Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bodkin Hall: Our Conclusions

(This is going to be long post…I can feel it in my bones. Sorry'd better put the kettle on before attemtping this one.)
Just to recap…again…(we’ve done a lot of recapping over the last few weeks and I bet nobody’s managed to follow any of this regardless).
When we first started our excavations at Bodkin Hall, Pilling, in early September we suggested that Lancaster Road might have originally run in a perfectly straight line, being altered at some later date (before Yates’ map of 1786 was produced) to head southwest around the cottage before returning southeast and back onto its original alignment. We even ran a fancy looking coloured-in hi-viz strip across an old OS map for you:

Well, we were wrong.
All right…I was wrong. Big time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It seemed like a good idea at the time…but when push came to shove it was utter rubbish.
You see, the natural base clay beneath the drive at Bodkin Hall seems to be composed of a dark grey silty substance. We have both dug and augured through this layer up to a depth of almost one metre and nowhere did it show any change in colour or texture as it continued downwards. In fact, several boreholes that we put in even produced water, indicating that we’d hit the water table. No matter how hard we looked, nowhere on the site did we encounter either an agger or ditch, so, all matters considered, it’s probably a safe bet now to write the road theory off.
As for evidences of the cottage’s Georgian and earlier occupations, again we’ve had no success. (In many respects it’s been a really excellent dig.) Despite the fact that Bodkin Hall is actually built from Georgian bricks on a cobbled sill, Mr Bradshaw’s drive and front lawns have produced nothing related to any period earlier than Victorian. The area excavated appears to have simply been an unused space before this time.

This ‘unused space’, judging by the depth of the post Victorian layers, would have been considerably lower than the actual building. Whether Bodkin Hall itself was built on a naturally high piece of ground or on a manmade platform I’m not going to speculate. (It was speculation that got me in this trouble in the first place, because I’m not very good at it.) However, it was more than likely this depression in the landscape that, on reconsideration, accounted for Lancaster Road’s deviation.
In other words, the road was simply following the higher ridge to avoid flooding.

When we reach the Victorian period, on the other hand, the evidences for occupation become loud and clear. Around this time a wooden building seems to have been constructed on the ground beneath what is nowadays Mr Bradshaw’s east lawn. It most likely stood on pad stones to raise it above the clay surface which, being in a hollow, would no doubt have flooded quite frequently. Despite the pad stones, the building was obviously prone to listing, metal ties and brackets having to be manufactured in the blacksmith’s shop to keep it stable.
Here’s one of those ties (number 52)…and no, it’s not the sort you wear around your neck, although if you keep making jokes like that it could be arranged…accompanied by one of the nails (number 51) that would have originally held it place:

This building was probably the cobbler’s; its close proximity to the wooden blacksmith’s shop attached to the rear of the cottage being an ergonomic decision. A cobbled path led directly from the blacksmith’s shop to the building’s door. Again, no doubt, this was built because of the natural depression, the clay base here being subject to floods. In this building clogs were mended using metal toecaps, heels, segues, nails and glue, the former of which were no doubt also manufactured in the blacksmith’s forge.
Here’s a compilation scan (because I’m in a bit of a photo heavy mood today) of a small selection of clog related bits and pieces ‘rescued’ from the site:

(You can print that out, if you want. It’d make quite a good postcard.)
This was during the occupation of Bodkin Hall by either Mr Stirzaker or Mr Ronson. Presumably one or the other of them had at least one child, a girl who played in the grounds with her doll.
Yes…we found this in Trench 006 and couldn’t work out what it was at first. Then we realised it was a dismembered leg from one of those really creepy Victorian dolls:

