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If you think archaeology's just about sitting in a trench, scraping with a trowel, think again!   Come along and see what else we do.

Forthcoming Events
Local History Walks
Landscape Recording
Publicity & Displays

Measuring trees in Calke Park


Finds sorting in the Village Hall

The 'Hannah Bladon' locomotive

Morning session in Ticknall Village Hall

Reading an old house - Dove Cottage

Sinai House, north wing

Sinai House

Interpreting buildings in Ashby

Resistivity in Ticknall Churchyard
    Ticknall Archaeological Research Group Newsletter - February 2018
                                                                                              Elaine McCulloch

TARG members had another busy year in 2017. Although we haven’t had a dig this year, we’ve been fieldwalking, sorting finds and pot drawing. We’ve had a day school and a number of visits to places of interest. And we’ve completed a tree survey in Calke Park and a resistivity survey of Ticknall churchyard.

 Seeing the Wood for the Trees!
 In March and April TARG members completed a survey of trees in the Serpentine Wood in Calke Park. The project, which contributes to the National Trust’s records on the trees in the Park, was started in 2015, and we had hoped to complete it in 2016, but poor weather meant that we had to postpone the work. So, the first challenge of the day was to find the spot where we had got to in 2015! Working in two groups, we measured the girth of each tree trunk, noted the species of tree and any distinguishing characteristics; recorded its exact location using GPS and photographed it. The wood has a diverse range of mature trees, including beech, oak, sweet chestnut and hornbeam. By using graphs relating to the growth rates of each species, we were able to estimate the age of individual trees, and found that some were about 300 years old. We carried out the survey in the Spring when the undergrowth was low. As a result, we found many old tree stumps that would not be visible at other times of the year, and some of these were impressively large. The down side though was that there were no leaves on the trees, so we had to rely on each tree’s shape and bark characteristics when identifying its species. As the weather was pretty cold, we were glad to be able to finish each session with hot drinks in the Calke Abbey tea rooms.

 On 16th November we went for our annual meal at The Wheel in Ticknall. Nineteen of us were seated around one long table and we enjoyed a lovely dinner. Despite generous main courses, most of us were unable to resist dessert! Oh well, it only comes around once a year! The Wheel is now a busy and popular eating place, and the building has a long and varied history. 

Fieldwalking 2017
Our fieldwalking in the Spring concentrated on a site on the south side of Coal Lane. This is the location of a former pottery kiln known to have been in production from around the 1690s to 1760s. A map of about 1760 shows a ‘Kiln Close’ in the area and, although no buildings exist today, we could clearly see the site of the kiln as a very dark patch of soil close to the centre of the field. On the occasion of our first visit, the field had recently been ploughed in very wet conditions, and had then dried out, so we felt as though we were walking on concrete rubble. We laid out a number of lanes, and sub-divided each into four stints. This gave us a grid of the area to be walked, and enabled us to bag finds according to where they had been picked up. We had thought that we might find some prehistoric flint implements, as the site lies close to a known prehistoric camp. Unfortunately, we did not find flints, but we found a huge number of potsherds, including parts of rims, bases and handles. Mostly, these were examples of Midlands Purple, brown earthenware and Yellow Ware. One of the most interesting finds was a little pottery ‘Tudor Head’, which would have formed a support on a chafing dish or a thumbstop for a handle on a mug or jug.
Finally, we held a finds sorting session at Ticknall Village Hall where we sorted the shards into types, weighed and recorded them.

 Pot Drawing
We have held pot drawing sessions throughout the year from March to November, generally on the last Thursday evening of the month. As a new-comer to the group, and never having done any pot drawing before, I was not convinced that artistic talent isn’t required to produce the neat and professional-looking sort of drawing that I’d seen in Janet and Sue’s book on ‘Ticknall Pots and Potters’. So, I approached the first session with some trepidation. However, Sue took me through the process step-by-step, showing me how to use the templates and measuring instruments; and I realised that, yes! I could do it (so long as I remember the steps in the right order). It’s fascinating to see that the shape and size of a pot can be reconstructed from a small piece of rim or base.

A Special Memorial for Hannah
 It’s not everyone who has a locomotive named after them, and those who do are very special: royalty, the Duchesses, the Flying Scotsman (who was he, anyway?) and local engineering genius Sir Nigel Gresley for example. And now there’s a unique locomotive named in memory of Hannah Bladon. It’s a pocket-sized narrow gauge locomotive, powerful, sleek and elegant. Like Hannah, it proves that looks and quality can come in small packages. Hannah’s father Max has sent some photographs of the locomotive. It was built by the SNC-Lanvin Transport Advisory group’s graduate engineers, who enter an annual competition organised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (iMechE). All entrants for the competition have to design and built their locomotive from scratch, and it then has to undertake a series of tests to assess its abilities. Max (who is the Principal Consultant at SNC-Lanvin Transport Advisory) also sent some photographs of the locomotive at the test site. Fittingly, the locomotive “Hannah Bladon” won this year’s competition. We are delighted that Hannah has been remembered in this enviable way.

