Mrs Pendlebury’s Milestone

Date:17th May 2017

Just the three of us again today but enough to carry out the necessary surveying with the theodolite so that all trenches and test pits could be planned in accurately.   We were also able to carry on opening up test pit 2 which we had started last time. We soon we’re able to show that the stony debris spread across the whole of the trench (with a large lump of tar like material on the east side which proved impossible to remove). Once photographed and recorded we cut through the stony debris and soon came onto a flat surface lying under the stony overburden at a depth of between 35 and 50 cm. It comprised of very similar material to test pit one and obviously a continuation of this surface. For a few weeks now we’ve been digitising the all the various maps so that we can understand the development of the area over time. Adding the accurate survey data enable us to see exactly where our trenches are located relative to the previous road alignments. The result shows quit clearly that the access road to Freezelands Farm in the 18th century started just where our stone wall with its terminal stone is located. It also shows that our test pits are well inside the with of the original road which is shown as almost 13 metres wide at this point. To have a chance of revealing the road edge, which may give us a clue to its construction date, we would need to go much further out with our next test pit.

Date:  9th May 2017

Only three of us this week (Chris can’t make Tuesdays) – anyway we were determined to open up another trench further down the hill to see if the road we had discovered in our first trench had survived elsewhere – and if so, could we determine it’s age. We therefore started with two tests about half way between our first trench and the track leading to Freezelands Farm.Sure enough in our first test pit we came across a surface lying just under the topsoil (about 12 cm down). However it wasn’t made of the same material as the road further up the hill. This one was made of some sort of reused building material reminiscent of broken roof tiles but softer and various colours ranging from light brown to black.The fabric of  pieces were all very similar, i.e. with small quartz inclusions, mainly flat and about 12 mm thick but some were moulded into a curve shape. Many were smooth on one or two sides and some look like they had surface paint – red, green and black.The conclusion is that is a road repair carried out in the 19th century (similar to the road repairs that we can see in the current track with more modern material). We would need to cut through this to see what was left of the original road. However we first decided to open up a second test pit to see if we could find the extent of it. In this trench however we immediately came across the quarry debris similar to what we had been finding in our initial excavations further up the hill.Hopefully we’ll find our road surface surviving underneath – a task for next time.

While Patrick and Andy where digging the test pits, I went back to our first trench to see if I could find the bottom of our ‘milestone’ and get a section drawing of the wall. I managed to establish the cut which had been made through the road for the upright stone but still couldn’t get to the bottom of it.What is significant however, is that it seems like the cut did not go beyond the wall. It is as if the wall had been built first then the hole dug for the end stone (without disturbing the foundation on which it was built i.e. the road). If this is the case, the the road at this point survives to quite a depth (which very similar to how Roman roads were constructed – it isn’t proof but doesn’t disprove it either and bodes well for further investigations).

Date: 4th May 2017

Back to our usual four today (myself, Andy, Patrick and Chris) and couple of significant developments. Firstly we’ve come across an estate map of the area dating to the late 18th century which shows Riley Lane and Meadow Pit Lane as proposed new roads. This proves that Toddington Lane was the original main road towards Blackrod and Adlington. It also shows a track leading off across Great Stone Pit Hey towards Freezelands, a farm just a few hundred yards to the northeast of Toddingtons. This however was not in the place where it is now but further up the hill roughly where we are digging. Could our gateway be the entrance to this rack? (Patrick was already question why the current track didn’t taken the shortest route across the field – perhaps it had to be moved to its current location to avoid the quarrying operations).

Secondly, as we cut through the rubble to establish a section to show the band of dark soil, we noticed the stones were different than the general sandstone blocks which defines the general rubble.These stones directly under the soil band were pale blueish in colour and smoothed on top. It was obvious that this was another surface and, in fact, was what the stone wall was built on. With a bit of effort (due to the depth of the trench) we extended the trench eastward to see if the stone surface extended beyond the area of the stone wall. Sure enough the stone surface was seen to continue as far as our trench would extend.The only explanation for this surface is that it is the road surface shown on the 1849 map – proving the 19th map makers were correct when they showed that Toddington Lane as a broad road (broad enough to be Roman). The next question is – is it Roman? The only way to answer this would be to open up a larger section to see if it was a typical Roman road section with ditches on each side. It seemed obvious we couldn’t achieve this in this trench (without mechanical help anyway) but perhaps it was possible further down the field where the slope is more gentle. This we would have to leave til our next visit.

