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…


Return of the Blog…

If you’ve switched over from The Friends’ Blog Series One, very good to see you again, and if you’re newly logging in then welcome!  If you’re new to the blog then you may like to know that Series One has a timeline, a diary of the four weeks of the dig last summer, a glimpse of the Ammon Wrigley archive held at Oldham Museum, and a summary of the end of project Conference in March. It will still be accessible via the website and via https://castleshawarchaeology.wordpress.com/

Regular visitors to the Blog will see that I’ve put the same mosaic background in – that’s because nothing else looked right. But I thought you might like to know that it’s one if many mosaics from Zeugma in SE Turkey.  Here’s the one I used –

turkey 718 (2)

it’s in the museum at Gaziantep and is the scene of Zeus falling in love with Europa, appearing to her in form of a white bull.  There are plenty of mosaics left in situ at the actual site as well as in the museum.


Looking forward to sharing many interesting CRF times with you… if you click on follow you’ll get automatic notification of updates via emailimages cs – and also it will help us to show our funding body that there’s a community out there who’re interested in what’s happening in the world of Castleshaw Roman Forts.

I’ll try always to keep you up to date with events and particularly any test-pitting or digs as they happen.  And it would be great to get your comments!

Catch you later