Adult courses

Comparing modern and tithe maps

Comparing modern and tithe maps

 


 

We offer a variety of courses for adults and young people, ranging from general interest and recreational courses to those with a strong academic content.

Science in Archaeology

Tutors: Professor Robert Cywinski, Professor Susan Kilcoyne

Working on various practical experiments

Working on various practical experiments  


Bob Cywinski started the day by introducing 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, such as 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. He also introduced us to exciting techniques that have only recently been adopted by archaeologists. These techniques use beams of 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 showed us how future scientific developments will expand the essential role that science now plays in the finding and interpretation of archaeology.

We then had a chance work on practical experiments in some of the techniques, including a laser scanner that recorded objects in minute detail. With a mini resistivity meter, we surveyed a mini site of sand in a plastic trough, in which objects with varying resistivity had been buried. When the data was logged into a program to convert the data into a diagram, which would indicate where the objects were buried, it gave results that 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, where a variety of metal objects of had previously been placed. Some were found, others were not, and more objects that had not been buried, but were lurking in the soil, were found.

'A very interesting and informative course. It was fascinating to learn about new technology.'

'Although I had used some of the equipment during my degree course, this is the first time I have understood the science behind it.'

'A fascinating day. Thank you.'

Uploading data

Uploading data
 

Working on the mini site

Working on the mini site
 

Medieval Cheshire

Tutors: Jane Laughton, Tom Hughes, Sue Hughes

Listening to the pipe and drum

Listening to the pipe and drum


Jane started the day with an illustrated talk on how the daily life of the people of Cheshire in the Middle Ages can be reconstructed from manuscripts and how careful correlation of manuscripts can reveal the changing fortunes of families. She also led us through the evidence of long distance trade in Cheshire.

Sue described how medieval recipes used ingredients that, although common to us today, were used to produce a completely different flavour. She had cooked a range of dishes for us to taste. We found the use of sugar in savoury dishes particularly odd to our modern palate.

Tom told us folk tales and played some medieval music on replica instruments of the period; a performance we all enjoyed. He ended the day with a tour of the Old Medicine House. The whole day gave us an integrated experience of several aspects of medieval life.

Some comments from our visitors:

'Fantastic -- wonderful place -- great course -- THANK YOU.'

'A day of fascinating and very informative facts. That such information is given in such a special building just makes the whole day memorable.'

'Amazing house. Really informative day. Thanks for the food. '

'A day full of fascinating information with a number of ways of engaging with the subject -- listening, looking, eating and enjoying music. Thank you for providing a broad picture of Medieval Cheshire.'

'A really special day in a gorgeous house. Thank you.'

'The course was really enjoyable. It was my first time at Blackden. What an amazing place. The Old Medicine House has got to be one my favourite buildings. I know how much work goes into organising courses so thank you to everyone at Blackden.'

A medieval spread

A medieval spread
 

Tucking in

Tucking in
 

Tudor Blackwork Embroidery

Tutor: Bernadette Grantham

Embroiderers at work

Embroiderers at work

 

We gathered in the Old Medicine House, where Bernadette Grantham introduced us to the history of blackwork embroidery. She showed us copies of 16th century portraits, several by Hans Holbein, where floral and geometric designs characteristic of blackwork embroidery decorated the collars and cuffs of the nobility he painted.

Bernadette had created a design based on the quatrefoil carved into the timbers on either side of the windows of the gable ends of the Old Medicine House. Using her design as a guide, we adapted and created our own blackwork quatrefoils.

 

One circle completed

One circle completed

Starting on the third circle

Starting on the third circle

Finished quatrefoil

Finished quatrefoil

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

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

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

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

Geology and Landscape

Tutors: Dr Mark Roberts

Mark explaining the formation of the marl pits

Mark explaining the formation of the marl pits

This last course of the 2008 season completed the circle started in April.  During the day we learnt how the artefacts we had gathered during our field walking six months ago related to both the surface topography and the underlying geology.

With reference to maps and diagrams Mark Roberts demonstrated the 170 million year unconformity between the surface of the Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group and the overlying Late Pleistocene sediments.  Potentially, 1.5km of Mesozoic and Cainozoic sediments have been removed by glacial action over the past 800,000 years.  The group discussed the geology of the region, from the Late Silurian to the present day, discussing topics such as: plate tectonics, including the latitudinal position of England at various places on the geological timescale; the Variscan Orogeny and the formation of the Pennines; the infilling of the Cheshire Basin; Triassic deserts and the Cheshire salt deposits; and finally the Devensian Glacial and interstadial sediments.

