge in 1756. In 1804 Mr Partridge, or his descendants, sold the property to John Gregory Crump, an attorney and merchant of Liverpool. Subsequently, a villa was built at Allan Bank between 1805-8 in a simple Classical style, and was positioned on the southern flank of a rocky shoulder dividing Easedale from the main Vale of Grasmere. The house was raised artificially to create the depth for cellars and it was orientated so that the main south front looked straight down the length of Grasmere. A few years later William Wordsworth and his family moved there as soon as it was completed as it’s first occupants between May 1808 and May 1811; and their literary friends Thomas de Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed with them for lengthy visits.  He did not like living there, but needed to move to more ample accommodation than their previous dwelling at Dove Cottage. Their occupation of the property was short-lived, in part, due to complaints about smoky chimneys.

Stone tunnel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Stone tunnel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Stone viewing seat at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Stone viewing seat at Allan Bank, Grasmere

The extant remains comprise three separate garden areas: a large wilderness garden; a walled kitchen garden; and formal gardens adjacent to the house. The survey identified, and recorded, a total of 109 archaeological features and/or garden components.  Elements in the wilderness garden consist of a series of sinuous pathways with rustic flights of steps constructed of stone slabs. There are four/five garden seats located at strategic spots within the garden which variously had panoramic views looking north-west onto Helm Crag, south-east to Grasmere lake and east towards the house, although many of these vistas are now obscured with mature trees. Water was managed in the garden, with a reservoir that probably served the house and an underground pipe followed the footpath towards the house and ran through an elaborate stone-vaulted tunnel. Streams have been canalised and one stream passes over a craggy waterfall and has a small pool beneath. There is also a small well within rustic stone retaining walls. Features pre-dating the construction of the wilderness garden include charcoal burning platforms and two sections of relict boundary walls.

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere – south

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere – south

The kitchen garden has a large slate-topped unheated fruit wall on the northern side, which would have masked the garden from the house. The garden was laid out into quarters by slate-edged pathways and in the centre are the remains of a stone circular structure that may have functioned as a formal focal platform. There is a slate-roofed garden shed, a ruined twentieth century greenhouse, water troughs, a compost heap and a French drain that drained water away from the waterfall in the wilderness garden.

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere - house area

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere – house area

The formal pleasure gardens form a discrete area running around the house and extend to the kitchen garden; its elements consist of driveways, a dwarf-kitchen garden terrace, containing rectangular flowerbeds, and a sundial. The west, south and east sides of the house have stone-lined flowerbeds and stone-hewn flower boxes. On the west side of the house is a small garden lawn with relict beds/pathways evident. It is enclosed on the west side by a sinuous retaining wall constructed of cyclopean boulders and there is a large rockery constructed of quartz stones. Land to the south of the garden has been landscaped/terraced but its function is unclear. The formal gardens are skirted on the west side by a curvilinear gravelled trackway that runs towards the kitchen garden.

Rock art panel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Rock art panel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

To the east of the house is a gravelled drive adjacent to the main house entrance, grass-covered tennis courts and a stone outcrop with rock art motifs. On the north side of the house there are the remains of two external buildings, an elaborately decorated chapel or billiard room and the ruins of a small garage or coach house.

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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Slag exposed in test pitting at High Stott Park, Windermere

Slag exposed in test pitting at High Stott Park, Windermere

We have just set up a new blog at Oxford Archaeology North to encompass all of the investigations, (survey, geophysics and excavation) that will be undertaken on the four potential medieval bloomery sites located around Windermere in the coming few weeks. The project is being run in conjunction with The Lake District National Park and the National Trust.

http://windermerebloomeries.wordpress.com/

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A quick note: Back to Windermere this week!

A bloomery mound located at Cinder Nab, Ridding Bay on Windermere

A bloomery mound located at Cinder Nab, Ridding Bay on Windermere

After an enforced absence posting on here due to the pleasant repercussions of a new addition to the family, it is my pleasure to start posting again, starting with my first volunteer-orientated project of the year. We are going back to Windermere for the next few weeks for a fourth and final season of archaeological work as part of the Windermere Reflections Project. Again this is in conjunction with the Lake District National Park and the National Trust. For this year we are going to be exploring the theme of metal, and we shall be investigating four separate medieval or later iron production sites, called ‘bloomeries’ that are located around the lake.

