Courses for schools

Examining sherds from a molehill

Examining sherds from a molehill

 


 

Our courses link to the curriculum and extend beyond it. They take advantage of our extensive resources to provide stimulating hands on activities

Manchester Grammar School GCSE Art Class at The Blackden Trust

Alan Garner giving J. L. Paton's book to Rachel Kneale

Alan Garner giving J. L. Paton's book
to Rachel Kneale  


Boys in Mrs. Jo Dobbs' GCSE Art Class came to Blackden and were given a brief tour of the garden and The Old Medicine House before they chose what they wanted to draw. They occupied every room and several niches in the garden as they worked.

Alan Garner took the opportunity to give a Sanskrit Grammar that had belonged to the legendary High Master of MGS, J. L. Paton, to Rachel Kneale the school archivist.  In 1952, when Alan was in the Sixth Form, he rescued the book from being dumped into a skip by an over zealous librarian.  He had kept it until it could be safely returned to the Paton Library.

It was a pleasure to have a group of such highly motivated and concentrated people enjoying the structure of the house and the objects it contains.  We look forward to seeing the finished work that was stimulated by spending time at Blackden.

By the labyrinth

By the labyrinth
 

In the garden

In the garden
 

In a bedroom

In a bedroom
 

On the staircase

On the staircase

Open Days

A tour of the garden

A tour of the garden

There was a range of activities to give visitors a taste of the variety of opportunities offered by The Blackden Trust: demonstrations of Tudor herbs and spices; period music played on instruments of the time; artefacts relating to the house and site to be puzzled over; a taste of archaeological skills in the washing and dating of pottery sherds found in the garden and surrounding fields; a chance to buy replica pottery based on those sherds; tours of the Old Medicine House and garden; and tea and cakes in the marquee.

Some comments from our visitors:

'Incredible! I love the cosy feel of a still used and loved home.'

'Excellent tour. Very friendly. Brilliant cakes!'

'Wonderful. Fascinating experience.'

'Superb experience -- hope to return for a course.'

'This is a wonderful magical place. Thank you for sharing it.'

Identifying artefacts

Identifying artefacts
 

Tea and cakes in the marquee

Tea and cakes in the marquee
 

Interim report on Archaeological Training excavation at Blackden in 2011

Directors Dr Mark Roberts, Professor Richard Morris

Opening a trench

Opening a trench

A third season of excavations to characterise, date and explain traces of former outbuildings took place in August 2011.

In 2009 a small excavation successfully located a long building which partly lay within the present site and ran into the adjoining field, historically known as Barn Croft. This building is known to have existed by 1789 and was gone by 1900. In 2010 the area of study was extended with results summarised on this website.

In 2011 the substructure of the building was further examined. The building had been thoroughly robbed at the time of its abandonment and has since been heavily disturbed by ploughing. Nonetheless it is possible to see that it was largely timber-built, with substructures variously formed of dry-laid stone blocks, rammed brick and clay. Subsidiary structures stood against and within the main building, part of which had had a close-fitting stone-flagged floor.

The building emerges

The building emerges

Demolition debris suggests that the original building carried a thackstone roof; analysis and quantification of brick fragments points to their local manufacture linked with different episodes of modification or repair. The presence of cullet, fragments of window glass and lead calmes implies recycling on or near the site. Finds included pieces of slate lined out for writing, 17th- to early 20th-century ceramics, whetstones, and a small amount of worked flint.

The 2011 campaign also examined a length of a trackway that ran alongside the barn. The track ran out of the southern corner of the former farm complex and aligned with a former field boundary that appears on air photographs as a crop mark continuing south-east of the railway. Excavation found the track to have followed a ditch cut into interleaved fluvioglacial deposits of sand and clay. The ditch formed part of the surrounding system of field boundaries that is visible on 18th/19th-century maps. The origin of this system is uncertain, but we can see that it existed before the end of the Middle Ages.

Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School visit to The Blackden Trust

Variety at Home

Tutors: Graham Massey, Dawn Parry

A Tudor welcome

A Tudor welcome


Year 7 students from Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School came to Blackden for a variety of activities. They were encouraged to use their powers of observation; to develop their logical reasoning; and to consider the importance of herbs in the Tudor period. Using a set of riddles as clues, they found and walked a labyrinth that led them to a well; found ancient artefacts; and discovered plants that were associated with medicine and protection from evil spirits.

Inside the sixteenth century Old Medicine House, the students were introduced 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 students chose herbs and spices to make their own individually scented tussie mussies to take home. All these activities gave the students a practical experience of the information that can be deduced from the objects people leave behind.

'I liked trying to figure out what the different objects were and what they were used for. This was most interesting for me.'

'I enjoyed going into the medicine house and making the herb pouches. I also liked doing the ' mystery investigation' . I liked everything.'

'I enjoyed making the herb pouches and learning about different herbs and what they mean and do. I loved everything.'

'I loved the apothecary. The riddles were entertaining. I liked the labyrinth.'

'I enjoyed the riddles and the herb pouches making part. I would like to do it all again and I think it was great.'

Deciphering the riddles

Deciphering the riddles

Selecting herbs for tussie mussies

Selecting herbs for tussie mussies

Walking the labyrinth

Walking the labyrinth
 

Working out the function of a mystery object

Working out the function of a mystery object
 

HIDDEN HISTORIES
MGS at The Blackden Trust

Tutors: Melanie Giles, Sue Hughes, Tom Hughes, Graham Massey, Dawn Parry

Working out a puzzling thing

Working out a puzzling thing

During April and May boys from all the Year 8 forms at Manchester Grammar School spent a day at The Blackden Trust looking at evidence of past lives in the landscape, in the houses and in artefacts found in the area.

The boys walked the mile along the farm track from the Red Lion Inn, in Goostrey, to The Blacken Trust, looking for evidence of man's occupation of the land. They examined artefacts found on the site and in the surrounding fields; studied sherds of pottery to discover what the complete pot might have been; and by handling unfamiliar objects they worked out what the objects were and how they might have been used.

Inside the Old Medicine House, the boys were introduced 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 to take home.

'PERFECT. I really enjoyed the day - everything was good and perfectly timed as well. I think that it was interesting and I think that I could one day do some research myself.'

'I loved absolutely everything about The Blackden Trust. I learnt a lot about history and archaeology. Today has really sparked an interest for me in archaeology. Thanks for a superb day.'

'Very enjoyable & I thoroughly liked it. Lots of these things that have happened will stay in my mind for a long time. Thank you.'

'I really enjoyed the day it made me realise that one ordinary patch of ground can hold so much history. It was really enjoyable.'

'I enjoyed finding out what the different herbs are used for, the lateral thinking tasks was very interesting. There were also very puzzling things to work out, which was great!'

'This day was very good and a very memorable day for me. To begin with I enjoyed learning about medicine and the different uses of local herbs that were used in order to medicate people.'

'My favourite bit was when we made a tuzy wuzy so we could take something home to remember the trip.'

'I also enjoyed the talk about artefacts as I learnt how to deduce so much information from a piece of an object. It was also memorable to hold a ½ million old artefact. Very good.'

'Really enjoyed my day here! Enjoyed learning how much information can be inferred from a single object. I also enjoyed learning about the different herbs used in the Medicine House.'

'I think that today was a brilliant day and raised my already extremely high expectations.'

Demonstrating a Tudor water sprinkler

Demonstrating a Tudor water sprinkler

Examining artefacts

Examining artefacts

Expounding a theory

Expounding a theory

Selecting herbs for tuzzie muzzies

Selecting herbs for tuzzie muzzies

Archaeological Excavation for Young Friends

Tutors: Dawn Parry, Tom Hughes

Digging for china

Digging for china

 

Students, who had shown a particular interest in the activities of the Trust when they visited us, but who are too young to attend our archaeological training excavation, were given the opportunity to learn a range of archaeological skills.

They excavated a linear test pit across undisturbed ground. They sorted and recorded the finds; washing and dating the pottery sherds that emerged. The course ended with a session when parents joined us and the students evaluated what had been discovered during the day and how it fitted into the knowledge of the place.

