The work on the Kettle Hole from Sizergh has been completed, and the report and figures have now been signed off and delivered to the client: The Levens Local History Group and The National Trust. As a final act they have requested we upload and share the document to the blog page so it can be accessed by all the other members of the Group and any interested parties.
It is about 10 MB file size, so those of you on a slow or metred internet connection can moderate when or how to download it. Perhaps it won’t be found up there in the best sellers list at Waterstones anytime soon, but I hope you all enjoy reading it!
Thanks for reading the blog!
This is just a quick note to our followers on this blog to point you in the direction of our new blog concerning the investigation of four potentially medieval bloomery sites located around Windermere in the Lake District.
A new section has been created on the blog containing some of the results of the work thus far. This includes the popular report produced for the National Trust and the Levens Local History Group, and the Full reports of the work. These can all be found under the ‘publications’ menu on the top of the site, or by following the link below.
Hope you all enjoy reading them!
Further Progress 1: The Burnt Mound in its Environment
Levens Local History Group has been successful in obtaining a grant from Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, which will allow the analysis and radiocarbon dating of the material retrieved through coring from the environs of the burnt mound at Sizergh. The results of this programme have the potential to place the activity centred on the burnt mound in a far wider context of landscape change and evolution for a large part of the Holocene (the last 10,000 years).
As Mark Brennand, the County Historic Environment Officer, stated in his letter in support of the grant application, “While there are a number of well-dated environmental sequences from the county as a whole, the North West Archaeological Research Framework prehistoric research agenda stated that ‘further detailed environmental work was imperative’. This study would contribute to those goals.” Oxford Archaeology North is now processing the samples prior to them being sent for analysis. The results will be published as soon as they can be collated.
Further Progress 2: Great Barn Dendochronology
Jamie Lund has reported that National Trust has agreed to fund a programme to take samples from some of the timbers in the Great Barn and have them dated in order to try and date of the timbers used in the construction of the current barn. These timbers have clearly been re-used, but were they first felled for the tithe barn that stood in 1529, the barn described in the 1569 inventory, or at another time for use in another building? There are many possibilities that could be narrowed to assist in understanding the development of this important building. Again, the programme is in its early stages, but the results will be published here as soon as they can be.
The popular and detailed reports from the Dig are now with the printer prior to appropriate distribution in the next few weeks. As a taster, here are the covers from each. In due course, the reports will also be made available either to view or to download. Watch this space!
Behind the scenes there has been a lot of activity analysing and examining all the data that we got from the summer excavations, and this has included sending samples from the ditch and the burnt mound for radio carbon dating. Well after a considerable delay we have at last got our eagerly anticipated results, and they are extremely interesting, although in one case a bit disappointing. So without more ado – clue drum roll – here they are:
Base of Burnt Mound: 2466-2212 cal BC
Trough Fill: 2456-2145 cal BC
Top of Burnt Mound: 2201-1981 cal BC
Lower levels of ditch: 1647-1059 cal AD
Those may seem a little confusing, so I will try and make sense of what they are telling us. Firstly there is an incredibly close match between the base of the mound and the trough, which tells us that the dates for the burnt mound are reliable, and that we can trust them. That is incredibly important. Also it tells us that there was a very short time between the formation of burnt mound and when the trough filled and was essentially when it was last used. So that implies that the trough relates to the earliest phase of activity at the site, but what is very interesting is that the burnt mound, if not the trough, potentially continued to be used for up to 200 years after the construction of the burnt mound. All very interesting stuff, but nothing to the actual dates themselves: all the dates indicate that our burnt mound is very early by comparison with others in Britain and Cumbria. Mostly burnt mounds date from mid Bronze Age, that is the mid part of the second millennium BC, but these are from the end of the third millennium BC, and puts us into the period of what we call the late Neolithic / early Bronze Age transition.
There are very few dates for Burnt Mounds that go back to this period, though we do have a match with one from Drigg in West Cumbria, but that one was little more than a hearth and was not anything like the size of our Sizergh burnt mound. So coupled with the exceptional survival of the burnt mound and its trough, and the early and very consistent dates, we clearly have a very significant prehistoric monument at Sizergh.
The ditch date is though a bit of a disapointment; I had hoped for a medieval date, but this date from a lower ditch fill (Trench 2) indicates anything from the period of the Civil War right through to the period of nuclear testing after the second world war. Within that period the greatest probability is that it falls between 1739 and 1802. It is possible that it dates to the early eighteenth century when there were significant changes to the Sizergh and the establishment of the new park, but we will have to revisit the results of the excavation in the light of this date.
