Saturday, October 11, 2008

Unravelling the Knot of at Bodkin Hall

Okay, the title of this posting is probably a bit on the optimistic side. As anybody who’s been attempting to follow this excavation will already be aware, our initial theories concerning mediaeval roads and such have all been scuppered in the past couple of weeks, leaving us with a tangled mass of cobbles, grey silt with molluscs embedded in it, brick edges, upper surfaces, lower surfaces and all sorts of stuff that doesn’t make a great deal of sense no matter how you look at it.
Nonetheless, we’re going to do our best here to explain the upper level of our conundrum. Of course, by the time this posting hits the board, our excavation should have advanced considerably…but bear with us for now and we’ll see if we were right or not at a later date.

First, a photograph from our 21st of September 2008 dig:

We’ve written before (I think) about the area of cobbles directly in front of, and running beneath, Mr. Bradshaw’s new garage (the doors of which can be seen in the photograph above). And we’ve also written about the row of bricks (undatable because they’re so crumbly and we can’t get a tape measure to them) running along the east edge of the cobbles but cut into by a ditch that was sunk for a modern drain from Mr Bradshaw’s septic tank (I think).
And we’ve also written (probably) somewhere about how, beneath these cobbles, there are several layers of sand and clay on top of another layer of cobbles that appears to be of an earlier period.

Right…well here’s a photograph that we hope might help our reader get some perspective on that.

Ignore the fact that there are big gaps in the cobbles. We know from the undisturbed stratigraphy beneath that, for some reason or other, the missing cobbles must simply have been removed from the surface at some point and that there were no intentionally created holes amongst them. Or to put that another way, originally the cobbles formed one solid surface.
As you can see, the photographic stick (that’s the red and white striped thing in the bottom right hand corner) is lying along the north edge of the cobbles. Beyond this there was only clay.

If you look at Barbara’s kneeling pad next to the kerb of the garage (that’s the turquoise thing that looks a bit like a floatation device for kids learning to swim) you should also be able to make out the row of bricks we’ve been talking about, running north from the garage step. They seem to form another edge to the cobbles (although they have been slightly disturbed due to the modern drain being dug).

Is all of this starting to make sense yet?

Okay…so we’re not going to worry about the lower level of cobbles here. Just imagine, if you would, the upper level of cobbles (i.e. those that you can see in the photograph above) forming a complete cobbled surface edged with red bricks along its west side, and you’ve basically got a post 1910 floor. (We know that it’s post 1910 because of the Hartley’s Marmalade Jar we found beneath it. Remember that? Well, it’s tough if you don’t.)

We also know that the bricks and the cobbles on this level extended beneath Mr. Bradshaw’s new garage floor.
How do we know that? Well, because he told us. He discovered them when he was digging the foundation for the garage and took a number of photographs.
In fact, using said photographs we plotted their approximate location on the 1900’s blueprint for Bodkin Hall below:

That pale blue line running through the cobbled area is the row of bricks. It makes a sharp turn just inside the garage door, and then turns south again extending deeper into the garage.
The more observant amongst you (or perhaps the more ‘geekish’…it’s hard to believe that anyone not totally immersed in the history of the Fylde and Wyre would give a stuff about this to be honest) will have noticed by now how this lot aligns with the old wooden blacksmith’s shop that was originally attached to the back of the cottage.

So…what was the cobbled area then?

Well, Mr. Bradshaw informed us that the wooden blacksmith’s lean-to shed thing (which was demolished in 1952) had a door to it that was three feet wide. Not a huge door for leading shire horses in and out of we have to admit.

So, it kind of makes sense, that the outside cobbled surface was an exterior work area.

We also know from documents that, during the Edwardian period (from which our cobbled surface dates), Bodkin Hall was owned by Mr and Mrs Cross.

Mrs Cross ran a dressmakers shop from the front room. (We’ve found a couple of buttons during our excavation, which were presumably related to this occupation.)

Mr. Cross, on the other hand, was the blacksmith next to the Ship Inn, on the other side of Pilling from Bodkin Hall.

Presumably, therefore, he was using Bodkin Hall for what those in the building trade refer to as ‘foreigners’ (i.e. small jobs that don’t necessarily pass through the books of the Inland Revenue). This is a theory backed up to some extent by the number of clog heels and toecaps we’ve found along the way (plus the eel spear shown in the photograph below).

