Record for 2009

Visitors consider the Mercian roundshaft

Visitors consider the Mercian roundshaft

 

This is a record of events that have taken place during the year. Future events can be found on the events page.

The accounts are a useful source of information for people who would like to know about our activities before they attend a particular event.

They have also proved to be particularly useful to university candidates, writing their personal statements, by providing a reference for an interest, beyond the limits of the curriculum, in their chosen subjects.

Contents

  2009

  Saturday, 3rd October   Science meets Archaeology  
  Saturday, 26th September   Archaeology of Conflict  
  Friday, 21st August   Archaeological dig  
  Thursday, 23rd July   Protection  
  Saturday, 4th July   Pilgrimage and Protection  
  Friday, 3rd July   Visit of SPAB scholars  
  Sunday, 21st June   Medieval Music for Midsummer  
  Thursday, 4th June   The Blackden Trust at The Manchester Grammar School Junior Department  
  Saturday, 23rd May   Tudor Herbs and Spices  
  Thursday, 7th May   Pilgrimage, Potions and Protection  
  Saturday, 4th April   Witness to a Century  


Detail

2009

Science meets Archaeology

Tutors: Professor Bob Cywinski, Professor Sue Kilcoyne
Laboratory technician: Jay Smith
Post-doctoral Researcher: Stuart Astin

Zoology thwarts physics

Zoology thwarts physics

The day started with a presentation from Professor Bob Cywinski of Huddersfield University. Bob introduced us to the advanced scientific techniques that are now an integral part of archaeological investigation. He showed us how the broad range of scientific methods now available, from resistivity, ground penetrating radar, magnetometry and metal detecting can help us piece together and understand the often fragmentary evidence the past has left for us to decipher. He outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the different techniques and discussed the need to correlate the results of several investigative techniques of any site to get a fuller picture of its story.

After lunch the students had a chance to put what they had learnt in the lectures into practice. Salford physicists Sue Kilcoyne, Stuart Astin and Jay Smith set up a mini-lab with the miniature resistivity meters that Jay had specially made for the course. He also made

Recovering detected metal

Recovering detected metal

mini-sites of sand in plastic troughs in which he had buried objects with varying resistivity. The students were shown by Stuart how to use the equipment and

how to log the results into a program to convert them into a diagram, which would indicate where the objects were buried. The results were extremely close to those of a full-scale resistivity meter.

Having learnt how they worked, we used metal detectors to survey an area of disturbed the soil, and found a small and, as yet, unidentified metal object.

Bob ended the day with an exposition of the novel and exciting techniques that have only recently been adopted by archaeologists. These new techniques use beams of neutrons, exotic sub-atomic particles, to probe deeply within objects, revealing the finest details of their inner structure and provide unique information on their origin, composition, manufacture, use, and even their authenticity. He also showed us how future scientific developments will expand the essential role that science now plays in the finding and interpretation of archaeology.

This course drew together the strands that had been developed during the 2009 season, and was much appreciated by the students:

'I found the in depth talk on the science behind archaeology really interesting and I enjoyed putting the theory into practice.'

'The surveying techniques were explained simply and concisely, with no previous knowledge assumed - just what was needed.'

'The resistivity experiment in the sandbox was a really good idea and demonstrated the technique well.'

'Brilliant day, really interesting. As well as learning a lot, I laughed for most of the day due to the friendly atmosphere.'

Examining the results

Examining the results

Fine tuning the equipment

Fine tuning the equipment

Programming the data

Programming the data

Surveying and excavating

Surveying and excavating

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The Archaeology of Conflict

Tutor: Dr Glenn Foard

Considering the effect of Civil War battles on St Luke's church Holmes Chapel

Considering the effect of Civil War battles on
St Luke's church, Holmes Chapel

Glenn Foard started the day with an introduction to the latest archaeological methods that are available for the study of battlefields and sieges. He showed us how precise field recording, mapping of data, historic terrain reconstruction, scientific analysis, calibre graphs and experiment can give new information about military action in different periods.

Glenn then demonstrated the sequence of actions needed to fire a Civil War musket. We discussed what archaeological evidence for different stages of a battle would survive down to the present, and how the conditions under which muskets were fired left distinctive marks on the musket balls and bullets. By closely examining lead bullets, both those brought by Glenn, and those found on site at Blackden, we were able to see those distinctive marks, and to see how new evidence for the events of a battle could be derived from them.

A session looking at the pattern of Civil War impact scars on the tower of St Luke's church in Holmes Chapel provoked a discussion on how and why they might have been produced. Was the church used as a strongpoint in a skirmish as elements of the defeated Royalist army fell back from Middlewich (1643), or do the marks relate to the attempt by the Parliamentary garrison to break out from the Royalist encirclement of Nantwich? We plan to follow up our investigation with closer study of the church, including the interior.

