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Found this very Victorian account of Tamworth on googlebooks called Town and Castle, by Charles Ferrers, from 1845(Click on the title to follow the link) It has a wealth of detail in where it mixes detailed history, personal accounts of discovery, local hearsay and Victorian morals/judgement. For example just love the bit in the extract below where he reprimands the builder who ´had neither the curiosity were it led to, or the courtesy to inform any person who would have explored it

You can just sense his disappointment! The extract is about the discovery of evidence for that ancient elusive subterranean passage linking the castle and church(see earlier post). That builder made sure he maintained and added to the mystery until now!

The crypt

Mr Ferrers in Town and Castle goes on to state that it´s believed that this passageway communicated with the church through the east end of the crypt. The 14th century crypt beneath the church of St Editha´s still exists but first to Ferrers account of the crypt from where the suitably gloomy sketch of the crypt is taken from.

I love the account of the crypt, see it here. It´s full of exhaustive detail with added  mock victorian gothic and romantic era atmosphere. Just read this extract  from the account

Lost to the living -surrounded by the relics of the countless dead, the horrors of whose prison-house were feebly revealed by the dim light of a solitary candle,-listening to the distant and almost stifled sound of a muffled bell – for there was a funeral in the church above- we seem to have intruded into the abode of the king of terrors

This is the same place that until recently would have rang with the sound of ´would you like more milk with that dear´ Ferrers darkly vivid account was aided by the fact as the sketch demonstrates it was receptacle of the all the bones disinterred by digging new graves in the churchyard, a sort of charnel house. By the account it sounds like the crypt was piled high with bones, and his account of removing the stacked bones to look for the mysterious subterranean passageway gives you an idea of the scale of the state of the place.

In an earlier post about tales from Hopwas. It´s mentioned in Dyotts diary that the murder victim found in the early 19th century in Hopwas quarry  was laid to rest in this same place, what a place!

As you can see from the photo taken over this summer the crypt has recently been used as a cafeteria with no bones in sight! Last year I entered the cafeteria with my girlfriend and were treated with curiosity and kindness by the staff . I remember thinking this is an amazing place for a cafeteria. My mind started whirling with the possibilities, dub nights, music lovers bar, projections on the 14th century walls, and then I came back to earth and remembered we´re in Tamworth and it´s below a working church but just if….

When the above photo was taken it had closed, and might stay as a relic of late 20th century market town cafeteria life. It closed for…wait for it…health and safety reasons to do with the steps leading down. They are perhaps the easiest steps to walk down I´ve ever seen, and without encasing the place with rubber can´t see how you could make it safer.

Abe and Ernst braving the steps to the crypt

Anyway there was no problem with us going down to have a look and the crypt is definitley worth a look! It´s a very well-preserved 14th century rib vaulted crypt built from rag stone, so typical of the few medieval structures in the area.  It´s a candidate with it´s age, past use, and gothic beauty as the best underground space in the Tamworth timehikes area, although true it´s the only one I´ve seen and contenders are welcome.

What gives it the edge though is a large well conserved 14th century painted inscription on one of the walls. As you can see from the photo below a 20th century exclamation mark has been added in the form of I think a serviette holder!

My latin is well non-existent so I left it´s translation alone until a few days ago where the power of the internet for macro-local discoveries was fully demonstrated. Town and Castle online contains a sketch of the painting with a full translation. Thankyou Charles Ferrers. Here´s the sketch and translation below.

O lord of wealth(and power)

Thou shalt not live for evermore;

Do well whilst life thou hast

If thou would´st live when death is past

Mercy Jesus Christ

Merry Christmas and  happy New Year(I added this bit)

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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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Having being inspired by this inspiring project in Nottingham, the Nottingham cave survey. A great archaeological project that demonstrates to me be what investigating the past should be all about.  It hasn´t hidden the investigation behind a curtain of academic drabness, they know it´s fun, the bastards, just look at those bikes! There´s something of the kid in all of this looking at past mysteries looking beyond the normal street level everydayness in all of this. Nothing illustrates this better than whats beneath our feet. Forgotten tunnels, underground spaces  awake all sorts of stories etc within us and is seen in all sorts of underground stories for example in the brilliantly captivating  Rats in the Walls by J.P. Lovecraft.

