Well Site

Date: 8th July 2019
Six of us on site today – Andy and I were joined by Chris Drabble, John Smalley, John Needle (who caught the train from Atherton and walked it from Hindley Station – there’s dedication for you) and later Neil Tattersall from Horwich. Chris brought his drone and before we began work he did a scan of the site (apparently by using software on the ‘Maps Made Easy’ website the images can be stitched together to create an accurate plan (invaluable for my drawing). Other effects can also be achieved, the best one for us being the creation of a 3D model (similar to Lee McStein’s work a couple of year’s ago on Mrs P’s milestone). You can view the model Chris has made here (just have to be patient for it to load though).

Once Chris had finished his scans he got to work with John N, taking down the fill on the edge of the compacted stonework, to see if it continued going down. If we could find the edge we could then open up a section. In the meantime John S and I set up to draw a section across the flagging leading up to the well. John N’s work last time removing the brickwork above the field drains had indicated a second layer of flagging below it so we needed to record the first layer before we removed it.
After we finished the drawing, John S and I set to work removing the brickwork and field drains. This proved our previous assumption correct that there was a second level below the first, constructed of a huge stone slab. Removing some of the stone flagging revealed the levels however were separated by a rough layer of soil, stone and brick, suggesting the second level was a rapid, fairly haphazard construction. Cavities below the large stone flag suggest water overflowing from the well found its way through these to be carried away by the field drains.
While we were doing this, Andy was determined to investigate the the hole discovered in the well on its south east side (to see if our theory was correct that it was the feed for the well). To do this he had to take back a section of the trench in that area so that he had room to work his way down the side of the well without disturbing its construction. With help from Neil, he eventually reached what he was looking for, large stone slabs which looked typical of a stone built culvert of this period.
And sure enough, when some of the stones were removed the culvert was revealed, stone lined with a stone floor. However it still leaves the question where was the culvert leading to – was there a spring in the area, or was it just part of the field drainage system?
Meanwhile work continued on the compacted stonework and after a while the edge of the of it seemed to emerge although this was far from clear. However it now gives us an idea about the size of the section we need to put it.

Date: 2nd July 2019
Another great turn out – with me, Andy and John Ashton we had Chris Drabble, John Smalley, John Needle (too many Johns on one site), Sam McLoughlin and Patrick, – and later Ken Scally (joining us for the first time). Again logistics proved difficult on such a small site with a system of ‘turns’ having to be adopted.
First task was to explore the extent of compacted stonework. To do this, it was decided to join our two trenches up – this was a biggish task but after all we did have the manpower. Meanwhile Sam was tasked with bailing out the foot of water collected in the bottom of the well and cleaning it up, while John N and Ken were given the job of exposing more of the field drains and the area leading up to them.
This revealed that the second drain did not go anywhere, just ending with a blocking stone and beyond that a large flat stone on its edge seeming to define the edge of the well area on that side. The upturned ‘U’ shape style of the field drains date them to the early part of the 19th century (exactly the same as the ones we had come across at our Brimelow Farm excavations last year).
Meanwhile after some effort the two trenches were eventual joined up and a large area of compacted stonework was revealed. It seemed to have a edge to it but the fill beyond had flecks of charcoal and Buckley ware in it so not natural (we would need to section this at some point to get the true picture).
Particularly strange was large flat stone protruding from the stonework at a 45 degree angle. The arrangement of the stones around it and its closeness to the post with the packing stones (less than a metre away) suggest it could be part of a gate jamb.
And yet another post hole was discovered – this time slightly under the flagged entrance.
Andy, demonstrated his skills at half-sectioning, revealing a good portion of the wooden post still in situ but no packing stones. We now have 3 posts/post holes but there doesn’t seem to be any connection at the moment.

Date: 23rd June 2019
Second day of our GM Festival of Archaeology and another good turnout. Four members of the general public joined us today, including Samuel McLoughlin, Dawn Needle and husband John and Neil Tattersall. Adding to this were five members of our group  (with me and Andy were Patrick, Mark Tildesley and for the first time on site Mark Chivers).

To develop our new trench (Test Pit 8), Neil was tasked with extending John Ashton’s sondage and cleaning the stony surface leading up to it. At the other end of the trench (east side next to the fence), Patrick began to explore the area where the various layers had suggested the road had been relayed at various times. This turned out however not to be the case. Loose material continued to be removed to a depth of about 0.5m and, when he eventually reached the bottom, the true reason was revealed. A large diameter plastic pipe emerged, revealing in fact the mains water supply leading up the lane.In the meantime Neil was making a great job at the other end of the trench (west side) revealing more of the compacted stonework. This showed that it had some depth to it and extended to the sondage and beyond (it was strange though that where John had dug there appeared to be no stones).