I will be undertaking the field survey element of the project with the volunteers of the four sites, which are at High Stott Park; Cinder Nab/Riddings Bay; Ghyll Head and Blelham Tarn. As part of the project we will also be doing some geophysical surveys, and a small excavation of the latter site, which has the potential to be a more complex water-powered bloomsmithy.

Contour data for Cinder Nab, Windermere

Contour data for Cinder Nab, Windermere

St Catherine’s Estate at Windermere – Landscape Survey Report

Watercolour view of the house and formal garden at St Catherine's Estate, c1900

Watercolour view of the house and formal garden at St Catherine’s Estate, c1900

The historic landscape survey report we completed way back in 2005 for St Catherine’s Estate, a National Trust property on Windermere, Cumbria is now available online via the OA Library. This project recorded the archaeological and historical features within the 0.32sq km of the property, a mixture of pasture, woodland and parkland, in order to inform the future management of the estate. The project was funded by the Local Heritage Initiative and from the outset it incorporated the involvement of members of the local community who were trained in documentary and survey techniques. In 2006 an eco-friendly straw bale building was built on the estate. The Footprint, is now used for educational visits.

The location of St Catherine's Estate near Windermere

The location of St Catherine’s Estate near Windermere

The project entailed documentary study, identification, boundary and tree surveys, as well as a detailed survey of the formal gardens.

Training a volunteer in the dark arts of GPS survey

Training a volunteer in the dark arts of GPS survey

Prior to the establishment of the formal landscape the area was exploited for agriculture and was divided into two separate lots known as High and Low Gate Mill How.  A cottage once existed at High Gate Mill How, presumably on the site of the later mansion. The agricultural management within the study area was typified by the relatively static enclosed fields with drystone walled boundaries. The survey also identified a number of agricultural features within the original extent of the parkland estate, which predate the park; these included clearance cairns and drains. Similarly, woodland management was a crucial part of the historic land use; at least ten charcoal burning platforms were recorded within the two areas of woodland examined. The woods were divided up into compartments of coppice at different stages of growth and the remains of the compartment boundaries still survive.

Charcoal burning platform in High Hag Wood, St Catherine's Estate

Charcoal burning platform in High Hag Wood, St Catherine’s Estate

Coppice boundary foundations in High Hag Wood, St Catherine's Estate

Coppice boundary foundations in High Hag Wood, St Catherine’s Estate

The estate was bought by the Parker family in 1788 and by 1804 it was in the sole ownership of Ann Parker. Around 1810 a Swiss Cottage Orneé was erected on the site. This took place concurrent with work to establish gardens and the development of a parkland landscape fronting onto the road running along the west side of the estate. In 1831 the estate was sold to the Second Earl of Bradford, and it was used as an occasional holiday residence for the Earl and his wife, whose main seat was Weston Park in Staffordshire. By 1856-1857 work was completed on many of the designed elements of the estate, including the house, kitchen block, stable block, formal garden, wilderness garden, walled garden and parkland, but there were still also areas of woodland and farmland within the estate. However, by the mid 1860s Low and High Hag Woods had been developed into an extension of the pleasure grounds, and incorporated formal paths and arbors.

Watercolour view of the St Catherine' cottage overlooking Lake Windermere, c1850s

Watercolour view of the St Catherine’ cottage overlooking Lake Windermere, c1850s

The Second Earl of Bradford died in 1865 and between the late 1860s and 1890s the house remained a summer holiday residence for the third Earl of Bradford. Then in 1895 the Cottage Orneé was extensively enlarged and another storey was added; the central kitchen range and the stable block were also expanded. A map of 1898 showed that by this date a summer house had been added to the Gatelands field, adjacent to the Wilderness garden, and the carriageways were extended into the northern part of the park.