Date: 20th April 2017

No Chris to day but Mark brought his metal detector to check out the spoil heap (needless to say he didn’t find anything). We started off by measuring in the position of the stone and the surrounding features so that we could draw an accurate plan. However we were distracted by Mrs Pendlebury who wanted to discuss our findings with her. We presented her with the 1893 OS map which has the bridge over old colliery railway line which ran through the quarry at the top of the hill. Mrs Pendlebury remembers it well and reminisced about playing in the quarry as a child. It was only filled in 40 years ago when the bridge was removed (there is nothing to indicate our stone feature which is located roughly where the n of Lane is). However we also showed her an overlay of the 1849 map which clearly shows the quarry further down the hill. This is right where our stone and wall is located and therefore it seems quite possible that the wall is associated with the quarrying activity. Maybe it was there to stop people falling into the quarry. When we finally got back to digging, we discovered that the wall was built on top of stone debris. This suggest that it was built part way through the quarrying operations. The whole area must have been back filled and grassed over as the operations moved up hill (Mrs Pendlebury remembers nothing of it). Looking more closely at the maps, we notice that the Lane is on slightly different alignment and much wider than the present day track. This could be cartographers licence, but the width would fit with the Roman road theory. Investigating further just here may not prove fruitful as the whole area will have been disturbed by quarrying. It is suggested there that a trench further down the hill would be better near where the well is shown.

Date: 13th April 2017

Same team as last week but this time joined with Mark and his help in opening up the excavation around the stone was much appreciated. As we extended our trench we began to appreciate the delicate nature of the stone as bits of it became loose and drop off. It was obvious we needed to retain a bulk of earth against the north face to prevent the whole of the top section from breaking away.  As we extended the trench to the south, large stone blocks started to appear which seem to butt up against the stone on the south side of it, and thus, the true nature of the stone began to become clear. It seems quite obvious that what we have is the foundations of a dry stone wall and that the stone itself is the terminal end of it.Stone debris completely covers the wall suggesting it was robbed of its stone some time ago (well before living memory anyway). Dating evidence from the small selection of pottery suggests 19th century although we did get a piece that looks like it comes from the Tudor period.On the east side we could identify a thick band of soil butting up to the blocks indicating that the wall must have stood in use in the open for some time before being abandoned.

Date: 7th April 2017

This, our second visit to the site, consisted of a small team of excavators, Andy, Christine and myself – to be joined later by Patrick. Our intention was to give it a closer inspection and perhaps prepare the site for a larger excavation at a later date. On our first visit, we had established that only a small section protruded above ground,  but the larger broken-off piece lay close by. It wasn’t clear at first which part of the stone the broken-off top section had come from. However on closer inspection we were able to match up the offsets on both pieces. We were also keen to see the underside of the broken-off section to see if there had been an inscription although none had been reported (if it was a milestone one would have been expected). When we turned the stone over however it was apparent that the surface was quite rough suggesting that it hadn’t even been dressed.

Our first job was to clear away the vegetation (main prickle gorse) including a large piece which was growing out of the cracks it the stone. It was obvious that the stone had suffered badly from the roots and also frost damage which had produced deep vertical cracks in it. The ground surrounding the stone consisted of course stone rubble and there was no obvious cut for the stone.As we dug around the stone in-situ, the size of it become much clearer. It was obvious that its original size had been much thicker. It seems likely that sections had broken away from both front and back, leave what was once a 30 cm thick stone, with only a 10 cm wide section sticking out of the ground.The ground on the road side of the stone appeared to be soft with little stone in it. This was contrasted on the other side with consisted purely of stone rubble fill.With no sign of the bottom on either side, it was obvious we would need to open up a much wider area.