The place

Winter isolation

Winter isolation

 


The story of Blackden flows from the last Ice Age to the present day; from hunters working stone on the ridge to a place of creative inspiration for artists and scientists in the twenty-first century.

It has been many things: seasonal camp, burial ground, manor, farm, and the ramshackle house that the writer, Alan Garner, found and made his home.

The place

The area would have been ideal for occupation as a winter camp at the start of the Mesolithic, c.8000 BC.  The archaeological evidence supports this, and also hints at activity here in the Upper Palaeolithic.Late 17th C Pottery

The same features attracted settlement in subsequent periods.  Each of later prehistory's conventional ages - Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age (including Rome's colonialism) - is represented by artefacts from the site, whilst materials such as glass, metallurgical waste and pottery witness people living or working before the present Toad Hall was built around the end of the Middle Ages. Whether this long sequence reflects uninterrupted settlement or a series of episodes is a question for research.

The Bronze Age is particularly well represented, with burials intercalated between other land-uses.  Another research question is thus whether the entire landscape, as distinct from reserved areas within it, was suffused by rituality.  As new evidence emerges, ideas will change.

The buildings

Toad Hall, on the left in the picture above, was probably built and lived in by the aristocratic Eaton family in the later Middle Ages, but its manorial status faded and, by 1880, it had been divided into two tied cottages. Since 1957 it has been the home of Alan Garner.

In 1970 The Old Medicine House, on the right in the picture above, a 16th century timber-frame apothecary's house, was threatened by demolition on its original site at Wrinehill.  It was dismantled, repaired and re-erected alongside Toad Hall.

The combined structure is a Grade II listed building.

Printed on: 25 Apr 2017

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