Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book: Coal, cotton and chemicals: the industrial archaeology of Clayton

Clayton has attracted surprisingly little attention from historians, and yet this historic manor has a fascinating heritage.  The medieval heart of the are was focused on Clayton Hall, a moated manor house that originated in the 12th century.  This was set in a sparsely populated rural landscape beyond the eastern fringe of Manchester until the mid 19th century, when Clayton was transfomed into an important industrial area, and developed a reputation as a key centre for the production of chemicals, essential to numerous other industries.  This booklet recounts the rich history of Clayton, and summarises the archaeological excavations carried out in 2010-12 at two of the principal chemical works, together with a textile mill, a colliery and a suite of workers' housing.

This booklet has a lot of details about Clayton's Fire Brick Works and is number 9 in the Greater Manchester's Past Revealed series.  The booklet costs £5.00 and the ISBN is 9781907686146.  A search on the Web brought up no details as to how to get hold of the publication, but it was published by Oxford Archaeology North.

Further information can be found about the Fire Brick Works on the Old Bricks: England website.  Click here, and then scroll down to Williams, Bradford, Manchester.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Book: Uncovering the estate: the archaeology of Dunham Massey

The Dunham Massey Estate forms a significant National Trust property, straddling the borders of Cheshire East and Greater Manchester.  From the medieval period onwards, the estate passed through a succession of influential families, including the de Mascys, the Booths , and latterly the Greys, who shaped the history of Dunham and the wider region.  At the centre of the estate lies the large stately home of Dunham Hall.  This was built in the early 18th century by Sir George Booth, the second Earl of Warrington, and was modified and restored in the early 20th century by William Grey, the ninth Earl of Stamford.  The hall is surrounded by an extensive medieval deer park, which was replanted and redesigned in the 18th century to form a spectacular formal landscape.  This booklet represents the findings of several archaeological excavations and surveys within the deer park and across the wider area, which provide an indight into the rich and complex history of the Dunham Massey Estate.

For the brick-minded, this site is particularly distinguished by having a probable brick clamp kiln (see above).

This booklet is number 10 in the Great Manchester's Past Revealed series.  It costs £5.00 and the ISBN is 9781907686153. A search of the Web does not give the place to buy it from, but it was published by Oxford Archaeology North.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book: Timperley Old Hall - the excavation of the moated platform

Timperley Old Hall moat is one of the oldest inhabited places in Trafford.  Stone tools indicate prehistoric activity in the Neolithic and early Bronze Ages.  The site was re-used again, briefly, in the mid-Saxon period.  From the 13th to the 18th centuries it was the home of the de Timperleigh, de Mascy and Brereton families. It fell into decay during the 18th century and was demolished by 1800.  Between 1989 and 1996 excavations revealed thousands of medieval aretacts, the foundation for the hall, and a timber-lined well.  In 2010, a community archaeology project, led by the South Trafford Archaeological Group, set out to rediscover the ancient manorial site and to make the remains accessible to the general public.  This booklet records the progress of that project as the 21st century inhabitants of Timperley explore the archaeology of the old hall and the history of some of its 
 occupants, making this ancient site available to a wider public.

If it appears on this blog, there is, of course, some brick or tile interest.  Here it appears in the form of some glazed ridge tile! (see above)

This publication is number 8 of the Greater Manchester's Past Revealed series, which comprise a growing collection of full-colour, nicely detailed, booklets about various aspect of archaeology in the area.  The cost is a very reseaonable £5.00.  The ISBN is 095659474-3.  A search on the Web did not find any details of how to obtain this particular booklet, but it was published by the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the Unversity of Salford. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review: The Lion and the Lamb by John Henry Clay

This book review appeared in the Historical Novel Review Issue 65, November 2013:

Britannia in the 4th century is very different to the earlier centuries of Roman occupation. By this time, Roman rule is settled, with the elite deeming themselves Roman but still retaining some of the old tribal ideals. This is where the story of brother and sister Paul and Amanda and Irish Eachna is played out. Paul and Amanda live in the rich villa country of the south, but circumstances see Paul fleeing his home and joining the beleaguered Roman Army in the north. Meanwhile Amanda is witness to the wider politics of late Roman Britain in all its complexity. Eachna is enslaved, cruelly, and escapes southward toward Hadrian’s Wall and another life.

This book very much feels as though the author had ideas of the story he wanted to tell, perhaps showing how different the Late Roman era was from the earlier Empire. So a series of marks need to be hit, such as Christianity, politics, slavery, army, civilians, etc. But this means that the plot rather exceeds the characters. For the most part, the story of the individuals does not really leap off the page, except for a few scenes where it really shines. There are one or two slips in material culture: were there hairbrushes in 4th- century Britain? Would a character view the sky as being velvet? But overall the setting feels authentic, and the plot succeeds in showing that by the 4th century the Empire was becoming unstable, and changing into something very different.

This review can be found online on the Historical Novel Society's website at: