Discover the Heritage of Otley and District A new Thursday morning Heritage course for the WEA

Venue: Otley Courthouse, (Courthouse Street, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 Dates21/09/2017 – 30/11/2017

Fee: £77.00


Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft with dragon carving. Otley.

This course explores the development of Otley and the surrounding area. Most sessions will be indoors but two guided walks/site visits are also envisaged. Topics will include: The Wharfe Valley in Prehistoric and Roman times: prehistoric trackways, Roman roads, prehistoric monuments (e.g. Bull Stone, hut circles on Otley Chevin), Roman settlement in the locality Anglo-Saxon and Domesday Otley – place name evidence, Elmet and Craven, archbishop of York’s estates in Wharfedale, effects of Norman Conquest Medieval Otley – place name evidence, documentary sources, field systems, modern map evidence Tudors and Stuarts – effects of the dissolution of the Monasteries, development of gentry classes, Tudor/Jacobean housing boom Church and chapel; rise of non-conformity, Waterloo Churches, role of churches in social life Transport networks- pack horse routes, turnpikes, railways Victorian and early 20th century Otley – agriculture and industry, tourism, development of commuting

For further details or to enrol online go to the WEA website.


Pudsey and District: People, Resources and Heritage

A new history course starts 25/04/3017

Venue: Parish Church of St James the Great, Pudsey

Time: 10.00 – 12.00

Cemetery lodge, Pudsey

For seven Tuesdays mornings starting on April 25th, 2017 (with a break for half term) I will be teaching another heritage course for the WEA based at the Parish Church of St James the Great, (Galloway Lane, Pudsey, LS28 8JR). The standard fee £48.00 though the course is FREE if you are in receipt of income related benefit (only SEA funded).

Course details

Bankhouse Well, Pudsey

The course considers the interaction between people and landscape. It focuses on how natural resources have been exploited through history and on how this affects the character of the region today.

Topics to be discussed will include:

  • The geological past, Withdrawal of the ice, plant cover and the natural world, the coming of the first people
  • Hunter gatherers, the creation of moorland, uses of the moors in medieval and early modern times
  • Neolithic Revolution, fields from hedgerow to stone walling
  • Water, as an object of devotion, Iron Age burials, spring line settlements, the siting of dams and weirs, water power Canals, drinking water supply, sewage
  • Woodland and its management, woodland clearance, coppicing and standards, wood as a construction material, import of timber, import of exotics for estates and gardens
  • Coal, railways, the Age of Steam
  • Stone: quarrying, houses, Victorian towns

For further details or to book in please in advance visit the WEA website

The Growth of a City: Bradford 1750-1950

A new heritage course in Pudsey

St James Hospital, formerly the workhouse.

St James Hospital, formerly the workhouse.

For seven Tuesdays starting on January 17th 2017 (with a break for half term) I will be teaching another heritage course for the WEA based at the Parish Church of St James the Great, (Galloway Lane, Pudsey, LS28 8JR).The standard fee £48.00 though the course is FREE if you are in receipt of income related benefit (only SEA funded).

Course details

The seven sessions will look at:

  • Bradford Mechanics' Institute

    Bradford Mechanics’ Institute

    Welfare – Poor Law, workhouses charitable foundations, alms-houses

  • Public Health – Slum conditions, cholera outbreaks, hospitals and dispensaries
  • Education – from church school to comprehensive
  • Public utilities – water, gas, electric
  • Law and order
  • Public transport – buses trams


To find out more or to book a please visit the WEA website.


Archaeology at Austhorpe: Results

Last June I posted to say that I was looking forward to working with Austhorpe Primary School on their forthcoming archaeological project. At the time I wondered whether the finds would be similar to those which we found in during a similar project in 2013.


19th and 20th century pottery

It became clear that they weren’t, soon after we began to excavate. . In 2013 we found a large range of finds including what might have been a Roman coin and what were certainly fragments of medieval pottery. In 2016 was found only a few artefacts of 19th and 20th century date. The only way I can think of to explain the contrast is that in 2013 were working at the edge of the school playing filed on what used to be farmland and that in 2016 we were not . The 2013 finds could have come from night soiling – the practice of spreading household waste and farmyard manure onto the fields as fertiliser. This year we were probably working on part of the grounds which had been landscaped during the building of the school. If that’s so, the soil (and the finds in it) could have been brought in from anywhere as bedding for laying the school lawns.

Children working on site

Children working on site

Despite the small number of finds the children all enjoyed themselves and worked very hard during their excavations sessions. For me it proves (if proof were needed) that there’s more to education than learning from books…

To download a pdf of the complete site report click on the link below.

Austhorpe 2016 Site Report v 3



Austhorpe Excavations 2016

Fragments of clay tobacco pipe

Fragments of clay tobacco pipe

It’s nearly three years since I last dug at Austhorpe Primary School on the outskirts of Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). We’ve started on a on a second dig there today. We’ve not done any excavation yet just some classroom teaching and some site preparation. Fieldwork starts in earnest tomorrow. However, I can’t help wondering what we are going to find. Perhaps there’ll be more pipe stems like these from the 2013 excavations.

There are more pictures of finds from the 2013 excavations at Austhorpe on my Facebook page.

Archaeology in Horsforth

At work on the project

At work on the project

Last Monday was spent in digging in the grounds of St Mary’s School Horsforth (West Yorkshire, UK). I was being helped by a group of students from Leeds Trinity University. This gave us a unique opportunity to work one-to-one with the children.  Usually there are only a couple of adults with the class and I find myself running from child to child in an attempt to answer all their questions. Having more people made the whole thing more relaxing and enjoyable for me.

There’s a serious side to all this though. For the pupils it was a chance to learn about how archaeology works in a practical and fun way. For the students it was an opportunity to see how they might be able to incorporate archaeology into their own classrooms when they become fully qualified teachers.

Finds were not many – several bricks, a few pieces of Victorian/y 20th century pottery, and what might be a George V penny. However, it does prove the point that history is right there under your feet.

For the schoolchildren and the students the project is now over but not for me. I still have a site report to write up. I’ll be putting it up here in a few weeks time.



An Expanding Role for Archaeology in Schools

Finds work with KS3

Finds work with KS3

Last week I began work on a project that will help future teachers to make a greater use of archaeology at KS2. The project is the brain child of Bev Forrest of Leeds Trinity University who wanted to give her students the opportunity to see how archaeology could be used in an educational setting. With the help of the staff of St May’s Horsforth (West Yorkshire, UK) we put together a two day programme in which pupils would carry out fieldwork with me and do classroom archaeology activities with the students.

On Thursday I did some of the preparatory work with Years 3 and 4. I explained how archaeology works. “An archaeologist is someone who makes his living out of other people’s rubbish”, I told them. It’s sometimes difficult to make them see the point – or to get them to grasp the idea that broken pieces of pottery may have no monetary value but they have a lot of value in terms of what they can tell us about the past. Difficult that is, until I get the finds handling collection out. I don’t know why shattered crockery produces so much enthusiasm in children but it certainly does. Perhaps this is because it’s something tangible, something real, a genuine connexion to the past not just something in a book or in a video.


So now I’ve got sixty children fired up about archaeology. I’m doing excavation work with them tomorrow. The students from Trinity are going to be doing other archaeological activities. It’s going to be really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it.