Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Short Roundup of Assorted Updates

Remember this?

No, probably not. That’s a scan of a pottery fragment found during our excavations of the platform at Grange Farm, Stalmine, 2008. It was sitting on the clay floor of whatever the potential building was that we’d hit when the weather turned terminally grotty and we had to abandon the site to its own devices for the year.
The platform at Grange Farm?
Remember it?
Where we were looking for the remains of a mediaeval watermill and found virtually bugger all other than a few weird postholes and a couple of knackered old clay pipe bowls?
Right…well, we’ve had that bit of pottery dated by several experts since then and, apparently, it’s 16th century. (That’s between the years 1500 and 1599 for anybody who might still be confused about how centuries work.) So, in effect, it dates to around the time of the dissolution, which, by our reckoning, would have just about been the period when our missing mill was last seen in action.
So that’ll do…er…pig.
Now then, what about these?

These were two stones that had been found on the beach and which Steve Bird had photographed and then showed to us because he wanted to find out how old they were and what they might once have been.
And we didn’t know.
So they were posted in the Fleetwood Chronicle and several people wrote in, reckoning that they were probably home made fishing weights.
But we weren’t sure, because they looked a bit prehistoric to us, so Steve brought them in to Wyre Archaeology, and we had them analysed and scrutinised and all sorts of other things ending in ‘ised’ by the usual experts.
Well, as it turned out, they probably were fishing weights after all, which only goes to show that sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth.
Onwards. Recognise this place?

I didn’t think so. I’m seriously starting to despair of you lot. That’s us, excavating Paul Bradshaw’s front drive at Bodkin Hall, Pilling. Of course I didn’t expect anyone to actually remember it. After all, we were only there four weeks and couldn’t have written any more than about four hundred postings about it.
At Bodkin Hall we’d managed to pin down a certain amount of assumed history, such as the fact that there were kids living there at one point, playing with homemade marbles and dolls and stuff. And presumably there was some sort of butcher who lived there as well, and a blacksmith and a cobbler. But we had no documented evidence to go off.
Fortunately for us, Paul Bradshaw continued his excavations after we’d left in search of other holes to dig, and found the following information at the Lancashire Records Office tucked away in the 1851 census regarding the residents of Bodkin Hall at the time:

James Stirzaker Blacksmith Age 40
Wife Age 39

Son Age 15

Daughter Age 13

Son Age 9

Daughter Age 6

Daughter Age 4

Daughter Age 1

There you go, blacksmiths and kids, just like we said. That’s an awful lot of people for such a small cottage don’t you think? A bit too familiar for my own personal tastes, perhaps. I feel overcrowded with Michelle and the cat. But that’s not all. Paul also managed to dig out some other stuff from the 1901 census:

James Gardner Age 70 Retired Surgeon Butcher
Age 61 wife

Age 31 Labourer

Age 29

Age 23 Butcher

Age 20 Maker of Boots

Age 18 Carp (could be Carpenter)

See…cobblers and butchers as well then. It all ties in with what we’d already surmised, which just goes to show that the methodology we employ actually does seem to work…sometimes.
And, yes…you did read that first job occupation correctly. We were intrigued by the phrase ‘Retired Surgeon Butcher’ as well, wondering whether it was used in the same way as Barber/Surgeons in the mediaeval period. So we asked Paul for his opinion and he initially suggested that the term would have been used back in Victorian times in the same way that ‘Master Butcher’ is now. A few days later however we received the following email from him:

“It appears you were right about James Gardner. According to my mother my granny once said that Maggie Bradshaw had her leg removed at Bodkin Hall, with the Local Doctor assisting. She lived to the 1970s.”

Apparently the amputated leg ended up buried in Paul’s back garden. The bones we discovered were excavated from beneath his front drive. Perhaps at some point we’ll return to Bodkin Hall in search of that missing appendage, although if the cottage itself isn’t in Paul’s ownership at the time, we might end up being told to hop it. (That was probably the most contrived pun we’ve ever produced, so I’d like to apologise for it right now and promise that such an occurrence will never happen again.)
Let’s have a scan of some of those bones then, because there’s no better way to end an article like this than with something a little bit gruesome.


John said...

I recognise the coin in the second photograph. That's tuppance, that is! Hope that helps.

And those fishing weights do look prehistoric, no matter what anyone says.

As for the bones, could they be refuse from the folks living there? The third one looks like a rib bone, so they might have been eating on the porch, and just chucked the bones in the yard. You can date them from the layer you found them in, right? I mean, it ain't a relative of Harold the Elk or anything, innit?

Cheers for the refresher course. Looking forward to more reports from the grange... and the hill...

Cheerio, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,"That's tuppance, that is!"

Actually, it's a penny, but it's close enough."You can date them from the layer you found them in, right?"

Unfortunately no, because the stratigraphy was all mixed up in that particular trench, suggesting that it was a purpose built midden. The dates of residence concerning the various butcher occupiers at Bodkin Hall are probably all the clues we need though."Looking forward to more reports from the grange... and the hill..."

That might be a while off yet, unfortunately, John. We've got a 'media blackout' for various reasons on this season's excavations, but we will be catching up with all the usual fun and frolics as soon as it's been lifted.

Jayne said...

Well the butcher surgeon's son was a butcher(without the surgeon bit) so I'm assuming he was dressing some fine pieces of yummy roast for his mother's oven each Sunday.
Then again the maker of boots son or the carpenter son could have been substituting their wares for the meat and not even the Yorkshire Pudd could have saved that meal...

Brian Hughes said...


Alternatively, the cobbler might have been producing pork clogs.

Reuben said...

If I pay for your airfares and accomodation, will you 'hop it' to Melbourne and dig up my garden, Brian? My cats are just two inefficient at digging these days (and what with the recession...I can't afford a new cat).

Brian Hughes said...

Absolutely Reuben,

I'm sure the rest of the team could find an opening in their busy schedules for a free trip to Oz if they searched hard enough.

Bwca Brownie said...

The day they buried Maggie's leg in the yard, they could never have imagined me reading about it via laptop in bed from Australia in 2009.

Brian Hughes said...


That's perhaps as well, otherwise she'd have been hopping mad.

(Yes...I'm thoroughly ashamed of that one. I'm going to have buy stronger coffee in future and dispose of my 'Bumper Book of Pathetic Puns' down the nearest bog.)