14 May 2011

Excavations in Broseley

For the last couple of weeks we have been excavating in Broseley, Shropshire. This early industrial town, in the hinterland of the Ironbridge Gorge, was the scene of extensive coal mining from the late 1500s onwards; later - as part of a wider group of settlements including Jackfield and Coalford - it developed a specialised ceramic industry, focusing in particular on the manufacture of clay tobacco pipes.

Here indeed is Kate having discovered a deposit containing numerous clay pipes, which appear to have been dumped here during the life of one of the later coal mines on the site. There seem to be two broad phases of mining. The most recent is this 19th century phase, with relatively large scale extraction of coal, ironstone and clay; the clay has been spread across the site and effectively seals a much earlier layer of mining activity. This seems to date to the 17th and early 18th centuries and was quite intensive in places.

Interestingly, as well as numerous tips of pottery and other artefacts, we have found a few ephemeral traces of buildings and structures associated with this earlier phase. The photo below shows one of those: probably a lean-to against one of the mining spoil heaps incorporating a small domestic hearth. This may have been a small 'squatter cottage' or more likely a pit-head shelter.

We have so far completed about two-thirds of our excavation, and finish next week. We will be offering a public tour on Tuesday 17th May at 6.00pm - so if you are interested do please come along!

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