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Posts Tagged ‘dissappeared’

Below are a few more underground bits and pieces in the area. They all share in common, the fact that they are, as it says in the title, underground spaces beneath country houses and religious places. Country houses as well as religious institutions had the money, influence and power to do things on a grander scale than farms. So it makes sense that the artificial underground spaces are more spectacular and substantial.

So below are the candidates, followed by some likely candidates. For purposes of the post and the series, I´m just focusing on their underground nature and some I´ll be coming back to in later posts with different approaches. I suppose it´s all about how you approach material things, even the most mundane things can become interesting, so much so that sometimes you have to take a step back!

Polesworth vicarage

According to the  historic landscape survey on Polesworth the existing cellar in the 16th century vicarage, I quote, possibly occupies part of the former undercroft of a north-south monastic building to the west of the cloister(Palmer 2000). It looks very possible that part of the cellar dates back to the monastic period. Considering that very little of the once powerful and well-known Polesworth abbey survives, (apart from church and gatehouse) this makes this possible medieval underground space all the more important.

Above photo of  privately owned Vicarage, click on photo to see original flickr source

The cellars of Packington Hall

Packington hallis an intriguing 18th century country estate just outside Hopwas to the west which I´m going to almost totally ignore to go straight into details of it´s dark underbelly. A  structural survey commissioned by the new owners who want to turn the place into flats reveals that the 18th century country house has two cellar areas beneath the main building and rear wing which are in ´sound condition.´Packington hall was designed by famous  18th century architect James Wyatt so maybe those cellars are all the more worth having a look at. By the way no interior inspection by English Heritage people!

In the grounds there was an Icehouse, is it still around? They were common feature in country houses and used for food storage. Icehouses could qualify for an underground feature and icehouse entrances in out of the way places  and forested areas have probably been influential in creating more than one  secret tunnel story.

Comberford Hall

Click the link above to go to the Comerford Family History site, where the plan of the basement and storage room of the late 18th century Comberford hall is taken from. Underground spaces under private residences are enveloped in a double wall of secrecy. What´s underneath we might never know unless Mr Comerford decides upload some photos to his site.

Likely candidates

Deanery

Between the 14th century ragstone walls surviving from  the deanery, immediately to the east of St Editha´s, Tamworth  must lie the soil  infilled vaulted medieval deep cellar belonging to the deanery mentioned in Charles Ferrer´s  history of  town and castle.  Future archaeology studies enjoy!

Site of Fisherwick Hall

This was the site of the very bling bling  but ephemeral Marquess of Donegall´s rebuilt Fisherwick Hall. It was demolished in the early 19th century leaving the coach house and stables. What if the demolishing wasn´t that rigorous and the housekeeper’s room, the servants’ hall, the kitchen, and other offices mentioned in the history of the county of Stafford as located in the basement partly survived.

Above is a  photo taken over summer  in Fisherwick wood. It´s a bridge of expensive stonework hidden in the undergrowth, part of Capability Brown´s landscaped estate. Although not strictly underground, it offers a tantalising glimpse into the potential black  marbled,richly moulded, opulent underworld of Fisherwick Hall

Lastly on the mentioned county of Stafford link there´s a mention of I quote, “access to the house from the lawn in front was by a tunnel under the carriage road. “

What happened to this tunnel? Here´s Welbeck Abbey a  well-known and extensive, somewhat crazy example of tunnels built at the whim of aristocrats beneath a country estate.


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The Woodhouse is back as the dignified representative of this latest underground themed post! UKurbex put the   pictures below on their website showing the pictures they bravely took of the cellars of the now probably flattened Woodhouse, Hopwas(see earlier posts for more details) These photos are an invaluable  testament as far as I know there was no interior inspection by English Heritage people. Without putting my neck out too much they must be the same 18th century´Ale cellars´  mentioned in 1770. It’s a double cellar with barrel vaulting complete with alcoves.

