Good Foundations

I stopped by the Outer Friary carpark yesterday and hovered around until one of the archaeologists was near enough to pounce on (not literally, there was a metal fence between us). He very kindly explained that they thought they’d found a victorian house, but that they would keep looking in case any evidence of earlier activity had survived e.g. field boundaries. One thing he did mention that I thought was fantastic was how people passing by were offering their interpretations and anecdotes – one chap apparently swore that he remembered buying records out of the cellar you can see on Dave Gallagher’s photo below (which he has very kindly said I can use!).

Hope the hi-vis jacket is waterproof! Photo by Dave Gallagher

There are more of Dave’s photos on the ‘You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs if………’ Facebook group, accompanied by some interesting discussions about what the dig has revealed.

Whether people have read about the dig on Lichfield Live, seen Annette Rubery’s great post, been made aware of what’s going on thanks to Brownhillsbob’s blog, have joined in the discussion on Facebook, or have just stopped by in the street to wonder what’s going on I think its great that we’ve all had the opportunity to see this. Of course with archaeology we all want exciting things to be discovered, but even if the archaeologists don’t turn up anything that they consider ‘significant’,  it’s allowed people to witness a dig (that isn’t on Time Team) and got people interested in what’s going on around them, which is never a bad thing. Plus it’s given us all something to talk about other than the weather….

Edit 14/5/2012

Walking past on Saturday I noticed this brick on the side of the excavations. I have found a reference to a ‘Mr Roberts’ brickyard at Streethay, near Lichfield’, in a book from 1869 (Burton on Trent: Its Water And Its Breweries by William Molyneux) which may be where this brick was made. (Mr J Roberts from Streethay also won second prize for his pony at the annual show of The Staffordshire Agricultural Society in 1867!) According to the pastscape record there was a post-medieval brickworks, including a yard and a claypit, at the helpfully named ‘Brickyard Farm’ at Streethay.  The brickworks and the associated pits show up brilliantly on the 1883 OS map, sitting near to the canal, inbetween Bearshay and Hilliards Cross.

I think bricks are underestimated so I think I’m going to do a post in honour of the not so humble brick.

A local brick

 
 

Update: 28 May 2012

The dig has been completed and the trenches have been filled in. There’s a short post here from Lichfield District council, who expect a full report to be available in three to six months.

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What lies beneath Lichfield?

A very quick post to say that there is an archaeological investigation taking place at the Friary Outer car park. You can read a little more here at the project redevelopment website http://www2.lichfielddc.gov.uk/friaryouter/2012/05/02/friary-outer-archaeology-investigations/. It says they will be posting updates should anything be found.

I passed by last night and the dig has revealed what looks like the foundations of at least one building, including steps, a cellar and what could be a tiled floor.* I’m having a look at some old maps to see what used to occupy that site.

Unfortunately & unusally for me I didn’t have my camera or even my phone with me to take a photo. I’ll try and get one later but if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare on this dull bank holiday Monday, go and have a look and see it for yourself before it’s hidden from view once more. It’s intriguing to think how much history must lie beneath us, revealed to us from time to time by either by accident or design, or even nature (moles are particularly good at this apparently!)

* disclaimer – this is what it looked like to my untrained eyes. It could be something completely different!

Edit: Keep an eye on Annette Rubery’s blog as unlike me, Annette had the good sense to take a camera and will be posting some photos later! It’s here –  http://www.annetterubery.co.uk/

Edit part 2: This of course isn’t the first archaeological investigation in the Sandford St area. The Staffordshire Heritage gateway contains information about the previous discoveries near here for example,  a possible section of the ditch thought to have formed part of Lichfield’s medieval defences, remains of a house dating to around the C14th , tanning pits from the C16th to C17th, a possible post-medieval iron working complex and of course discoveries relating to the Friary complex.

Source:

Staffordshire Historic Environment Record, accessed via the Heritage Gateway

 

Bricks & Water

With traces of snow on the ground, but the sun shining, I headed back to Farewell last weekend.  Following my previous visit, I’d had a look at some old maps and another extremely helpful conversation with BrownhillsBob on the subject of wells. I was hopeful that this time I’d be able to find the site of the well, that gave the place its name.

This description of the well is from ‘A Tale of Fairwell’, set at the priory in 1527 and published in the early 1800s  – ‘Exactly in the centre, the sparkling tide of a large well or rather fountain leapt from a carved stone basin and hurrying hither and thither amidst rich grass floated under an arch in the wall into the pool that supplied the mill.’ Whether there is any element of truth in this description or whether it’s completely imagined, I don’t know!

All I could find is this hollow, which is marked on maps ranging from 1884 to the late 1960s, as a pond. The maps also show a well or spring to the north east marked as ‘Well’ or ‘Fare Well’.

 Just down from this old pond, is a small brook in which there are some big chunks of stone. This brings me onto the next question! What remains of the priory of St Mary, initially founded as a hermitage but shortly afterwards converted into a nunnery?

The priory was dissolved in 1527. It seems that the old nunnery chapel was retained as a church but most of it was rebuilt in 1747 in brick,  leaving only the stone chancel.

The two different parts of the church.

Pat suggested that a nearby wall might contain some of the stone from the earlier building(s).

A brick wall has been built around the church yard, and this too seems to incorporate some older stone?

A archaeological resistivity survey carried out in 1992 located areas of higher resistivity thought to relate to demolition debris from structures associated with the church. Staffordshire Record Office hold the results of the survey which ‘revealed significant archaeological remains relating to the priory, including walls of buildings and the remains of the precinct wall’. I wonder whereabouts?

Until I can get my grubby mitts on a copy of this or any other real evidence, I’ll just have to be content that Farewell is a lovely place to speculate about!