 ‘How to Read Houses’ Day School
In July we had a very interesting and informative day school, led by Janet and Sue, on reading the history of vernacular houses. In the first session of the morning Janet gave us a whistle-stop tour of how the style of houses changed from the Medieval period to the 1930s and the distinctive features that we should look for. After coffee break, Janet went on to talk about the individual features of houses, including ceilings, chimneys and fireplaces, staircases, bricks and bricklaying bonds, and windows.
After the lunch break, Sue told us about the various documentary sources that could be used to trace the history of the people who occupied a house, and their business activities, over a number of generations. She illustrated this by looking at the documentary evidence for The Wheel pub. in Ticknall, including trades directories, maps and associated schedules, census returns 1841-1911, inventories attached to wills, ale house recognizances, parish registers, constables accounts and newspapers.
We then went to Dove Cottage in the village to examine the outside of the building and to apply our new knowledge in analysing how it had developed over the centuries. We were given a warm welcome by the owners, Clare and Bill Pattinson, who kindly gave us refreshments (and not too many clues!). The cottage was a well-chosen test piece as there was lots of evidence of extension and alteration that gave us plenty of food for thought and discussion. Many thanks to Janet and Sue for organising a very interesting day.

Walk around Calke
After meeting in the Calke Abbey Car Park and having had a warming coffee in the café there, we walked alongside the Meadow and made our way past the site of Calke Village. Some of you will remember that TARG carried out a dig with the National Trust Archaeology team there a couple of years ago when we found the site of the old road to Coventry that once ran past Home Farm. We ventured on towards the Reservoir, once the site of Calke Abbey’s Big Dog Kennel Pond, land sold in the 1960’s by the Harpur-Crewes to the then Water Board, and now owned by Severn Trent. It was here that Janet and Sue showed us detailed maps and illustrations of The Mill, Farmhouses, Cottage dwellings circa 1851, and the site of Sir Henry’s bridge that are now under the water and only seen in times of severe drought. It was here, during the last drought, that Sue found a headless Stuart figure, from a drowned pot site. We finished the walk in the restaurant and had a well deserved lunch during which Janet entertained us with the gruesome tales of the Bishop of Worcester and his entourage who turned out villagers to starve from places he owned when he converted their fields to very profitable sheep farming in the 1400s. Fortunately he didn’t own Calke.

Visit to Sinai House
On the 5th August, a group of TARG members was given a guided tour of Sinai House by the owner Kate Newton. The house, located at Shobnall on the outskirts of Burton, is a Grade II* listed building. It has a long and interesting history, but was derelict when the current owners acquired it in the 1990s. A house and park at Shobnall was held by Burton Abbey in the Medieval period. The house was used by monks when having their blood let, a practice thought to promote good health. In 1410 it was called ‘Seyne’, a French word meaning blood, which may explain the origin of the modern name. Some stone walling in the cellar seems to have belonged to a building of the 13th or early 14th century and the present house is surrounded by a moat which is probably of 13th century origin.
The current house appears to be a large timber-framed Tudor building, consisting of a central range and two wings. However, this belies the true history of the building. The earliest part of the house is the north wing, which may date back to the 15th century, with the south wing being of a rather later date. It seems that the monks of Burton Abbey erected these two separate buildings on the site. The north wing has been lovingly restored by the current owners, with the help of English Heritage. During our visit we were allowed to roam around this part of the house looking at the many interesting features, including a dragon beam in the sitting room and Medieval paintings of birds and foliage on the plaster walls. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, Sinai House was acquired by the Paget family, who owned it until the early 1900s. The central hall range that links the north and south wings was built in 1606; and the Tudor-style chimneys were added in the 1700s. The house was divided into six cottages in the late 19th century; and, eventually condemned as unfit for human habitation, it was used to shelter livestock. The current owners have dedicated themselves to the enormous task of restoring the derelict building. Kate spoke of the complexities of dealing with the various authorities, raising funds and of finding craftsmen with the required skills. We rounded off our visit with tea and scones in the dining room of the restored wing.
 Sinai is reputedly haunted and ghost walks are available for those who are interested.