In our original trench (Test Pit 7) Mark C and John N were tasked with extending  eastwards towards the fence to see if the stone flagging emanating from the well itself, continued towards the lane. This proved to be the case but far less substantial and had a confusing gap in between. Also, as before, the flags seemed to be placed on nothing more substantial than loose earth.
Meanwhile Dawn busied herself cleaning up the area around the field drain in the northwest corner of the trench. Later helped by her husband John, she was able to remove the loose brickwork revealing more of the underlying brickwork. This revealed, strangely  enough, another field drain teeing off at right-angles to the first running under the brickwork.In the meantime Andy and Sam were tasked with extending the trench 0.5m southwards to expose the full extent of the well and, therefore, its construction to be examined. Previously Mark T had washed down the inside walling of the well revealing the quality of its construction. It also revealed a hole on the south east side – could this be the feed for the well (the well doesn’t seem deep enough to have reached the water table so the water must have got in another way).
During the two days of the Festival we had a constant stream of visitors interested in our activities. This gave Patrick and I plenty of opportunity to explain the reasoning behind our assumption that the Toddington Lane was the original Roman route between Wigan and Ribchester and why we had thought there was a well here (on the last day we even had the privilege of meeting Patrick’s mum and misses whose visit was a great demonstration of the wide ranging interest in our discoveries).

Date: 22nd June 2019
Good turn out on our first day of this year’s GM Festival of Archaeology. Five place had been booked on Eventbrite but only four had responded and one of those had cancelled. The remaining three who turn up on the day, Karen Dolan, Fran Haygarth and Heather Cook, had a great time helping us to excavate our site. Joining these from our members, beside myself, were Andy, John Ashton (on this site for first time), Patrick, Chris Drabble and his partner Denise, John Smalley and later Mark Tildesley.
Eleven operatives on site was a logistical challenge, trying to get everybody working on such small site without interference from each other.
Heather and Fran were tasked with troweling the area around the wooden gatepost. Karen was asked to look at the area just behind them where the seeming flag floor ended. Chris was given the task of removing the pile of sandy clay and stones surrounded by the brickwork (this had obviously been just dump there). Meanwhile Denise was asked to clean the area around the culvert. The rest of us concentrated on removing the south west corner of the trench and expanding the it 0.5m southwards. This was to expose more of the well we had discovered the previous week.

The fist discovery of the day was made by John A in Test Pit 8. Taking the trench down to the level reached in Test Pit 7 proved difficult as large stone blocks, seemingly randomly placed, hampered progress. Layers of different materials seemed to bare evidence of relaying of the road on the east side, albeit narrower than before. John also uncovered evidence of a post-hole which seemed to be on line with the wooden post in Test Pit 7.
This post-hole had been punched through the hard surface (difficult to see in the photo) which continued almost all the way across the trench. Only the last 1m on the west side was clean. John was therefore asked to put a sondage in at this point to see if the natural could be detected.
This seemed to appear straight away as a sandy clay material, suggesting that the found the limit of the stony surface.
Meanwhile Heather and Fran had been making a great job of cleaning the area around the wooden post. This revealed the large hole which had been punched through the stony surface enabling the post to be inserted.  This confirmed that the post, however old it was, was in fact a later construction.
At the other end of the trench, Chris had identified a metal pipe under the rubble enclosed by the brickwork, which he left in situ while it was recorded. His partner, Denise, working in the north west corner, showed that the field drain there, was constructed of ‘u’ shaped tiles similar to the ones we had come across last year at Brimelow (the style date them to the early 19th century).
Meanwhile Andy and John S made great progress with the well revealing it’s full extend. After much effort Andy, with the help of Mark, eventually reached the bottom of the well which was about a metre below the surface.
It appeared to be lined at the bottom with flags and had a distinct smell of something like diesel. Apart from a few sherds of Victorian pottery and bits of an iron bucket, no finds came out of it, the exception being a blackened branch-like object stuck to the flag base. Examining the inside wall of well under the lintel, small gap in the stonework gave the suggestion of an overflow perhaps leading to the field drain  (we realised we would have to take up the flags in front of the well if we want to confirm this).
It turned out to be quite a successful day with a lot of archaeology exposed and it seemed that all are volunteers thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Date: 18th June 2019
Five of us on site again today but with Andy replacing Dave North. It was obvious we needed to extend our southern extension once more both in a southerly and easterly direction. This revealed what appeared to be a flag floor leading down to the centre of our brick built feature. Cleaning up this centre we had, what appeared to be a pile of stone and sandy clay overlying substantial brickwork on the north and west side (none of it had been mortared together however).
A section through the material enclosed by the brickwork, revealed bands of sand a clay suggesting barrow loads had seemingly been dump onto the feature. A small sondage at the base of the brickwork on the north side of the feature (bottom left in the photo below) revealed more stonework. It didn’t look connected to the large flat which we think has been randomly placed. Also reveal in the northwest corner of the trench (bottom right in the photo below) was what seemed  to be a field drain running under the brickwork.
On the other side of this trench (in the south west corner), as we clearing the overburden , a large stone lintel began to emerge (although at a strange angle it did not look randomly placed). Keen to determine the depth of the lintel, Andy quickly excavated the fill on its south side, only for it to immediately fill up with water – had we found the actual well itself? On the north side of the lintel, a large flag butted up to it which seemed to be a continuation of the flag floor previously discovered.
This site is now turning into something much bigger than we initially anticipated and obviously we have a lot more work to do to finish it. However our other goal was to locate the old road on the this side of the track and with this in mind a new trench (Test Pit 8) was put in 1.5m south of this trench (2.5m x 0.75 offset by 0.5m further towards the fence). This would also give us more room for our volunteers at our two-day ‘Festival of Archaeology’ which is planned for the weekend.

