Saturday, October 25, 2008

The End of the Road for Bodkin Hall

My dear Vimes, history changes all the time. It is constantly being re-examined and re-evaluated, otherwise how would we be able to keep historians occupied? We can’t possibly allow people with their sort of minds to walk around with time on their hands.
Jingo’: Terry Pratchett


We didn’t half miss Barbara at our Bodkin Hall excavation on the fifth of October.

No, she isn’t dead. (At least, I hope she isn’t.) She’d gone off to Boston (that’s the city in America as opposed to the village down south) to witness something called ‘The Fall’, which I’ve been told is just like autumn in England but with a much higher risk of getting shot. That’s all very fine and good I suppose, but we didn’t have anyone to swing the mattock for us, or do any of the heavy, manual labouring stuff that the rest of us like to stand around observing.

However, we’re troopers at Wyre Archaeology and, following a large number of brews and discussions, we got stuck in for the final day of the excavation and stood around watching/criticising David digging instead.


As you’ve probably gathered, the Bodkin Hall dig is now complete.

What have we learned? Well, for a start, Mrs Bradshaw makes excellent bacon butties. Secondly, tarmac’s a bugger to dig through. Thirdly, the ‘mediaeval road running underneath Mr Bradshaw’s garage’ theory was utterly and completely wrong. I think that was Chris’s idea. I argued with him at the time. I said, “Chris, you can’t be right.” I’m sure it was him what said it.
Still, you can’t win ‘em all.
In fact, in Bodkin Hall’s case we didn’t even strike the booby prize as far as ancient history goes. There was no Roman villa, no Celtic burial ground (although there were a few old chicken bones, possibly originating from KFC), no Viking battlefield…not even a couple of priceless Georgian artefacts, which you might have expected seeing as the upper half of Bodkin Hall is constructed from Georgian bricks.

But we did work out what was going on, which, in archaeological terms, is what’s important. (Well, it’s important when you’ve found bugger all else worth bragging about anyway.)

Before we launch ourselves into the potted history of Bodkin Hall, however, it might be best to bring the reader up-to-date with what we found on October the fifth.

The previous Sunday we’d abandoned the dig because it was teatime and the collective rumblings of the excavation team’s stomachs were causing a tsunami down in Kent. Before we backfilled the trenches, though, we unearthed a slab of stone beneath the east kerb of Mr Bradshaw’s drive. Was this an earlier garden wall? Was it the foundation of some long lost monastic building? What am I asking you for? You’ve probably got even less clue than we had when we found it.

Anyhow, there it is look, marked as number 028 on the overhead photograph below:


Correct, there isn’t much to see. That’s why we opened Trench 005 on the fifth of October one metre to the west of said stone slab (that’s to the left on the photograph).

As it turned out Trench 005 contained nothing. Well, when I say nothing, it had all of the usual layers of clay and sand and stuff running through it. But there was no continuation of the stone slab, therefore there wasn’t an old wall structure running across the drive.

So we opened Trench 006 instead, directly to the east of the slab. Well, almost directly east. We didn’t bother taking out the drive’s kerbstone because that would have been way too much hassle.

And yes, this time the trench produced…well, absolutely bugger all as well. No extension to a wall running eastwards either then.

However, we did find a similar sized slab to number 028, lying just below number 028 but not doing anything much other than that.

As Terry Pratchett's patrician pointed out in our quote at the start of this posting, history needs constant re-evaluation, so for an hour and half we all stood around doing just that. And drinking coffee. And eating lemon sponge with custard filling. And smoking cigarettes. And complaining about how Time Team have a much bigger budget than we do. In fact they’ve actually got a budget.
We’re lucky if we can afford a packet of Hobnobs to hand around after lunch.

The upshot of all this was that we finally agreed that what we probably had here was a pad stone.

Time for a quick (albeit somewhat on the small side) map showing Bodkin Hall, courtesy (although not officially, so watch out for me being sued for infringement of copyright over the next few weeks) of the 1893 Ordnance Survey team:



The chances are that you’ve noticed by now the ‘detached’ (presumably wooden) building just northeast of the cottage itself.

That’s what the pad stone would have been for. It was keeping one corner of the building out of the damp. In fact, when we double-checked, we realised that we’d excavated three of these slabs so far (no doubt raising the whole of the west side of the building off the clay) and that the little cobbled path (or to put it another way, the lower set of cobbles we’d uncovered at the start of the excavation) running from the blacksmith’s shop would have ended smack bang between them.

To illustrate that (because, let’s face it, it doesn’t make much sense written down) here’s another overhead view of the site with the pad stones highlighted in orange and the route taken by the lower set of cobbles highlighted in…a sort of yellow sort of colour.



