Oakwell Hall at Birstall (West Yorkshire, UK) is noted as one of the finest surviving examples of Tudor gentry housing in the region. Fewer people know that under the grounds of the present house there is evidence for a settlement going back at least another three hundred years.
This week as part of its programme of summer events Oakwell are offering families the opportunity to come along and work on a real archaeological dig to see if they can uncover more evidence of the hidden history of the site. We’ve opened a small trench in the garden to the west of the house and families from all over the region have been helping use explore Oakwell’s past.
We have found no medieval features yet but we’ve dug up a whole load of Victorian pottery and a single piece of clay tobacco pipe stem. Finding only one is realy a bit odd. When they broke, they split into dozens of little pieces. You’d think if we found one, we’d find lots more, but that’s not the way it was today.
Equally odd is the large amount of slag which we’ve found. This is one of the waste products of making iron, but there’s no furnace on the site, so where has it all come from?
Maybe we’ll find out the answers later in the week. I’m doing something different tomorrow: the staff from the Hall have asked me to look at something they’ve discovered in the grounds. But we’ll be back digging in front of the house on Thursday and Friday. Why not bring the family along and join us? Remember no-one’s too young (or too old!) to have ago…