The cellars below the Woodhouse got me thinking about the fate of cellars below demolished buildings. What happened to the Woodhouse cellar? the woodhouse is probably now flattened, what I wonder happens to the cellars of these building when demolished?After having a look around at demolition procedures it seems that most are backfilled. Is this a thorough process?. I imagine that modern building regulations are pretty strict nowadays about not leaving any empty spaces below but you never know. Following this line of thought the older the demolition the more chances that the cellar hasn´t been thoroughly backfilled and erased and maybe some pitch black part of the cellars lies preserved below like an egyptian burial chamber.

Abe and Ernst entering a sealed abandoned farm cellar Tutankarmun style.

 

The chances of partly preserved cellars opens up a world of underground possibilities. Farm building where cellars were commonplace dating from the 18th and 19th centuries dot the landscape and many have disappeared for various reasons. Below is one case, Ashlands Farm  in the Tamworth timehikes area situated in the eastern part of the Blog´s area above the River Anker.Its an area that has many abandoned sites, a post apocalyptic  landscape below idyllic meadows!.

Above the location of Ashlands farm. Ploughing has left alone  the mound of rubble, leaving the disturbed ground idyll for brambles and blackberries to the delight of my hunter-gatherer father below.

Above the rubble from Ashlands farm. The driveway with it´s  soon to be fossilised trackways  still connect the farm rubble with Ashby road. From looking at old ordnance maps the farm dates back to at least the late 18th century and looked quite substantial. It became a mound of rubble in the 70´s/ 80´s for reasons unknown, maybe something to do with the economic downturn.  It´s a good candidate for an old cellar. Does it remain below partly intact, blackest black, a pocket of 1970´s air, with an assortment of antiquated farm equipment or maybe overfermented ciders in the dormant cellars? I´d like to think that’s the case! I can´t find any  literature on investigating old cellars in the UK, although in eastern USA there are people who look for dips showing where root cellars were located dating back to colonial rural houses. In the absence of any literature on investigating cellars below demolished farm houses maybe could develop a manual. Locate the cellar entrance on old plans,maps or the best location for cellars, and start digging through bricks, concrete. Sounds like hard work maybe best to leave it a couple of hundred of years until they become valuable enough or futuristic archaeological tools are developed to see below ground !

On another note I´d just to write a big heartfelt thanks for all the support and bigupping from Bob from blog of local legend Brownhillsbob. It gets a bit lonely sometimes marooned on the island of Tamworth timehikes with just a couple of made up characters(Abe and Ernst) to keep me company so much appreciated!!

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Offlow continued……..

Got some info to add to the post on the Offlow tumulus on the borders of Tamworth Timehikes. Staffordshire County Council HER(Historic Environment Record) kindly sent me the report on the site. Most of the info is from the early 20th century, here it is below:

Well can solve the mystery of its dissappearance. Like so many sites, repeated ploughing has all but defaced the mound.” Bedford is recorded as visiting the site in 1934 and collecting a piece of Roman roof tile, he was accompanied by Reverend E. Denesh who suggested the mound may have a Roman origin”.

Again quoting the HER report ” In 1938 Offlow was recorded as a low mound, 30 yards in diameter and not more than 2 feet high, but evidently much spread.” Interestly it was remarked that the barrow was placed so that it would have been in view of both Wall and Tamworth.

Tragically in 1948 the barrow is recorded as demolished explaining it´s dissappearance on maps and the map marker of ´site of´ In 1958 it was recorded as ” a ploughed down barrow 0.5 metres high of indefinite outline but roughly 20 metres in diameter with no possible ditch” In 1976 the site was under plough with no remains visible and no surface finds.

The report apart from confirming its demise adds to the mystery of Offlow. Could be seen from Wall and Tamworth? Roman roof tiles? intriguing place.

Post Changes

This added information together with the ´too long for me´ previous post confirms that I´m going to try another approach to long posts. The more I focus  or tunnel down on a place the more information, thoughts and questions come up this has got to be reflected by the posts growing and correcting  from time to time, so keep a look out on older posts. That’s the great thing about posts over the printed word, they can be changed, cut and add when I want and I aim to make full use of that.