In the meanwhile we will keep you posted of any new results.
Things might seem a little quiet to those of you hoping for results rushing in after the flurry of on site excavation, however as is often the case, making sure we get the best results from the post excavation work is taking a little longer.
Due to the abundance of soil and other samples obtained during the dig, and of course the excellent level of preservation in the burnt mound meaning it is turning out to be such a fine example of its type, we have sought, and successfully managed, to obtain HLF permission to re-allocate unused contingency funds in the HLF grant to additional paleoenvironmental analysis. This work is already in progress, and all findings will be incorporated in the end-of-project reports.
In addition, further funding is being sought so that the samples taken from the glacial “kettle-hole” can be processed as a separate project, in early 2014. Whilst this work was not tied strictly to the projects remit, it is a fantastic opportunity to construct an unbroken profile of the ecology of this part of south Cumbria dating back to the last ice-age. At present, people wanting this information have to rely on a very small number of studies.
So whilst it’s not filling our blog pages with news and results, the delay is meaning that long-term the project will be able provide additional essential information, not just for Sizergh, but for the archaeology of the region as a whole.
As followers of the blog will know, during our works at Sizergh, Michael Burke and a TV company came to film some footage for an ITV series.
The series, entitled “Inside the National Trust”, will commence this Sunday on ITV 1 at 12.25, and episodes will be an hour long.
We don’t know where about Sizergh will appear, or if it is in this episode, but we are reliably informed it, and possibly some footage from our excavations, will be in the series somewhere, so keep your eyes open!
Since the Sizergh Dig ended, work has continued behind the scenes and, though we don’t have anything to share just yet, we shall be updating you in due course.
We do, however, have some feedback from visitors and participants in the dig, and a few pictures we didn’t use we’d like to take the opportunity to share with you all.
Feedback from Visitors:
- Mrs Huck [Millom] said, what a wonderful time she, her husband and their three grandchildren, aged 7, 9 and 11, had when they visited yesterday. They will try and return next weekend with another portion of the family. She said it had been “one of the best days out [with her grandchildren] they had had”, the 11 year old described the project as “awesome” and the 9 year old “absolutely wonderful, I especially enjoyed finding the things in the trough”. Mrs Huck was particularly impressed with our approachability and the patient way we explained things to the children. Mrs Huck
- A fascinating dig at Sizergh; I learned a lot and because we actually saw the site I’ll remember the details. Maurice Brophy
- I was really impressed with your community project, which I think is a great way of connecting societies such as yourselves with professional units so that you can both do interesting research into your local area (and a particularly beautiful area it is too). Dr Damian Robinson (Director, Oxford University Centre for Maritime Archaeology)
- It is great to see how much enthusiasm for archaeology and discovery of our pasts has been generated by the project. Well done! Professor Graham Hooley
- I wholly enjoyed my visits to your work at Sizergh, and the whole project looked well organised, enjoyable and interesting. I have been following the blog, also. The Levens Local History Group and partners should be congratulated. Mark Brennand (Cumbria Senior Historic Environment Officer)
Many thanks to Stephen Read for collating all the feedback
Feedback from Visitors:
- The introductory archaeology workshops delivered by OAN and the NT were very good, with speakers giving fascinating presentations and hands on practical demonstrations. The OAN team, throughout the Dig in the Park were utterly professional, passionate about archaeology, and seemed delighted to have the opportunity to share and discuss their expertise/knowledge with the local community. Jamie (NT) and Stephen (LLHG) worked equally hard throughout the two weeks, communicating with the public, dig volunteers, and school groups. The allocation of volunteers to daily tasks went smoothly. Dig in the Park organisation, from friendly LLHG response to enquiries, to totally clear NT admin emails before/throughout the dig, was again excellent – well done to LLHG and the NT. Justin Wood
- I and Helen (O’Brien) would like to thank the Levens Local History Group, and you (Jamie Lund) in particular, for the great time we had at Sizergh. Cannot imagine a better organised project – from the intro days to the pub at the end. It was a brilliant experience working with the OAN professionals and all the other volunteers. And good fun! Alan Dunthorne
- Just a small missive to say how much I am enjoying being involved with the above project. I am learning quite a lot of things which hopefully can be put to use elsewhere. Mark Simpson
- Thanks for the opportunity to work with you – both Sofia and I enjoyed the day although I am certainly paying for the labour in aching limbs. She is very happy to get involved in the YAC so am looking forward to getting into that with her. Mark Palacio
