Friday, December 22, 2006

The Bird Table and the Sundial

It’s time to address one of the most important matters known to modern archaeology, namely: “Whatever happened to the sundial at Bourne Hall?” (As you’ve probably gathered already we haven’t put a great deal of effort into this posting, but it’s New Year, we’re exhausted from eating too much Christmas cake and it just goes to show that we’re willing to tackle any historical puzzle regardless of size.)
Let’s start at the beginning. Some time ago we noticed a strange, circular mound cropping up repeatedly on old photographs of Bourne Hall in Thornton. Because of our discovery of Iron Age round houses on the opposite side of the road, this naturally raised some questions as to what the mound might represent.
Then we discovered the photograph below which clearly shows that the mound was being used to house an ornamental sundial.

Having the sort of enquiring minds that we have, we became intrigued as to the sundial’s whereabouts nowadays but, when we questioned Brian Pinney (one of the last tenants of Bourne Hall) he couldn’t remember it being there during the 1950s.
So, what became of it and why was it removed? Well, to be honest we’re not sure…it’s not exactly the sort of thing that concerns most historians (at least not those with anything better to worry about) and, as a result, there’s very little information available in Fleetwood library. However, when we took a closer look at the photograph the shape and design did look oddly familiar to us…
Below is a more recent photograph (albeit another black and white was originally in colour but we scanned it in wrong and now we can't be bothered correcting it) of the bird table in the Towers in Cleveleys. Alright…it doesn’t appear to be pushed into the ground quite as far as the Bourne Hall sundial, but the resemblance is striking.

And there might well be a reason for this. In 1904 (or so our investigations revealed) Messrs Horrocks, of the famous Preston textile firm (well…it’s famous in Preston, apparently, even if nobody else has ever heard of it) bought the entire Thornton Estate, which not only consisted of Bourne Hall but also of Cleveleys, including the aforementioned Towers.
Bourne Hall was subsequently let to tenant farmers (Brian Pinney, eventually, being amongst them) so, presumably, the Messrs Horrocks decided that the sundial would be better suited to the Towers Hunting Lodge.
Problem solved…probably.
Whether the circular mound at Bourne was in existence before the sundial was added to it is an altogether trickier question. Who knows, we might yet learn something from the geophysical survey conducted on the site by Oxford Archaeology North in 2005 (although, from what we’ve heard, they not only failed to locate anything prehistoric there, but they couldn’t even find the original hall despite several walls still being visible above the ground). In the meantime, however, we’ll just have to manage the best we can without their equipment and keep on hunting down the minutia of our history . And what better way to start than with a glass of whisky and a stale mince pie?
Happy New Year.

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