Record for 2008
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.
|Saturday, 1st November||Geology and Landscape|
|Saturday, 13th September||The Civil War|
|Saturday, 6th September||Sermons in Stones|
|Saturday, 23rd August||Gathering of Friends|
|Tuesday, 29th July||Summer School|
|Tuesday, 22nd July||Holmes Chapel Comprehensive Summer School|
|Saturday, 19th July||National Archaeology Week event|
|Tuesday, 1st July||Celebration Day|
|Saturday, 14th June||Conducted Tour|
|Tuesday, 10th June||Pots and Pans|
|Saturday, 7th June||Conducted Tour|
|Saturday, 31st May||Bronze Age Cremation Sorting|
|Saturday, 17th May||Young Archaeologists|
|Saturday, 3rd May||Herbs in the Sixteenth Century: Folklore, Wisdom and Medicine|
|Saturday, 26th April||The Pottery of Blackden|
|Saturday, 5th April||Field walking day at Bridge Farm|
Geology and Landscape
Tutors: Dr Mark Roberts
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
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
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
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 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.
A Gathering of Friends and Fellows
Friends and the founding committee of the Friends of The Blackden Trust gathered for an informal buffet supper. Richard Morris thanked them, outlined plans, and invited more ideas. Small groups formed, so that the evening was both a celebration of what had been achieved, and a hatchery for the future.
One of the Fellows carving venison
Finds processing and cataloguing day
Archaeologists: Dr David Barker, Dr Melanie Giles, Tom Hughes, Dawn Parry
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
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
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.
National Archaeological Week event
Archaeologist: Dr David Barker
Potter: John Hudson
David Barker identifying pottery sherds found by members
The event was held in a polytunnel at Hassal Free Nurseries at the back of the Red Lion pub in Goostrey: a light and dry venue that protected us from the wind and the rain.
Members of archaeological clubs and adults, curious to know more about the pottery that they had found in their gardens, consulted Dr David Barker, who identified the date and vessel that the fragments had come from.
He also gave an illustrated talk on the history of the use and development of ceramics and their importance to archaeology that included slides of the pottery sherds found during the field walking at Bridge Farm on 1st April 2008. Some slides showed images of the complete vessels represented by the sherds, giving us a visual concept of the pottery used by the people of Blackden in the past. This was an example of how the research undertaken by The Blackden Trust has increased the knowledge of the history of the local area. This talk by David Barker made the results of some of our recent research available to the public.
John Hudson demonstrating the art of the potter
Children, some of whom had dragged their parents to the event, used their imaginations to design plates from images of fragments of pottery and practised reconstructing broken vessels by reassembling cardboard sherds to make complete plates.
All were entertained and enlightened by John Hudson's exposition of the ancient art of the potter. One adult visitor told us that John's demonstration of pottery making techniques had transformed her appreciation of pottery, and all the children carried away the small pots that they watched John making for them, with a care that showed an awareness of the uniqueness of their pot.
It was a vibrant afternoon of varied events that entertained and informed all those who attended.
John Hudson and his pots
A young visitor receiving his pot
Archaeologists: Dawn Parry and Tom Hughes
Teacher Support: Griselda Garner, Jill Gover, Katia Murta;
Antonella Novarina; Carol Ray
Our Celebration Day is one of a series of events that the Trust organises for students who have previously attended courses and who would like to come back to learn more. The students are invited via their schools, but the decision to attend is theirs.
On 1st July twelve students aged from eleven to fourteen, from four schools came to the Celebration Day. During the morning they furthered the research of the Trust by continuing the field walking that was started on 5th April. To get to the field, they walked from the garden of Toad Hall and The Old Medicine House, through a cornfield, along tractor tracks that followed a hedge line shown on the earliest map we have of the area. This map of 1789 can be found on the website index page of this website. The field we were walking is just behind Robert Dean's house on the map.
Walking through the cornfield along the hedge line between fields A4 and A5 shown on the detail of the map alongside this photograph
Detail from Plan and Survey Book of Heawood Desmesne 1789
We returned along the same route to wash the pottery sherds that we had found, and, amongst them, was one that could have been from a pot used by Robert Dean himself.
Students using The Blackden Trust type series database to sort their own collections of pottery sherds
In the afternoon most of the students chose to create a piece of art work based on the most interesting find from their grid square. One student had been so inspired by his first visit here last summer that during the intervening year he had picked up pottery on his grandfather's farm. He arrived with his collection, which he wanted to date and identify using the type series database that he knew was here. He spent the afternoon sorting his collection and left with most of it in dated bags.
The day was a vindication of our aims to include our visitors in practical activities that add to the knowledge of the area, and to encourage them to develop skills that can be applied elsewhere. We also saw how the students enjoyed the advice and expertise of our tutors. There was an atmosphere of continuity of purpose within a community.
As one of our volunteers observed, the children were so comfortable at Blackden and relaxed. It was wonderful day for all of us.
Timber-frame houses on an ancient site
Alderley Edge History Group
Visitors were brought up to date on the history of the site and saw the artefacts found in Blackden, which date from the Mesolithic to the twentieth century. They were shown the archaeological features in the garden and saw the remaining external timber-frame wall of Toad Hall.
They were given an introduction to the construction of timber-frame buildings, and were taken on a guided tour round The Old Medicine House, during which they saw the details that make it unique, including the timber-frame chimney with its beef box and the protective marks on its timbers.
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
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.
Timber-frame houses on an ancient site
Alderley Edge History Group
So many members of the Alderley History Group signed up for a visit to The Blackden Trust that we organised two visits on consecutive Saturdays. Please look at the report for 14th June which covers both visits.
Bronze Age cremation sorting
Archaeologist: Dawn Parry
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.
Young Archaeologists' Club - The Manchester Branch
Archaeologist: Dawn Parry
Young archaeologists studying Blackden finds
Twenty young archaeologists, aged seven to sixteen, visited us. The younger members came in the morning and explored the garden, looking for unusual aspects of the house and site. Moles had been active the night before and the young archaeologists were intrigued to find several sherds of pottery lying on the soil that the moles had excavated. They washed and dated the sherds, using the type series of pottery that we have established.
The older members, who came on the afternoon, were impressively observant, generating discussions about the structure of the timber-frame houses and the artefacts in the house and garden. They, too, washed and dated pottery previously found in the garden and surrounding fields. Such initial sorting frequently identifies unusual artefacts, as it did on Saturday. The young archaeologists left wanting to know more, particularly about the history of the house and of the people who lived here. We hope that this will be the first of many visits.
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
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
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
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.