Late nineteenth century photograph of the house and formal garden, St Catherine's Estate

Late nineteenth century photograph of the extended house and formal
garden, St Catherine’s Estate

The Third Earl of Bradford died in 1898 and the estate passed on to his daughter, Lady Mabel Kenyon-Slaney, who used the property as an occasional residence until at least 1905. By 1899 much of the estate had been sold off, and the remainder was thereafter in a state of decline; significantly, there were very few changes to the estate between 1899 and 1914. The property remained in the ownership of the family until 1914 although it appears that the house was let and was no longer visited by the family.

Plan of St Catherine's Estate - 1899

Plan of St Catherine’s Estate – 1899

On the 29th September 1914 Lady Mabel Kenyon-Slaney sold part of the main St Catherine’s Estate to John Robinson, which included St Catherine’s house, Low Hagg Wood, Rawes Green, High Haggs, Browhead Spring, as well as the Cottage and buildings at the Crosses. The Robinson Family soon after constructed a house called ‘The Hoo’ just to the south of the estate. John and Ellen Robinson and their two daughters Marjorie and Jessica lived at ‘The Hoo’ and the empty house at St Catherine’s was alternatively used as a studio or rented out in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1925 Ellen Robinson was widowed and in the same year Jessica married Edwin Ferreira. The main house and kitchen range were demolished on the orders of Ellen Robinson at some point between 1928 and 1935. Mrs Robinson feared that the empty house would be used by tramps and had it demolished whilst the rest of the family were on holiday wintering in France.

The surviving stable range at St Catherine's Estate

The surviving stable range at St Catherine’s Estate

In 1952 Jessica Ferreira inherited the estate upon the death of her mother and in 1954 Jessica and Edwin Ferreira moved to St Catherine’s and lived above the stables, and by 1955 a bungalow was built on Gatelands field. The Ferreiras had a son, Christopher, who remembers hay making in the parkland in the 1950s, and at this time Jessica Ferreira owned a small herd of Jersey cows which were housed in the stables. By 1987 after the death of the widowed Jessica Ferreira the remainder of the estate was entrusted into the hands of the National Trust.

The survey identified the nature and extent of many formal features from the nineteenth century estate, including the nature and extent of the formal carriageways within the parkland and, more importantly, the surviving elements of the formal pathways within the woodland. Other important formal elements were recorded such as the foundations of the summer house in Gatelands Field, formal planting and an arbor in High Hag Wood, and a putative formal planting area and possible sunken glade, in Low Hag Wood.

A volunteer measuring a rabbit smoot

A volunteer measuring a rabbit smoot

The garden survey revealed surviving fragments of the formal layout of the separate gardens and buildings which were the focal point of the St Catherine’s Estate. Very little survives of the original plantings within the gardens apart from several veteran non-native trees on the north end of the formal garden; a terraced flattened area within the wilderness garden which may have had decorative function and, possibly, the rockery on the east side of the coach house.

The detailed garden survey undertaken at St Catherine's Estate

The detailed garden survey undertaken at St Catherine’s Estate

In the wilderness garden formal pathways and garden furniture include a flight of steps and four crossing points over Wynlass beck. The course of the beck has been modified and it runs over a small waterfall, which would have been overlooked from two of the bridge crossings. Structural elements associated with the upkeep of gardens are limited to the foundations of a greenhouse within the walled vegetable garden and the putative potting/tool shed on the edge of the formal garden.

Late nineteenth century photograph of Wynlass Beck running through the wilderness garden

Late nineteenth century photograph of Wynlass Beck running through the wilderness garden

The Fairfield Iron Mine, at Tongue Gill, near Buttermere

Volunteers surveying the lowest spoil heap and working area at Fairfield iron mine in 2013

Volunteers surveying the lowest spoil heap and working area at Fairfield iron mine in 2013

This is the third of my posts on the mining sites we have explored and surveyed in 2013 for the Windermere Reflections Project, and it concerns the Fairfield iron mine which is located at the northern end of Grasmere.

In the late nineteenth century this mine, in tandem with the more northerly Providence iron mine, formed the contemporaneously worked Tongue Gill Mines. The mine exploited a north-west/south-east orientated haematite ore vein in the Borrowdale volcanic rock that dipped to the south-west. running through the area of Great Tongue on the western flank of Fairfield mountain.