We ended the day by trying our hands at metal detecting, in the systematic way that archaeologists use metal detectors for battlefield study, plotting finds systematically with the help of GPS. We discovered that considerable skill and experience are needed to understand the signals from these machines.

The students found it: 'A highly interesting day. I most enjoyed the metal detecting and investigating the church. Even more of this original research would increase my enjoyment. Thanks, I hope to be back.' 'I enjoyed learning about lots of new and interesting things, especially about our local area. The activities were really enjoyable, particularly the metal detecting.' 'I enjoyed learning about the science behind archaeology and putting what we find into context, such as the battles. I also enjoyed using and handling the equipment and weaponry. I'd like to find out more about the science behind what we learn.' 'Another informative and pleasantly light-hearted course. I was surprised how much you could tell from a lump of lead!'

Recovering detected metal

Recovering detected metal

Examining shot holes on St Luke's church 
	Holmes Chapel

Examining shot holes on St Luke's church
Holmes Chapel


Examining firing marks on lead shot

Examining firing marks on lead shot

Demonstrating firing of a Civil War musket

Demonstrating firing of a Civil War musket

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Archaeological Dig

Directors: Mark Roberts, Richard Morris

Excavating

Excavating

Students spent seven days at The Blackden Trust on a training excavation to find, record and characterise traces of a long outbuilding that appears on maps from 1789 and disappears by the end of the 19th century.

The 1789 survey, the Tithe Map and first edition of the Ordnance Survey show a building that lay aslant across the south-western boundary of the site as it exists today. However, the maps disagree as to its exact position, while the line of the boundary has itself been adjusted.

We accordingly opened two test pits just inside the boundary, and one just outside in the adjoining field.  The inner trial holes were at right angles to the long axis of the structure, whilst the trial trench in the field was set out at right angles to the anticipated gable end.  This last trench located a broad band of clay that had been laid in a line corresponding to the gable end.  Alongside the clay was charcoal from a burnt timber.  A heading laid out at right angles from this trench duly intersected a similar band of clay in a position corresponding with the southern long wall of the building.  Both deposits had escaped significant plough damage.  It is likely that they were strip footings, although at present it is unclear what sort of structure they carried.

In 2010 we shall extend the excavation to ascertain the nature of the building's construction, its function, and date.

The diggers very much appreciated both the teaching of the directors and the catering skills of the Friends of The Blackden Trust: 'A fantastic week with brilliant company. Well book.'  'A brilliant week.'  'Awesome week, great company, loads of fun.'   'Thank you for being such wonderful hosts.'

Opening a trench

Opening a trench

Recording

Recording

Resting

Resting

Carousing

Carousing

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Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School
Gifted and Talented Summer School

Tutor: Tom Hughes, Sue Hughes

Following the clues

Following the clues

The Blackden Trust has in some years linked up with Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School to organise a day course for their annual Summer School. This year the school chose to explore the reasons behind belief in the supernatural as the theme for the day. By referring to artefacts found in Blackden associated with historical ritual and folklore, we were able to introduce the students to the concept that many beliefs arose from scientific ignorance and that some still survive, as superstitions, to this day.

Tom Hughes explained to the students, that by following a sheet of clues, they would find objects and plants in the garden that were associated with protection from evil spirits. The students hunted for horseshoes, for houseleeks, for quatrefoils, for rosemary and they walked the labyrinth to find wisdom and achieve grace. They examined old shoes, replica witch bottles and a scrip bag and tried to deduce the significance and meaning of their contents.

The students then went into the Old Medicine House and saw some of the protective artefacts that had been found in the houses and on the site, such as a desiccated cat buried under a hearthstone and the skeleton of a horse buried under the threshold of a building in the garden, and they considered whether the apotropaic marks scored into a beam in one of the rooms were secret symbols petitioning the help of the Virgin Mary.

Sue Hughes introduced the students to the medicinal and magical properties previously attributed to various herbs and the students made tussie mussies of the herbs and spices that had been considered a protection from illness and malign spirits.

Looking for wisdom

Looking for wisdom

Thinking

Thinking


Securing tussie mussies

Securing tussie mussies

A herb for beauty

A herb for beauty

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Pilgrimage and Protection

Tutor: Tom Hughes

Examining apotropaic objects

Examining apotropaic objects

 

 

The day started with an introduction to the spiritual reasons for going on a pilgrimage during the medieval period and the harsh conditions that pilgrims had to endure; the physical dangers, the exploitation by hawkers, and the songs and stories they told to ease the monotony of the journey. It was fascinating to see that human behaviour does not change, despite the difference in the perception of the world that we now have and that held by the medieval mind. Tom showed us replicas of ampullae and badges from several shrines and explained how these were thought to protect the pilgrims as well as to reduce the time they would have to spend in purgatory.

