Holcombe Moor Heritage Group

Local History on the edge of the West Pennine Moors

HMHG logo

Simon's Sundial - Test Pit 2016



The test pit was positioned against the building known as Simons Sundial Cottage, Grid Ref SD 76833 16013. The objective was to try and provide dating evidence for the building. The excavation took place on the 13th February 2016.




An area on the South East corner of the building had been picked as a suitable position for a one square metre test pit. On checking the 1850 first edition map, it was discovered that a boundary wall was positioned heading South from the corner of the building, so it was decided that the test pit would be positioned on the Eastern side of the corner to avoid hitting any possible wall foundations.


After a sweep using a metal detector had given us no hits in the area the 1m test pit was laid in.




The area was a mix of loam and stone rubble and was extremely wet and boggy which made for very difficult excavating conditions. There was evidence of a flagstone surface around the immediate area of the Eastern wall of the building, but this was noted to be missing from the area of the test pit and may already have been removed which may have accounted for the disturbance. The disturbed nature of the fill was born out when we discovered a rough drain had been laid close to the wall running roughly South West to North East at a depth of 30cm. The width of the drain cap stones was roughly 30cm as far as could be ascertained given the conditions. The drain itself had been very roughly constructed using bricks and reused pieces of ceramic blocks, possibly from an old sink / basin, and had a flagstone top. The drain appeared to be sat on natural clay.


The foundation for the building was stepped out from the building line by 20cm as was the return on the Southern wall. The depth to the base of the foundation from the ground surface was 60cm, the plinth stones sitting on natural clay and gravel. The depth from the ground surface to the top of the step in the foundation was 22cm and then 38cm down to the natural clay. The corner stone at the base of the foundation measured 60cm long x 20cm deep. The foundation was constructed of a rough undressed stone and in the corner was two courses deep.


The pottery sherds recovered from the test pit are all of a 19th century date and are a collection of earthenwares and stonewares. Various assortments of metal objects were found, mostly undiagnostic, but were again fairly modern in date.




Hopefully a full Building Survey in the near future will help us date the Simons further.

Simon's Sundial Cottage is the only uninhabited building of its period in the valley and it is relatively untouched as it has never been made into a modern private dwelling. As such it gives us the perfect opportunity to research the building inside and out.


The building is a Grade II classic example of early Stuart Lancashire vernacular architecture with mullioned windows and the remains of an early sundial which gives the farm its name. The exact age of the building is unknown, and looking at the stonework inside it may be older than some conservative estimates made so far. The architectural features are similar to those at Cinder Hill Farm and therefore suggest Simon’s may be contemporary with it (16th Century).


In February 2016, HMHG carried out a test pit to provide dating evidence.

DSCF0894 (640x480) Simons 4 Simons 2 Simons 1 Simons 3