Location of Providence and Fairfield iron mines at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Location of Providence and Fairfield iron mines at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

An agreement, dated 1693, to supply iron ore for nine years from pits in Grasmere (LRO DDSA 38/2)

An agreement, dated 1693, to supply iron ore for nine years from pits in Grasmere (LRO DDSA 38/2)

The mining literature recorded both Tongue Gill mines as being worked around 1700 to supply ore to a furnace in Great Langdale. The only possible piece of evidence uncovered for pre-nineteenth century workings was an agreement dated 1693 which detailed Henery Rooper, a miner of Grasmere who was to supply Myles Sandys, of Hawkshead, (an individual associated with Cunsey Forge on the southern end of Windermere) with iron ore for nine years. No recognisable locations for the iron ‘pits’ in Grasmere were identified through the agreement and in any case the agreement was not enacted upon, but this surviving document may point to other such agreements/leases held in this period by other parties to mine iron ore in Grasmere. In addition, samples of haematite recovered at Cunsey forge during excavations undertaken in 2003 were consistent with known occurrences in the Grasmere area.

At Fairfield Mine, the mine layout is more complex than that at Providence mine which suggests some longevity of working although the documented history of the mine is relatively short-lived. Identifiable documents coincide with the 1870s boom in iron prices; in 1872 Thomas Dineen a man of Irish extraction, who was a rivet and bolt manufacturer and iron merchant from Workington, acquired a take note for one year with an option for a 21-year lease for the mine sett. His tenure was unsuccessful, indeed when he first visited the site in 1873 it was said that he couldn’t even find it.

Messrs Morgan and Waide of the Lake District Haematite and Mining Co. (© Rotherham Libraries, Museums and Archives)

Messrs Morgan and Waide of the Lake District Haematite and Mining Co. (© Rotherham Libraries, Museums and Archives)

On the 19th September 1874 the lease was taken up by the newly formed Lake District Haematite and Mining Co., that was set up by a group of Rotherham and Sheffield businessmen, presumably to feed raw materials for their other ventures. The mine agent 1873-1877 was John Hall, a skilled mining engineer from Alston. The directors included an alderman of Rotherham, James Clifford Morgan, and his colleague Francis William Waide, who were partners in the company of Morgan, Macaulay, and Waide a stove grate manufacturers, general iron founders and merchants, located at Baths Foundry in Rotherham.

The mineral statistics of 1874 show that 204 tons of ore had been raised, valued at £350 (along with the ore from Providence mine) but with the slump in the price of iron in the following year the mine was evidently in trouble. In total both Tongue Gill mines together raised 1,300 tons of ore (or 1500 tons in the other later secondary sources) in this short-lived period. By at least December 1875 the venture was in trouble and a pleading letter was sent by the company to the mineral agent asking for the unpaid rent on the mine to be waived due to the amount of development the company has undertaken on the mine.

The company failed to post accounts and a list of shareholders to the Register of Joint Stock Companies, as required by law. In 1877 the angry and unpaid chief mine agent John Hall took the named directors to court in Rotherham for unpaid wages and other liabilities. The directors counter-claimed that they had been conned into investing in a worthless mine, and eventually the company was liquidated. In part the fiasco eventually led to the financial ruin of Mr Waide but Alderman Morgan became mayor of Rotherham the following year followed by a comfortable retirement. The mine was recorded in the mineral statistics as being owned by the Lake District Haematite and Mining Co. Ltd from 1877 –1882 but it was standing idle.

The surviving layout of the mine consists of three adits driven south-east into the hillside that run gently upslope following the course of the south side of Tongue Gill for over 150m. The ruins of mine buildings, and dressing floors/working areas are concentrated around the lowest adit on the western end of the site.

Overall survey drawing of the Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Overall survey drawing of the Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Some of the earliest mining remains surveyed at Fairfield comprise the series of well-defined earthworks of inter-connected hushes that run downslope from Rydal Fell to Tongue Gill. The main hushing runs south-east/north-west down to the gill and is partially overlain by an enclosure wall. There is a cross-cutting hush running along the slope that would have channelled water from at another hush and at least one hushed tributary stream. These hushes would have been used to chase surface evidence of the ore vein and to identify its orientation; it is possible that they predated the 1870s exploitation of the mine.

