This time we hit a floor.
Well, when I say a floor, it was actually just clay. It was nice, orange coloured clay, and it had some flat cobbles in it, which had obviously been used to make it more even. But it was still clay. However, such menial discoveries can tell us a great deal about the sort of archaeology we’re dealing with. For example, in this instance, we were obviously dealing with a building that had no floor…and no foundation come to that. In archaeological terms that’s what’s known as a ‘right dump’.
The weather at this point, as can be seen in the photograph below, had taken a turn for the worse, despite the BBC forecast assuring us of a glorious sunny day.
Nonetheless we persisted (as, indeed, did the weather), extending the trench to the west until the hawthorn hedge was spearing us.
Mention should be made, perhaps, of the difficulties we encountered throughout the morning when shifting the equipment, not to mention ourselves, through the gaps in that damned hedge. Hawthorn prickles are deadly, especially when the hedge is obviously holding a grudge against you. Several of us very nearly ending up changing genders in the process of getting the dumpy onto the platform, not the sort of thing you’d expect from a quiet morning’s archaeology.
Anyway, at this point we found the outer wall. That is, we found what remained of the outer wall, which wasn’t much more than a smudge of old bricks, lime mortar, fat old cobblestones and crumbled plaster to be honest. In fact, for the record, I drew up the diagram of it below.
I ought to say at this juncture that I’ve been criticised for my trench diagrams in the past. I’m not going to mention who by, but let’s put it this way, if my critic spent more time writing up their own reports instead of whinging about other people’s then our knowledge of local history might be considerably broader than it is at present, and the amount of money they earn from supposedly recording their excavations (or not recording them as the case might be) would be better justified.
The truth is, I’m an illustrator, not a bloody trench drawer-upper. I realise that trench diagrams should be extremely basic; nothing more than thin pencil lines and child-like block shapes…a bit like fuzzy felt pictures, really, only in black and white. However, I can’t help myself. I’m attracted by the variations of light and shade, the subtle interplay of juxtaposed visual concepts that add a three-dimensional quality to my work. Admittedly the results are probably better suited to the walls of an ‘Inappropriate Art’ gallery somewhere in Dussledorf, but at least you can work out what the shapes in my drawings are actually meant to be and, if my approach is a bit unconventional, then might I remind the reader that…that…I probably ought to be getting back to the article.
It was about this time (just as we congratulating ourselves on the wall’s discovery) that Laura turned up.
Laura had spent the previous three hours being lost amongst the complicated lanes of Stalmine.
Yes…I know there are only four lanes in Stalmine…and one of them’s a cul-de-sac…but when I’m giving directions over the phone (which I was) things tend to go pear-shaped, especially if two of the lanes are called Back Lane and I’m not aware of this. When Laura told me she was on Back Lane heading north, I advised her to keep on in the same direction until she spotted a collection of bald heads and cowboy hats on her left hand side. Naturally, she put her foot down and found herself twenty minutes later rounding Lancaster castle.
Fortunately, however, she finally found us…just as we were about to backfill the trench.
And on that exciting bombshell, it’s time to leave the reader in suspense once again until the next part of this article.