She, or possibly one of her siblings, also played with rather cruddy homemade marbles (we’ve posted images of them before so if you’re interested you’ll just have to track them down) and a wooden bat and ball (likewise).
It seems that Mr Ronson (or possibly his wife) also had a passion for Hartley’s marmalade; probably using the empty jars for storage (again, the scans are somewhere else amongst the millions of endless Bodkin Hall postings) and either he or Mr Stirzaker was an avid collector of clay pipes. (Go and search for the photos if you want, because I’m not putting them up again no matter how hard you plead.)
Between the Victorian and the Edwardian periods, the wooden ‘cobbler’s building’ was demolished, the cobbler himself probably relocating further north up Lancaster Road as the blacksmith’s at Bodkin Hall became less frequently used. The natural depression at the front of Bodkin Hall was duly filled with layers of sand and clay, until it was almost level with the cottage itself, thus making it less likely to flood and more accessible by the hall’s owners.
The occupiers of Bodkin Hall at this time didn’t seem to consider their new yard aesthetically important, emptying the clinkers from the forge along with broken crockery and burnt animal bones onto the clay.
You want some images of the various animal bones we’ve found? Oh, very well…although I’m sure everybody else wants to just get this posting over and done with now:

Sometime between 1912 and 1932 (during the occupancy of Mr Cross), a more substantial and hardwearing yard was added around the blacksmith’s shop. This yard was cobbled and decorated with rows of red bricks. Some of these bricks were recycled from a fourteenth century building (quite possibly the mediaeval building on Taylor’s Lane that’s now in a state of disrepair).
A wall was also constructed running east/west in front of the cottage, presumably creating a personal yard or garden space designed to improve the appearance of Mrs Cross’s dressmaking shop. (Considering the clinkers and bits of dead animal scattered all over the place, it probably needed it.)
Mr Cross, it seems, used the Bodkin Hall blacksmith’s shop now only for small jobs, such as bicycle and eel spear repairs. (Forget it…I’ve posted enough scans now.) Unfortunately he met his end after falling and breaking his neck on the way home from the pub one night. (It sounds as though it was good night out…until the accident happened at any rate.)
In 1952 Paul Bradshaw’s father bought the cottage and the blacksmith’s shop was finally demolished. At a later date a sewer and drain were laid beneath the ‘yard’, a new surface added to create a drive, the chimney at the front of the hall was demolished and, eventually, Paul Bradshaw added his own extension to the east side of the building to use as a garage.
And that just about sums that up.
Thank God.

Before we banish the Bodkin Hall excavation report to the Wyre Archaeology waste paper basket forever though, I’d better thank Paul Bradshaw for putting up with our total destruction of his drive over the last four weeks, and Mrs Bradshaw for providing us with brews, biscuits, cakes and bacon sandwiches. We can only hope that they think it was all worth it…because I’m almost certain nobody else will.


Anonymous said...

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I want you to come by and enjoy the different labels and music videos I have with the many artistic elements I use in my art blog.

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Brian Hughes said...

Not sure about the 'Art of Jesse', but you've certainly mastered the 'Art of Blog Whoring'. I noticed that you were a salesman under your profile, Jesse. I reckon you should enter the next series of the Apprentice with a talent like that.

Jayne said...

*2 pots of tea later*
Well, I enjoyed reading about everyone digging, getting dirty, digging some more and filling it all back in again.
More, please, sir!

Brian Hughes said...


Don't worry there's plenty more exciting (and for fatso lovers 'erotic') tales of us lot digging holes, although not at Bodkin Hall it must be said. Keep the kettle boiling because I'm bound to post more excavation rubbish at some point.

Anonymous said...

Sorry'd better put the kettle on before attempting this one.

Oh thanks Andrew, I'll have a Green Tea please.

Whether Bodkin Hall itself was built on a naturally high piece of ground or on a man-made platform

Man-made? You mean men used whatever unique bodily substance to construct it, or am I being jejune again?

A cobbled path led directly from the blacksmith’s shop to the building’s door.

I love cobbled paths. Councils should stop investing so much in concrete. It's boring and when archaeologists from the year 2899 (if the human race makes it that unearth that anonymous chap's self-mutilated corpse, I don't want them to be distracted by concrete.

Anonymous said...

That Jess Mendez needs a good kick in the bollocks, by the way.

Brian Hughes said... site, site.

Brian Hughes said...

"I love cobbled paths."

Most of Fleetwood is cobbled, Reuben, and trust me, they're incredibly dangerous and slippery in the winter. Especially when old biddies decide to scrub them down (I've never worked out why they feel the need to do that...but round here they do) just as the place is freezing over.