Now, by our reckoning, this wooden building would have been the local cobbler’s shop, ideally located at the end of the path from the blacksmith’s to tap freshly made segues and hobnails and metal toecaps and stuff onto the old fashioned Lancashire clogs. In fact, we even found slivers of rubbery glue and various metallic clog accessories in Trench 006 to confirm our suspicions.

At the start of this posting I said that we’d now completed the Bodkin Hall dig and that we’d compiled a potted history of the site, although perhaps not in so many words. Well, we have, but unfortunately we’ve once again run out of space. So if you want to read the finished summary (and, after all, who wouldn’t?) then you’d better return in a few day’s time for the final chapter.

11 comments:

RVB said...

... which I’ve been told is just like autumn in England but with a much higher risk of getting shot.

Has NHS cut back on their immunisation program?

Well, for a start, Mrs Bradshaw makes excellent bacon butties.

That is terrific. Did they come with nutmeg?

it was teatime and the collective rumblings of the excavation team’s stomachs were causing a tsunami down in Kent.

We felt 'em down here in Melbourne too...either that, or the nearby gasworks forgot to activate the 'stop valve'.

Now, by our reckoning, this wooden building would have been the local cobbler’s shop.

With the quaint little windows and that 'oh so English village feel'? Excellent.

Brian Hughes said...

"... which I’ve been told is just like autumn in England but with a much higher risk of getting shot.

Has NHS cut back on their immunisation program?"

I'm going to send that one to Giles Brandreth.

"Well, for a start, Mrs Bradshaw makes excellent bacon butties.

That is terrific. Did they come with nutmeg?"

No...just a very stern warning from my doctor.

"...it was teatime and the collective rumblings of the excavation team’s stomachs were causing a tsunami down in Kent.

We felt 'em down here in Melbourne too...either that, or the nearby gasworks forgot to activate the 'stop valve'."

That'd be the bacon butties repeating inside me. As enjoyable as they were, when I went to the bog the following morning I launched myself through the roof.

"Now, by our reckoning, this wooden building would have been the local cobbler’s shop.

With the quaint little windows and that 'oh so English village feel'? Excellent."

'Fraid not Reuben...as far as I can work it it was more like a wooden dunny the morning after consuming too many bacon butties, only much less salubrious.

RVB said...

Aside from cigarettes, bacon butties, pies, beer and sausages...is there anything else you eat? Or are you just feeling vengful - against NHS and want to take it out on them by being all unhealthy and in need of medical attention?

Jayne said...

How appropriate on St Crispin and St Crispian's Day, patron saint of cobblers and snobs :P
The find that is, not your dietary discussion with Reuben.

Andrew said...

Project over then Hughsey, except for the next 'we found nothing post'. Even in AU we can find stuff from 18th century. Actually, there is stuff to be found here from 400,000 years ago.Kind of puts the Romans in their place.

John said...

Andrew,
Kent's Cavern in Torquay has produced artifacts from 500,000 years ago, including a very old hand axe. Top that!

Brian,
So this excavation didn't reveal anything profound? At least you solved the mystery for Mr. Bradshaw, and your odds of finding something at the next dig have now gone up.

As for 'Fall', not 'the fall', it is quite pretty in New England. There are places in Boston that you might get shot, but there aren't many fall leaves to see in those neighborhoods, and I doubt Barbara will be hanging out there.

Stop bashing America, eh, and get your spade over to Bourne Hill or Mains Hall, or those stoneage mounds in Nateby already.

Cheers, JOHN

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

Actually I'm not allowed to eat any of those things since my doctor took out a court order on me going anywhere near them.

Jayne,

St. Crispin's day, according to Shakespeare's Henry V, was also Agincore, another coincidence perhaps, only in our own particular Agincore at Bodkin Hall...we lost.

Andrew,

One of the problems with archaeology is that you never actually know what's going to be under there until you've dug it. Edwardian and Victorian might not be ancient, I admit, but fair's fair, we did find a Roman road a couple of month's ago, and we're still working on our mediaeval watermill.

John,

Barbara's back now and, apart from a bit of jetlag, she managed to survive. In fact she seemed to enjoy herself...in America...weird eh?

As for the next excavation, well if it wasn't for the fifty m.p.h. winds tomorrow we'd be back at Grange Farm in Stalmine...but I'm not having the feathers blown out of my hat again like last week, so it'll have to wait a tad longer yet.

RVB said...

Who's Giles Brandreth?

Not one of your spooky-doos is it? Like Doctor Cribbins (whose bathroom has an atmosphere to it, you said earlier)?

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

Giles Brandreth...let's see, ex tory m.p., regular in dictionary corner on Countdown and producer of billions of throw-away pun based joke books...the sort you read on the loo and then, if necessity calls, come in handy afterwards.

RVB said...

A Tory? I thought natural selection made them disadvantageous in today's world.

Perhaps I spoke too soon...the Labor species are just as bad.

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

To paraphrase Marx: "Politics corrupts, and revoltionary politicians corrupt revoltingly."