Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bodkins and Blacksmiths: Part One

Ever heard of a place called Bodkin Hall? No, we hadn’t either. Actually, that’s not strictly true. We had heard of it, but we’d no idea where it was. We thought it might have been somewhere down Bodkin Lane in Out Rawcliffe, but it wasn’t. That’s because Bodkin Hall in Pilling isn’t really a hall at all. In actual fact, it’s reckoned to be the oldest blacksmith’s in the village, although, of course, it’s undergone a few alterations since its halcyon days when the walls vibrated to the sounds of hammers on the anvil and the air was filled with the stench of burning hoof.
Exactly where the building attained its unusual name we couldn’t honestly say. The word ‘bodkin’ immediately suggests some sort of connection with sewing and seamstresses (no comments please) -- sail making perhaps -- although in Lancashire dialect ‘bodkins’ is also an expression of surprise (as in “Odds Bodikins” immortally uttered in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor).

Here’s a photograph of the place. It has a certain undeniable charm about it.

Mr. Bradshaw, who currently owns Bodkin Hall, got in touch with us recently to investigate what appeared to be a wall that he’d discovered beneath his front lawn during the construction of his driveway. Obviously we couldn’t turn our noses up at that, so me, Fiona and Michelle took a trip to Pilling one evening in full detective mode for a good old snoop around.
Mr. Bradshaw had been busy. He’d dug into a sizable portion of the aforementioned drive again, just for us, revealing a swathe of archaeology that hadn’t seen the light of day for some considerable time.


Now then, that’s not the best of photographs perhaps, but for any amateur archaeologists reading this, what do you reckon that is? It’s composed of cobblestones, ancient bricks and clay.
We’ll give you a clue…it doesn’t look much like a wall to us. It’s far too wide and unstructured for that. Well, it’s far too unstructured vertically. On the horizontal somebody in times past had gone to a lot of trouble to fit the pieces together.

Our first guess was that we might be looking at the original blacksmith’s yard, especially when Mr. Bradshaw explained that the cobbled area stretched all the way beneath his newly extended garage and, when laying the floor a few years ago, he’d uncovered a number of interesting artefacts that can be seen in the photograph below.


What have we got here, then? Well, there’s a brick – Victorian – complete with the fingerprints of the somewhat lackadaisical manufacturer embedded in it. There’s some treacle ware, a rusted fork and various sizes of knackered old horseshoes (the large one, no doubt, belonging to a shire horse, whilst the smallest appears to have come off a pony…possibly a very fancy pig).
Mr. Bradshaw then kindly showed us around the house, in particular the attic, which he was currently redecorating. Because the paper has been stripped off the walls this gave us an ideal opportunity to view some of the brickwork. Out came the tape measure and it was soon established that the bricks all dated from the 18th century. (That’d be the Georgian era to you and me.)

All right, the photograph below is extremely grainy (that’s because dusk was drawing in and my camera’s atrocious at handling low light levels) but as far as photographs of bricks go, it’s adequate for the purpose of illustration.


On the ground floor the walls were cobbled (with similar sized stones to those lying beneath the driveway) and lime mortared, suggesting that during the eighteenth century (that’s somewhere between 1700 and 1799 to those who get their centuries confused) the house was rebuilt from the first floor upwards. Or to be more accurate, from the bottom of the windows on the first floor upwards.
There were also some fine old beams in the attic. Michelle suggested that Fiona took a closer look at the nails imbedded in them. (You can tell a lot from the shape of a nail’s head.) Unfortunately the ever-gathering gloaming proved to be more than my camera could handle. The bunk up proved to be more than Michelle’s back could handle, as well. Nonetheless, here’s the photograph (such as it is) just before her back gave out and the pair of them ended up in a heap on the floor none-the-wiser about the shape of the nails for all their efforts.


Now, I did say a couple of paragraphs ago that the ‘blacksmith’s yard’ theory was our first guess. Since cogitating on the matter at home we’ve reached a far more profound and obvious conclusion as to what Mr. Bradshaw had actually discovered beneath his drive. But we’ve run out of space once again, so if you’re intrigued by the possibilities you’ll just have to return for the next bit of this article.

20 comments:

Jayne said...

Cobbled yard for a coaching inn?
A racing pig stables?
House of ill repute racing the ladies of the night around a course, shod in horse shoes?

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I take it you're asking me what I want for my birthday here?

RVB said...

