Archive for October, 2010

This post has the particularity(is that a word! it sounds Spanglish to me )that will probably be not much longer  than the title.  The previous post about Robin Hood´s Butts refers to Elford Lowe  a probable bronze age barrow, located by farm of the same name. The other butt mentioned, Wigginton butt (2 miles away) is a mystery, can´t find any more info either text or map based anywhere. Returning to  Elford Lowe, it´s entered into the scheduled monument database as a bronze age Lowe Bowl Barrow(I assume it´s the same one). Elford has got a considerable prehistoric material record(with bowl barrow, burials,etc). It´s location on a buff on the bend of the  river Tame would have made it a prized location for prehistoric agricultural communities.

Elford represents a sort of gateway to a stretch of the Tame and Trent Valley which  have been relatively well investigated by archaeologists and have turned up a lot of prehistoric material evidence.Take a look at this detailed project on the area called Where Rivers Meet: Landscape, ritual and Archaeology of River Gravels, researching  landscapes from Neolithic to early medieval.  At the same time its the way out for Tamworth Timehikes,  representing  the limit of the area covered in the blog.

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This will get the American tourists coming in, come to Tamworth and see Robin Hood’ s Butt!

Well according to history of the town and castle of Tamworth, by Charles Ferrers Raymond Palmer, 1845 they were located nearby in Elford and Wigginton. I´ll stop going on and leave pasted  below this extract from the remarkable stories of Robin Hood and some “roman tumuli” in the vicinity:

Abe and Ernst who have been out of the picture for a while couldn´t resist testing out the theory that Robin Hood could shoot from one butt or ´prehistoric mound´  to another.

preparing to shoot

will it make it >>>————->

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If there´s a candidate for hordes of treasure hunters descending on a place in the area, it´s got to be the circular mound called Gold´s clump, overlooking the  village of Hints, next to the roman A5. Thats not to advocate treasure hunting and wanton destruction of sites, but the idea of treasure does seem to be a very attractive one(Staffordshire Hoard) a sort of lottery ticket lying in the ground but also the metaphorical idea of treasure, or looking for treasure is very attractive.  The idea of a quest for treasure, information, a lost site,  etc is one of the most appealing facets of archaeology and history. Its an activity thats ‘ out of this world’ , its not mundane in the same way as looking for your keys is! even if the ´quest´ is to study paleodiets in late roman rural sites.

As I´m mentioning treasure hunting I might as well bring up the issue of revealing archaeological sites and protection. Going around revealing and bringing my little grain of exposure to largely overlooked places could bring unwelcome attention and potential destruction of sites. This is an argument commonly used by people in heritage. I would argue though that the policy of hush hush has brought a lot more destruction to sites in the area than actively promoting and creating an awareness and interest in overlooked places.  You can´t always keep a secret especially post facebook days so maybe it´s time to try other ways. This is a controversial issue so it would be great to hear peoples views….please

The above candidate is a tree covered almost perfect mound on a prominent point. Considering its prominence and the fact that its next to the A5, its surprising that there hasn´t been any tunneling to look inside by 18th century learned scholar types or more recent efforts.Famous  Silbury hill on the other hand even got a BBC programme called  big dig commisioned by David Attenborough in the 1960´s  dedicated to tunneling the hill.

In the above LIDAR image it stands out as a spherical bump.

This is a slightly blurred LIDAR close up of the mound, with Geomatics group emblem splashed across it, the raised line to the left is a hedge.

The  Hints Village site has got a couple of paragraphs dedicated to the mound and talk about a possible roman or prehistoric origin, I got the sense they also wonder why despite being declared a scheduled monument there´s never been any investigations of the place. According to the site a trial excavation and the potential communication mast have been rejected.

Theres a great description of Hints in Guide to Staffordshire and the Black Country by Michael Raven(online with Googlebooks) It mentions Golds Clump as a “large circular prehistoric burial mound ” He also mentions the rolling hills around Hints.  The hills and tree covered ridges that surround the area are indeed captivating, there’s the feeling that you don´t want the rolling landscape to end so its best not to travel too far to avoid disappointment.

gateway to the land of the rolling hills

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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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The demolishing of the Woodhouse is happening right now(see comment on post, woodhouse 1730-2010) , so thought it was time to post the authorities decision to allow demolition.

Below English Heritage have kindly allowed me to share the  English Heritage advice report in response to my application  and the reasons for it being denied. It’s quite detailed and has some fascinating new information on it´s possible use in WWII as a look out post and that maybe the remodelling of  the tower dates from this period. For me this at least was not a reason to demolish it, but actually added historic value to the place. I understand that it was difficult case and that it was a difficult one to preserve and renovate, but if only the authorities had reacted earlier and were more open-minded in their criteria(it´s not all country houses!).

The Ministry of Culture didn´t think it was relevant to protect. I disagree, it was an impressive, highly interesting and unusual historic house, badly managed  in the middle of an ancient wood. A little piece of magic and mystery has been taken away, I repeat  this was an old historic house in middle of ancient wood= that´s special. It was a hidden treasure on Tamworth´s footstep for so many reasons .

At times it feels like some sort of Chairman Mao cultural revolution policy is in place in the area in terms of   it´s past.

Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for the views held in Abe and Ernst´s protest.

Here´s a link to UKurbanex´s photo archive on the woodhouse, many of them interior photos. There´s some great pictures there, those photos are now historic! There´s even photos of the Woodhouse cellar. Ok the place needed tidying up and there was some really dodgy paintwork  but with some imagination…..

