Historic Environment Record

Helen Stocks-Morgan: Discussing the Significance of Beaulieu, Chelmsford

An open area excavation with archaeologists working on site

On site at Beaulieu, near Chelmsford

I spent the day writing a site report for an excavation we did at Beaulieu, Chelmsford in Essex. For all excavations and project we do we have to write a site report and compile an archive of the site records which are then deposits with the County’s Historic Environment Record (HER). This means that in the future people can go back to our excavations and know exactly what we found and help them with any future research. These are available to the general public with summaries of all previous known archaeology available on the Heritage Gateway and the individual HERs can be contacted / visited if more detailed information is required. Part of the process of compiling this archive is to write a report which is a detailed account of what we found and is the most studied part of the site archive that people and future archaeologists will look at as it contains all the information and eventually will be available online on the ADS website.

The first part for the site report gives an introduction as to what happened on site and provides a summary of the known archaeology in the area. The second part gives the results of our excavation, this is then followed by a discussion of what we found and its significance in the wider landscape and to the known archaeology of that period. The discussion was what I am writing today and writing this blog is giving me a break from trying to work out what some confusing brick linears are and how they formed part of the landscape in one of Henry VIII’s summer palaces.

Helen Stocks-Morgan is a Project Officer at Oxford Archaeology’s East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our fieldwork services, visit our website: http://oxfordarchaeology.com/professional-services/fieldwork

Light at the end of the (Glenfield Railway) tunnel

I’m Helen Wells, I’ve been the Historic Environment Record Officer at Leicestershire County Council for over 10 years.  My job is basically curating what we know about buried and built archaeological remains in Leicestershire and Rutland.  I don’t usually get to leave the office, but I’m going to tell you about a rare trip away from my desk – into the Glenfield Railway Tunnel.  The tunnel is recorded on the Leicestershire and Rutland Historic Environment Record and I’d always wanted to go inside.

So, as part of the Festival of Archaeology, I recently accompanied a group of others into the dark, damp, chilly, disused railway tunnel.  Not publicly accessible, the only access to the tunnel is via special trips.  A footpath runs past the portal.  Since us archaeologists are in a team with ecologists at the County Council I should also say that the tunnel is a hibernation roost for bats, and it’s illegal to disturb them…

Expedition into the tunnel!

Expedition into the tunnel!

The tunnel was one of the earliest railway tunnels in the world, designed by George Stephenson; its construction was supervised by his son Robert.  It opened in July 1832. Due to the pioneering nature of the engineering works, there were various unexpected hitches.  One of these was that the trial borings had suggested clay and stone, but running sand meant the tunnel had to be completely lined in bricks.  It cost £17,326 to built instead of the budgeted £10,000 – well over a million pounds in today’s money.

Glenfield Tunnel in 1969

Glenfield Tunnel in 1969

It closed in 1966 and was bought by Leicester City Council in 1969 for £5.  The east end of the tunnel was filled in by a housing company, so though you can walk through a door in the mainly blocked up tunnel portal at the west end, the east end is only accessible via a manhole and a steel ladder.

(The following two pictures were taken by a colleague in 2007.  The 1969 aerial photograph higher up the page shows the railway line before it was filled in.)

Blocked eastern end of the tunnel

Blocked eastern end of the tunnel

Metal ladder at east end of the tunnel

Metal ladder at east end of the tunnel

The tunnel is not far below the ground, and whereas it originally ran through fields, today it is covered in houses.  This has led to problems!  In 2007-8 strengthening works were carried out, with reinforced concrete arches inserted into the weakest areas of the tunnel.  This work cost £500,000, which makes the original £1,000,000 spent to build the tunnel look rather more of a bargain!  (And the £5 it cost to buy the tunnel in 1969 less of a good deal…)  The reinforcements were a striking feature of the tunnel during my recent trip.

Concrete reinforcements inside the tunnel

Concrete reinforcements inside the tunnel

Though a fascinating place to visit, it is very difficult to know what can be done to re-use the tunnel.  The eastern end being buried does mean it’s tricky to re-use as a cycle path, for example.  Though it has turned into a maintenance headache, if it hadn’t been bought in 1969 who knows what would have happened to it.  It’s a brilliant bit of early railway history.  If you get the chance to visit I’d definitely recommend it!

Want to find out a bit more?

This article at Forgotten Relics has some great pictures, one of which demonstrates the tight clearances this tunnel had.

The Leicestershire Industrial History Society have some great resources on the tunnel.  Keep an eye on their events for further tunnel expeditions!

Finally, a quick mention for Story of Leicester, who provided many of the facts I used here.

Really, really, really, really old stuff!