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Ok back in business and straight into the heart of the metropolis of Tamworth, or at least round the edges of the centre to have a look at the Anglo-Saxon to medieval defences that once surrounded Tamworth.

Witness the Fitness, Abe and Ernst are back in training

This post is riding the wave of Anglo-Saxon popularity of which Tamworth of course is in the premier  in this field. The defences compared to other subjects in Timehikes have had  considerable time and research, internet space dedicated to them so below I´m going to review the work done by archaeologists, historians, witnesses, map makers before going on to suggest a few ways of promoting the elusive defences.

Below I´ve outlined the course of the defences in green

This was a pointless exercise  as Ordnance survey have done it already, below

The defences, known variably as King´s ditch, Offa´s dyke and Walferlong are connected with the very origins of the name Tamworth, they add the worth bit in the name, meaning enclosure, Tamworth = enclosure by the river tame( that´s one translation). That the defences are very ancient  is testified by evidence of even older defences going back to at least the 8th century but more of that later.

The defences consisting of a broad ditch and bank are no longer visible, at least without scraping away the dirt. Back in the 19th century though they formed a very visible reminder of Tamworth´s ancient past.  Below is a description from Victoria County History Vol 1, 1904:

This is an excellent collection of previous accounts. From 350 years ago when the ditch was clearly visible on the 3 sides to descriptions in 1884 of the north-west corner of the defence line.

The story of the defences is one of gradual to quick disappearance to partial  rediscovery by archaeologists.  Falling out of use between the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV, they were still very present as the ´kings ditch´ in the 1600´s( see above, Dugdales account) although filled up in places.  In the 1839 map below, they are  marked on the eastern side of the town as King´s Ditch, so they were at least still present on the eastern and western sides.

1839 map with kings ditch marked on it

The above ( Victoria county) accounts from 1884 and the map below from 1885 give a privileged snapshot of the state of the defences in that time. The eastern side had disappeared and the western portion was at it´s most prominent in the north-western corner. Again quoting Victoria county history it mainly consisted of an ´earth tump´. In the 1884 map below the rounded corner is prominently marked. It runs alongside the very saxon sounding Walferlong, another name for the defences(now the less epic sounding Orchard Street)

1885 ordnance map

At some point between the 1886-1900 the visible North-western portion was built on and the northwestern course was followed roughly by terraced housing. In the 1901 ordnance map they are marked as ´remains of´ in the vicinity of the aforementioned terraced houses and along Hospital Street. ´Remains of´  could be inferred as that there was still evidence of the Defence line at the turn of the 20th century.

1901 ordnance map

At some point  before 1938 they become ´site of´ , which could be taken as that there were no longer remains and have become a ´memory´ commemorated by the nearby Offa street.

1938 ordnance map

Parallel to it´s dissappearance and it´s conversion to memory and then history, archaeologists appear in the scene in the 1960´s-1980´s. A  number of small excavations are carried out in response to building work. Below I´ll outline some of their discoveries.

excavations:

This is a bit of mish mash of reports and is quite difficult to outline so sorry to misquote but it gives an idea of the conclusions of the excavations.Many of the excavations were carried out by Gould in the 60´s and 70´s, his excavations on brewery lane revealed possible different phases. There´s the hypothesis that the defences correspond to King Aethelfaed´s action in 913 written in the Market charter´He went with all the Mercians to Tamworth and built the burgh there in the early summer´. The construction of fortified burhs during this period marks an important transition in the development of towns, Tamworth being a significant example.   The ditch with a turf built rampart , with frontal timber revetments and wooden strapping found at the brewery lane site was ascribed to this Aethelfaed period. Gould also found evidence though of earlier pre-Aethelfaed sequences. It´s described as a ´palisaded trench´.  It seems quite certain that there was a pre late saxon defence and there´s speculation that it originated in the royal defences of the royal site of Tamworth in the mid-8th century mentioned in the Market charters.

