The Heritage of The Aire Valley, Shipley, Bingley and Baildon, 1066-2000: New Course starting October 3rd 2014

The Leeds-Liverpool canal at Shipley

The Leeds-Liverpool canal at Shipley

From October I am tutoring a new course for the WEA in Shipley. It focuses on the development of three distinct communities – Shipley, Bingley and Baildon. It uses a variety of historical and archaeological sources to demonstrate how the past has shaped the present and given that part of the Aire Valley the character it has.

The course will run on seven successive Friday morning starting on the 3rd of October 2014 and is based at the Kirkgate Centre in Shipley. There will be four indoor sessions and three guided walks – one each in Shipley, Bingley and Baildon. Full details are given in the attached flyer.

The course costs £44.10, if you receive certain benefits you may be entitled to a free course.

To book your place contact the WEA through their website or by telephone on 0113 245 3304.



Wells in Clark Spring Wood (3)

Sunday 14th Septemnber 2014

One of the reconstructed wells

One of the reconstructed wells

Today was a day of cleaning up the two wellheads and taking photographs. There are times when recording a site seems to take longer than digging it. After this the area around the two wells was landscaped to present them as attractive features within the woodland. The outflow from the larger well has also been dammed to give a second large sheet of water before flowing on into the beck. All that remains to be done now is to write up a report on the findings: hopefully this will be done in the next couple of weeks.

 Looking to the future

This all makes it sound like all the archaeological work is soon to be wrapped up and parcelled away. “Job done”, as they say. However, life’s never quite so simple. There is an immutable law of archaeology that if there’s anything unexpected waiting   to be found, it will always turn up at three o’ clock on the last working day. I can remember one excavation I worked on early in my career when it was the wheel pit with the bottom third of a wooden millwheel in it.

The mystery feature

The mystery feature

Nothing so spectacular in Clark Spring Wood I’m afraid, but the unexpected did happen. Somebody was asked to find a rock to fill a gap in a piece of rebuilt walling. Instead of finding a single loose stone he found a whole row of them set on edge across one of the present channels of the beck. I’ve no idea of what they are for. Perhaps there’s scope for another archaeological project in Clark Spring Wood next year…


Work on site

Work on site

Finally I would like to thank the Churwell Environmental Volunteers for all the hard work which they put into the archaeology project over the past couple of days. Without their efforts none of this could have been accomplished.


Wells in Clark Spring Wood (2)

Saturday’s work

As you might expect, Saturday produced a very muddy day’s work. However we have managed to reveal what remains of the structure of the two well heads. One is fairly well preserved as a stone lined recess with a stone threshold which holds back the water to form a trough. The other, though larger is less well preserved. There is currently no trace of any superstructure only an array of three stone slabs which would have dammed the flow of the water.

A reflection of geology

Both wells were cut into a layer which consisted of stones mixed in with clay. This is probably the local subsoil: we’ll be getting a geologist to look at it tomorrow. If so this is the point where rainwater percolated through the soil and flowed across a layer which it could not penetrate – an ideal place in fact to place a tank in order to catch it.


The function of the two wells is also a bit of a mystery. The smaller one, though very similar to many wells which can be seen by the roadside as you travel around West Yorkshire, is hardly deep enough to get a bucket into. The other as well as being larger, is also deeper. If there were no superstructure, this could perhaps represent the remains of an animal trough.


We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings…



Wells in Clark Spring Wood (1)

Excavations this weekend

One of the wells in Clark Spring Wood

One of the wells in Clark Spring Wood

Clark Spring Wood is a small area of residual woodland in Churwell on the outskirts of Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). Churwell Environmental Volunteers, a local voluntary group, have been working hard there to put in new paths and to provide pond dipping facilities and other amenities for the public to enjoy. While they were carrying out this work they discovered what appear to be two small troughs where springs emerge into the open. Their date is uncertain though I would guess at late 18th/ early 19th century. We are going to have a small excavation there this weekend to see if we can find out one way or the other.

 A confusion of wells and springs

I was asked if the two water features might be the reason that Clark Spring Wood was given its name. Many people think on similar lines. Unfortunately it’s not correct. A spring in this context is not a water source but the new growth that springs up when trees are coppiced (cut down to a stump). Coppicing was a common form of woodland management which enabled a regular harvest of timber to be taken from the woodland. The thin poles which spring up this way could be used for a variety of purposes including the making of broom handles or charcoal.


Oddly enough the adjacent area of Springfield probably does get its name from the fact that a spring of water rises there. It the last century it was dammed to form the millpond for Springfield Mills.

The mill has long gone but the remains of the dam have been converted into an attractive pond in Springfield Park.


And if all that wasn’t complicated enough, there’s the question of where was the spring which gave its name to the township as a whole? (The name means something on the lines of peasants’ well.)Was it the beck which rises at Springfield and runs through Clark Spring Wood? Or a different well? I guess we’ll never know. There are some problems that even archaeology can’t solve.