ELHAS News - June 2019

Meeting Report June 2019

The June meeting brought us Oliver Cooper who was originally intended to be our guest speaker in March. The talk he brought us, entitled "Seventeen Years of Archaeological Investigations at Thorpe Park" proved to be well worth the wait. Oliver is Project Manager for Northern Archaeological Associates based in Barnard Castle. NAA is a commercial organisation, working mainly in the North East, which liaises with planning departments when new developments are in the pipeline. NAA advises on the implications of any development, and carries out any necessary excavations. Oliver has been with the company for 20 years, the last five or six working on the Thorpe Park site.

Oliver began his talk by explaining that the site was of mixed pasture and was characterised by several earthworks and lumps and bumps in the ground, suggesting possible archaeological features. He surprised us by saying that flints found there proved to be approx 8,000 years old showing evidence that the area had been settled much longer than we had thought. He talked us through the technical methods used on site to determine the age of the artefacts found, and explained that they had found evidence of an iron age roundhouse and the Grims Ditch earthworks which could be bronze age, iron age or Anglo Saxon. He told us that in the absence of finds which could be carbon dated, it was possible to date the area by examining the layers of exposed soil. This was done by Luminescence dating, which refers to a group of methods of determining how long ago mineral grains were last exposed to sunlight or sufficient heating.

We were fascinated to hear that evidence of a Roman villa had been found along with pottery and evidence of ovens or kilns. As Oliver had brought some finds with him we were able to see for ourselves the kind of things which had been unearthed.

He also spoke at length about Lazencroft Pottery which has been excavated in recent years and proven to be a very significant find. Before this excavation it was thought that most medieval slipware had been produced in Staffordshire. But the finds at Lazencroft proved that pottery of this kind was made in large quantities in Yorkshire, leading to speculation that the Staffordshire potters actually came over to Austhorpe. Several kilns have also been referred to in documentation, revealing that Lazencroft was a pottery of some significance.

Oliver also described evidence found of coal mining which he said was an important part of the development of the area, dating back to Roman times. The site is criss-crossed by pits from bell pits to deep pits, the deepest of which was described by the coal board as 70 metres deep. Evidence shows that the area was mined until the 1890's.

Oliver ended his talk with information and images of the No 1 Shell Filling factory at Barnbow during World War One. This is a subject close to our hearts and we were delighted to see evidence of the factory displayed and be reminded of the contribution and sacrifices made by the employees during World War One.

The talk proved to be interesting and informative and we thoroughly appreciated Oliver's friendly and easy going manner.

Our next meeting on Monday 30th September 2019 will be an illustrated talk by Derek Martin "Pedestriennes: Nineteenth Century Female Athletes".

Photos by kind permission of Oliver Cooper.
1. Excavation at Grime's Ditch
2. Roman Altar excavated at Austhorpe
3. !9th Century coal mining showing pit props.
4. Hook and chain from Barnbow Shell Filling Factory.