Thursday, September 24, 2009

Axes and Hammers -- Pilling’s Prehistoric Legacy: Part Two

So, in the last part of this article – doesn’t that sound impressive? This article…as though it’s all officious and legal like -- where was I? Oh yes, in the last part of this article we discussed some of the axes and adzes and bits and bobs of Neolithic/Bronze Age paraphernalia that have been unearthed around Pilling over the years.
We didn’t mention all of them, however. More have been discovered at Crookabreast Farm, Greengate Farm, Friars Hill, Ashtons Farm, Eskham House Farm, Kentucky Farm, Pea Hall Lane, Rough Holme Farm, Manor House Farm and the Bowers, amongst other places.
Pilling was a busy old place back in the Stone Age.

In fact there were so many axes in use back then that our Neolithic ancestors (most of them still going under the same five or six Pilling family names we all know and cherish nowadays no doubt) ended up chopping down all the forests that covered the area. That’s why Pilling is basically a bald and rather boggy place nowadays fit only for snorkelling sheep. (There’s a message in there somewhere, but I’m buggered if I can work out what.)

Onto hammers then, another important part of Neolithic Pilling-man’s tool kit. Hammers were used for all sorts of purposes, from countersinking poles to making more axes so that more trees could be chopped down and turned into poles to countersink.

Two perforated stone hammers were discovered at Pea Hall Wood, and another, illustrated below, turned up in the vicinity of Bradshaw Lane. (This one’s currently on display in the Fylde Country Life Museum, unless Oliver the sheep’s eaten it by now.)

It probably goes without saying, although I’m going to say it anyhow, the holes in the centre of these perforated stones would have originally accommodated their handles.

More hammers have been discovered at Greengate Farm, Bonds Farm, Birks Farm, Eagland Hill Farm, Hardman’s Wood, the Bowers and, in 1959, two were uncovered simultaneously at Eskham House Farm. I can only assume that Pilling was an extremely noisy place to live back then as well.

In the last part of this article (still sounds impressive) we also mentioned adzes, which, sometimes, were used to create boats. (There is a segue here.) At Well House Farm in 1926 an ancient canoe (told you) was uncovered whilst the farmer was digging a well. True to form the remains have now been lost despite the best efforts, in 1951, of the Pilling Historical Society who re-excavated the area but only uncovered a few scattered fragments of wood.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Canoes, in Pilling?
Yes, well these weren’t the white water rapid variety. They would have been used mainly for just getting around and/or trading locally. Don’t forget that, back in those days, Pilling was mainly swamp and forest, with plenty of streams meandering through it.

Several other Neolithic canoes have been uncovered around Lancashire such as those at Marton Mere (which were actually coracles, but nobody’s reading this any more so who cares?) and Preston Dock. The Preston dock canoe is in the Harris Museum if you want to take a look.

The other way to cross a Neolithic swamp, of course, was by wooden causeway.
Here’s what William Thornber wrote about the ‘Kate’s Pad’ in 1837:

It is called Kate’s Pad from a tradition of the country people that two maiden ladies of that name constructed it to gratify an inveterate love of snuff which could not be obtained from any nearer mart than the county town.

The tradition was wrong. Kate’s Pad was crossed in several places by the trunks of ancient trees placing it firmly prehistoric times.

In 1950 an excavation was carried out at Moss Cottage Farm and seventy yards of the track were traced.
The section illustrated below is on display at the Fylde Country Life Museum (upstairs on the balcony in the main section…in the Pilling Historic Society bit).

Kate’s Pad consisted of oak trees up to seventeen feet in length, split into three and laid on rushes. Some of the boards/planks (such as the one above) had large holes bored into one end suggesting that they might have been recycled from previous constructions, although a far more likely explanation would be that the holes were used to attach ropes to so that the planks could be dragged across ground.

Whatever the case, in the 1970s another section of the track was discovered at North Woods Hill Farm and in 1979 a further section unearthed at Eagland Hill. More wooden track ways were also discovered at Ashtons Farm in the 1930s and Chathill Farm in the 1950s.

Now…we were supposed to be talking about hammers in this section, weren’t we? Somewhere along the lines I appear to have been distracted. (What else is new?) So, hammers then – take a look at this:

Now, that might not look like much (because, as we’ve already explained, illustrations and photographs just do don’t do this sort of stuff any justice) but that’s a hammer that is.
Or, at any rate, it’s some sort of pounding device.
It was unearthed at Nateby and was probably used in the construction of the Nateby pile settlement (or whatever it was). What you can’t see in the picture are the carefully hollowed out indentations, the exact size and shape to accommodate a person’s fingers in order to maintain a sturdy grip on the object.

It’s now on display in the Fylde Country Life Museum…worth checking out I reckon.

At which point I’m suddenly going to stop this article for no particular reason other than I’ve run out of steam.


Jayne said...

You don't find many of them on offer these days.

Brian Hughes said...

That's because the manufacturers, during this current recession, are having a hard time keeping their heads above water.

Jayne said...

Ahh, I wondered if the taxes had seeped away on the ebb tide.

BwcaBrownie said...

re dragging those Seventeen-foot oak planks: horses must have been used.

I prefer not to believe those sweet maidens were so hooked on their snuff that they battled topography to get it.

C.F.B.A - noice - congratulations on your legitimacy.

Brian Hughes said...


We've been members of the C.F.B.A. for ages. It's just that they'd rather we didn't mention it to anyone.

BwcaBrownie said...

have you passed the detector over the hole that helicopter made at Poulton-le-Fylde?

the gold-strike guy has been on all the TV news way down here.

Brian Hughes said...


I know something about that bloke who discovered the Saxon gold hoard that nobody else knows yet...but I'm not allowed to say anything because of the official secrets act. Should be amusing when it finally leaks out though.

Jayne said...

*has a stab in the dark*
He doesn't mind the odd cow pat between his bare toes?

Brian Hughes said...

More like one in his face by the time he's done...

BwcaBrownie said...

so there must be art evidence of those Saxons dripping in gold ?

I would think that despite being offered half the bounty, the farmer who owns the land would digging up all his other fields right now

(notice how I said 'fields' instead of 'paddocks' - I can be multicultural when I want to)

Jayne said...

I'll go with my first guess (that I didn't post before)...

Once upon a fairytale there was a magical stockpile of goodies a mythical person spent long hours finding and salting away then someone discovered the whole kit and kaboodle in a field.....

Brian Hughes said...


I always thought a paddock was an animal enclosure.


Nope, sorry...and I can't say any more on the subject or, apparently, I'll have MI5 on my doorstep/through my new windows.

Jayne said...

Lovely weather we're having, isn't it? :P

Brian Hughes said...

No...not really.

Jayne said...

Send rain.