29 Saturday 1st May - Trenches 1 and 2

The day started a bit on the grey side but we soon had some sun and the promised rain only came around 3pm.  Click on the photos to enlarge.

Now where did we put in those pegs in last week?

Once we found the right place, we soon stripped the turf off.

Trench 1 open and time for a brew!  What's the betting the bloomery lies beneath the pile of turf?

Troweling commences!  There was a compacted clay-like subsoil just a few inches deep which contained small pieces of
anthracite coal, marble sized pebbles and small pieces of flat sandstone about a centimetre thick.  Immediately beneath this we hit a compacted layer of yellow and sometimes orange stones ranging from the size of marbles to golf balls, but rarely spherical.  They were crumbly and the smaller ones had decayed into a compacted gritty sand in which the larger stones sat.  Interspersed were more pieces of anthracite and occasional limestone-like pebbles.  We also found one or two bits of iron-like bloom and part of a stem of a clay pipe.  We opened up a smaller trench 2 nearby which was very similar in character.

Left - the exposed top of the yellowish layer of gritty pebbles and stones (click to enlarge) in trench 1.  Right - a close up of some compacted pieces of anthracite in trench 1.

The going was hard and slow with the trowel so, after lunch, we used spades to cut through this yellowish layer at one end of trench 1.  The layer was uneven but roughly four to five inches deep.  Unfortunately, the rain came down and ended things but we just managed to get a photo before we sealed the site for the day (click on the photo to enlarge). 

While we found no structures or other physical evidence of a bloomery, the yellowish layer containing anthracite pieces is consistent with iron smelting where yellow and orange coloured iron ores are mixed with anthracite as a fuel and sometimes limestone as a flux.  However, this mix suggests a blast furnace not a bloomery.

More later...........

Special thanks to Paul Hickman for the photos and the farmer, Trevor, for his interest, enthusiasm and protective wire fencing!