Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project: DIY House and Garden Archaeology

Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project (LIPCAP) is developing ways to enable public participation in exploring the historical environment amongst which many live and work today. We are based in Derby – a town (now city) with a long history, which particularly came to prominence, substantially growing in size, during (and especially after) the 18th century, as an important centre of industrialisation.

LIPCAP_Fig_1_Silk Mill

Derby Silk Mill (much rebuilt after early 20th century fire): one of the earliest factories in the world – part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

Though much of the older housing once occupied by industrial workers has since been demolished, most of the late 19th and early 20th century small terraced houses built for the increasing workforce – many of whom were employed in the numerous local mills and factories – remain, and continue to provide homes for modern families.

LIPCAP_Fig_2_Rykneld_Mill

Rykneld Mill behind housing within West End study area

LIPCAP_Fig_3_Terraced_Street

Late 19th – early 20th century terraced housing within LIPCAP study area

LIPCAP aims, in partnership with local communities, to discover more about the daily lives of ‘ordinary’ people in the past by investigating the history of these houses (in particular), examining the traces of earlier domestic activities through standing building surveys and surveys of artefacts found in the associated gardens and yards. We provide guidance for investigating the surfaces of gardens and houses: this is to broaden access through ‘DIY’ surveys and recording, which are designed to be of low or no cost, and to prevent damage to the historical environment; at present, there are no plans for excavations, but may consider this in the future.

LIPCAP_Fig_4_Study_Areas

Project study Areas

In order to make fieldwork manageable, to make best use of resources, due to the existing evidence, and to enable comparisons, the project incorporates four study areas: Allestree Village, Little Chester, West End, and Friar Gate area; due to the opportunity to carry out detailed surveys, one property provides an interesting case study.

LIPCAP_Fig_5_eC2O_Outdoor_Toilets

The remains of early toilets investigated at one property outside Derby

We hope that this will provide opportunities for participation by those that neither inhabit  old housing, nor live in houses built upon the plots of demolished earlier housing, by investigating the remains of Victorian and Edwardian rubbish ‘dumps’ in and around the town.

LIPCAP_Fig_6_Victorian_Tip

Spread of surface finds: probable Victorian and early 20th century rubbish tip on the outskirts of Derby that LIPCAP is applying to investigate

However, by taking opportunities to investigate house interiors, we also record other remains that provide clues for home life in the past: close investigation often reveals (even in houses that have been much modernised) remains for earlier décor, utilities, and use of household space.

LIPCAP_Fig_7_lC19_eC20_Woodwork_Paint

Chips to later white paint revealing remains of early finishes within LIPCAP case study: late 19th – early 20th century ‘grained’ varnish beneath dark early – mid 20th century paint, within project case study, No. 8

LIPCAP_Fig_8_Wall Paint

Wall paint (probable early 20th century) within bedroom at No. 8 (below)

One task that has held particular interest for the project (and others) is recording of graffiti – through which we have gained insights into childhood attitudes and behaviour.

LIPCAP_Fig_9_'C19_eC20_Graffiti

Graffiti discovered during a survey of ‘No. 8’

We look at the material evidence alongside documentary records (such as census returns and trade directories), photos and maps, and oral histories and memoirs, and in this way are beginning to build up a more complete picture of everyday life at this point in time (c. 1880 – 1940) when the modern world comes into being.

Name

Relation

Condition/
Yrs married

Sex

Age

Birth Year

Occupation

Where Born

ELEY, Thomas

Head

Married

M

45

1866

Smith Striker Railway

Derby Derbyshire

ELEY, Maria Jane

Wife

Married
15 years

F

43

1868

Derby Derbyshire

RIPPIN, William

Stepson

Single

M

19

1892

Cotton Winder

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Harry

Son

Single

M

19

1892

Fruiterer’s Salesman

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Selina

Daughter

Single

F

18

1893

Cotton Winder

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Lily

Daughter

F

14

1897

Tent Maker Canvass

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Jane

Daughter

F

12

1899

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Eva

Daughter

F

9

1902

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Mabel

Daughter

F

7

1904

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Doris

Daughter

F

1

1910

Derbyshire Derby

No. 8 Census evidence for 1911

We will soon make guidance publicly available, to support local communities in carrying out garden surveys; over the next few days, we will test the step-by-step instructions for public participation that have been recently devised, which we will describe in a following post.

LIPCAP_Fig_10_Test_Garden_Finds

Finds discovered during a test survey of a garden outside Derby

LIPCAP_Fig_11_Test_Garden

Test Garden: location of above finds

The pilot stage of the project – testing new ways of integrating public and professional research and fieldwork – will run until 2015. LIPCAP is currently run by volunteers, and funded by donations; at present, our project team is small, and led by local historical archaeologist Dr Kirsten Jarrett. We would welcome further volunteers who would like to get involved in running the project and more sustained and detailed research and fieldwork – particularly those experienced in archaeology or local history, but this is not essential. A forthcoming post will hear from other members of the project team.

LIPCAP_Fig_12_No 8

Project case study, No. 8

If you would like to know more about the project, see our website; follow us on Twitter or Facebook, and see our Flickr and YouTube channels; we are also in the process of developing a History Pin channel. The Journal of Victorian Culture Online has also published a short article on the project.

LIPCAP_Fig_13_3D_No 8_Progress

No. 8 3D reconstruction in progress: to be ‘redecorated’ and furnished in late Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s – 30s style

Project Social Media

Website: www.livinginthepast.org.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UrbArc20

Twitter: https://twitter.com/

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/living-in-the-past/sets/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcy3KUXbjyFdaCodnHRy6lQ

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