Speculated cross-section of the defences from mid-anglo saxon period, pre-Aethelfaed.(copied and pasted from Basset,S, Divide and rule,the military infrastructure of eighth and ninth century Mercia)

On the other side of the sequence there´s evidence of continued use of the defences after 913 up until the 13th centuries. The defences were refurbished and stone walls were placed in front of the ramparts as noted in the excavations on Albert Road and rubble found in ditch of Brewery lane. The collapsed walls were probably used in fact to fill in the ditches. (all taken from  reviews of the excavations from Bassett, S, Divide and Rule, The military infrastructure of eighth and ninth century Mercia and info from online archaeology reports)

map with excavations and original medieval streets, again the above map is again copied and pasted  from Bassett, S, Divide and Rule, The military infrastructure of eighth and ninth century Mercia. thankyou!

I remember (although I maybe completely wrong)that they excavated a wall in the excavation on Hospital street in response to the reforming of the old hospital and conversion into houses, with surrounding houses I remember it was back in the 90´s. I dimly remember that they found remains of a wall and ditch and that it was displayed in one of the reformed buildings with an explanation of the remains. I don´t know where I remember it from and  maybe it´s wishful thinking but as far as I know that´s no longer the case and there´s no explanation of the place currently. They are private residences so difficult to find out. Anyway it would have been a great idea if it did exist outside my head!  Why don´t they integrate the ditch and bank found in one of the excavations into the current townscape.With a small investment it would give back to some extent the King´s ditch back to the town and great introduction to the origins of the town. In Valencia where I live the integrating of archaeological remains into modern townscapes is seen everywhere. From an islamic wall in the middle of a museum gallery, a bakery to part of the Roman town  seen  below a glass plaza. Even if you are not interested in a ´bunch of walls,´  the results look great, as you might see from the picture below

The Almoina, Valencia, a glass covered square showing the Roman excavated ruins below. This is perhaps an overly expensive example of what could be done

Promoting the defences

A commemorative heritage gastronomic trail or pub crawl.

How about a pub crawl along the course of the ancient defences  . This can be taken in a more leisurely or decadent way depending on your style. This could integrate Tamworth heritage pub initiative and the Mercian trail promoted by the local council.

Ok here goes, start at the eastern side of the ditch, at the Weatherspoons. It´s best to start here as a: it´s very cheap and b: you miss the rush of hundreds of people later on. Take your time here as there awaits a long walk along the eastern course to the next watering hole, the Albert Inn. This is not right on the course of the defence but it´s near enough. This is an old-school boozer as are most on the itinerary, or at least it was, haven´t been there for years. You may encounter in some of the pubs, real Anglo Saxons descendents, keep a look out, you´ll know when you see one.  From here continue west along Albert street until you get to the crossroads at Gungate. Here you will face a dilemma, if you´re feeling peckish there´s a thai restaurant on the corner or you can carry on to the Globe Hotel, a fine example of a  Victorian pub palace  as described in Tamworth Heritagepubs. From here you enter a more residential area empty of pubs. Go along Hospital street, stop at the corner shop with Orchard Street and while you´re buying some maltesers imagine you´re  standing on the corner of the renowned King´s ditch. Continue along Orchard street, go past the St Johns club and the borough council buildings onto the White Lion the penultimate and well deserved resting place. From here a short step to the last pub, right next to an excavation of the ditch, called the Three Tuns. … That´s it the King´s Ditch pub crawl!

The pub´s named and placed, click to enlarge

A collective search for the ancient defences

This is a call out in Timeteam or maybe big dig style for anyone living on the course of the defences to have a look around, you never know there just might be a telling dip in the garden, a cellar with adjoining wall,  anyway would be amazing to hear any stories. Also memories of the remains would also be great to hear. Below is a map with the houses and adjoining back yards where there might be evidence. I think the corner of Hospital and Orchard street is the most promising place for some sort of evidence, maybe a rise in the garden.

The residences and church( below St Johns Catholic church, probable basement) highlighted on the defence line where maybe, just maybe there is evidence of the ancient defences

I´m really enthusiastic about this idea so I´m  going to risk the ridiculous and am going to try and post a call out on the Tamworth Blog!

Abe and Ernst getting into the spirit of the search for the ancient defences

This post is far too long and has got out of hand!