This is the third time I’ve taken part in the ‘Day of Archaeology’, and I don’t want to repeat myself, so please do take a look at my previous blogs “Day in the life of a HERO” and “We can be heroes, just for one day”. Suffice it to say, I’m the Historic Environment Record Officer for Leicestershire County Council – for more information do look at the Leicestershire & Rutland HER page on our website!

I have started off today by thinking about the Palaeolithic. I think it’s fair to say that the Palaeolithic doesn’t come up all that often in archaeology. There are chance finds of Palaeolithic date – such as hand axes that are found in fields – but there aren’t a lot of sites, as such. To find the Palaeolithic you usually have to dig quite a big hole, since it’s usually deeply buried!

The reason I’ve been thinking about it is that on the HER we have a list of period dates, and it seems that the Palaeolithic ones are painfully inadequate. (I attended an HER meeting this week and it was brought up there). In the East Midlands Research Framework (2012), which you can download here, it gives the following periods and dates (kya means ‘thousand years ago’):

Period 1: Cromerian and Intra-Anglian (950-450 kya)

Period 2: Pre-Levallois (450-250 kya)

Period 3: Levallois (250-150 kya)

Period 4: Mousterian (60-40 kya) -> Neanderthals!

Period 5a: Early Upper Palaeolithic (40-27 kya) -> Modern Humans

Period 5b: Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,000-9,500 BC)

Now, I don’t know about you, but dates of 950,000 years ago kind of blow my mind! The gaps in the chronology, by the way, indicate glaciation periods when no-one lived here (the most recent being the Dimlington Stadial).

There are a few Palaeolithic sites that have been investigated in recent times in Leicestershire/Rutland, all from different periods, and all very different in character. The earliest is at Brooksby, then there’s one at Glaston, and also Bradgate Park.

Activity on the River Bytham, at Brooksby Quarry (Period 1)
HER Ref. No. MLE21117

Something this old really does make your brain hurt when specialists start talking about it. There are all sorts of mysterious scientific analyses that can be carried out. It’s just so ancient! These weren’t humans like us. They were making tools from stone, not flint.

Brooksby Quarry

Brooksby Quarry

The River Bytham was a huge river that flowed west from Lowestoft, along which humans may have travelled into Britain. It has left behind sand and gravel deposits that are now being quarried, giving us a brilliant opportunity to learn about this period of time.

So far hundreds of artefacts have been recovered by ULAS, many of which are very fresh and don’t seem to have travelled far. These include cores and flakes made from local quartzite pebbles. Early humans must have been living alongside the river and making tools, which is pretty exciting!

Hyena den at Glaston, Rutland (Period 5a)
HER Ref. No. MLE9061

This is another site investigated by ULAS, back in 2000. Evidence of a hyaena den was recorded, which contained bones of woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, wolverine, early horse and hyenas. This is the first open air hyena den excavated, and a flint leafpoint provides evidence of human activity in the vicinity – rare evidence for a temporary hunting camp. You can read more about the project here (which is where this rather good picture came from!).

glaston_animals

Glaston hyena den

Creswellian site at Bradgate Park (Period 5b)
HER Ref. No. MLE9435

This site was first discovered in 2001 and test pitting was carried out earlier this year, again by ULAS! Basically, thousands of flints have been recovered from an eroding footpath in the park. These flints are evidence for human activity on site – it has been suggested that the site was a hunting stand where hunters intercepted animals such as horse and deer passing through Little Matlock Gorge. The exciting thing about this site is that it is in situ – there are deposits that are associated with the flints. At the moment it’s not clear what further work will be carried out on the site, but it’s certainly a nationally important site!

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Bradgate Park test pitting

So, that’s a quick dash through some of the oldest archaeological sites on the Leicestershire & Rutland HER. You can look at these, and other records, via the Heritage Gateway. Records cover everything up to now, so we’re covering about a million years of human activity!

Obviously it’s not possible to be an expert in everything throughout those million years, so forgive me if I’ve made some terrible errors when writing this. I’m not a Palaeolithic expert. Today, on this Day of Archaeology, I just found it interesting.  🙂

 

From mountains to sea…and everything in between: Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service

It is our great pleasure to welcome you on the Day of Archaeology 2014 to the Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service.

Situated in the North East of Scotland, we are a small team (just the three of us!) with responsibility for a large geographic area – not only do we act as the regional archaeology service for Aberdeenshire Council, but also for Angus and Moray Councils, which is equivalent to 10,733km2!

Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray Council areas in North East Scotland ©ACAS

Map showing location of Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray Council areas in North East Scotland ©ACAS

Protection, Management and Promotion

For any given area roughly 95% of the historic environment is not protected by national designations, and it is down to Services like ourselves at local government level in the UK to protect it.

The team’s remit is to protect, manage and promote the historic environment of Aberdeenshire, Angus & Moray. A big part of this is maintaining a Historic Environment Record (HER) for each of these areas, an ever-growing database of sites and monuments of archaeological and historical interest hosted on our website.

