Holcombe Moor Heritage Group

Local History on the edge of the West Pennine Moors

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"Bottoms" - Dig Diary 2015

April saw a visit by Gerry McDonnell, a specialist in archaeological metal working. He was very impressed by the site and after close examination of the slag samples that we have, he confirmed that we were most likely looking at a water powered bloomery site from the medieval period. It was very interesting to listen to his ideas for the site and has given us food for thought.


Work then started at the site with the extension of the southerly edge of the trench. This was done with two aims in mind; (a) to investigate if the early cobble surface found in 2013 continues west and (b) to discover the extent of the slag deposits and early medieval surface. As at the middle of June, we have discovered a rough cobble wall running east west that seems to define a border between the rough cobble surface outside the building and a very fine garden soil. This section will be taken further down to hopefully reveal the earlier surface lower down.


Work has also taken place at an area of disturbance at the rear wall of the building on the stream side of the site. In this area it was discovered that the flagged surface was very badly damaged by the collapse of the building, so it was decided to remove this area of damaged flooring to investigate the make up of the surface underneath. On the removal of the flags it was discovered that they were sat on a layer of ash and cinder, nothing unusual in that by itself but it was unusual to have such a deep layer. This was removed and revealed a very compact clay and stone surface with a bowl shaped feature in the centre. On removing the fill from the centre of the feature we found some nice examples of mid 18th century pottery in the form of some slipware and some tin glazed earthenware. A slight extension to this area was made in June to try to determine the extent of the feature but has only revealed that the feature continues under the flooring of the eastern bay. Further investigation to this area is ongoing.


Work has also begun on the removal of the demolition rubble from the western bay of the building. This is going to be a long process due to the volume of rubble and the difficulty in removing it. It has already revealed some nice finds in the form of a Keiller Marmalade Jar dated between 1862 and 1873, some unusual vessel glass possibly from a carboy vessel used for storing chemicals or acid and plenty more thick window glass. There are a few unusual features starting to emerge in this area and are going to require plenty of thought to try to determine their function.

dig 15 (640x427) dig 33 dig 18 (640x427) dig 19 (640x427) dig 3 (640x320)

Above: A view of the whole site from across the stream

Above: The "mill pond" is clearly seen here to the left

Above: Some of the revetment work upstream

Above: Stood on some of the glacial moraine upstream

The following is a brief breakdown of dig on the 27th and 28th June.


The weather was very good and, even better, the midges were not on site.

Over the two days, work was done on the South end of the Centre and Eastern bays to take the level down to what is believed to be a medieval cobbled surface which was exposed in 2013. Although the strip has not been completely uncovered, indications are the cobbled surface continues towards the West wall of the centre bay.


Centre Bay

Along the East wall there was a broken flag stone which appeared to be covering a possible item of interest. Following excavation this proved to be the case. Figure 2 shows the hole to be very neatly lined with stone on three faces and with a base stone bonded to the wall stones. You will also note the main floor level flag stone (bottom of picture) appears to have been shaped around the opening. As the quality of the stone work is very high, the purpose of the pit must be important. Does anyone have any suggestions as to its use? Size very approx. 20 inch square by 11 inches deep. (It was made in the days of imperial measurement, so sticking to imperial.)


Another flag was lifted just a couple of feet north of the lined pit to see whether there was another lined pit there. Unfortunately, there was no repeat of the stonework found in the other pit Figure 3, however a fine bone knife handle was found in the pit, Figure 4. It may not look much at the moment but once it is cleaned up it will make an excellent contribution to the history of the site.


Towards the middle of the centre bay there has been a small gap in the floor flags which has never been

investigated. When this was excavated it revealed another floor level and what appears to be part of a wall corner. It would appear, from this small area, that another floor exists below the surface floor. Unfortunately we will not be able to verify this for some time.


West Bay

Excavations continued in the North East corner of the West bay to try and ascertain the number of floor levels in this area. It appears that various levels have been roughly laid out, as the flags are not neatly laid and are of different types of stone. There were one or two reasonable pottery shards recovered as well as the remains of what appears to be the mouth of what may be a carboy (a large globular glass bottle with a narrow neck, typically protected by a frame and used for holding acids or other corrosive liquids).


East Bay

Work continued on the North end of the East bay, moving in towards the West wall of the bay. An interesting piece of metal was found imbedded in the soil which may prove to be a holding down bolt of some description. A small metal button was also unearthed which appears to be similar to others found at various locations around the site.


South of East Bay.

This is the area bounded by the two capped drains. A trench was started to see if it would pick up the coarse yellow sand which exists on the east side of the North-South running drain where the gritty ware shards were discovered in 2014. The course sand appears to have been located, but even more exciting was the discovery of a good sized shard of rimmed gritty ware.


Further excavation of the trench, at the same level, unearthed some 6 additional shards of mediaeval pottery. Measurements will have to be taken to confirm these discoveries and the couple made last year are