Andrew said...

I poured myself something, but it wasn't tea. Post made bearable by inserted pictures. Even we in the Antipodes can dig up pre Victorian stuff, in fact 400,000+ year old stuff. No matter, your waste of time made amusing reading. Now was there a 'make good' clause in the dig up the driveway contract?

Daisy said...

Lovely, lovely! You've garnered my interest the way no history prof of mine ever could.

Jayne said...

I've got a rusting pipe and several small horse bones floating about the house from FB's current dig if you want to borrow that rubbish to post next :P

John said...

I'm glad you stopped excavating! It's a well known fact(in Hollywood, anyways) that creepy Victorian dolls could come to life and go on murderous rampages. At the time, the best they could do was to draw and quarter them, and bury the pieces on the 4 compass points.

If you had unearthed the 4 pieces, and placed them together, you'd have had a real mess on your hands... but a heck of a Halloween post, though!

Now, are you in the mood to give us a hauntingly good post for the Holiday?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


The excavation made Mr Bradshaw happy, which is good...although we knackered his drive so thoroughly that he's having to lay a new one now.


Our history teacher at school used to enter the classroom, mutter 'Open your books at page whatever and start reading' and then bugger off to the staffroom for a smoke of his pipe. I'm just glad that my parents took an interest in all this stuff, otherwise weekends would be boring for me nowadays.


Several small horse bones? At least the blacksmith at Bodkin Hall was just shoeing them, not turning 'em into lunch.

John, I said before, no special Halloween themed posting for this weekend...unless you classify cheese as spooky? It gives me nightmares sometimes...

Jayne said...

With all the other bones showing signs of butchering I reckon the blacksmith was moonlighting as a butcher/abattoir...or he had a VERY healthy appetite.

John, I reckon we could cobble up a Halloween nasty with the dismembered evil Victorian doll and the small horse bones, possibly with the ghost of a long lost archaeologist looking for his misplaced bacon butty thrown in for good measure.

Anonymous said...

Kids need to learn verbal dexterity early, Brian. :)

Brian Hughes said...


You could add a few pieces of broken marmalade jar to your spooky doll for good measure. We've got tons of them. I'll send you a few sacks over.


But not too much...don't want any more Robberts being produced, do we?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes...what with the profane descriptions he associates himself with.

Brian Hughes said...

Yes...the sign of a top-notch moron is when profanity takes the place of punctuation. And that would make our extremist friend top of the notches.

John said...

I think we should leave the spooky stories to the master. Have you ever read any of The Greyminster Chronicles, that take place in the Fylde and Wyre? Excellent stories!

I wish the writer would tackle that creepy Victorian doll idea...

Brian Hughes said...


I met the bloke who wrote the Greyminster Chronicles once. He was a total burk and his books were rubbish. I'd save 'em for bonfire night rather than Halloween myself.

Jayne said...

Could we have a spooky story about the contents of the marmalade jars, instead? :P

Wish I had, John, been trying to get the local library to buy them in, fingers crossed I'm wearing them down like Chinese water torture ;)

*Burk is the surname of the tosser who tossed FB out of the club...I thought it most apt ;)

Brian Hughes said...

"Could we have a spooky story about the contents of the marmalade jars, instead?"

I recommend The Paddington Bear Witch Project.

Jayne said...

One that was equally frightening was The Paddington Bear Affair.
Aussie pollie got caught bringing a Paddington Bear into the land of Oz with paying the proper taxes and was forced to resign.
Oh, the horror!

Brian Hughes said...

"Aussie pollie got caught bringing a Paddington Bear into the land of Oz with paying the proper taxes..."

Possibly 'without' paying the proper taxes. That's the curse of the Halloween typo for you...

John said...

Hi there I was looking through your blog and I like it, so I would like you to come and visit my blog here .

I want you to come by and enjoy the different Halloween comics and photos I have with the many artistic elements I use in my art blog.

See you soon :)

JOHN ;0)

PS Someone had to do a Halloween blog...

Brian Hughes said...

Oy, you cheeky monkey. Don't you start as well now...