- Really enjoyed the days I was volunteering, weather just amazing well organised, and worked with great people. Bridget Gerry
- I would just like to thank you and everyone else who organised the dig, plus the other “professionals” from OAN for providing a great opportunity to experience every aspect of a project like this. Even though I could only commit to two days on site I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite the heat, and really look forward to some sort of get together once all the finds and evidence have been examined in depth and the final reports produced. Congratulations to everyone. Gae Hicks
- Just a line to say how much Yvonne and I enjoyed ‘Dig in the Park’. Thank you so much for involving us. Jeremy Robinson
- I would just like to say a big thank you to yourself and your team for hosting such a brilliant event for the locals around Sizergh. Denise and I very much enjoyed both the training days and then the subsequent digs / survey’s. It’s something we always wanted to do and you guys made it happen. Stuart Robinson
- The training days and the digging/surveying days were very well organised, I always knew what I was doing and where I was expected to be and yet I was still given choices. The amount of new information the volunteers were given was extensive but the experts at no time were patronising and were totally enthusiastic in helping us to understand everything. I turned up on the first training day not knowing anyone but was made welcome by everyone, experts and volunteers and by the end of my 4 days in the field I had met so many new people and had such interesting conversations that I felt part of a new community. The field work was brilliant and I learned so much. The experts in charge were easy to get on with, helpful, encouraging and ensured we were OK on those very hot days. The blog was really informative and every morning it was the first thing I looked at before breakfast to catch the latest updates. As I couldn’t come on Saturday (project end) I visited last Thursday (18th) and walked round with a friend (who had not been before) and on every site the experts stopped to give us an update, even though they were obviously busy – my friend was impressed. I am not sorry about the superlatives (even the weather could be described as spectacularly hot) but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and learned a huge amount, so thank you and to everyone concerned. Barbara Copeland
- Good communication with volunteers leading up to the workshops and dig preparatory workshops – very informative and nice atmosphere, with lots of choice on the skills sessions organisation of the excavation – everything we needed was provided; there was choice over activities; and we were well looked after in terms of safety etc. the care taken by the professional archaeologists in guiding volunteers and being very willing to answer questions; and just the fact that, as a volunteer, I felt very welcome the involvement of the community, especially children the online progress reports via the web/blog and the promise of follow-up feedback/reports the opportunity to be part of a professionally-run dig. Judith Anstee
- The whole experience was really enjoyable and I was struck by the enthusiasm of the professional team and the volunteers many of whom are regulars. John Walmsley
- “Many thanks to you and the team for organising such an interesting and rewarding project. I enjoyed it immensely!. Peter Matthiessen
- “I’d just like to say how very much I enjoyed the volunteering I did at Sizergh. The organisation, briefing from the team to the volunteers, and the patience shown by the team were excellent. It was a valuable learning experience to be working with other volunteers alongside “proper archaeologists”. I hope there will be similar opportunities in the future. Helen Pugh
- I just wanted to say that we both hugely enjoyed the dig, that we felt that we learnt a lot from it and that it was a great experience:-something that was quite different from anything that we have done before and that is saying a lot given our advanced age!! Also having been involved in the original survey it was very satisfying to see it developed and eagerly await the final reports. All the planning ensured a smooth operation and you and the OAN archaeologists were brilliant and are to be congratulated on a very successful fortnight. I think the Lottery money was well spent. Gill and Peter Wood
- I only managed two days on the site, but thoroughly enjoyed it (hot and bothersome though it was!). I especially enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and appreciated the initial information days which put the work in context. It was the first time I’d been on a dig and though I only found the tiniest bit of glass (not significant), it has nevertheless fired my enthusiasm to do more. It was a very enjoyable and sociable experience, definitely more fun than years spent in an office! Thanks again to everyone involved for letting me be a tiny part of it. Chris Swanson
- The project was a great success as it was enjoyable as well as instructive. It achieved all it’s aims in community involvement and youth outreach, as well as coming in on time & in budget, and in being of a high degree of archaeological professionalism. That it ran so smoothly is in a large part attributable to your contribution. Allan Steward
