Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Out Jutting Conundrum of Stalmine Grange

Chris Clayton’s been busy recently, investigating the various obtrusive bumps and earthworks around his home village of Stalmine. (He actually lives in Bispham, but he grew up in Stalmine, which is probably why everybody there knows him.) In particular Grange Farm (just off Highgate Lane) piqued his curiosity. Was there a mediaeval grange there, or had the name been added recently because it just sounded good? Naturally intrigued Michelle was assigned to the case, and here’s what she discovered.
Before we go any further, however, here’s an aerial photograph. (That’s the farm itself on the right-hand side):

Now then, according to the Victoria County History: “The first recorded possessor (in Stalmine) is Robert de Stalmine, who with Peter his son granted one plough-land called Corcola at a rent of 8 shillings to the monks of Furness about 1165.”
Corcola, in case you’re wondering, which no doubt you are, was most likely the land adjoining Corcas Lane, which is just off the top left hand corner of the aerial photograph above. So, in all probability, as early as the Twelfth Century the land surrounding Grange Farm belonged to and was worked by the monks of Furness Abbey.
Actually, we’ve discovered plenty of other documents substantiating this idea. For example, in 1313 the Abbot of Furness complained about a ‘small encroachment’ on his land in Stalmine made by William de Oxcliffe, and between 1274 and 1284 John de Stalmine gave more land to the monks. We could go on like this all day, but suffice it say for now that there’s evidence enough for Stalmine Grange (and therefore the general plot of land in the aerial photograph) having been in the possession of Furness Abbey.
Cockersand Abbey also had a grange in the area, but that appears to have been somewhere north of Grange Pool…which is basically the dyke opposite Corcas Lane and which has since time immemorial been the boundary line between Stalmine and Preesall. Want to see Grange Pool? Okay…I’ll dig you out a recent photograph:

Before anybody says: “That doesn’t look much like a pool to me”, it does if you live Over Wyre where a pool is the dialect term for a dyke or stream.
Obviously somewhere like Grange Farm and its surrounding fields then is a location for potential archaeology, especially with tantalising titbits such as this (again from the Victoria County History) to whet our appetites: “Nicholas was plaintiff in 1318, in which year he came to an agreement with the monks of Furness as to certain approvements. From this it appears that Nicholas had a salt pan on the waste and the monks had a watermill by their grange.”
Fortunately for us, as we mentioned earlier, Chris Clayton knows just about everyone there is to know in Stalmine and, accordingly, Mr. Bleasdale (who currently owns Grange Farm) gave us permission to investigate his lands a bit further. Which is what we did.
Okay…take a look at this. This is an aerial photograph, courtesy of Mario Maps, showing Grange Farm in the 1940s. As you can probably see, a big, lumpy anomaly in the northwest corner of the grange caught our eye. A white blob on an old photograph, of course, doesn’t mean an awful lot in archaeological terms (even though, if you double check with the aerial photograph we posted at the start of this article, you can see that it clearly is something of interest) so we decided to check this anomaly at ground level.
And here it is:

All right…the photograph’s not very good. They seldom are. These earthworks tend to look quite impressive in reality, but can hardly be distinguished from everything else surrounding them when my camera gets involved. Nonetheless, hopefully you should be able to see a large bank, flat on top, which, as it retreats towards the slope of the hill becomes gradually less. (To put it another way, it’s a big man-made platform of some sort.) Exactly what it was used for, how old it is and whether or not it’s worth excavating remains to be seen. For now though it’s worth laying on the table for our readers because, at the time of writing, we’ve arranged to go back for a contour survey and/or possible dig.


JahTeh said...

Why was it uncovered in the 40s photo? Surely something as bright as that would have been a beacon for the Luftwaffe?

As for all the 'de's, Norman land grabbers I presume.

Brian Hughes said...


I don't think it was uncovered in the 1940s. It's just that those wartime Ordnance Survey photographs tend to include areas of white like that. Never could work out why.

"As for all the 'de's, Norman land grabbers I presume."

De course.

Jayne said...

Am I seeing it right, in comparing it with the first photo, that the white patch is straddling the boundary line?
Is it possible that it's where a mill stood, sharing the salt pan and the milling between the two properties at some time?
Or some squatter knocked together a humpy to sleep in with a really decent flat foundation :P

Feral Beast said...

I hope it's something like a old settlement or something like that.

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne and Mr. Beast,

The boundary line between Stalmine and Preesall is actually at the edge of the next field. (My fault for being too verbose with all this lot.) However, the idea that it might be the watermill...well...stay tuned. Like I say, we obviously need to dig this yet, although we have our ideas as to what it might have been. (We also have more information that we haven't posted yet...which is cheating a bit...but you know how it goes?)

Next bit today at some point, after the cat's been for his checkup.