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After my curiosity was awakened by Bill´s comment about Offlow, I decided to embark on this post about Offlow, although it´s a little further out than the remit of this blog. The rule of thumb is basically if you can  hike there and back from Tamworth, or more specifically Leyfields within a day then it’s included. Abe and Ernst had this in their contract and refused to go any further.

Like some rumbling herbivore though, the blog plods through the landscape with its head down and stops at any choice juicy sites, munches through and stumbles aimlessly on. In the search for juicy sites though I´ve been caught far out on the outskirts of Tamworth Timehikes. It’s a sort of slow travel , but even with slow travel  you could cross the globe with enough time so have to agree with Abe and Ernst and pull back across the borders after this one. Anyway now were here might as well enjoy it.

It´s located immediately north of the A5, (watling street) near Weeford, and just west of Swinfen, a public path goes right past it.

Offlow´s evocative name lended  itself to the Offlow hundred(an administrative unit) . Bill on the comments  pasted this info from the british library which I´ve again pasted  below. It mentions it as possibly some sort of Royal Mercian buriald mound

Lichfield may also have been a good base for missionary work. Woden worship in the area is attested by the place names Wednesbury and Wednesfield, while Weeford, the name of a parish south-east of Lichfield, indicates the existence there of a pagan shrine. The shrine could have been associated with the tumulus called Offlow, which lay in Weeford parish to the north of Watling Street. It may have been the burial mound of the Mercian royal family when it was still pagan and thus the focus of pagan feeling to be counterbalanced by Lichfield. (fn. 20) The tumulus was important enough to give its name to the hundred of Offlow.

Lowe itself means barrow, a burial mound, if that’s what it is, is an open question if indeed it  still exists. A number of encyclopedia like volumes written in the early 19th century mention it. Their thorough recompilations of the landscapes never seem to have been repeated or at least there online! Anyway here´s the extract on Offlow.

Taken from History, gazetteer, and directory of Staffordshire, 1834, Whites

The extract above states from the great weaving together of stories, and geographical information, that it was thought of as the burial place of the famous  King Offa! which is discredited by the wonderfully named Matthew of Paris. It was evidently thought of as saxon in origin It´s closeness to Lichfield and Roman Wall could give wind to all sorts of speculations about its significance and origin

The city is built in a pleasant and fertile vale, within two miles of the Roman station Etocetum, and about the same distance from Offlow Mount, another station at Swinfen.

Topographical dictionary of England, 1848

The most detailed description of the site I found is over 200 years old, pasted below

History of the city and cathedral of Lichfield,   John Jackson, 1805

The description above gives it some geographical context and hints at some sort of connection, by mentioning its location at an intersection of Watling Street and Borrow cap Hill, another site, talked of as a Saxon site. He goes on to conclude that it’s the monument of some eminent person, although not Offa, military in origin and Saxon. The above extract is the only mention of something physical, an exploratory mount, some forty feet in diameter. As I haven´t visited the site, have no photos, whats there? At least those exact measurements demonstrate that someone must have measured something even if it was 200 years ago. So were getting something. There was something tangible called Offlow.

Over 150 years passes before I can find anything else written on it. Was it worth the wait, well decide for yourselves.
Pastscape entry enters it to it´s database:

Bronze age round barrow, known as site Offlow Tumulus.

So possibly giving its name to a hundred, rumours of burial places of kings and its reduced to this, what happened? Maybe there is no physical remains and pastscape simply entered in the info because of previous representations on maps and previous textual evidence, I really don´t know.

I´m in no position to offer any insights into its origins, use and even it still exists, could have been bronze age, could have been saxon, could have been royal(they did build them for burial purposes,especially in pre-Christian times,) could have other origins,could have been a saxon renaming and appropriation of older site, so many possibilities…. Its location though next to Watling street, Roman Wall, Lichfield and other earth works is intriguing though and is more than worth investigating(mentioning the Staffordshire hoards findspot being in the vicinity could open a can of worms, take a look at an interesting post about this phenemenon on Brownhillsbob´s blog ). The first ordnance map from 1815 tells us more about its location and intriguing possibilities below.