- I really enjoyed my day’s involvement – despite the heat! – and very much look forward to hearing more about what was discovered once all the analysis has been done. Clare McEntegart
- Just a quick note to thank you so much for the whole event at Sizergh – from the introductory day right through to the last Saturday it was all very well organised and all that we could have hoped for in a hands-on experience of archaeology. It was a delight working with so many committed professionals together with all the enthusiastic volunteers. Thanks, especially to you, as the man in overall charge – a brilliant experience! Roger and Liz
- We have all thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills which I hope to remember for when I get to Ravenglass. Everyone was so professional and patiently explained things to us so please pass on my appreciation. Sue Lydon
- This is just a quick message to thank you (and all the other ‘experts’ !) for the fantastic opportunity to help with the Sizergh dig. I’m sure that lots of the other volunteers like me were very happy to have had the chance to be directly involved in such an interesting an rewarding project. I enjoyed it immensely and was very appreciative of the time and patience to us beginners! Frances Rand
- A huge thank you to National Trust and Jamie Lund, Levens LHG and Stephen Read.and Jamie Quartermaine’s OAN team of enthusing, patient and well-organised professionals – all of whom put together such a fantastic learning experience for the volunteers. We learnt a lot, made further friends and got to take more pride in, and ‘ownership’ of, our local cultural heritage. Geoff Cook
Well the final few days came on us all too fast. Sunday was a day spent cleaning a recording, via photographs, drawings, and samples, ensuring we have everything we need to complete the analysis and write the site up when we get back into the office. We also have a good turn out of members of the public, who were once again enjoying building bronze age pottery, engaging in the mini-dig, and of course chatting to the archaeologists to find out about the excavations and their results.
On Monday, the excavation and recording was complete, so the inevitable day of backfilling and re-turfing began. The Archaeologists were kindly aided by some of the volunteers and the Park Estate team and their digger in the backfilling, and after this the re-turfing dance began!
All things must come to an end, and for Sizergh, this was it, but not a complete end. When one phase finishes another one begins and, over the coming months, work will be going on behind the scenes at the OA North offices to analyse the drawings, photographs, context sheets, and samples, which make up small pieces of a jigsaw, to try to untangle the evidence we have recovered and see how much of the picture we are able to piece back together, and how many jig-saw pieces are still missing!
The blog shall continue to run on until all the work is completed, but there will no longer be daily updates as the post-excavation processes of archaeology are, by their very nature, more time-consuming. I will however be sure to add little updates to let you know how we are getting along and, let you all know when we get back any dating evidence or make any finding. By all means subscribe by email from the menu on the right hand side, it is entirely private and confidential, and you will be emailed automatically when there is a new article posted, which will save you all having to manually check the blog all the time.
We are also hoping to set up Facebook pages, twitter, and other social media site pages, as well as blogs on other projects we are involved with, so as and when we get these up and running, I will let you all know so you can keep updated by those means if you wish, and also find out what else we have been up to.
It just remains for us to thank;
The National Trust, its volunteers and staff, and the Strickland family for their help, hospitality and enthusiasm.
The staff at OAN who have worked several weeks without a break to make sure the project was a success, and brought their usual knowledge, humour, and experience to the proceedings.
The members of the public who came along who were so enthusiastic, keen to talk to us, join in the activities, learn what had been going on, and support what we were doing.
Last, but by no means least, we’d like to thank the Levens Local History Group who, as well as providing the hard efforts and enthusiasm, also made the entire project possible, and reminded a few of us professional archaeologists, just what it was that attracted us to our profession in the first place.
Many thanks to all
Being terribly British, we like to start with the weather! Despite being a warm sunny day, today also was a little breezier with a few patches of cloud in the afternoon, which was a welcome break, especially for those digging. We had a good turn out of visitors today, and up at the children’s activity centre had lots of budding archaeologists on the mini-dig and joining in the bronze age pottery workshop, trying their hand at building and decorating their own bronze age style pot.
Following the days work, the Levens Local History Group who have provided the volunteers, energy, and enthusiasm for the dig all came along for a final site tour. During the tour we visited all the trenches and features excavated and discussed what we have discovered, questions we still have (lots), and what happens next.
