Our New Information Boards – May 2017

Glorious day up at Castleshaw when the Information Boards were installed and officially opened!  The Boards were part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project – see Blog 1 for details, daily diary and many photos from that time at link  https://castleshawarchaeology.wordpress.com/

Today was the coming together of the final objective, that is to help visitors to gain an understanding of the long history of the Valley.

The main movers in the plan to create and install the Information Boards were Norman Redhead, Archaeologist and Leader of the entire project, and Morgana Restall, the United Utilities Ranger for the site at the time.

Norman and Morgana 

As you go into the public car park along Waterworks Rd you’ll see the first Board facing you as you walk toward the exit at the far end.  Here’s Morgana with the Board.  It describes the landscape and wildlife of the Valley.

Morgana with Valley Board

Then as you walk toward the gate that will take you to the road leading up to the Roman Forts you will see on your right the major Board showing the history of the valley ‘Through the Ages’.

 Norman shows the full extent of the History Board





Here’s the Valley Board ready to be officially opened, and a group of Reception Class children from the Castleshaw Centre who happened to be visiting that day!


Morgan has the honour… and proudly does the job!


Speeches were given by Morgana, Sue Exon, (Chair of the Committee of the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts), and Alan Schofield, (Chair of the Castleshaw Working Party)…


Norman and Alan

Some members of the Committee looked on… all in all everyone agreed that it was a job well done and well completed on a very fine day in the beautiful Castleshaw Valley.


More digging to report on soon, regards as ever, Bloggerina

Trowellers’ Treat for May (2017): Test-pitting at Water’s Clough

Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts Day at Water’s Clough 13th May 2017

In case you don’t know where Water’s Clough is, and honestly not many of us did until last year, it’s the stream area where the Roman Road disappears out of the Castleshaw Valley before it appears again up the hill to the Forts.  Here’s a small map to show our area of investigation…

Here’s a view from the test area down the valley towards Delph, which you can just see in the distance.

It’s roped up just now for the geophyz, but you might be able to detect the agger, look to the right of the image and you can see the slope going down.



We did some initial geophyz of this area last June..  Below is the result and you can so clearly see the road now in black on the geophyz image.  It’s really easy to see the continuation of the road and the probable site of the bridging to get it across the water.


Here’s the geophyz team for today, using the nice upgraded meter, Phil with his best supervisor’s hat on, and Rob from 3rd yr Uni of Mancs.  He says he’s finished his dissertation so it’s ok to be here!


Also trying her hand at a bit of geophyz was Eleanor…

     with the result,

and in close up here…..   


Norman (our leader) planned to put test pits across the part of the road that was surveyed in June as mentioned, and he had five placed in a line as in this photo.




            ..We had some old friends with us…. here’s Nick and Gill


  Sue (committee chair)

and John and Nora with Eleanor


And here’s some pics of the test pits – some showing the road and one showing the clay bed at the side of the road.




Norman reports:

“The line of test pits established that the Roman road is present at this point but quite badly degraded with only the bottom foundation material surviving as quite a shallow deposit. It looks as though there has been heavy recycling of the road material at this point at a later date after it goes out of use – it doesn’t survive to anything like the depth of the Causeway Sett section dug by Saddleworth Historical Society in the 1970s. The road appears to be laid onto a prepared flat natural clay bed with no evidence for road side ditches or buried ground surface, although of course we only sampled a small part of the road.”

These are images from the geophyz… overlaid on to the earth image, with measurements, the 2017 geophyz itself, and then the two images – 2016 and 2017 together.



You’ll see on the first image at the top of post the word ‘RUIN’…..Here’s Cliff, Steve and Mike trenching across the east wall of the ruin; Norman says “deep foundations but no floor or finds”

And here’s Sue, Rob, Mark and Eleanor standing on the corners of another building.  Norman again: “I spotted (this one) which lies close to the ruined one but which we haven’t noticed before. I intend to go back soon and investigate this as it is becoming clear the ruin is part of a larger complex of structures and earthworks. All in all, a useful day!”


And we all agree… watch this space for more!

All geophyz processing and imaging by Phil Barrett; earth photo courtesy of Norman Redhead; photos by Norman Redhead and Jane Neild.  Lead archaeologist Norman Redhead.  Dig team today: Sue; Cliff; Mike; Steve; John; Nora; Nick; Gill; Eleanor. Geophyz team: Phil; Rob.  Blog by Bloggerina.

8th April 2017 – Excavation at Mytholm Mill

Here’s a picture of Mytholm, Mytholme, or Mytham Mill in Uppermill on the morning of the excavation.       

Residents of Saddleworth or anyone walking by the river from Uppermill to the garden centre (Newbank) would recognise this right away!


