Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chewing the Tarmac at Bodkin Hall

We’ve written about Bodkin Hall before, right? About how it’s not really a hall at all, but an old cottage in Pilling that was once a blacksmith’s and a dressmaker’s (although not necessarily at the same time)? And how the top part is built from Georgian bricks whilst the lower part is constructed from cobbles and lime mortar? And we also mentioned that Paul Bradshaw, the hall’s current owner, called us in to investigate a layer of cobblestones that he’d discovered beneath his drive and under the foundations for his new garage, right? Yes, we’ve written about all that before, so there’s no point in rehashing it.
However, here’s how we got on with the first day of the actual excavation, as recorded in my own private archaeological journal:

September 14th 2008.

7.00 a.m.
Woke up unable to breathe because there was a cat sitting on my head. Looked out of window. Wasn’t raining for once. Fed cat. Had bacon butty. Had large mug of coffee. Had another bacon butty and another large mug of coffee. Fed cat again. Smoked four cigarettes. Checked BBC weather forecast in the full knowledge that it’s never right. Decided against third bacon butty and had another coffee instead. Rolled another cigarette. (Editor: Get on with it!)

8.40 a.m. Chris and I stopped at the shop opposite the church in Stalmine where I purchased a packet of cigarettes and three pies (one cheese and onion, one steak and one meat and potato). This will act as an accompaniment to my dinner, which consists of another steak pie, some pork and apple sauce butties, several topside and mustard butties, one pork pie, one (Editor: A bit more expurgation is required, I reckon.)

9.00 a.m. Arrived at Bodkin Hall and sprang into action. Ate the cheese and onion pie and set up the dumpy. Within fifteen minutes we had accurately measured and recorded Mr. Bradshaw’s drive and lawn. (Editor: see diagram.)

9.30 a.m. (or thereabouts) Barbara, Dave, John and David arrive. Site staked out and sectioned. Meat and potato pie consumed. Starting to regret that I didn’t buy more pies now.
10.00 a.m. Trench 001 is opened. Plenty of mattocks and shovels swinging through the air. Sounds of badly sung version of ‘Chain Gang’ (copyright Kool and the Gang) fill the garden. Shrapnel flies. Sparks explode.

10.05 a.m. Brew and first of the pork and apple sauce butties. Note to self ‘Not so much apple sauce next time. It detracts slightly from the flavour of the pork’.

10.30 a.m. Clay layer discovered. Trench 002 opened in front of garage door.

10.35 a.m. Similar sort of clay discovered beneath cobblestones in Trench 002. Ham and pickle butty consumed.

10.38 a.m. Pause for brew and hour long discussion about the trenches so far.

11.38 a.m. and 15 seconds. Ken and Pat turn up with their dog. Previous discussion re-enacted in full for their benefit.
12.38 a.m. Dinner. This consists of a cartoon of Ribena, one of the steak pies, three egg and cress butties, one Kit Kat, one scotch egg, four (Editor: Enough! You’re making me feel sick! Besides, everybody’s getting bored now. Cut to the summary!)

5.30 p.m. It’s the end of day one and, to be honest, I couldn’t eat another thing. It’d ruin my tea if I did. So, what have we got? Well, for a start, Trench 001 was a complete waste of time. At some point in the past the whole lot’s been disturbed. Mr. Bradshaw’s just told me that the area was used as a midden once…and the drain that we hit on the way down probably hasn’t helped much either.
Trench 002 on the other hand has produced a layer of cobbles, sat on several stratums of different coloured/textured clays, sat on another layer of cobbles.

That’s a lot of cobbles.

And clay.

We’ve no idea what it means.

Time to pack up and go home.

7.30 p.m. Now for the business of writing up the excavation report. This is a lengthy, time-consuming procedure, in which every detail, small find (no matter how irrelevant), measurement and hypothesis has to be scanned, recorded and set out according to the archaeologists’ code.

7.31 p.m. That’s that rubbish finished. Time for a mid-evening snack.

7.45 p.m. Have been studying some of the small finds. Various fragments of white stoneware were pulled from the clay layers in both trenches. The base of this jar has writing on it. Both Chris and John have just informed me that the jar was originally a Hartley’s Marmalade jar. It can be dated circa 1910. (Editor: See scan.)

That’s blown the mediaeval road theory then.
More work needs doing at Bodkin Hall. Mediaeval artefacts need to be buried in the next trench if we’re to convince the county archaeologist that we were correct with our first theory. I’ll have to phone round and see if anybody’s got any spare. Thank God this diary’s not for publication otherwise we’d be right up the creek.

Peanut butter on toast for supper.

11.30 p.m. Need toilet desperately.


Anonymous said...

Woke up unable to breathe because there was a cat sitting on my head.

Whose pussy?

Had another bacon butty and another large mug of coffee.

Never heard of a 'Bacon Butty' before, but it sounds very dangerous. I've never been mugged by coffee...only glassed.

Need toilet desperately.

There is a shortage of toilets here in Australia too.

Brian Hughes said...

"Whose pussy?"

Mine, Reuben...obviously (especially remembering that this is a family site and that, as far as I'm concerned, Mrs Slocambe is long since dead and buried).

"Never heard of a 'Bacon Butty' before, but it sounds very dangerous."

It is if you're a nihilist chain smoking non-dieter like me.

"There is a shortage of toilets here in Australia too."

No shortage of toilets in Blighty. (Obviously you've never been to Kidderminster.) It was just one hell of a struggle getting up the stairs with thirty-two pies inside me all desperate to escape.

Anonymous said...

Brian, but what is a 'Bacon Butty'. Remember, you have some non-POMs here as well.

I've heard fearful tails about toilets in Bristol...

John said...

You need to watch more last of the Summer Wine, to learn about the habits of Odd Englishmen like Brian. A bacon butty is a bacon sandwhich.

Now, all these pies you speak about... are these pasties, by any chance? I'm coming over for sure if you've got pasties!

Also, it is my impression that you are being slightly fascetious with this post. Seriously, I'm not sure you're taking this dig seriously.

One jam jar from 1910 doesn't prove anything, you know, unless it was under the cobbles. Also, unless you follow Aristotelean logic, one trench doesn't prove anything. That bit of cobbled way could have been repaired at some time in the past.

Dig a few more trenches, call Weight Watchers and get back to us.

And remember, there's no room for fun or frivolity in archeology!

Cheers, JOHN :0), King of Stonehenge and Lord of the Pasties

Jayne said...

Hmmmm steak and onion and cheese and peanut butter and bacon and black tea and chocolate....
Good to see you don't bother with that silly fruit and cereal muck ;)

Brian Hughes said...


See John's comment.


No, they're not pasties, they're proper pies. Big difference as far as I'm concerned.

The marmalade jar, incidentally, was discovered under the cobbles...or at least part of it was, so from a dating point of view it was important.

"I'm not sure you're taking this dig seriously."

Of course I'm taking it seriously. What's not to take seriously about digging up stuff that my grandfather could remember?


The ghost of my gallbladder still rebels against fruit, even when it's in a pie. I'll stick with my meat and two veg. I'm a very straightforward sort of bloke in some respects.

Jayne said...

Should always heed the warnings of ghosts!

Brian Hughes said...


You're quite right. I always try my best to be true to the spirit.