Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bleasdale Circle: Part One

We’ve mentioned Bleasdale Circle a number of times in the past here at the Fylde and Wyre Antiquarian, but I’ve just had a check and, for some unknown reason, we’ve never actually written a proper article about what has to be Wyre’s most important (and possibly most secret) archaeological site itself.
All right, it’s not officially a secret, but whenever we’ve been to visit there’s been nobody around other than a few bored looking sheep.
This won’t do, so it’s time to remedy the situation.
Bleasdale Circle can be reached by public footpath, although a pair of stout Wellingtons is advisable. It’s been excavated twice -- firstly in 1899 by the brilliantly named Shadrach Jackson and secondly in 1935 by the rather more enigmatically named W.J. Varley.
Originally (during the Bronze Age that is) the site consisted of a large outer circle of posts surrounding an embankment (or vallum), which was slightly off-set, which in turn surrounded a ditch, which had a load of birch poles laid inside it, which in turn encircled a tumulus on the top of which stood a smaller circle of wooden columns, (with a splayed entrance) in the centre of which was a shallow grave containing three burial urns. Oh yes, and there was, apparently, a small burnt area in the inner circle.
Everybody get that? We didn’t think so, which is why we’ve produced the following diagram:

When it comes to the details, there are some variations between the two excavation reports -- hardly surprising really considering the unsubtle approach to archaeology at the time. The first of these concerns the posts of the ‘Outer Palisade’. For some reason old Shadrach counted thirty-six of them, whereas Varley only managed thirty-two.

Don’t ask, because I honestly don’t know. Let’s have a photograph up instead.

Right…that’s a picture of the vellum and ditch and one of the posts that constitute the ‘entrance’ to the inner circle. It might not make a lot of sense. The trouble is it’s impossible to photograph Bleasdale Circle all at once without some fir tree or rhododendron bush deliberately getting in the way of the camera.

The inner henge (for the train spotters amongst our readership) measures thirty-six feet across.

Inside this, at a depth of approximately twenty-two inches, Shadrach Jackson discovered two cremation urns and what’s generally referred to as a ‘pigmy urn’ (because it’s a diddy little thing, you see) in a rectangular grave.
According to Jackson the grave measured two feet by three feet and was filled with wood ash.
According to Varley, however, the grave measured two and a half feet by four feet.
You can’t help thinking that Varley was actually measuring the hole that Jackson had created.

Whatever the case, it produced a Papa urn:

A Mama urn:

And an iddy-biddy babba urn:

And there’s the problem, you see, because it’s easy to fall into the trap of automatically grouping these artefacts (and therefore their contents) as a ‘family’. If the truth were known, we’ve no idea whether this was the remains of one human being, three human beings, or a combination of human beings and animals…or whatever.

All we know with any certainty is that the two full sized urns were respectively eight inches tall and eight and half inches tall and both were filled with pieces of bone and charcoal. They also both had overhanging rims commonly associated with early Bronze Age burials, which is basically why everybody believes that Bleasdale Circle is Bronze Age despite the fact that no part of it whatsoever has, to the best of my knowledge, ever been scientifically dated. (Having said that, neither’s anything Wyre Archaeology’s ever dug. We just go off the aesthetics and whatever the experts tell us.)

What became of the bones and charcoal is anybody’s guess. Knowing the lackadaisical attitude of archaeologists back in Victorian times, Shadrack Jackson probably tamped the whole lot into his pipe and lit it.

Enjoying this so far? Good, because it’s time for a few days break before we continue with the next instalment.


Bwca Brownie said...

dear Wyldebeasts
everytime I come here you inspire me to nick off in search of more info and often I don't get back here from my expeditions.
The iddy biddy urn is apparently in The Harris Museum at Preston?

More modern Bleasdale stuff can also cause one to go round in circles, as I do.

shadrach abednigo indeed.
The regional city of Bendigo in Victoria, AUS is named after that lot as well.

Brian Hughes said...


All three of the urns are in the Harris museum as far as I'm aware. (At least, they were the last time we looked.)

As for the name 'Bleasdale', apparently it's Norse and refers to a dale with a 'Blaze' or fire in it, which considering what happened at Bleasdale Circle (more of which next Wednesday) is highly appropriate. My only question is, how did the Norse know?

Jayne said...

Have informed Feral Beast he is to forthwith be known as Shadrach.
He is unconcerned.

The Norse knew because someone wove a song out of it and it did the rounds until places were labelled.

WV =notions - precisely!

Brian Hughes said...


So that's where the timeless Ring of Fire originates.

John said...

Wow, you're really outdoing yourselves... one wonders if it's coincidental, or if you're just trying to cheer me up during troubled times by posting on my favorite subjects?

I know... probably coincidental, but either way, it's much appreciated!

Love that Bleasedale Circle, and all it's mysteries. It's top of my list for must see sites in the Wyre.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


I would have thought it was the only place on your 'Must See' list for the Wyre...apart from the 'Exit Route', of course.

John said...

HaHa. You're so funny I forgot to laugh.

Brian Hughes said...


This happens with Americans all the time I've noticed. Next time I'll add a laughter track to help you pin the punchlines down.

John said...

I'm sure that I'll find the Wyre to be a lovely place to visit, so stop knocking it. I may not understand anyone, but I'm sure it will be lovely. :0)

Brian Hughes said...


'Course thy'll unnerstant tus. Wall tak reet proper an' gradely roant 'ere. Even t' ship 'oo tenta bleat int proper dileck.