Sorting and dating pottery sherds

Sorting and dating pottery sherds

 

 

 

' I enjoyed the dig and I would really like to come back again. I liked learning about all the different types of pottery we found and how they got there. The things we were shown in the house were fascinating.'

' I liked that I could actually get into a real dig with archaeologists. I also liked finding out about this fascinating site.'

' I thoroughly enjoyed the digging of the trench and also the identifying of the pottery.' ' I enjoyed finding the pottery and matching today' s findings into groups.'

 

 

Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School visit to The Blackden Trust
Discovering the Past

Tutors: Griselda Garner, Graham Massey
Volunteers: Joyce Evers, Charlie Reeks
Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School Staff: Eddie Fu, Roxy Riding

Dating pottery sherds

Dating pottery sherds

Year 7 students from Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School came to Blackden for a morning of activities to stimulate curiosity and develop logical reasoning.

Using a set of riddles as clues, they found and walked a labyrinth that led them to a well; found ancient artefacts; and discovered plants that were associated with protection from evil spirits.

The students were presented with objects from the past that they were encouraged to identify. Then they washed pottery sherds found on the site, which they sorted and dated, using a type series database. All these activities gave the students a practical experience of the information that can be deduced from the objects people leave behind. .

'I liked working out the riddles and looking around for the clues. It was good.'

'I enjoyed the experience of working with old artefacts. I got really stuck in and was in awe of what has been found.'

'I enjoyed learning about all the different pottery and objects. I also enjoyed working out the riddles.'  'I learnt how to find out how old a piece of pottery is.'

'I liked the pot washing and the discussions about the date. It was overall fantastic.'

Looking for clues in the labyrinth

Looking for clues in the labyrinth

Working out a riddle

Working out a riddle

Discussing

Discussing

Pot washing

Pot washing

The Blackden Trust at Goostrey Community Primary school

Tutor: Tom Hughes

Timeline of hats and pots

Timeline of hats and pots

Year 6 students at Goostrey Community Primary School were introduced to some techniques of archaeology, during a course run by The Blackden Trust.

In order to encourage a sense of chronology, the students created a living timeline by placing date cards ranging from 2,000 BC to 2,000 AD in the correct order. Under the guidance of Tom Hughes and using the knowledge they had of some historical periods, students donned hats and worked out into which historical period they should they should place themselves. Tom outlined the historical development of drinking vessels and students then assessed the correct period of replica vessels and placed them in the appropriate place on the timeline.

After a break, the students re-enacted a Saxon burial, by placing replica grave goods, relevant to a warrior and farmer, around him. Invoking the atmosphere of an early Saxon funeral, Tom told the story of Saint Werburgh and challenged the students with some Saxon riddles. A student blew a horn to end the ceremony.

The students were then encouraged to think as archaeologists and identify which parts of the deposited goods would decay. These were removed leaving artefacts that would be found in a Saxon grave. The students considered how we have been able to reconstruct those parts that had decayed, and what we might be able to deduce from the grave itself. The confidence with which the students engaged in this exercise was a testament to the skills that they had developed during the morning.

In the afternoon the students gathered in groups, first to solve riddles and then to write riddles about a Saxon object. Their concentration during these activities was most commendable, as was the standard of their work, which can be seen on the Outcomes page.

This event was sponsored by The Friends of The Blackden Trust.

Placing the only parts of the Saxon warrior to survive into the burial

Placing the only parts of the Saxon warrior to survive into the burial

The murdered goose brought back to life by Saint Werburg celebrates

The murdered goose brought back to life by Saint Werburg celebrates

Writing riddles

Writing riddles

Solving riddles

Solving riddles

Pilgrimage, Potions and Protection

Tutors: Professor Mark Edmonds, Dr Melanie Giles,
Tom Hughes, Sue Hughes, Colin Mann, Graham Massey

Tudor herbs in a Tudor house

Tudor herbs in a Tudor house

During April and May boys from all the Year 8 forms at Manchester Grammar School spent a day at The Blackden Trust looking at evidence of past lives in the landscape, in the houses and in artefacts found in the area.