The teams at the top trenches have finished their excavation of the ditches, and Paul and Jamie took the opportunity to explain to us what we have discovered. The ditches are quite substantial and when they were cut the spoil appears to have been thrown to one side, forming a bank, which may suggest it is an enclosure ditch and bank, perhaps even defensive. The ditch then silted up with pretty sterile soil, with no small finds to speak of. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily rule out this being a post medieval park pale, it does rule in some other intriguing possibilities, especially as it might be reasonable to expect more bits of pottery, clay pipe and other debris, in a post medieval ditch fill. What we almost definitely, maybe, (then again perhaps not) think is, that they are not related to the deer Park.
Though we can’t put a date to the ditch, we can suggest that it may be early… and yes this is a deliberately vague term one should come to expect from archaeologists! What we are insinuating by this term is simply that, it may be in fact be medieval, early medieval, or perhaps Iron Age, however without any scientific dating, or typological dating from finds to provide a terminus post quem, then we can’t be sure whether it is any of these or indeed post medieval as originally anticipated. What we can say for sure is that the ditch is a substantial monument, that is certainly worth further investigation in the future, and that following the ditch filling up, two stony banks were built over either side of the infilled ditch, which probably served as headlands created by the the ridge and furrow situated on either side the ditch.
The cool weather also enabled us the opportunity to remove some stones from the building platform, which revealed they were sat on an outcrop of bedrock. Jeremy explained how this is a quite unusual feature, but its size may well indicate it was the base for a quite substantial feature, perhaps agricultural, or perhaps associated with the ditch. Any resemblance to a gate house, actual or supposed, is purely coincidental.
Down at the burnt mound, yet more sampling has been undertaken; Jon has been busy taking environmental samples from every conceivable deposit (you might have waited until I had drawn the section, Jon!), and we have been recording everything in sight. In addition, an investigation of the material around the edges of the mound and some fantastic cleaning work has been undertaken by Anita, Judith, Jenny, Debbie and Bob. The wood from the trough has now been safely removed and is lying in a storage tank back at the Oxford Archaeology North premises. The removal of the soil immediately beneath the trough has revealed more roots and branches and we are trying to establish whether this is a natural phenomenon or matting thrown down on uneven roots to provide a flat surface for the trough. If the former, is it continuous with the root system in the opposite quadrant where it can be seen to be extensive? Bark is also present in this trench, so we will stand a good chance of identifying the type of tree present.
The burnt mound at Sizergh has provided an excellent opportunity to examine a well-preserved example, which consisted of a wooden lined trough surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped mound of heavily fire effected stones and charcoal. The stones were not local limestone, but stone from elsewhere, such as sandstones, which may well have been selected from local glacial erratics for their suitability in the processes conducted. The mound was built on top of a dense layer of root and branches, and was close to a source of water, and contained no small finds or evidence of bones or other materials.
So what exactly was it for you ask? Ah well… quick look over there behind you…
In all seriousness, we just don’t know. There are many theories on what burnt mounds are for, and the vast majority seem to involve heating water. We tend to like simple answers to questions, yet it is often difficult to give a singular answer to somethings purpose. For example; what is a hose pipe for? It can be used for watering the garden, washing the car, filling the pond, cleaning the windows, so which of these is ‘the answer‘? One might like to consider what is a sink for? Is it washing the pots? Not in this house, we have a dishwasher… yet we still have a sink! They can be used for washing our hands in them, rinsing food off, washing paint brushes in them, filling containers with water in them… in fact, I have even bathed my children in ours! So the variety of specific uses something can have can vary from person to person, place to place, and change with habit, custom, culture, preference, and of course, time.
We are pretty sure they are used for heating water, and hot water can be used for cooking, cleaning, washing, bathing, in various industrial processes, and of course boiling water helps make it safe to drink, either by itself, or as part of the brewing process. Perhaps when seeking an answer none of these should be considered to the exclusion of others. As you will have read we have many environmental samples from the mound which we will analyse over the coming months, with the hope of providing more clues to the functions of this enigmatic monument.
We gave ourselves a huge round of applause for the good work we have undertaken together, and for the organisers of this fantastic festival of archaeology. Allan Steward concluded by saying that what excited him most was picking up and connecting with an object that had last been touched by another human being 4000 years ago. Jamie Lund suggested that, at that point, connecting with a pint of bitter was what was called for, and we repaired to the Strickland Arms forthwith to the one place any civilised activity should end… the Pub!
Thanks for reading, please check back tomorrow for our final post of the excavation, and I will let you all know where we go from here!
Adam Parsons, Gill Hey, and Jeremy Bradley