The 1815 map without taking away credit from following attempts is a sumptuous map, capturing the folds and soft curves in the landscape, has  an almost 3D quality. Anyway the above map shows Offlow itself depicted as a mount situated on a prominent rise in the area. Also immediately to the left a barrow is depicted. This is intriguing stuff the sign of a barrow isn´t seen in any other maps. The surrounding area has or had a relatively  high amount of mounds and bumps in the landscape with different types of origins ascribed to them(Golds clump, Knowles hill, Borrow cap hill, Knaves Castle)

The 1837 First series ordnance map again with Offlow prominently depicted above . This period seems to be the high point for interest in the site, it was a time of antiquarian inquisitiveness so it’s not surprising.

Above I´ve squeezed together 4 maps, from left to right respectively, 1887,1899,1923, 1948, click on each one for larger view.

The above clipping is of the 1955 ordnance map. It´s the last siting I have of Offlow. It´s pointed out as site of as oppose to the usual Tumulus. Had something happened to the place? Anyway to this day it´s not depicted in any ordnance maps. Did map makers lose interest, were the russians behind it or did it get ploughed under? My desperation led me to have a look through streetmaps, no luck hedge blocking the view, if anyones got photo of, knowledge of the fate of Offlow appreciated. Bill mentioned in his comment a mobile mast !

Above,X marks the spot.  depictions of Offlow through time. Starts with an embryonic form, ends with tombstone like symbol.

This whole post about a site possibly dating back thousands of years made me think about comparing other exploring much more recent sites. I don’t remember where I read it but someone said that recent history, within living memory was easier to investigate. I suppose  recent history  could be seen or perceived  as more the realm of the amateur. It´s perceived that anyone can look at old photos, maps talk to witnesses and piece together stories. Older prehistoric landscapes though on the other hand are more inaccessible, they are the realm of the ´archaeologist´ They are percieved as having the know how and skills to decipher the mysteries. The inaccessibility makes it more select, prestigious from the outside. Thats not to say there not many professionals studying recent pasts, but there traditionally has been leaning to these prehistoric inaccessible past sites. It’s as if the archaeologists are living in other far off  uncontested worlds.

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Windmill Farm

taken from OS OpenData showing windmill farm and windmill Close, located on outer limit of Coton Green, Tamworth, click on for larger view.

This is the best candidates for Tamworth´s very own windmill. Moneymore mill is on the outer limits of this blogs area and windmill hill, Whittington is a big maybe.  Windmill´s being the major landmarks they are, leave echoes in the landscape in the form of names. They seem to smother the immediate surrounding area with the words windmill, for example the names Windmill lane, windmill hill, windmill pub. In this case we´ve got the name of the farm itself and the nearby windmill close as reminders of the presence of the windmill. The word windmill has even totally smothered the previous paragraph and the last few posts.

Below is the 1815 ordnance map(taken from British library) with the windmill symbol. In the symbol it appears to have 4 sails, was this a standard windmill symbol or did the cartographer depict the real windmill(probably the former case)? Can´t find  no written  information on the windmill. The only mention is an entry in English Heritage´s pastscape site mentioned  as a windmill mound with the tag post-medieval, although there´s no sign of that either.  The guess is that it was a brick tower windmill like most in the West Midlands.

Below is my  (amateur)  mock-up of what the windmill would have looked like if it was still around, with the back drop of Windmill farm, coton green. The windmill stood at the crossroads of Comberford road and Coton lane

Below is the 1837 ordnance map (from vision of Britain) with the windmill again featured with four sails. The next maps I´ve seen in the area are 1888 ordnance maps and there’s no sign of the windmill. So can surmise that it disappeared at some point between 1837-1888.  In the map below you can make out its location next to the present day Lichfield road, as mentioned before there´s no sign of  a  mound in this exact location( even on Lidar images) so its been ploughed under or I´m looking in the wrong location.

Abe and Ernst wanted to have a look around to get a feel for the place and see if their were any reminders of the windmill. The problem prone pair had a run in with the farm guard dog and just managed to get on the fence.

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