Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Collection of 1950s Antiquarian Photographs

We were rummaging around in our highly unorganised under-the-bed collection of historical documents, photocopied news clippings and other assorted antiquarian papers the other day, in search of some article or other that we didn’t find anyway but we’re used to that happening by now, when we serendipitously came across the following collection of black and white photographs dating from the 1950s, given to us by the late, great Headlie Lawrenson a couple of years ago before his untimely death. (I’m knackered after that sentence.)
I’m not entirely sure if Headlie took these himself, but he was certainly involved in the digs that are pictured. Whatever the case, we found the photographs so fascinating when they were first presented to us that we’d always planned to write an article about them. Then, of course, we forgot. Until we found them again, that is.
So, the first of these gems shows a trench that’s been cut across the Walton-le-Dale to Lancaster Roman Road, at Kiln Trees Farm (originally written Kill Trees referring the boundary of a keeill) at Cabus. It was here that Headlie and his team also discovered Cabus cross lying on the road’s surface, and promptly picked it up and stuffed it back into its base at the crossroads where it stands to this day.

All right, so it doesn’t look like much, but what do you expect from a Box Brownie, or whatever it was they used to take the shot? We thought it was interesting anyhow…a never before published historical document recording the uncovering of an ancient highway not seen for almost two thousand years. Come on…it’s got to be worth posting, surely?
The next photograph shows a similar excavation, this time in the field adjacent to Street Bridge, and details the surface of the Ribchester to Lancaster Roman road.

This is actually a very important photograph, even if it doesn’t appear to show much. We revisited Street a year or so ago now, with Neil Thompson, and discovered that, running in two straight lines across the fields leading to Grizedale Beck, new cairns of cobble stones (obviously removed from the Roman highway) had been piled up every few yards. In years to come, this photograph might be the only proof left that the Roman road ever existed between these two locations at all. Well…this photograph and the next one below…which also shows the Roman road at Street Bridge, on this occasion having been excavated up to the actual banks of the Wyre.

The final photograph is absolutely brilliant in our opinion. We’re still at Street Bridge circa 1950, but this time we’re witnessing the discovery of another keeill cross. Just look at the size of it. It’s certainly up there with the Cabus cross, and the same, crude carving can clearly be seen etched into the shaft. That’s what these things look like before they’re snapped in half and used for gateposts.

What became of the Street Bridge keeill cross we just don’t know. We believe that Headlie and his mob re-erected it, as was their practice, at Street itself, but it disappeared during road widening works at some point or other and was never seen again.
It’s a good job we’ve got this photograph of it then.
On which note I’ve suddenly got the urge to dig out my camera and record some other historical titbits round the area for future antiquarians, before the local construction workers, ignorant farmers or money grabbing council planners destroy them too.

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