There are currently almost 32,000 sites recorded in the HER, ranging from Lower Paleolithic auroch horns through Early Medieval Pictish stones to World War II defences. That’s almost 12,000 years of history!

The HER acts as the hub for our primary work within the Councils. We use it as the basis for assessing the potential impact of planning applications, forestry, utility and other consultations on the historic environment. The resulting archaeological mitigation work from these consultations then feeds back into the HER, broadening our (and therefore everyone’s) knowledge and understanding of the historic environment here in the North East, and helping to inform future decisions.

We will provide the best Protection, Management and Promotion of the Historic Environment of Aberdeenshire for the benefit of all ©ACAS

Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service Team Motto ©ACAS

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We can be heroes, just for one day

Hello!  If you’re reading this perhaps you want to know what it’s like to be a HERO (Historic Environment Record Officer), just for this one day.  (I know it’s a bit tenuous but I wanted a quote for my title and I love David Bowie, so…!)

I last blogged as part of the Day of Archaeology in 2011.  If you want to read my blog from back then please read a day in the life of a HERO.  There’s a fair bit there that I don’t really want to cover again, like how I became a HERO.  I think today I’ll just blog about what I’m up to.

View from my office, County Hall, Leicestershire

View from my office, County Hall, Leicestershire

I work for Leicestershire County Council in the Historic & Natural Environment Team (part of Planning, Historic & Natural Environment, so we sit with various planning officers). The other people in my team consist of a war memorials project officer, conservation officer, 2 planning archaeologists and our team leader – we’re also in the same team as several ecologists. There used to be more of us but due to the ubiquitous cuts that’s the team at the moment.  The conservation officer and our team leader don’t work full time, also because of the cuts.  So they’re not here today.

I’m in charge of the Historic Environment Record for Leicestershire & Rutland, which is basically a database that attempts to record all known archaeological remains and historic buildings in the county.

The first job of the day is to check the Heritage Gateway upload that I set running last night. About 70% of our HER records are available on-line through the Gateway (our Heritage Gateway update page details what’s on-line at the moment). Yesterday I added some new records (and edited some old ones), so I thought I’d better upload them!  The new records include a rather interesting medieval cruck-framed house, 5-7, Market Place, Whitwick (MLE20894) that is due to be demolished as part of a scheme to build a new Co-op.  (It’s not listed.) Our planning archaeologists have been commenting on the scheme, hence the reports that have provided me with new sites.

Then it’s time to do some fun map regression!  I love the part of my job that’s basically detective work, though sometimes it’s infuriating not to get definitive answers to questions…  Yesterday the Principal Planning Archaeologist brought several things in Ashby-de-la-Zouch to my attention.  First is an early ‘tramway’ that ran from the Ashby Canal to Ticknall.  This was on the HER already, but the mapping wasn’t quite right.  Then there are a whole bunch of industrial sites dating from the C18th-C20th.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch

Historic maps (1735, 1837, 1888) and HER extract for Ashby-de-la-Zouch

The sites are (the links will work when I’ve done the next Gateway upload!):

The next job is something that brings in money – a commercial data search.  Searches are requested by land agents and solicitors as well as commercial archaeology units, to help inform land purchases, planning decisions and as part of fieldwork.  For a fee, I send various digital files (maps, GIS files, gazetteers etc) out containing all the archaeological sites and historic buildings on the HER.  (Non-commercial enquiries are free.)  Interesting sites in Appleby Magna, where this search was for, include Moat House (MLE10939), a C16th house that sits within a moat.  The moated site, along with formal gardens, fishponds and village earthworks, is a Scheduled Monument (National Heritage List Entry No. 1011458).

As a fun Friday afternoon activity I think I’ll go through a book I’ve just bought (another HER officer recommended it to me).  It’s called ‘Actions Stations: Military airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands’, by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny.  We’ve been trying to put World War I sites onto the HER in advance of the First World War Centenary next year and I’m hoping it can add a bit more information.

Short 184 Seaplane

First World War Short 184 seaplane built at the Brush Works, Loughborough

Reaching the end of the day, the book doesn’t contain much First World War information (I’m up to ‘L’ in the gazetteer), but it does have some information about the Brush Works at Loughborough (MLE8697), which built aircraft in both the First and Second World Wars, and Loughborough Meadows (MLE15968), where they test flew their planes. The updated information will be on the Heritage Gateway after my next upload.

As you can see, for an ‘archaeology database’ the HER contains quite a few records that are pretty modern, as well as things like castles and medieval houses.  It certainly makes for an interesting job, learning about all sorts of different things on a daily basis!  You never quite know what the day will hold…

The Usual Unusual Day

At Bristol Temple Meads

It would be incorrect to say that today was unusual, despite being away in Bristol rather than at my desk in Worcester.  This is because it would be hard to define a ‘usual’ day as HER Officer.  I am responsible for maintaining and developing Worcester City’s Historic Environment Record (#WorCityHER), and very few days are ever the same.  From the more mundane data entry, through to organising events within the local community, it’s certainly a rich and varied tapestry.

