Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back to the Grange: Part Two

We’ve already put forward our pre-excavation theory about the platform at Grange Farm, Stalmine, originally housing a thirteenth century watermill belonging to Furness Abbey. (It’s in the last article…strewth! Go and have a look if you’ve forgotten about it all already.) Anyhow, another possible theory, albeit a more tenuous one, is that the platform once housed a keeill.
Yes, a keeill.
Recorded in ‘The Royal Forest of Lancaster’ by R. Cunliffe Shaw is the following grant: “All Carr furlong between Keldbreckwell and the ditch of Stalmine grange with the meadow belonging was given by Henry of Stalmine son of William Beaufort.”
“So what?” you’re probably asking yourself. (What do you mean, “So what?” What sort of attitude is that to take? We’re trying to educate you lot here!)
Right, the name Keldbreckwell suggests a well belonging to a keeill (a fifth to eleventh century chapel of Norse/Celtic origin…in case you’re wondering) situated on a breck (the Norse word for the slope of a hill).
Now, if All Carr furlong referred to the field highlighted in blue on the first edition Ordnance Survey map below, then Keldbreckwell could easily have been the well recorded at the bottom of the platform.

That there was a keeill somewhere in Stalmine is, in our opinion, a given. In the same work, Cunliffe Shaw also refers to the coucher of Furness mentioning strip grants in a number of fields, one being Kelbrick. (Again, apply the same interpretation and that keeill’s got to be around somewhere.) Moreover, outside the porch at St. James’ (previously St. Oswald’s) church stands the preaching cross shown in the photograph below, the base of which (hewn from a single slab of stone) is typical of keeill cross bases.

Before anybody starts, yes, we know that there’s a date carved into the cross shaft. And, yes, we know that the date is sixteen hundred and odd. But clearly, when you actually check, the base and shaft didn’t originally belong together because they don’t actually fit. No…that’s a keeill cross base and there’s no mistaking it. The shaft appears to have been added when the church was ‘rebuilt’ in the seventeenth century.
Now whether the base was moved to its current location from close to Back Lane or not we couldn’t, at this time, honestly say, although the most likely location for our missing keeill, all matters considered, is the brow of the hill by the side of Grange Road (now occupied by a ‘Stud’ farm) rather than the platform itself.
At the time of writing, the most obvious theory as to why the platform was constructed, remains for the housing of the watermill, although it should be noted that several maps spanning the last few centuries detail buildings (the exact size and shape of which we wouldn’t like to commit ourselves to) perched on it.
One last item before we leave this matter alone for a while, during our initial investigation, we discovered a few pieces of pottery (including delft and treacle ware) along with a fragment of clay pipe stem in the partially collapsed northeast embankment, indicating that a certain amount of post mediaeval activity had taken place on the platform. The scan below shows a selection of these ‘small finds’ such as they are. (The treacle and delft ware are currently in the possession of Chris Clayton.)

And one last photograph for now, showing the platform as viewed from its about halfway along on its east side.

Mr Bleasdale did tell us that, when he was a kid, the platform housed a chicken shack with residents…although somehow it seems unlikely that the local farmer would construct something like this just so that his chickens didn’t need to walk uphill.


Bwca said...

"We're trying to educate you lot here"

Sir Sir! will there be a Test Sir?

Jayne said...

Could it be a keeill with a water mill attached, or converted into one, in later years?
The average bloke doesn't like leaving a perfectly good building just lying there...and there...and there when he could glue it all back together and recycle it for something else (usually a sly grog shop,here in Victoria).

Brian Hughes said...


There might well be. Come and see me after class.


Generally keeills consisted of an upturned dingy on a low wall of sods, so it's unlikely to have been reused. Now, the grange building (which we reckon might be the barn on the top of the hill, of course)...that might have been built over the original keeill site because of its religious significance. That'd still make the well at the bottom of the hill the 'well belonging to the keeill'.

My money's on the platform being the watermill myself, although I'm open to side bets here. Keeill ten to one, watermill evens favourite, monastic sports centre fifty to one against. Please send your bets to 'Honest Hughes Bookmakers - Third sink from the door, London Street Public Toilets, Fleetwood'. Make sure you mark the envelope 'I must be insane if I think I'll ever seen any of this money again.'

Feral Beast said...

Very interesting.

Brian Hughes said...

Glad you're enjoying it Mr. Beast.