A linear hush running down the mountainside at Fairfield iron mine

A linear hush running down the mountainside at Fairfield iron mine

On the edge of Tongue Gill, just to the west of the hushings, is a series of shallow surface trial workings running into the stream where ore nodules were visible in the stream bed and banks. There are two more pronounced deep cuttings running into the stream and the westernmost cutting is an almost vertical rectangular cutting which was either chasing the ore vein or has been stoped-out to extract ore near the ground surface.

The easternmost trial adit  is potentially late-nineteenth century in origin, and there is a vertical quarried rock face on the footpath west of the trial adit where drill marks show it has been excavated using blasting technology.

The central of the three adits at Fairfield  lay above the stopes and surface workings in the centre of the complex. The size of the spoil heap may point to this adit also having been purely a trial level.

Survey drawing of the main area of working at Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Buttermere

Survey drawing of the main area of working at Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Buttermere

The main focus for Fairfield mine is the lowest adit located on the western end of the complex. There are a series of features surrounding the adit, including a large spoil heap, a yard/working area and a possible ore store. The adit itself is partially blocked at the entrance and was not investigated underground. Tyler recorded that the adit was 6ft 6ins high by 4ft 6ins wide and extended into the hillside for over 160 yards before a roof collapse at the start of the stoping had closed it. A small trial of a subsidiary north/south orientated stringer of ore was recorded 60 yards from the entrance.

View along the top of the spoil heap/working floor at the lower mine adit of Fairfield iron mine

View along the top of the spoil heap/working floor at the lower mine adit of Fairfield iron mine

There is an extensive spoil heap running west from the adit entrance that spills steeply down onto Tongue Gill. The flat top would have been used for ore dressing and adjacent to the adit mouth is a partially collapsed rectangular year/storage area consisting of two short sections of walling. This yard has evidently not been roofed as a structure and here is a small gap between the yard and the retaining wall that define the south side of the working area which would have originally provided a gap for narrow gauge rails to pass by. At the southern end of the spoil heap are fragmentary remains of a walled loading ramp/bay, similar to that at Providence Mine and adjacent to it is a collapsed ore store.

A loading ramp on the southern end of the lower spoil heap/working floor of Fairfield iron mine

A loading ramp on the southern end of the lower spoil heap/working floor of Fairfield iron mine

On the westernmost edge of the complex is a roofed bothy structure located adjacent to an enclosure wall at the entrance where an access trackway would originally have extended up to the mine. The bothy should probably be associated with miner’s accommodation/shelter as it evidently predated the construction of the nearby reservoir. Other features to note are the trackways running through the complex and the large bridge piers constructed across Tongue Gill.

A large uncovered reservoir built for Grasmere Urban District Council, was constructed on top of the mine complex but apparently does not seem to have done much lasting damage to the site. There is an associated weir located upstream on Tongue Gill where water was piped down to the reservoir.

View looking west downstream at the lower workings of Fairfield iron mine

View looking west downstream at the lower workings of Fairfield iron mine

The character of the working at Fairfield and Providence is comparable to the other boom period mining sites. Both Providence and Fairfield mines reflect a brief period of intense mining activity fuelled by high prices for ore, and accords with a number of other operations elsewhere in Cumbria. The decline in both cases was prompted by the slump in iron ore prices in 1875, and that was in itself prompted by the over production of iron ore across the region. Being operational for only a few years they demonstrate single phase integrated workings and as such provide an opportunity to examine the workings process of the late nineteenth century. The extensive hushes, small stoped workings and surface extraction at Fairfield iron mine may, however, have been undertaken in an earlier undocumented period of activity.

The Providence Iron Mine at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

View south along Little Tongue Gill towards Grasmere, from the drainage adit spoil heap at Providence iron mine

View south along Little Tongue Gill towards Grasmere, from the drainage adit spoil heap at Providence iron mine

For this the second of my occasional posts on the mining sites we have explored and surveyed in 2013 for the Windermere Reflections Project, I will concentrate on the Providence iron mine which is located at the northern end of Grasmere.

In the late nineteenth century this mine, together with the more southerly Fairfield iron mine, formed the contemporaneously worked Tongue Gill Mines. The mine exploited both a north-west/south-east and a north/south orientated haematite ore vein in the Borrowdale volcanic rock running through the area of Great Tongue on the western flank of Fairfield mountain.