My Day of Archaeology began with a fairly uneventful train journey, during which I checked my emails and my Twitter account, remembering to tweet my support for #DayofArch.  The Bristol HER was hosting our regular Local Engagement group meeting today, which is always a really inspiring catch-up with fellow HER Officers and English Heritage, and as ever I left buzzing with ideas.  The main focus of today was trying to establish the longer term aspirations of the group and where we want to go with it all.  We were all fired up with ideas and further fuelled by a fascinating discussion about the use of smart phones to get  people sharing information about their own areas.

Comfrey growing at the WYAC Allotment – a great natural fertiliser

A regular part of the group’s catch-up is sharing what we’ve  been doing in our own HERs.  Projects that the group members have been working on include Bristol HER’s fantastic ‘Know Your Place’ and South Gloucestershire HER’s work with local communities via a soon-to-be launched Ning social media site.  I was able to report back on a number of projects that we in Worcester have in the pipeline, including a bid to reinterpret a scheduled Civil War Fort and involvement with Worcestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club (www.wyac.co.uk & @WorcsYAC).  The club have been working on the Lansdowne Allotment Project (#WYACAllotment), undertaking training excavation, recording finds and working towards growing a variety of historic crops using traditional methods.  And tweeting whilst we do so!

A day in the life of a HERO (Historic Environment Records Officer).

The day is nearly over, but it’s better late than never!

I got into the office about 9.30 this morning, made myself a cup of coffee as my computer took it’s usual ten minutes to turn on, and starting putting together a list of Industrial Heritage sites for each District within the County.  I sent these to a colleague who is organising a conference on Industrial Heritage, and I need him to select which sites he would like me to create a map for in the conference booklet. Having been on holiday last week, I still had to catch up with emails and respond to people.

I spent most of the morning working on a project to develop Local Lists, which involves working with District Councils and Local Groups, and is funded by English Heritage. One of the local history societies I am working with needed some information on archaeological sites in their local area. Most local lists focus only on historic buildings, but one of the aims of my project is to encourage people to appreciate the historic environment in their local area as a whole, this includes archaeological sites, monuments and even landscapes. Local Lists are exciting, because they allow local communities to decide what parts of their local heritage are important to them. While the list doesn’t provide any statutory protection, it will offer these sites some protection via planning, and what I think is most important, it will promote local heritage. Using the HER database and GIS mapping, I was able to recommend a crop mark complex of ring-ditches, which are likely  to date to the Bronze Age, based on excavation results of a nearby field. The excavation had also produced a number of late Iron Age and Roman finds. It’s always interesting to look at the modern Ordnance Survey maps and compare them to the 1st Edition maps, and you can easily get distracted from what you were mean to be doing!

At twelve o’clock, as per usual, the IT network crashed while some mysterious back-up took place and my map project crashed. I made another cup of coffee and chatted to some colleagues about how the impeding government cuts and impact of Big Society could potentially mean that we a. may loose no desks and b. may loose our library in order to save space. I decide that I can live with both these things, if the alternative means loosing my job. Before lunch I start reading the Draft National Planning Policy Framework, which outlines some of the most major reforms to the Planning system in a generation. It will take me a while to read it properly and form my thoughts to respond to the consultation.

After lunch, I begin to put together a scheme of work for a post-grad who will be volunteering with me next week. I then spend the rest of the afternoon writing up case studies carried out for the Local List project to date, as English Heritage need to include them in the guidance document on local lists; I probably can’t say any more about it at this stage.

All-in-all, today has been relatively calm and not terribly exciting, but sometimes that’s what you want on a Friday. Next week will no doubt be the total opposite, as I will be furiously trying to complete a my thematic survey of windmills, which covered the entire county. Unfortunately, all the fun work of surveying is over, and I will have to start making some recommendations for how to best manage and conserve the windmills and sites of windmills. I’m finishing the day with yet another cup of coffee, and writing a long ‘to-do’ list for things I need to achieve on Monday.

Day in the life of a HERO

My name is Helen Wells and I’m the Historic Environment Record Officer (HERO) at Leicestershire County Council.  There are archaeologists here in both the Museums and Planning sections – I’m based in the latter.  I do work with the Museums archaeologists though, including Wendy Scott (the Portable Antiquities Scheme officer).  My job is basically to look after a database of all the county’s known archaeological remains and historic buildings.  It’s a fascinating job – I’ve been here since 2004 and I’m still enjoying it!

Before I start describing my day, I thought I’d give a bit of background about how I became a county council archaeologist.  (more…)