 Time travellers return to The Old Medicine House

Time travellers return to
The Old Medicine House

As we walked up the hill on the opposite side of the valley, along Blackden Brook, through the marl pits, across fields and back to The Old Medicine House, Mark pointed out features, such as boulder clay and fluvioglacial gravel surfaces, together with evidence provided by the local drainage for rapid downcutting and proglacial outwash; which he had earlier shown us on geological and topographic maps.  On our perambulation, the group also spent time discussing and thinking about human subsistence in the myriad of potential environments that would have been encountered in this part of Cheshire, during the course of the Pleistocene.  We ended the day with an assessment of what we had seen and how profoundly the geology of a place affects all subsequent occupation of the land.

Other researchers in the group broadened the debate with a discussion on the effect of economic geology on the human population of the region, from the Palaeolithic to the twenty-first century; concentrating on resources such as salt deposits, gravel extraction, and the mineral veins of Alderley Edge and the south Pennines.  So the young participants, preparing to study archaeology at university, had an illuminating and entertaining preview of a largely ignored part of the discipline.  An apt ending to this season of events.

(Terrible pun. The Aptian is a Stage in the Lower Cretaceous Period.  MR) 

The Civil War

Tutors: Professor Ronald Hutton, Professor Richard Morris

Demonstrating the positions of 17th century musket ball impacts
     on the tower of St Luke's Church, Holmes Chapel

Demonstrating the positions of 17th century musket ball impacts on the tower of St Luke's Church, Holmes Chapel

Ronald Hutton started the day with a seminar on the English Civil War, during which he introduced us to some of the subtleties that lie under the commonly held knowledge of the period: how families were not only divided, but how, in some, members also changed sides as the war progressed; how the war was not so much decisively won, as that an error of judgment on Prince Rupert's part tipped the balance; and how everybody was bankrupted by the demands of the armies of both sides. It was, said Ronald, the most cruel war in our history.

Richard Morris showed us a map of the Battle of Naseby where finds of muskets ball had been plotted and we discussed what the map might represent: how it showed that the supposed total rout of the Royal army at the Battle of Naseby was not a rout but a series of stands as it retreated before it finally fled. The mapping also showed the importance of the responsible use of metal detectors. Instead of becoming mere 'finds' in a collection, the objects, such as musket balls and parts of weapons, were used to plot the pattern of movement in the battle, which revealed how the two sides continually engaged, moved, regrouped and how the Royalists lost heart and were pursued.

Similarly, Richard used photographs to invite us to suggest the meaning of the pattern of musket ball scars on the tower of Holmes Chapel church. He showed how several pieces of shot could have been fired from one musket, and the suggestion from the patterning was that there could have been a series of executions carried out at the base of the wall. Ronald was not convinced.

We became a part of the conversation that developed between Ronald and Richard, where they were exchanging information that expanded their knowledge of the period.

In the afternoon we examined wills and probate inventories of people living in Blackden during the period of the Civil War, including two for Toad Hall dated 1644 and 1664, and tried to answer some of the research questions that the Trust is interested in. Again, the cross referencing between Ronald and Richard illuminated our research, as Ronald showed us that the will of Jonathan Eaton, written in1644, started with the preamble of a severe Puritan. He added that Cheshire is a 'wonderful place' for the study of the Civil War.

It was a day that revealed the extent to which history and archaeology are intimately intertwined, but it was also a day of university level intellectual exchange. It was a privilege to be present at such an exciting conjunction of experts.

The map of the Battle of Naseby can be found at http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/media/367.jpg

Richard Morris and Ronald Hutton disputing

Richard Morris and Ronald Hutton disputing

Reading 17th century wills from Blackden and assessing whether the artefacts of 
    the Civil War period found on the site could be among those mentioned in the inventories

Reading 17th century wills from Blackden and assessing whether the artefacts of the Civil War period found on the site could be among those mentioned in the inventories

Sermons in Stones
Making and interpreting stone tools

Tutor: Professor Mark Edmonds

Mark Edmonds advises on the knapping of a hand axe

Mark Edmonds advises on the knapping of a hand axe

Mark Edmonds introduced us to the ancient art of flint knapping by showing us a wide variety of prehistoric stone tools, which we examined as he explained how they could be dated and how they were made. Starting with large nodules of flint, he demonstrated how the flint should be struck, to produce the tools we had examined.

