15 August 2012

Stirchley Furnaces revisited (II)

Day two of our second phase of excavations started well. Sohail and Nigel were able to clean up another of the internal walls of the Engine House - a slightly detached extension of Trench 5.

On the basis of the levels we took last year, these bits of brickwork are actually the upper half-metre or so of buildings that survive to a much greater depth beneath later tipping. We estimate that most of the ironworks structures will survive to a full height of around two metres - and some much more substantial than that. As usual, all of our Telford Town Park record photographs have the additional 'Border Terrier' scale provided by Moss.

Caroline and Sohail began the drawing of Trench 5.

Meanwhile, in Trench 6, we faced a typical archaeological problem - the interesting bit was under the spoil heap! So the first part of the morning was spent moving yesterday's spoil heap and extending the trench to confirm our identification of the walls here as being part of the other set of furnaces.

Unfortunately, for the first time ever in all of our Town Park excavations, it began to rain! Nevertheless the team heroically carried on extending the trench, despite the onset of an increasingly heavy downpour.

Luckily I had a tarpaulin in the car, so it was possible to rig up a makeshift 'site hut'.

Unfortunately the rain persisted, and after a very soggy lunch, we decided to abandon the site. Trench 6 was simply too dangerous, and - understandably - nobody was particularly keen to record the rest of the site in heavy rain which had soaked us all to the skin.

I was able to take an interim record photograph of Trench 6 - if you compare this with yesterday's view of the trench you can see just how much earth was shifted today by our magnificent volunteers. I am pretty convinced that this stonework is part of the second pair of furnaces.

The apparent gap in the wall is probably a consequence of post-1880s modifications. It is not wide enough to be an original blowing arch, and it is in the wrong location for a communication passage (assuming both banks of furnaces were more-or-less parallel). Of course this stonework is still at least a metre or so above the original 1820s ground level!

We still need to clean this up properly and record both trenches. However we have another half-day next Tuesday and I am sure we can do it.

Once again many many thanks to all of our volunteers for remaining cheerful, enthusiastic and hard-working in such appalling conditions.

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