The boys walked the mile along the farm track from the Red Lion Inn, in Goostrey, to The Blacken Trust, looking for evidence of man' s occupation of the land. They examined artefacts found on the site and in the surrounding fields; studied sherds of pottery to discover what the complete pot might have been; and by handling unfamiliar objects they worked out what the objects were and how they might have been used.

Inside the Old Medicine House, the boys were introduced 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. They found some of the treatments gruesome, especially those used on battle wounds. Finally, the boys chose herbs and spices to make their own individually scented tussie mussies to take home.

Today was great. I especially like handling the objects: the spices and herbs and the mystery objects. I also enjoyed analysing the ceramics.

Handling a 5 000 year- old polished stone axe

Handling a 5 000 year- old polished stone axe

I enjoyed making muslin and smelling herbs and the houses because it wasn' t just observing, but it was practical work as well. I also liked looking at the remains of various objects because of the aspect of mystery and the infinite amount of logical outcomes. I LOVED IT!

I enjoyed the fact that we had to think and had to make our own minds up about things instead of being told. School is a lot different.

I find it fascinating that so many periods of history are based exactly on the spot I am sitting.

I thought that looking at old stuff was good because we had a chance to actually think about and come up with ideas of what it is, as opposed to having it dictated to us in a classroom !!!

I found the medicines and the methods used to cure different illnesses and injuries fascinating compared to modern methods.

It was fascinating learning about all the different types of medicine used in the Tudor period. I thoroughly enjoyed making the herb pouch.

The artefacts were great fun. I enjoyed the herbs and making the herb bags and smelling the different herbs and spices.

I enjoyed my visit at Blackden Trust and liked the fact we had to think about the objects.

Puzzling over a pot

Puzzling over a pot

Wondering about a wheel

Wondering about a wheel

Science meets Archaeology

Tutor: Professor Sue Kilcoyne
Laboratory technician: Jay Smith

Setting up the resistivity experiment

Setting up the resistivity experiment

As part of National Science and Engineering Week 2010, Sue Kilcoyne and Jay Smith from the School of Computing, Science and Engineering joined forces with Griselda Garner and Graham Massey from The Blackden Trust to show pupils from Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School how advanced scientific techniques now play an extremely important part in all aspects of archaeological investigation; from the initial geophysical surveys of potential sites to the sophisticated and often complicated analysis of the artefacts discovered during the excavations.

The presentation started with an introduction to the scientific techniques that are now an integral part of archaeological investigation.  Sue described how resistivity, magnetometry and metal detecting can help archaeologists piece together and understand the fragmentary evidence history has left to be deciphered.  She outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the different techniques and discussed the need to combine the results of several techniques in order to obtain the best description of a site.

The students then had a chance to put what they had learnt into practice.  They were provided with mini archaeological sites (sand in plastic troughs) in which objects with varying resistivity were buried.  First they surveyed their site, using mini resistivity probes.  Jay and Graham showed the students how to use the equipment and how to log the results into a program to convert the data into a diagram, which would indicate where the objects were buried. The students then used their results to carry out an excavation to find the buried objects.

The session finished with a presentation from Sue describing the novel and exciting techniques using neutron beams to probe deeply within objects, revealing the detail of their structure and providing unique information on their origin, composition, manufacture, use, and even their authenticity.  Sue also discussed how future scientific developments will expand the essential role that science now plays in the finding and interpretation of archaeology.

The day was a great success.  Three of the pupils asked to be included in the training excavation at The Blackden Trust in August and several other pupils also said that it would make them think more positively about continuing with a science course after GCSE.

For more information about Science and Archaeology please contact Sue at: s.h.kilcoyne@salford.ac.uk

Surveying and recording readings

Surveying and recording readings

Using resistivity data to guide excavation

Using resistivity data to guide excavation

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

Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School
Gifted and Talented Summer School

Tutor: Tom Hughes, Sue Hughes

Following the clues

Following the clues

Each year, The Blackden Trust links 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

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

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

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

Finds processing and cataloguing day

Archaeologists: Dr David Barker, Dr Melanie Giles, Tom Hughes, Dawn Parry

Pottery sherds from Grid Square A5

Pottery sherds from Grid Square A5

The artefacts found during field walking on 5th April and 1st July were recorded and a start was made on the analysis of the pottery. Some sixth formers joined us and were guided through the technique of recording pottery by David Barker. There is more recording to be done before we can fully assess the significance of the finds.

Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School
The World of Wotsits
An Introduction to Archaeology

Tutors: Tom Hughes and Dawn Parry
Supporting adults: Griselda Garner, Dougald Hine, Susan Hughes, Dr David Kay

Considering the significance of the Saxon roundshaft

Considering the significance of the Saxon roundshaft

All year 8 students attending the Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School chose to attend our archaeology course.

We encourage students to observe, question anomalies and deduce possible explanations; all skills that are essential in any discipline. So the day started with the students going round the garden placing flags by anything that puzzled them or that they found intriguing. Among the questions they asked were those about the structure of the timber-frame houses, the masonry lying in the grass, the crumbling pig cote, the comparative age of the buildings, the Saxon round shaft and the labyrinth. We then discussed each query, encouraging the students to work out an interpretation for themselves. Some lively interchanges developed between us all.

The questioning continued when the students handled artefacts found on the site, and carried on when pottery was washed and then identified.

 Identifying artefacts from Blackden

Identifying artefacts from Blackden

The last anomaly to be resolved was the comparative age of the buildings. The students walked along the track that leads into the garden, comparing the landscape and layout of the buildings today with what was depicted on the map of 1789. The observant student who raised the question at the start of the day was proved to be right by a map that is over two hundred years old.

The students enjoyed the hands on activities, particularly the pot washing and identification, and also the handling and questioning of the artefacts.

We all had a lively and informative day.

 

 

 

 

Pots and Pans
Archaeology in the Classroom at Mossley County Primary School

Tutors: Dawn Parry and Tom Hughes

Placing goods in the grave of a Saxon warrior

Placing goods in the grave of a Saxon warrior

Year 6 students at Mossley Primary School were introduced to some of the principles and techniques of archaeology.

After a presentation about the work of The Blackden Trust by Dawn Parry, the students created a living timeline, which related the historical periods that they had studied to images of archaeological artefacts of those times. Tom Hughes outlined the historical development of drinking vessels. Students then assessed the correct period of replica vessels and placed them in the appropriate place on the timeline.

Directed by Dawn Parry, they continued to develop their assessment skills with a simulated excavation of a box of stratified artefacts, which they dated and placed in correct chronological order.

In the afternoon, the students dramatised a Saxon burial, by placing replica grave goods, relevant to a warrior and farmer, around him. Invoking the atmosphere of an early Saxon funeral, Tom Hughes told the story of Saint Werburgh and challenged the students with some Saxon riddles. Students blew a horn to end the ceremony.

They then reverted to archaeology students and identified which parts of the deposited goods would decay. These were removed and the students were encouraged to consider how we have been able to reconstruct those parts that had decayed, and what we might be able to deduce from the grave itself. The confidence with which they engaged in this exercise was a testament to the skills that they had developed during the day.

Bronze Age cremation sorting

Archaeologist: Dawn Parry

Students sorting the Bronze Age cremation

Students sorting the Bronze Age cremation

In 1971, when the foundations of the link between the Old Medicine House and Toad Hall were being built, a Bronze Age cremation was found at the base of the mound on which Toad Hall stands.

As part of our research we invited MA students from The University of Manchester and 6th Form students who had attended earlier courses to help explore the contents of the cremation.

Dawn Parry demonstrated the technique, which is meticulous and time-consuming. We had assumed that the unsorted collection of cremated bone, charcoal and earth represented an un-urned burial. However, the students identified crumbs of pottery, suggesting that the cremation had originally been placed in an urn. Another sample of the cremation is in the process of being dated by radiocarbon analysis.

All the students felt that they had learnt skills that would be useful in their future careers.

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

Printed on: 25 Apr 2017

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