Inspired by the apparent ease with which he knapped flint to produce hand axes and scrapers and blades, we used stones and antlers as hammers, and with help from Mark, hand axes of our own began to emerge.

As we gained confidence the sound of stone and antler striking flint developed a rhythm; a sound that would last have been heard on the site three thousand years ago. Flint found in the garden includes waste flakes, so similar to the flakes we were producing that we had to take great care to collect the modern flakes and dispose of them off the site to avoid confusing the archaeology.

Herbs in the Sixteenth Century:
Folklore, Wisdom and Medicine

Tutor: Susan Hughes

Examining the herbs and replicas of some of the equipment
     used to process them in the sixteenth century

Examining the herbs and replicas of some of the equipment used to process them in the sixteenth century

The day started with an examination of the artefacts found in the area, followed by a tour of The Old Medicine House and garden. We also heard how, in the spring of 1971, after The Old Medicine House was re-erected at Blackden, wildflowers and medicinal herbs, appeared around the house. Alan and Griselda Garner found the same species growing at the original site of the house at Wrinehill, so we think that seeds had been transported in the cracks of the timbers of the house.

Susan Hughes gave an illustrated talk about the medical beliefs of the sixteenth century, and the extensive use of herbs to treat ailments to, prevent infection, alleviate the unpleasant odours that came from lack of proper sanitation, and dye fabrics. She talked about how the use of herbs was passed down in folklore and superstition and we discussed how some of these ideas still survive today.

The house was permeated by the wonderful smell of herbs that Susan had brought with her along with replicas of the some of the equipment used in Tudor times to process herbs. We made our own tussie mussies, small sachets of aromatic herbs, from the wide selection she had brought.

In the afternoon, we talked and sketched several ideas for the layout of the herb garden that we shall create in front of The Old Medicine House.

It was a most interesting and fragrant day.

Susan and her husband, Tom, can be found at www.pilgrimsandposies.co.uk.

The Pottery of Blackden

Archaeologist: Dr David Barker

Analysing pottery sherds from Bridge Farm

Analysing pottery sherds from Bridge Farm

A small group joined a seminar run by David Barker, whose exposition of the history of the development of post-medieval ceramics was illustrated by images from his extensive collection of photographs. David expanded his answers to participants' questions with yet more images, and questions led to discussions about how objects made, used and discarded by people in the past are key to most archaeological research; how archaeologists rely upon a wide range of different kinds of finds to reach interpretations; how archaeology can affect historical understanding and how art, architecture and costume are interrelated.

We examined numerous sherds of different dates and types found in the area of Blackden, and, guided by David Barker, we used the knowledge we had gained to analyse the pottery found in several of the grids during the field walking at Bridge Farm on 5th April.

We all felt that what we had learnt during this one day would have a lasting influence on our understanding of the past.

Field walking day at Bridge Farm

Archaeologists: Professor Richard Morris, Dr David Barker, Dawn Parry, Fiona Sharpley

David Barker talking to the field walkers

David Barker talking to the field walkers

Forty adults and children took part in a field walking day at Bridge Farm. This activity was part of the research being undertaken by the Trust into the social history of the area.

Richard Morris started the event with a talk about the archaeological procedure and techniques that we would be employing, and Dawn Parry supervised the practical details, making sure that walkers did not stray out of their allotted 10 metre squares.

The walkers brought their finds back to the shippon at Bridge Farm, where, directed by Fiona Sharpley, some of them sorted and washed the pottery and placed the sherds in the appropriately numbered trays, ready for identification by David Barker. Despite the long day and the cold conditions all the participants were as concentrated during David Barker's clear exposition on the history of the use of pottery in the area as they had been at the beginning of the day.

We shall follow up this event with Pottery Day on 26th April, when David Barker will guide us through the identification and recording of the pottery we found.

For further information about past events, refer to the archive of event reports in date order.

Printed on: 25 Apr 2017

This website requires cookies for certain operations. 
To find out more, see our  Privacy Policy 
I accept cookies from this site:   Agree
© The Blackden Trust 2008-2014
The Blackden Trust blog The Blackden Trust on Facebook The Blackden Trust on Twitter The Blackden Trust is a registered charity no. 1115818
CSS and HTML validated