Those photos do seem to generate a sense of atmosphere.

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

In the same way that Dr. Crippen's bathroom does...

Jayne said...

Dr Crippen has been found innocent with DNA testing and his missus was alive and kicking for decades after he was strung up :P
Bet she was one of the racy gals in the horse shoes you had in mind Brian :P

Brian Hughes said...

Raunchy filley or toothy old nag? That's for the jury to decide...

John said...

"Why does it always come back to Crippen? What people tend to forget is that the Crippens were happily married for years before he murdered her." Jane, Coupling, but exactly what I wanted to say, so I quoted.

I'm just glad you explained that last photo... for a second there I thought you accidently showed us something from your private stash of exotic erotica. :0)

As for the cobbled bit, didn't you lot have cobbled roads, like we had? The blacksmith's yard makes sense, in a way, especially if it were an extension of said cobbled street. For one, a smooth hard surface would be good for moving heavy objects about, as well as a good place for horses racing down the road to turn into. Also, the blacksmith could have easily passed a few extra quid to the road builders to extend the road a bit in front of his place.

See? Common sense rules the day, even in archeology.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

The horseshoes also tend to back up the blacksmith's yard theory...plus the word 'Blacksmiths' on the old map. But there's more to this than meets the eye, as will be revealed on Saturday. (I'm desperately trying to build this up here...I hope it's not too obvious.)

John said...

Yeah, of course it's a blacksmith's... I thought that went without saying? The mystery, I believed, was what is this large flat platform made of clay and cobblestones, to which I agreed with said theory about it being the blacksmith's 'yard'.

I ain't daft, y'know.

JOHN (:0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

(Whispered aside: I know you're not daft, but I'm trying to build up some sort of suspense to keep people reading here and you're giving the game away with your c*bbl*d r**d theories.)

What? Mediaeval road? No, of course not. It's a blacksmith's yard! Move along people...there's nothing to see here.

(Look into my eyes...look deep into my eyes...everyone will forget the cobbled road bit...nobody mentioned a cobbled road...the cobbled road revelation will come as a complete surprise when you read it next Saturday...and you will want to donate fifty quid to Wyre Archaeology as well...three, two, one...and wide awake.)

So, anyhow, that's how the Romans did it and, of course, the answer to our conundrum will be appearing in Saturday's post.

Jayne said...

So what you're saying is that the "blacksmith" was the only gay in the village?
Was he the toothy old nag?:P

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I have it on good authority that nobody in Pilling is, was or ever has been gay. There are too many unattached sheep around to even consider such a thing.

RVB said...

That sounds well-devious, Brian.

Whin said...

check link concerning medeival bodkins.
http://www.english-longbow.co.uk/largepics/bodkins.html

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

My deviousness knows no bounds. Unfortunately it knows no success either.

Whin,

Affordable Bodkins -- 90 pence each? I'm tempted to order a batch, scatter them randomly round Mr. Bradshaw's garden, and then tell everyone we've dug 'em up when it comes to the excavation. It'd certainly give an interesting twist to the hall's name.

John said...

Brian,

Couldn't these bodkins have something to do with the Hall's name? Okay, i don't know when the hall was built, or when metal bodkins were used, but there was a big battle round those parts once upon a time, no? Maybe there were so many bloody bodkins lying around, they named the hall after them, to remind themselves to watch where they step, if nothing else.

Just speculating, JOHN :0)

The Actor said...

Brian,

Did you look around for that cottage ?

I'm sure it's around there somewhere.

Brian Hughes said...

John,

Both you and Whin might be onto something. It could well be that there were a lot of spear tip bodkins discovered around the hall. The place appears to mediaeval, if not earlier, so that'd be about right. On the other hand, the blacksmith's might have actually made the bodkins themselves back in the mediaeval period. Who knows, we might even find something when we dig the place up to add weight to the argument.

Martyn,

Haven't found it yet, but Chris seems to think he knows where it is. We'll be digging Bodkin Hall (weather permitting of course) on September the 14th (there's always room for one more if you want to join us) so I'll have a quick scout around the end of Taylor's Lane while I'm there.

Feral Beast said...

I like your post.
And I think it may be the horse stables.

Brian Hughes said...

Mr. Beast,

It might well be. We'll just have to wait for a bit. ('Bit'...gettit? 'Wait for a bit' as in a horse's bit...being excavated that is...well I thought it was funny.)