For anyone else though, if you look down from the canal with the Limekiln behind you it’s the ruined building in front of you, the viaduct and Uppermill on the left, the garden centre down the path to the right. Here’s a map.


The mill (Mytham then) was built in 1779 as a fulling mill by local merchants John Harrop, John Smith and Henry Whitehead.  At this time the woollen industry was expanding at a considerable rate creating a need for processing in a bigger faster way, but the developmental stage at the time produced industrial buildings that looked like typical weaver’s cottages.

This is a photo of it, probably early 20 Century 

Fulling was the stage of beating woven cloth with hammers to thicken it – modern felting is done in the same way – but the scale of the fulling process at Mytholm would have meant that the hammering of the wool pieces would have gone on for up to 20 hours! The hammers were massive wooden blocks and were driven by an ‘overshot waterwheel’.  You can see the groove of the wheel here, and there was a dam to control the water constructed at the height of the first floor.  The dam is visible at the site.

Here’s an interesting legend on the extant wall at the other side of this grooved wall: it possibly refers to the height of the head water or of the wheel.                  

So why excavate?  Well just what the XV1 FEET refers to is one of the questions.  Another question relates to the location of the end wall of the building, and another to the location of the steam engine, which took over the power supply at some point before 1866.  We know that because it was sold by auction at that time along with a great deal of sawmill equipment.  Mytholm had ceased being a fulling mill in the 1840s when Hutchinson and Co turned it into the saw mill, and it is possible that the steam engine was wholly related to that business.  The blocks in the picture are assessed as being the stands for the engine, you can easily get to see them as they’re by the side of the river across from the mill site. 

So the excavation began on the beautiful morning of 8th April 2017, managed by Norman Redhead, County Archaeologist, in association with the local archaeological group that is the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts.

 Here’s Norman giving the first briefing to some of the team at the start of the day.

And below, Paul is setting up the Friends information boards and info.


In the early part of the day there were 3 trenches, looking like this.

Phil, Jane, John ….

                             …then John, Nora, Alan

and Norman, Claire and Jack

Things moved on well and the weather held!  We always welcome visitors and we estimate that about 200 people talked to us during the day.

This is the major wall at the East Gate of the Mill.

The middle trench went down through demolition rubble to find a cinder level at around 65cm.  John dug a sondage of 50cm and found boiler waste, so it can be said that the boiler house was in that part.

This is the wall going East, there wasn’t time to find the back or the return.

The other trench found no structure of any consequence.

Finds were gathered, and Phil checked the spoil heaps….  There was… pottery, glass, metal and demolition rubble  … even a wall tie              


But the star find was found by John and Nora in their trench –          

…a beautiful bone pipe-bowl carved with a heart and initials in a cartouche on the reverse…. more photos to be found in Norman’s report, I’ll let you know when it’s on the website.


 Measurements were taken and photography done, then back-filling and closures


Norman gave the final briefing, some things are resolved but some tasks remain, enough for us to come back another day.

Here’s a picture of the group of workers.  I can confirm that they seemed happy and contented after a job well done on a beautiful spring day!

We’ll see you again somewhere then… but farewell for now, as ever, Bloggerina

A Roman Road…or two ?

Out and about 23rd May – thought you might like to see a couple of contenders for Roman Road of the month!

The first is the famous Ardotalia-Melandra to Rigodunum-Castleshaw short-cut.  Its reality as a Roman Road is just a fact of life to the people who’ve grown up in Carrbrook, Micklehurst or Greenfield.  Have a quick surf and you’ll see sources citing Moor Edge Road as the Roman Road that allowed troops to travel from Buxton-Brough-Melandra to Castleshaw and on to York without the extra day’s march to Mamucium-Manchester.

Go to Carrbrook and see the official noticeboard of the country park – whoever wrote this is sure the road is Roman, no question. But the OS Roman Britain map (NMR 2001) doesn’t mark it and it seems there is uncertainty amongst academic sources.  A few pictures to help you make up your own minds…

DSC_0660   DSC_0663

You can’t deny that beautiful metalled surface… and here it is below complete with Roman milepost!  Trust me there’s been no medieval gateway there…


Want a ditch?  Here’s the most well-dug ditch to grace the side of any Roman road.


Later on, after lunch at Woolly Knits, the sun came out and we drifted over to Castleshaw…


How about this one below?  Castleshaw to Denshaw and Rochdale….

