“A more likely suggestion,” she said, although possibly not in so many words (and with an uncanny foresight concerning John's question in the previous part of this article's comments box), “Is that the original building had a sill constructed of some material or other considerably more valuable that the rubbish bricks and even more rubbish cobbles above it, such as sandstone. Long after the building had collapsed, or been demolished, or whatever happened to it, some industrious local farmer with a bent for pre-new-age recycling must have spotted said sill, removed it in the dead of the night, and then shovelled the remaining rubble back into the hole so that the platform’s owner wouldn’t notice.”
Presumably our trench robber had a liking for Golden Wonder crisps and drank his coffee in a bright pink mug as well. I was going to include a photograph of said mug at this point, but George seemed so taken with it (even if it was only a large broken fragment) that we let him take it home for a souvenir.
We’ll have a photograph of George instead then, shall we?
Look at that cheeky little face. Don’t forget, if you don’t want to see George getting shot, then you’d better get buying copies of the Fylde and Wyre Antiquarian book. 1,000 of the damned things must be sold by Christmas otherwise poor old George’ll be tied to the drainpipe at the back of Wyrefield Farm and be looking down the barrel of a twelve bore on Boxing Day. The link’s in the right hand column. Do something positive and save a life today.
What was I saying?
Oh yes, the robber trench. Sounds like a plausible theory to me, and it would also explain why, despite the copious amounts of lime mortar coming up in the trench, none of the rubble’s joined together to form a solid structure. This means that I’ve filled all of the context sheets out incorrectly so far, but what else is new?
When we opened trench 002 we were hoping to find a corner to the building. As you’ve probably gathered, we didn’t. In fact, we’re starting to realise that whatever the building was, it was considerably larger than your average Wyre cottage. More like a Fylde longhouse really.
Time for another photograph, this time of Gary metal detecting the platform. (He’d already dug up the cows on the right. It’s amazing how far those creatures can burrow when they set their minds to it.)
As you can see, the platform itself is quite a size. By our estimation the building we’re currently excavating (which wasn’t the watermill…that’ll be down the far end somewhere) probably covers half of it. We dug a quick test pit next between the two stones north of trench 001, you know the ones I mean - by the side of the road, to see if it extended that far and, apparently, it did.
What? You don’t know what the two stones I’m on about are?
Okay, hold on, I’ll dig out a photograph.
Right, that’s one of them. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph of the other (which’ll be just off the top of the picture). You can’t always see the LCD on these new-fangled digital cameras, so don’t blame me.
Anyhow…here’s our theory.
An early mediaeval watermill would consist of more than just the mill building, right? For a start, the monks/lay-brothers would need a building in which to store their corn, not to mention the flour when it had been ground. This building would have been sited next to the road for the easy loading and unloading of said flour onto carts for out-of-Stalmine exports. It would have helped if the front doorstep had been raised above the road, level with passing carts.
Taking into account the fact that Back Lane would have been considerably lower nearly 1,000 years ago (a build up of tarmac and stuff tends to raise the surface) the gap between the two stones (one of which, of course, is featured rather pointlessly above) would have been the ideal location for said door.
The aerial photograph below (taken by Gary from Frank’s plane…Wyre Archaeology isn’t half professional and sophisticated these days) gives a rough idea of what I’m talking about.
Yes…I know the building’s overhanging the passing-place/lay-by…but the lay-by wasn’t there in 1150. In fact it was added sometime between 1940 and 1960, which we know for a fact because we’ve been checking our older aerial photographs, courtesy of Mario Maps, extremely carefully. And before anybody starts, that’s just a guess at the building’s size, shape and location. We’re still digging it up and haven’t finished recording it yet, so we’ve got to approximate all this until we’ve done.
Originally the building would have been built from cobblestones on a sill of sandstone (typical of Furness Abbey constructions really). After the dissolution it probably fell into disrepair and, sometime during the reign of the Tudors, was patched up again with local-grown bricks for conversion. Then, hundreds of years later, it fell out of use again, gradually collapsed, was raided for its materials and eventually had its sill nicked.
Hey, it’s a theory!
We’re sticking with it for now, at least until something better comes along. Of course, the thing about archaeology is that theories often change course in mid-dig, so stayed tuned to this board and, by the next exciting episode (whenever that is), the chances are we’ll have totally changed our minds.