Building Recording

Being Confused in a Historic Building

Harvey Tesseyman, Heritage Research Archaeologist

I went to visit a local church knowing that it was Grade I listed (the Church of St Mary, Broughton, North Lincolnshire, 1161801, I), because I thought I could find some historic inscriptions, and it sounded like an interesting building. It’s common for historic buildings to be remodelled over time, and given that churches are quite often the oldest building in town they’ve got a lot of history packed in. What follows should illustrate how complex historic buildings can get, and how difficult it can be to get your story straight when it comes to recording!

The oldest fabric of the church is the Anglo-Saxon herringbone masonry which makes up the bottom of the tower (tower-nave churches are typically Saxon).

St Mary, Broughton, North Lincolnshire

St Mary, Broughton, North Lincolnshire

The tower used to be four exterior walls, but one of them is now an interior wall, part of which has been ground down to make healing powder (!?).

Ground down stonework

Ground down stonework

The tiny blocked up windows are another Saxon feature along with a side door, although don’t confuse them with the blocked up Norman windows which are a different type of tiny, and match the surviving fragments of Norman arcade, which wrap around the original church replacing the Saxon chancel. Another sticky-out-bit which seems to be of 13th century origin, based on the Early English Gothic-style windows, looks like it wraps round the bit that wraps round the original bit (but the cupboard doors in here are 15th century). The round bit sticking out of the edge of the tower is a set of very precarious spiral stairs leading most of the way up the Saxon tower on the way to the 14th century belfry they put on top as an extension, possibly on top of an older belfry.

Precarious stairs

Precarious stairs

When they extended the belfry they cut down the height of the stairs and recapped the roof. The central pillar of the spiral stairs is made from reused Roman stone, and the roof seems to be capped with some reused medieval beams and supported by a modern one. When you get up into the belfry there’s a pile of Victorian glass, some unidentified machinery, and a door taken from somewhere else in the church (we’re not sure where) which has been plastered in newspaper bearing a date of 1868. The floor of the church is also Victorian, they laid it down when they installed heating pipes, and while they were doing it found the original Saxon floor surface.

Victorian ephemera

Victorian ephemera

 

A really fancy daisywheel

A really fancy daisywheel

 

Undated inscription

Undated inscription

As with below-the-ground archaeology, layers often get mixed together and it becomes difficult to work out what should have gone where, but that’s part of the intrigue. Trying to analyse historic buildings can leave you feeling as out of breath as climbing the spiral stairs might, but I did find some historic inscription…Please don’t ask me to come up with a date for it…

RCAHMS – Susan Dibdin IfA Bursary in Building Recording

My name is Susan Dibdin and I am on the IfA bursary in Building Recording at RCAHMS for 12 months. I’m actually about 9 months through my placement now.

For the first 6 months of my placement I was working on the Threatened Building programme and through that I visited a lot of different threatened buildings throughout Scotland. We do desk-based research before visiting a site, and during field work make a decision on what should be recorded and which way if best to do to – whether it’s by photographic survey or a graphical survey.

I’ve moved onto the Urban Survey program, and I’m currently working on an urban characterisation study of Bo’ness. This involves sorting the town into different character areas based on historical development and topography as well as current day characteristics.

As part of the Urban Survey we’ll also update the Canmore record with new photography of Bo’ness – streetscapes as well as individual buildings. That’s actually what I’ve been doing today – I’ve put through 25 requisitions for individual building photography and I’ve also requisitioned general street views of the 18 character areas. That means that our professional photographers will know where to take the photographs!

Once the photographs have been taken and processed they’ll go into Canmore and I’ll work on captioning these. Today I also received a batch of aerial photographs from the photographers, which help to illustrate the street patterns etc. These will also form part of the characterisation study report to explain the character of the different areas of Bo’ness and how the towns developed over the centuries.