In the afternoon, we considered the various ways this site and the houses built on it were protected. We examined apotropaic objects from Blackden including hidden shoes, a dried cat and foundation burials and we looked at markings carved in the beams of the Old Medicine House.

These, in particular were an example of how traditions of protection continued in parallel to worship in the Christian Church.

Our visitors said, Blackden 'is such a special and unique place.  The course was fascinating.  It sparked lots of ideas!'  'It was so interesting to be surrounded by so much enthusiasm and knowledge.'  'A fantastic day! Very interesting house.'  'A great day.  Fascinating history.  Lecture very informative.  Building beautiful.  Interesting conversation.'  'Inspiring.  Thank you!'

Cat buried under a hearth at Blackden

Cat buried under a hearth at Blackden
 

Apotropiac marks in timber of the Old Medicine 
		House

Apotropiac marks in timber
of the Old Medicine House


Shoes hidden in a roof space at Blackden

Shoes hidden in a roof space
at Blackden

Lower jaw of horse buried under threshold at 
	Blackden

Lower jaw of horse buried under
threshold at Blackden

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Visit of SPAB Scholars

Architect: Mal Fryer

Discussing

Discussing


Four young Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings scholars joined Mal Fryer, as he was working on his survey of Toad Hall and the Old Medicine House.  This survey will be the guide for all future restoration and maintenance work on the two buildings.

As part of their course, the scholars spend three months studying country houses. Our building with its two timber-frame houses joined by a 1970s glass and brick link was one of them. While they were here, they drew and looked and drew what they saw.

We discussed the implications of having to move the Old Medicine House from its original site, to rescue it from demolition, the practicalities of such a venture, and the responsibility of the Trust for the future of the building.
 

Looking

Looking

Mal Fryer surveying

Mal Fryer surveying

Drawing upstairs

Drawing upstairs

Drawing downstairs

Drawing downstairs

 

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Medieval Music for Midsummer

Musician: Richard York

Richard York playing the hurdy-gurdy

Richard York playing the hurdy-gurdy

We eased ourselves into a receptive mood with a buffet of food that would have been available during the medieval period.

This was followed by Richard York's musical exposition of the origin and development of musical instruments; the harp, bagpipes, shawm and others that might have been played in The Old Medicine House. The fabric of the building with its timber-frame walls and tiled floor created a unique acoustic, enhancing the sound of this music.

Richard introduced us to sounds of the medieval world: the everyday tunes heard in markets and workplaces, music for dances and for celebrations, with such infectious enthusiasm that we ended the afternoon joining in the music making.

Our visitors found that 'the whole talk / demonstration was extremely well presented and interesting (although I doubt whether our contributions added much to the communal efforts!)' They enjoyed 'a wonderful course', 'an excellent lunch beforehand and tea and cake afterwards, which completed the occasion in an ideal way.'

Making melodious music

Making melodious music

Making loud music

Making loud music

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The Blackden Trust at
The Manchester Grammar School Junior Department

Tutor: Tom Hughes

Helping to create a timeline

Helping to create a timeline

We asked the boys who attended the course to send us their thoughts on the day.

The Thoughts of some Year 6 MGS Junior Section Boys.

On 4th June Griselda Garner and Tom Hughes came to visit us from The Blackden Trust. This is situated near the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank and the house and land holds many secrets of long ago.

The first part of the talk gave us an opportunity to study a history timeline and artefacts associated with the different periods. We made lots of mistakes along the way but with some questioning and clues we managed to put everything in the correct place. Artefacts such as pots, hold many clues, for example if they're glazed then they're from a later period. Everything had a special story from the Tig cup with its three handles to stop you eating and drinking at the same time to the tankard with its flat bottom to stop it falling over. We loved dressing up in a variety of hats from different periods - the metal helmet was really heavy!

Considering the evidence

Considering the evidence

In the second part of the talk we discussed Anglo Saxon Burials. Frank had to lie down and pretend to be dead. We surrounded him with objects needed for his afterlife such as armour, weapons and food.

Then we imagined what would be left when the burial site was discovered years later. Everything that came from something living would disappear including Frank's flesh! It was really interesting to see what would be left.

It was fascinating and great fun. Thank you.


Two competitions were left with the boys to complete in their own time. The results will be published on the website in November.

 

The timeline of hats and pots completed

The timeline of hats and pots completed
 

Depositing grave goods for the Saxon warrior in his afterlife

Depositing grave goods for the Saxon warrior
in his afterlife

Casting the runes at the Saxon funeral celebrations

Casting the runes at the Saxon funeral celebrations

Recreating a Saxon burial site

Recreating a Saxon burial site

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Tudor Herbs and Spices: Folklore, Wisdom and Medicine

Tutor: Sue Hughes

Discussing the uses of herbs in Tudor medicine

Discussing the uses of herbs in Tudor medicine

Sue Hughes set us going with a talk on the history and development of herbal medicine, and on the influence of John Gerard, the sixteenth century herbalist from Nantwich, who wrote the General Historie of Plants, which is a detailed description of plants and their uses and the folklore associated with them.  We heard about the uses of herbs and spices in the 16th century, for strewing, for dyes, in cooking, in medicines and in folklore.