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This post is taking as a starting point a great chapter in the even greater Prairyerth book, from which this blog takes so much inspiration. The chapter is about names and as this is about Tamworth, well it´s about the name Tamworth.  the chapter quotes ‘Sockless’ Simpson(what a name)

I wouldn´t give a tinker´s durn for a man who can´t spell a word more than one way

Going along with the quote, below are 22 different ways of spelling Tamworth throughout history ordered chronologically( A lot of info is from this CBA report).

Tomtun(Late 7th century, Ethelred) 


Tamouurdie(Offa, 781 AD) 


Tamouuorthige(Offa, 781 AD) 


Tomepordige(Cenwulf, 799) 


Tomepordig(Cenwulf, 808) 


Tomepordie(Beorhwulf, 814) 


Tomanpordie(Beorhwulf, 840) 


Tomeuuordig(Beorhwulf, 845) 


Tomepeording (Beorhwulf, 849) 


Tompeordin(Berghred, 855) 


Tomanpordigne(Berghred, 855) 


Tameweorthige(925)saxon chronicles Tamwurde(941)
Tamwurthe(941) Tamewaert


Tamuuorde(Domesday book) Tamworde(Domesday book)
Tameworth(13th century) Tamworth(Shakespeare, Richard III,16th century)

In a way you could read Tamworth´s history through its changing names. It´s as if in the 7th and 8th glory centuries   it was changing names frantically as if trying on different crowns or trying to fit a name to fit its status as Mercia´s  capital. This gave way though to resignation in the 9th,10th centuries when  it settled for the more unprepossessing tamwurde,tamwurthes…… It was a one way route and there was no turning back. In the middle ages it settled and resigned itself to Tamworth, a relatively unchanging backwater, consecrated even by Shakespeare and so remains until today.

It’s interesting to think about whats in a name, its touched upon again  in the aforementioned Prairyerth chapter. Does the name influence the place? Does the place fill out and become the name? Does it effect are perception of the place? It´s an interesting thought…

Lichfield and Tamworth

The name Tamworth has a functional origin as in so many Anglo saxon names, Enclosure by the river Tame, Lichfield´s name has more obscure origins and may translate as  the slightly more metaphysical field of the dead or even  have Roman pedigree. That’s the names sorted out but what about the sounds of the words that’s where the real influence lies. The word Tamworth is a broad horizontal, expansive word when pronounced, the same as the town itself! The town is largely  flat, horizontal  and spreads out over considerable distance, its linguistic destiny being fulfilled by  expansion in the 60´s. Now look at the word Lichfield, it’s a more vertical word, it’s not as broad sounding and dare I say it a more posh sound. The town itself also fills out this linguistic destiny, it´s compact and clings to its souring vertical cathedral.

My point  illustrated below:

Lichfield profile, side by side with the pronunciation of Lichfield

Tamworth profile with the  pronunciation of  Tamworth

Abe and Ernst checking out Tamworth´s many names in the library

Ernst is more Lichfield? (vertical,etc)

Abe is more Tamworth?(Horizontal,etc)

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On this blog I´m often using material, especially maps from sites such as Staffordshire Past tracks, British library, and I´d like to take out some time to thank them and others for providing the material online without which blogs like this or other landscape investigation blogs wouldn´t be possible. To stop this  sounding  like an Oscar ceremony, there’s also the question of Copyright and legal issues when using other sources.  My mind turns to mush whenever I start trying to find out about legal issues. I´ve got fuzzy knowledge of non commercial use, copyleft sounds interesting but couldn´t maintain the attention span to get through it. There´s no problem with people using the material in the blog, but  it´s always nice to get a mention and I apologise if I haven´t mentioned all my sources, I try but  its something to improve. Anyway if anyones can sum up copyright and permission issues in a few lines with pretty pictures it would be greatly appreciated!

Is this legal?

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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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With the whole Don Quijote theme running through the last posts it seems appropriate to put this link to a great new idea in theory from Spain to participate in reading out loud the Cervantes classic Don Quijote on youtube(I think in Spanish). It’s a hefty  book and anything that makes Cervante´s all time classic more accessible is welcome.

Moneymore mill(formerly known as Weeford Mill, formerly known as Canwell mill)

In the quests for windmills, this is one of the furthest locations Ernst and Abe will  have to travel in Tamworth Timehikes, it’s located to the south of Weeford(look for the windmill symbol in the present ordnance map below)

This has got to be one of the top 10 strange locations for a windmill, smack bang in the middle of a working quarry. Don´t know how they did it, but somehow someone managed that the tower survived in the midst of quarry HQ. With the dilemma of how could they get the pictures of the place ( they couldn´t ask for obvious reasons ) Ernst and Abe paraglided over the quarry and managed to take this picture below.

taken from  http://www.multimap.com

To get in closer Abe and Ernst decided on using one of the bulldozers as cover, in all the excitement they didn´t  take any  pictures, a poor excuse.

According to Windmill World , it was first mentioned in 1818 and consists of surviving windmill tower. Taking a look at the first ordnance survey map below  of the area, dated to 1817, it´s clearly marked out as Canwell Mill(map taken from british library website).

Did it have any relation to nearby Canwell hall, which was previously the site of the medieval Canwell priory? Priories were working institutes and would often have a ‘mill’ in their property. The mill itself was from the late 18th/early 19th century, connection to an earlier mill is pure  conjecture and can´t find anything out there.   Apart from that  according to English Heritage it was used as a  flour mill.

Below is an image of Reads Flour Mill in nearby Burton, demolished in 2000, to give an idea of a functioning mill in the area. The image is  taken from Staffordshire past track.

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