Tamworth obviously doesn´t have the underground complexity of cities such as Nottingham(unique sandstone caves), Birmingham never mind cities such as New York. New York has even got a whole sub-genre dedicated to its underground world populated with its own set of characters from Mole people  to sewer alligators.  Incidentally great article on BLDG´S blog on rat catching and underground world of New York.

Ley lines

Can you see the entrance below Tamworth Castle into a secret world of ancient sects? I´m not telling

Tamworth and the Timehikes area has a much a more manageable underground world but not without its own mysteries. I remember as a kid messing around on the castle mount which then had the advantage for kids messing about of being hidden by trees. We were intrigued by the doorway below the castle and remember hearing stories being recounted about how it was the start of a tunnel which connected the castle with St Editha´s church. It was locked by barred gate and peering in I remember seeing the passageway filled  with rubble which with my imagination I´m sure I remember complete with  bones and skulls sticking out. How the hell I remember this I don´t know! One of the more intrepid explorer friends even proposed trying to get in and exploring further,  If my memory serves me right it´s the same guy who I was  saddened to read over Summer was involved in the operation Nemesis drug raids. Cruel world.

This Goonies flavoured childhood memory(incidentally goonies adventures have secret tunnels too!) introduced this legend of a tunnel between St Editha´s and the castle. When the legend came about I don´t know and what substance it has I don´t know either. The story of a secret tunnel though is by no means isolated and in fact forms part of the denominated folklore element  Leys tunnels.I´ve only seen this term on wikipedia but I think it´s an appropiate term for all those stories of secret and lost tunnels.  It seems most towns in the United Kingdoms  and overseas  have their version, Nottingham cave survey has actually confirmed it´s own legendary tunnel, see this link.

Going back to those childhood memories I remember that the ruined gateways leading into the castlegrounds presented a couple of hidden away doorways which I connected with the doorway on the mount. Apart from this distant childhood hypothesis I have this to go on from John Harpers page, which I´ve copied and pasted below:

As the demolition men tore down these 18th century buildings, they came across an old tunnel heading out under George Street from beneath one of the shops.  Some suspected that it may have been a long-lost medieval passageway leading from the castle to St. Editha’s Parish Church.  Local people have long believed the tunnel to exist, but as yet, there is no historical or architectural proof.  The George Street tunnel was probably just a cellar dug out to provide extra storage space.  But, as they developers were anxious to press on without archaeologists poking their noses in, the tunnel was simply blocked up with little or no investigation.

So there really is local hearsay about a long-lost tunnel! fascinating. Whatever it´s truth the secret tunnel serves  this blog as a sort of   doorway to that mysterious  captivating slightly creepy underground world  of abandoned cellars, sewers, sealed spaces that could lie below the area. Maybe it could even explain the rat problem in the castlegrounds!

Tamworth´s long lost medieval tunnel according to me.

Now onto the  first of a series on the  underground world of Tamworth.

The cellars of the Old Stone Cross

The old Stone Cross pub on Church Street, Tamworth has got a long history, which includes very old cellars. The heritage pubs of Tamworth initiative has a picture of the cellars  here and heaps of info on the story of the pub,including the Rolling Stones! This post is strictly focused on the underground though. The cellars according the HER entry date back amazingly to the early 16th century.The listed building entry even mentions Tudor Rose bosses on the vaulting. The place looks like it’s a candidate for the underground gem of Tamworth. Are there any other cellars with histories below old pubs of Tamworth?

Abe and Ernst got a part time job in the Old Stone Cross to take a better look at the old cellars, all for the cause.

