Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bodkins and Blacksmiths: Part Two

This is a map…all right, two maps, one overlaid on the other…showing the location of Bodkin Hall (nee the blacksmith’s) on Lancaster Road as it stands nowadays and as it stood back in the 1840s.

As you can see, the position of Bodkin Hall has always been responsible for the sudden kink in Lancaster Road.

Interestingly perhaps, on the older map you can see a road leading off to the east. This actually heads towards, and skirts around the back of, the prehistoric burial ground and ruined mediaeval chapel of Newer’s Wood. But that’s none of our concern here.

You’d expect a blacksmith’s to stand at a road junction, of course. It’d be an excellent and obvious location for passing trade.

Nowadays the Newer’s Wood lane has been reduced to an extremely difficult to navigate footpath, part of which actually runs through Mr. Bradshaw’s front garden. (How annoying must that be when the Ramblers’ Association decide to potter through?)
There’s been a certain amount of land-grab going on with this road over the years. At some point the hedge along the north side of it has been moved to the top of the agger, allowing the farmer that little bit extra in the way of crop growing land. And the south side of the road is now, quite simply, incorporated into somebody’s back garden. That’s why the footpath consists of a slight rise towards a hedge-covered hump in modern times rather than the substantial, cart-sized lane it would have been in its glory years. (Exactly how legal this land grabbing was we couldn’t possibly speculate, but it’s got nothing to do with us anyway so we’ll leave it at that.)
As for the kink in Lancaster Road…well, there’s the thing.

Let’s go back to the discovery beneath Mr. Bradshaw’s new garage, and in particular the brick he’d shown us that was crudely formed and bore all the usual measurements/hallmarks of belonging to the fourteenth century. (That’s 1300 to 1399 incidentally…again for those amongst us who get confused about centuries.)

Exactly what was a fourteenth century brick doing in a blacksmith’s yard?

Let’s try that 1840’s map again, this time with Mr. Bradshaw’s garage added to it in yellow. And while we’re there, why don’t we smooth out that kink in Lancaster Road and see where it would have run (shown in blue) had it been as straight as a bishop’s staff at a convention of novices.

And that, we reckon, just about wraps up that! That’s what’s hiding beneath the drive and the garage of Bodkin Hall, the original route of Lancaster Road. It makes sense. The blacksmith’s from Bodkin Hall’s origins would still have stood at the junction (in fact, if you extend the roads coming in from the east and the west, it’s sat at the crossroads, which makes even more sense) and it would explain why, nowadays, the lane from Newer’s Wood is half missing. Before the alterations the Newer’s Wood lane would simply have joined up with Lancaster Road without any stiles, buildings, garden hedges or what-have-you to hinder it.
Now here’s the exciting bit.

That kink in Lancaster Road has been there a very long time. It’s shown on Yates’s map of 1786. So the course of the road must have changed long ago. This isn’t surprising, because most mediaeval road renovations were carried out between the Tudor and the Georgian periods. And by the looks of things, the stretch of the road beneath Mr. Bradshaw’s garden is mediaeval.

And if it’s mediaeval, then it’s probably even older than that, because as we’ve just mentioned (in a roundabout way) people didn’t go into road building much in mediaeval times. In fact, without the kink, the road is long, straight and cobbled.

Sound familiar? Men in skirts with spears and helmets ring any bells?

Obviously we can’t claim that the road is Roman just yet. Fortunately, however, just before we left Mr. Bradshaw asked us if we might be interested in excavating the rest of his lawn for him.

Er…yes…just a little bit.

Sharpen your spades gentlemen. Dust down the dumpies ladies. Wyre Archaeology is about to swing into action once more and this time we’re guaranteed a hit.

One last photograph for the road, as it were. That’s Mr. Bradshaw just behind Fiona. I’d like to thank him here and now for a fascinating evening and another potential chunk of ancient history being added to our borough.

Surveys and other stuff need drawing up/completing first, but as soon as we’re ready we will, of course, be reporting on our discoveries in the usual fashion.


John said...

Hey, was I actually right about sumptin? Not bad for your most distant member of the WA, eh?

Here's to you all finding the remains of a drunken and rolled centurian, or some other easily identified Roman remains. (get it... remains? There's a joke in there, there is.)

One last thing. In St. Albans and other very Roman areas down South, the roads on the edge of town were lined with lead coffins, making it hard for road workers to not only widen roads, but to hide the histiry they wee trundling upon(although from the looks of those lead coffins in the St. Albans museum, somebody sure took a digger to them unceromoniously)

Anyways, with the heat and the hammering, I'm pretty sure the Blacksmith's were outside of town. it may be worth, sometime, actually excavating outside the roadway. Also, while building or just traversing roads, the Romans may have chucked their garbage to the side of the road.

Just trying to help, albeit from afar. JOHN :0)

Feral Beast said...

I hope it's roman.

Anonymous said...

The usual fashion? What does that entail?

goooooood girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Hughes said...


We'll have to establish that it's a mediaeval road first, of course. The problem with that is, during the Victorian period the blacksmith might well have used said abandoned road and added to it to widen his yard, which'll mean all sorts of stratigraphic nonsense before we can go in search of the 'V' shaped (or otherwise) ditch. But, no doubt, we'll have a go...

Mr. Beast,

Same here, although I'm not racing down to the bookies just yet. A nice, old clay pipe bowl would do me for the moment.


'The usual fashion' is me grabbing bits and pieces from the excavation report that might be remotely interesting to the wider world, pretending that I've written said bits and pieces up as an independent article (by adding the occasional meaningless comment to them) and then bunging them up on this board.

Goooooood girl....

Bad girl. Keep your spam to yourself will you? Besides...Labdbrokes is a far superior gambling establishment.

Anonymous said...

That sounds well-scary, Brian.

Brian Hughes said...


You've not been listeneing to the Nolan Sister's again, have you?

Jayne said...

*shudders* Not the Nolans !
Saw clay pipes aplenty at Hurstbridge yesterday but nary a Roman tunic, toga or tuna sandwich in sight.

Brian Hughes said...


Clay pipes are in. Togas are so last but one millenium.

Anonymous said...

No. But I have got something unmentionable under my bed.

Brian Hughes said...

Winnie the Po?

Jayne said...

Yes, Asps are all the rage these days...and bathing in yak's milk :P

I thought you got rid of that Guzunda, Reuben :P

Brian Hughes said...

I've got a guzzunder. The cat uses it as a sledge in the winter.

Anonymous said...

It kept coming back for more (which is strange, since I don't remember giving it anything to begin with).

Brian Hughes said...

In that case Reuben, it was probably just going a bit potty.

Jayne said...

Or the chamber you had it sitting in :P

Brian Hughes said...

I'd wondered where the music was coming from...