Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Finds from Jackfield

Here are some of the finds from the excavation of the kiln and associated features at Jackfield. Some photos of the kiln itself can be found by scrolling down on this page, or by clicking here.

A selection of the assemblage - creamware, a saggar, kiln furniture and slipware.

Some more slipware.
Arguably one of the nicest pieces of pottery found in the Gorge for some time, a beautiful slipware jug.

Finds from Wednesbury

Here some of the more interesting finds from our recent excavations in Wednesbury. More information about the site will appear in due course.

Unusual to see lithics in a post-medieval context but these are eighteenth century gun flints.

A porcelain bowl made in c.1780 by the Caughley factory in Shropshire.

Holloways ointment jar, dated to 1842-1867 by the firm's location at 244 The Strand, London.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Early pottery making at Jackfield (2)

Here are some photos of the kiln and other features recently excavated at Jackfield...
(scroll down a couple of posts for background info).

The first three photos were taken at the end of last week, the last two were taken today.

General view of the kiln. The wall down the middle is from a later building.

The outside of the hovel wall is still standing nearly 2m in height

A brick-lined clay storage pit, and the saggars which have been excavated from it.

These photos were taken today, and show progress on excavating the centre of the kiln, and also exposing the rest of the outer hovel wall...

Here is the newly-discovered part of the kiln, showing the outer hovel wall and the well-preserved floor inside. You can also see the quarry tiled floor of the abutting building in the foreground.

The centre of the kiln... the curved wall here is the base of an earlier kiln.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Culvert survey in Wednesbury

Today we were working at Wednesbury with Waterco (specialist water engineers) to try and explore the extent of an old culvert running underneath the site. We had discovered the culvert back in June, but had not been able to explore it thoroughly ourselves.

The guys from Waterco brought with them a remote-operated vehicle. Unfortunately there was not enough water in the culvert for it to operate properly, so various ad hoc efforts were made to improve floatation. Here we see the eventual result, with two 100mm water pipes lashed to the robot keeping its head (camera) up and its tail (propellors) down.

This is the main chamber with the outflow from the old tailrace seen in the distance. The culvert underlies three phases of building, the earliest being early 19th century, so the culverting of this watercourse probably dates from that period.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Early pottery making at Jackfield (1)

Excavations during the redevelopment of Jackfield Tile Museum last week discovered a kiln and other features relating to the early pottery industry. The kiln, which probably dates to the late 18th or early 19th centuries made slip-decorated earthenwares. We have recovered a number of wasters and saggars...

...and today we have opened up the centre of the kiln and discovered a possibly earlier kiln underneath! We have also found a nice quarry-tiled floor in the remains of a building abutting the kiln, quite probably the earliest surviving bit of tiled floor extant at Jackfield.

More news (and photos) will appear here soon...

Friday, September 16, 2005

First steel furnace in England

After five seasons of hard work at Coalbrookdale we have discovered the first cementation steel furnace in England. The furnace was built by the industrialist Sir Basil Brooke in 1619.

The 2005 season was another collaboration between the Ironbridge Gorge Museum and Wilfred Laurier University. With students from the UK, Canada and the US under the expert - if sometimes slightly frazzled - guidance of directors Paul Belford and Ron Ross, we finally were able to answer our many questions about this important site. More information about the project, and about the ongoing programme of research, can be found here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Upper Coalbrookdale Landscape Project

This exciting new project is exploring the early non-industrial landscape of the upper part of Coalbrookdale. Using a variety of methodologies and approaches, we are beginning to understand the wider 17th and 18th century landscape in all its wondrous complexity...

...a fascinating palimpsest of formal gardens, avenues, pools, woodland and even a water tower. Geophysics, environmental sampling and excavation are all being deployed. We hope to run a large excavation next year to fully expose the remains of the 18th century summer house.

The old archaeology van

Well what can we say? A very battered old transit van, built in 1991 and amazingly still in use at the Museum, although now no longer by the archaeology team.

Some famous accidents and incidents include...

  • Hitting a lamp-post on Dale Road after a bizarre skid - needed extensive remedial work at the Ford factory before being returned to service (c.1995? we think) - the stump of the old lamp-post remained in situ until recently (M. Worthington)
  • In use as a diving board at a notorious archaeology party of the late 1990s at the Lloyds, dents in the roof still evident (S. White)
  • Being apprehended by Customs and Excise en route back from Barrow in 2003 with a broken exhaust, enquiring if we were using red diesel! (S. Roper)
A EULOGY TO THE VAN supplied by Kurt Vincent...

...incidently Michael wiped out the entire "Steel" fencing along the pathway which used to run parallel with the road, one of the horizontal lengths of 50mm steel tube pierced its way through the near side panel and opening it up like a tin can, Michael was very lucky....resulting in the whole one side of the van needing to be replaced, hence no signage on one side to date. This very sad looking and abused vehicle who's life has been a rocky one, is now sitting at Furrows Telford with Axle/Diff/Gearbox/Clutch problems, which it's repairs being estimated more than it's value.......all it ever wanted was a careful loving owner, a pair of furry dice to proudly display around its mirror, a leather wheel cover, leopard skin seat covers, 12" spotlights, Starsky & Hutch style white lightning transfers to the sides and to be driven along the backbone of Britain, instead it was subject to torturous "local" roads, wheelbarrows and shovels, hedges and fields, wild party nights, the "vinyl gloves treatment" over fuel type by the ministry and to be left naked and exposed on Dale Road. May this van's suffering and turmoil finally end and may it rest in eternal peace.......Amen !! :-)

Any more stories and tales about this epic vehicle from Ironbridge staff past and present... please add your comments!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The hidden history of tilemaking

Recent comprehensive restoration work on the Mill Building at Jackfield has revealed an interesting and remarkable collection of early encaustic tile moulds from the early days of the Craven Dunnill factory.

These moulds, dating from the 1870s, were recovered from rubble deposits beneath the floor of what now appears to be a possible blunging area. Many of the patterns were previously unknown, and curators Michael Vanns and Tim Jenkins enthusiastically waded in with the archaeology team to assist in the retreival of these interesting artefacts.

More information can be found here.