Sue showed us various dried herbs and herbalist's equipment, and we made our own herb bags.  We also tasted griddle breads, spinach flan, spice cake, jumbles, apple mouse, and ginger bread; all made by Sue using traditional Tudor recipes.

Tasting Tudor recipes

Tasting Tudor recipes

When the Old Medicine House, was moved to Blackden from Wrinehill, wildflower and herb seeds that had been in cracks in the beams fell to the ground, sprouted and established themselves around the house.  Because there were no obvious remains of the herb garden around the Tudor apothecary's house on its original site, we felt free to create of one of our own.  So we examined the herb plants that would have been grown in the sixteenth century, laid out a design and planted the herbs in front of the Old Medicine House.

It was a varied and fascinating day, and one that added a new facet to the resources of the Trust.

Our visitors enjoyed 'the lovely friendly atmosphere', 'the Tudor food', 'the history of herbs and the planting,' 'the access to this magical historical house, with its quite exceptional ambience, and its connection to Cheshire's past and prehistory.'

'The whole day was magic. I haven't enjoyed myself so much for years.'

Examining the herb plants

Examining the herb plants

Planting the herbs

Planting the herbs

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Pilgrimage, Potions and Protection

Tutors: Tom Hughes, Sue Hughes,
Dr Melanie Giles, Professor Mark Edmonds

Arriving

Arriving

Guided by Tom Hughes and Mark Edmonds, twenty-six Manchester Grammar School Year 8 boys walked a mile along the farm track from the Red Lion Inn, in Goostrey, to The Blacken Trust. They considered the landscape, identifying and discussing what was significant as they walked; a physical experience taking them back in time and setting the pattern of the day.

It was a day of questions provoked by examining artefacts found on the site and in the surrounding fields. The boys studied sherds of pottery, working out what the complete pot might have been. They puzzled over unfamiliar objects, identifying what they were and how they might have been used.

Sue Hughes introduced the boys to some of the medical theories of the sixteenth century and the importance of herbs and spices in all aspects of life at the time; in cooking, in dyes, and for strewing to deter insects and sweeten the smell of the house, as well as in medicine. The boys chose herbs and spices to make their own individually scented tussie mussies.

After a brief introduction to timber-framing, Mark Edmonds and Melanie Giles led a discussion on the different ways archaeology could be interpreted. The day ended with an invitation to the boys to send us their impressions of what they had discovered during their visit.

Demonstrating a Tudor water sprinkler

Demonstrating a Tudor water sprinkler

Discussing timber-framing

Discussing timber-framing

Selecting herbs and spices

Selecting herbs and spices

Studying sherds of pottery

Studying sherds of pottery

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Witness to a Century

Tutor: Professor Richard Morris

Students studying aerial photographs of different parts of Britain

Students studying aerial photographs of different parts of Britain

Richard Morris gave us a brief history of photo interpretation; showing us how the first manned balloon flights in the later 18th century led to the first aerial photographs in the 19th century, and how aerial imaging was developed as a tool of war, and was then harnessed to history, planning, and environmentalism.

He then revealed the historical power of air photography, by distributing images of different parts of Britain, taken at different times in the last hundred years. We were shown how features on and beneath the ground could be seen under different conditions of light, weather, climate, time, and agricultural regime, and we were encouraged to interpret what we saw.

Aerial photographs of Oxford and Sunderland in the 1940s were compared for signs of the effects of war. With our newly educated eyes, we could clearly see that Sunderland was extensively bombed during World War II, but Oxford was not, and how the relative wealth and occupations of the inhabitants of the two cities could be deduced from the pattern of the buildings.

We looked at a series of aerial photographs of Alderley Edge and considered agricultural contrasts between the 1940s and 2009, the effects on the population of the 1945 Attlee Government, social housing, and the Cold War.

The day ended closer to home, over Blackden, where field boundaries mapped in the 18th century, but now invisible on the ground can still be seen as crop marks from the air.

The course taught us skills that we can now apply to aerial views with greater confidence, and maybe even discover hidden features in our own areas.

Aerial photograph of Blackden showing crop marks of field boundaries

Aerial photograph of Blackden showing
crop marks of field boundaries

Detail from Plan and Survey Book of Heawood Demesne 1789

Detail from Plan and Survey Book of Heawood Demesne 1789

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Printed on: 23 Aug 2019

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