Date: 17th June 2019
New member Chris Drabble joined myself, John and Patrick today with Dave North coming along later in the morning. First job was to extend our trench 0.5m eastwards towards the fence to see if we could uncover more of the stony surface we had detected last week. The area was peppered with loose stone making it difficult to identify a coherent stony surface but what did come as a surprise was the emergence of an intact wooden post still set in its packing stones. 
To expose more of the feature we extended the trench another 0.5m eastwards. A stony surface did begin to emerge and it was obvious that a hole had been cut into it to place the post with the packing stones.
Remains of a large iron screw fell out of the north side of the post. If this was a gate post then this could have been the fitting for the hinge. With no hole on the opposite side of the post, it would suggest that, if this was a hinge fitting, the gate itself would have been on the north side.

Meanwhile we needed to investigate the brickwork which had begun to emerge on the other side of the trench. Stonework in this area also indicated that we needed to extend on the south side by 0.5m.The brickwork, although not mortared, seemed to have been orderly assembled rather than randomly dumped. A pile of bricks on the far west side of the tench seemed to be sat on a culvert constructed of a curved tile and a line of stones.
The brickwork continued westward beyond the edge of our trench. We therefore decided to extend our trench westward by 0.5m.
This revealed the extent of the brickwork on this side with a ‘pile’ of bricks running a to 90 degrees to the ones over the culvert.

Date: 10th June 2019
Today Andy and I were joined by John Smalley from Ormskirk (originally from Leigh though) and as usual by Patrick in the afternoon. First task was to bale out the site (seems we’ve hit the rainy season) and then widen the trench to 1.25m (on the south side) so that we could investigate the brickwork feature.  Although two bricks were inline, the lack of mortar convinced us the bricks did not for a structure (Patrick assessed the bricks to be late 18th century due to their size and lack of ‘frogging’).
The soil fill between the stone and the east trench wall seemed to have a lot of stones in it. However at a depth of about 0.5m at stony surface was detected which did not extend beyond the the upright stone. With the stone and the brickwork appearing not to be a feature it was decided to remove them and take to whole trench down to the level of the stony surface. This revealed a dark shadow seemingly delineating the edge of the surface of stones (although running at a slight angle to it). Again more brickwork emerged on the west side of the trench but once again, although two bricks were inline, they did not appear to form a structure. Heavy rain quickly curtailed our activities for the day.

We had positioned our trench to hopefully discover the remains of the well (shown on the 1849 map) as well as the the old road – could be the bricks be the remnants of the well). The old map shows it well inside the thick line indicating the road but there is also a broken line – could this be the edge of the road and the thick line just the field boundary?

Date: 3rd June 2019
Andy and I on site early to be joined later by Patrick. We marked out Trench 4 (Test Pit 7 if it’s not the main trench) – i.e. 3 x 0.75 metre at 21 metres from the bottom fence line and 2 metres from the track fence line (the long side perpendicular to the fence line). 
We soon reached the sub-soil – a clean sandy brown layer with nothing in it except one large flat-ish stone seeming standing upright (oh no not another milestone!).
Explore the area around our ‘standing stone’ (which was leaning over slightly) we discovered it seemed associated with some brickwork and a second stone, this time lying flat, just 0.5m away.

Date: 22nd March 2019
Just a quick visit, myself and Patrick, to check out the site – see if there is anything visible on the ground (and take more drone pics). After measuring out where we expected to find the well (21.7m from the bottom field boundary), we could detect a slight depression in the field. Nothing else visible except a thin scatter of large stones, a small mound and, worryingly, a large lump of concrete.