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

Prior to the nineteenth century the mining literature had both Tongue Gill mines recorded as being worked around 1700 to supply ore to a furnace in Great Langdale. However, it was the short lived boom in the early to mid-1870s that prompted the opening (or re-opening) of many mines across the region and saw a massive, and very intensive period of iron extraction. This was fuelled by an increase in the value of iron ore when the price of iron rocketed from 13s to £1 12s per ton, and many entrepreneurs across the region were keen to take advantage of this opportunity.

Surveying at Providence iron mine, near Grasmere in 2013

Surveying at Providence iron mine, near Grasmere in 2013

It is within this context, that we see the documented short-lived but intensive activity at the Tongue Gill mines of Grasmere. The Providence Mine was opened by the Providence Iron Co Ltd in 1873 and was worked by them until 1876, with the chief agent being John Muse, a successful miner from Alston. The mine was excavated to exploit a 16ft thick vein of solid haematite and the mine posted mineral statistics for 1874 for 300 tonnes of ore extracted which was valued at £350 along with the ore from Fairfield mine. The success was short lived due to fractured and unstable ground conditions, high transport costs due to a lack of a nearby railhead, and a declining market for iron from 1875 onwards. The mine was acquired by John Muse himself in 1877 as part of John Muse, J Straughton, Ashton and Co. who also ran the successful Force Crag mines, but the mineral statistics show that it stood idle between 1877-82. The brief documented history for Providence Mine in this period is relatively simple, and the straightforward surface layout of the mine would suggest that most features were associated with this short-lived episode of exploitation.

Overall survey drawing of the Providence iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Overall survey drawing of the Providence iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

The surface layout for Providence Mine is separated into two distinct zones, with evidence for the majority of the features at the upper workings in the north-west of the site and with smaller lower workings in the south-east. The upper workings  consist of various extractive areas beneath a collapsed vertical shaft at the summit of the mine. There are several adits, trial scoops and a hushed channel with spoil heaps straddling the outer enclosure wall and clustering along the course of a small tributary stream of Little Tongue Gill. This stream was undoubtedly where the prospecting for an ore vein was undertaken along the stream bed as it climbed upslope and iron staining is visible as far up as 1700ft in the stream bed. At the foot of the upper workings there is a walled loading ramp on the side of an access trackway that runs away from the mine, towards the lower workings and a junction with the Grisedale Hause packhorse route.

Loading ramp at the upper workings, Providence mine, Grasmere

Loading ramp at the upper workings, Providence mine, Grasmere

Separate from this zone, at the lower workings, thee is a single collapsed adit with spoil heap located further downslope adjacent to Little Tongue Gill and near to the Grisedale Hause packhorse route. The adit may have functioned to drain the upper workings of the mine; it would have provided an easier haulage level to bring ore out rather that winding it up the top shaft, or transporting it further from the upper workings.

The collapsed lower drainage adit - Providence iron mine

The collapsed lower drainage adit – Providence iron mine

The most unexpected feature encountered on the survey was a large oval scooped stock enclosure, which, would typically have been of prehistoric/Iron Age in date. It has a well-defined kerbed entrance on the east side and would have corralled cattle at the foot of Great Tongue, where trampling and the extraction of manure from the centre has created a scooped effect. The location of any round house within the site would have been in the south-west corner where there is a small flattened area, but there is no other surface evidence for it.

A scooped prehistoric stock enclosure at Tongue Gill, Grasmere

A scooped prehistoric stock enclosure at Tongue Gill, Grasmere

Snippets of the garden at Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Cherub and dolphin

Cherub and dolphin

Here are a brief selection of images from the small formal gardens I have been out surveying on the National Trust property at Acorn Bank, near Penrith, Cumbria. Unfortunately the weather was seasonally gloomy and there was a distinct lack of exciting plants and foliage as the gardens are now closed for maintenance and sprucing up ready for the 2014 season. The photos are really just snippets of detail that caught my eye as I wandered around. I will have to revisit the property in Spring/Summer next year when the garden is back in bloom and the nearby restored corn mill is also open.