Yes…that’s an eel spear used for spearing eels. Originally it would have been attached to a long wooden handle and the barbed prongs wouldn’t have been so bent together…but that’s what spending several decades crushed beneath somebody’s front drive does to stuff. Want to see the clog toecaps as well? Fair enough:
Like we say…foreigners, all using the little wooden smithy and the outside cobbled yard for the construction.
Apparently Mr. Cross met an unfortunate and rather early end. After his usual drink in the Ship Inn one night he set out back for Bodkin Hall, tripped and broke his neck…a reminder, perhaps, of the perils of alcohol.

As for the lower layer of cobbles…well, they predate 1910, although by how far we can’t as yet say. At the time of writing we still need to clear the top cobbles out of the way and find out what the lower ones are up to. So, if you need a cure for insomnia, make sure to tune in again once we’ve finished.


Jayne said...

With a little elbow grease that clog heel could get some use in a round of The Dashing White Sergeant or Strip the Willow!

Anonymous said...

Okay, the title of this posting is probably a bit on the optimistic side.

What, you mean there's more to this knot than meets the pie?

for a modern drain from Mr Bradshaw’s septic tank (I think).

What sort of medieval plumbing system is that?

a reminder, perhaps, of the perils of alcohol.

Well...yes, I also feel sorry for alcohol considering it gets blamed for most 'incidents'.

Sounds interesting. You might even unearth an entire city.

Brian Hughes said...


I've no idea what The Dashing White Sergeant or Strip the Willow are. They sound like party games at a swingers' club, to be honest, in which case I dread to think where the clog heel fits into the picture.


We've finished the excavation now, but these postings are a bit behind our discoveries. Without wanting to give the game away I can reveal that we didn't discover any cities. However, we have got enough fragments of marmalade jar now to open up our own stoneware recycling plant.

John said...

Great post... the photos and illustrations were very helpful since you showed the buildings as well. I finally have an idea of what's going on there.

You also answered my questions in the post, so... good job!

Breaking a neck from tripping, though, sounds mighty suspicious. You may have a cold case file to reopen, if you ever decide to play detective.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS What material were the buttons made of?

Brian Hughes said...


"I finally have an idea of what's going on there."

That's more than I have...

"Breaking a neck from tripping, though, sounds mighty suspicious."

Not when it's over the edge of a cliff, of course...which in Mr Cross's case it wasn't I ought to say.

"PS What material were the buttons made of?"

Mother of Pearl, apparently. Very classy for Edwardian Pilling. In fact, not the sort of buttons you'd expect on a Pilling sheep farmer's smock frock really. I can only assume that the customers were coming in from more cosmopolitan high-faluting areas...such as

Jayne said...

The Dashing White sergeant and Strip the Willow are vigorous Scottish country dances guaranteed to leave you in need of an oxygen tent for a week.
And an extra clog heel or 3.

Brian Hughes said... it all makes perfect sense, although I'm more inclined to think that the heels and toecaps would be better suited to the traditional Lancashire Clog Dance...followed by a bout of ecky thump.

Jayne said...

Hmmm black pudd with bacon and egg on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes....what were you saying about shoes...?

Anonymous said...

In order to meet my self-imposed comment quota, Brian, I must admit:

I really hate shoes!

My job here is done.

*walks off in search of yoghurt*

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne and Reuben,

I didn't say anything about shoes. Clogs are, of course, a type of boot, albeit one with a wooden sole and lots of metal bits that create sparks when you walk.

And as for the bacon, egg, black pudding etc. I'm on a diet. Mentioning such excellent fat-soaked edibles whilst I'm sitting here with a thin smear of Marmite on Melba Toast is just cruel.

Jayne said...

Hmmmm really should try Vegemite on toast, tis very healthy and yummy.
It puts a rose in every cheek, you know.

Brian Hughes said...

In my case, that'd make six roses then.

Jayne said...

You could reincarnate that eel spear and get some fish in your diet....
*ducks in case the spear starts flying*

Brian Hughes said...


Already got plenty of fish in my diet, caught fresh every morning by Fleetwood trawlers. Mmm, fish and chips.

Ann O'Dyne said...

is a bodkin not a wooden thingy for inside a sock while it is being darned ?

(oh yes, those were the days)

Brian Hughes said...


No, that's a wooden sock darning mushroom thing. A bodkin's the pointed metal thing with the hole in it that you thread the darn through.