This is the first and most tangible entry in a series Abe and Ernst explorations of the possibilities of underground Tamworth!

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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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These are a collection of photos taken a few years back of the sand deposits in the quarry on Hopwas Hill behind the Lichfield Transmitter mast taken at the dawn of the digital camera age. I remember it was my brother´s great  idea to take up close up pictures of the dunes, capturing miniature desert landscapes. As quarries are constantly constructing and destroying landscapes, I don´t know what appearance it would have now but the quarry is still there in full swing.

The quarrying activity reveal and resurrect or at least evoke long dead landscapes. The sands and rounded pebbles in the area, so sought after by the quarries come from Triassic deserts and river deltas(250-200 million years ago). This is information I remember from geography lessons at school, so might not be entirely accurate but definitely made an impression on me and is now part of the story of the place for me( corrections are welcome).

Go back hundreds of millions of ago and find yourself surrounded by giant river delta in a desert setting reminiscent of pre-human Egypt maybe.

Tamworth Timehikes 250 million years ago

If you can´t do that find the next best thing and that´s taking a look and immersing yourself in the prehistoric landscapes created by the quarry. Below is a winding river in the desert created by the quarry, ideally with some large reptiles in the background.

Below are the photos of Tamworth timehike´s very own desert. There windows into a very ancient world, the oldest visible landscape in the Tamworth timehikes area, as well as some of the newest. The sands from those primordial times having  a brief second life. Triassic sands again are being exposed to the elements and set free.

Below an oasis on the horizon

Abe and Ernst couldn´t resist the  One thousand and one nights setting on their doorste.

There was  something of The Planet of the Apes, Forbidden zone about the place too

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My posts are pretty non-existent at the moment, even slower than usual. I´m a bit overwhelmed at the moment hope to get back to more Abe and Ernst adventures and musings in the macro-macro world of tamworth timehikes soon. Meanwhile I´ll leave this post as a bundle of links about online maps and tools used in Tamworth Timehikes that can be used equally in other places in UK for having a deeper look at the landscape´s history.

Abe and Ernst taking time out from Timehikes

Some possible future and past routes around the area

Well first you´ve got online maps.co.uk. They´ve recently updated their site and have now got maps of the UK from around 1888 to the 1970´s including Soviet cold war maps! It´s got a nice map based search interface too. Staffordshire Past track has got a search map section with Yates 1775 Staffordshire map on scale 2(pretty much the earliest close-up survey of Staffordshire) On scale 1 you´ve got the 1899-1903 ordnance map on view. On vision of Britain through time website you´ve got the Ordnance Survey first Series from the 1830´s. An extremely valuable resource is the British Library´s effort to upload the 1780-1840 one inch to a mile ordnance drawings. They are  beautiful maps and extremely useful in Tamworth Timehikes. I first came across the 1815 map from a link from the Building history map links section. It’s a pretty exhaustive list of map sources and worth taking a look at. Historical aerial photography for free is sparse on the internet at least for England, the situations looks different for Scotland. I think it has something to do with the Old aerialphotogaphy site having the rights! What we do have though is of course Googlearth satellite imagery. One of the great things about Googlearth is that you can toggle the dates on the images, in the clock button at the top. So you can get different images in Tamworth´s case back to far away days of the late 90´s. This is really useful for checking out cropmarks etc. Bill on comments recently pointed out Flashearth, Microsofts satellite imagery platform. The images seem to have been taken at just or almost the right time of year for spotting historical cropmarks, soilmarks, etc, really useful. Geomatics group have the LIDAR images up on the web , LIDAR is amazing see through trees imaging technology that´s revolutioning  Landscape archaeology.  Apart from this, different societies, initiatives, blogs have uploaded old maps, tithe maps, photography depending on the area. So go ahead and do some intrepid exploring from the comfort of your chair. Who knows the lost city of Z could be right next to the local Tescos.

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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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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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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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