Walk around Ashby
On Saturday 2nd September, fifteen of us had an interesting and very informative walk round Ashby town centre with Janet and Sue. We started at the Ashby end of the Ticknall Tramway and followed it a short distance from the road near to Janet’s house coming out alongside the Catholic Church. Making our way up towards Market Street, we crossed over the river Gilwiskaw that now flows under Brook Street, (surprise, surprise) across the main street and over to Packington. Sometimes when you are passing quickly through a place or out shopping it’s easy to just look ahead, not taking in the detail of the buildings alongside and above you. It was a treat to have the time to be able to stand and take in the detail of the architecture and learn how to interpret the many different buildings. We saw modern shops that started out as stalls in the middle of the road, now to the bottom and side of Market Street, examples of Wilkes designed blind arcades, house walls made of Wilkes gob bricks (extra large bricks that were made to reduce the impact of the brick tax and therefore reduce the cost of building). Janet explained that by looking at the design of a house window it was possible to give a relative age to the dwelling, generally the bigger the panes of glass the more recent a house was built due to the developments in the manufacture of glass from hand blown to larger sheet glass. We ended the tour in what is a now the ‘Gin House’, one of the oldest buildings on Market Street, 1385 at the latest, identifiable by the beams, it really is well worth a visit as it has been very well preserved. It was a really interesting insight into what we might see everyday and never really take detailed note of. So many clues about the past around us if you just know how to read them. Fascinating.

Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday Dear.... 
Whoops sorry, I am still buzzing from the Village Fete and 20th Birthday Party held on Saturday 23rd September at Dame Catherine Harpur’s School in Ticknall. Alongside other local village groups TARG were kindly invited to exhibit a display stand at the afternoon’s event - so Sue and I went off readily equipped with the display boards and a selection of the TARG pots to make a display. The stand was sited near to the bouncy castle so the kids were buzzing and fizzing past us like little fireworks; all dressed up in party dresses and glittery princess shoes - no not us – the children from the school. They were all having a brilliant time. There were numerous stalls - plants, books, crafts and various imaginative raffle stalls, the refreshment stand with its eclectic array of vintage cups and saucers and rainbow of fairy cakes both looked, and we have to confess, tasted delicious. Behind the TARG stand was a wonderful display of the school’s past history with lots of class photographs and anecdotal tales from ex pupils. The story that seemed to generate the most comment and titters of laughter was from a past pupil’s recollection of one of the schoolmistress who used to sit on the heating pipes in winter consequently giving the pupils sight of her bloomers!

What we weren’t warned about were the snakes. In Ticknall school yard? There was a dinosaur and a lizard, an intrepid arachnid, 5-foot python, 7-foot jaw dislocating boa constrictor and numerous other beasts on show to the public. We were both so glad our stand was indoors and the reptiles were all outside. We did have a brilliant afternoon, we met lots of people and there was a lot of interest in TARG with a couple of people asking for more details so hopefully we will get new members from the event. Judging by the kids’ enthusiasm I think a few of the parents would have been persuaded to have a look in their gardens when they returned home to see if they could find any local pottery there too!!

 Resistivity Survey of Ticknall Churchyard
A couple of chilly and rather damp Saturdays in November saw TARG members conducting a resistivity survey of Ticknall’s old church and part of the churchyard that was at present free of gravestones. Were there bodies buried there earlier and just exactly where was the church that was demolished in 1842? These were a couple of the questions that we set out to answer and whilst it became fairly obvious where the old church was – big clues were the two remaining pieces of upstanding walls plus a plan of the church before it was demolished! Much more elusive were signs of earlier burials although the weather conditions were not ideal, even for the newer advanced kit that was being used. It was an interesting exercise and our thanks to Churchwarden Mary Hirst for letting us do this.

Nottinghamshire Archaeology and Local History Festival 2017
 TARG had a stand at the Nottinghamshire Archaeology and Local History Fair on Saturday 8th July 2017. It was a good day, blessed with fine weather. In addition to the TARG display, there was a wide variety of interesting displays from local societies and some re-enactment groups there. It was well worthwhile for us to attend and we intend to take a stand at next year’s Festival.

For more information on TARG and its activities please contact: Sue Brown, at targ.sec@gmail.com    

                                                                                    With thanks to:           

Flint knapping                                                          Limeyards walk                                                     Pot drawing                                                       Fieldwalking
Dowsing Standleys Meadow                                  Washing finds                                                        Excavation                                                        Measuring

 Leveling                                                                                                Plane tabling at Southwood House                         Measuring the village

  Excavation                                                                              Calke Archaeology Day                                                          Studying Old Maps

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