DSC_0672  DSC_0675

Same metalled surface, same completely robust structure. …

Here it is straight as you like along the tops …DSC_0705






and this side of the road is really showing itself to be in very good shape





DSC_0676  Back down the hill –

looking straight at Castleshaw

You may think neither of them are Roman.  But if you think one of them is – then the other one stands up to the comparison.  We love them both and, well, we think they’re both Roman!  That’s our view…what do you think?…. we’d love to know

Catch you later


All photos today by P Barrett, if you want to use any of them just ask via blog and we’ll get the original to you.

Test-pitting in the moorland breeze

Yesterday (Sunday 17th May) we carried out a day’s worth of test-pitting in the field that lies just the other side of the lane to the north of the forts.  It’s where Harbour Farm used to be, and we understand it went to demolition when the Upper Reservoir was built, (late 19th century), possibly and presumably for the purity of the watershed?

We did the test-pitting of that area as part of the wider hinterland survey – one of the objectives in the constitution of the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts.

Apart from a few minutes of rain when we got there the day was free from weather hazards, except for a strong and persistent eye-watering moorland breeze!

DSC_0450 Here’s Phil and the 2 Sues breaking ground…








We opened 6 test-pits initially with another one later on.  You can see that they’re in a sort of line near the wall at the top of the field.

Phil – the proud digger of this test-pit… and some very easily lifted turfs

DSC_0456  DSC_0459


Lorraine, Steve, Mike and Kevin…




DSC_0627 and Huddersfield Arch with the neatest (OCD) spoil you’ll ever see…


…all getting on with it








……..then making the case for an extra test-pit.?DSC_0640



some rubble……


some rubble and some roof tiles



and bigger stones…..


So no foundations or walls left of Harbour Farm at all…

But wait…. could this be looking look like a metalled Roman road layer?

You bet it looks like it…..I had the close up view and it’s solid over that part of the test-pit…DSC_0635





and here it is with a lovely section through it…. looking for all the world like another deeper layer of road!


We worked our fingers and our trowels to the bone – it’s Norman’s trowel that proves it!

A fun job, done wellDSC_0652!


Farewell till next time,


It’s Viking Gold!

And silver for that matter… in North West Britain.  This was the subject of a talk given by Professor James Graham-Campbell on Weds evening last, (13th May 2015) at the Museum in Uppermill.  The talk was a joint DSC_0448endeavour by Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts and Saddleworth Historical Society, and was very well attended.

Professor Graham-Campbell began with the Gold ring that was found in Saddleworth by Herbert Horsfall of Springhead.  This was in Feb 1914 and the ring was subsequently given to the British Museum in 1915 where it has remained ever since.

Mr Horsfall found it whilst out rambling in Chew Valley and in his letter of donation he says it was in the river bed at Chew Brook, today of course this find-spot is well under much water.  But here’s an old photo of pre-reservoir days…chewvalley_tcm9-355970

Here’s the ring…

sadd talk ring

It’s a single rod of gold, twisted round into a double layer and then closed off by being twisted round the coils several times.  The exposed surface of the two layers are then stamped with an hourglass motif – according to Prof G-C this is one of the most diagnostic symbols of the Viking period, c 9th C.


He said finds of coiled Viking rings are really quite rare.  Rings tended to have little cut marks in them though – this was a value test firstly to ensure that it wasn’t other metal just coated with gold, and secondly to check the hardness of the gold. They could be designed as miniatures of neck rings, but are strikingly different from Anglo-Saxon rings… two Royal finger rings are shown here.  They would be for presentation to others, but the one on the left is of Aethelwulf (King Alfred’s father) and the one on the right is of Ealhswith, (King Alfred’s wife).

sadd talk AS rings


You’ll see the difference, they are flat and finely decorated, carrying Christian symbols of salvation and Eternal life.


In fact Anglo-Saxon gold and silver are frequently found in Viking hoards unearthed now, perhaps because of trade, but also because the Vikings looted them.  Hoards such as the one found in Cuerdale, Lancs and pictured below, are predominantly silver but also contain gold items.

sadd talk ch


The silver is often chopped up, ‘hacked silver’, and ingots of silver are also commonly found in hoards. In contrast to the Anglo-Saxons who had established a coin economy, the hacked silver and ingots would be used for trade etc: a ‘bullion economy’, on its way to being a coin economy.


Prof G-C talked about two kinds of Viking find then – individual items such as the Saddleworth ring, and hoards.  He discussed several Northern Britain discoveries of hoards, and of the beauty of items, particularly those that had been traded/looted from other cultures, pins from Ireland, cups from the Carolingian empire, and gold from the Anglo-Saxons.  Appreciative thanks to Professor Graham-Campbell for a great talk.

It seems that there is a new hoard about to hit the press, pretty spectacular and that he was having to keep secret for the moment – the Galloway Hoard.  Watch out for this one!

Next blog coming soon…