Richard Sanderson gave a talk to a packed Cartmel village hall on the history and future of Backbarrow Ironworks. Richard talked about the long history of iron production in the area, using bloomeries. He then explained the important history of Backbarrow ironworks, described by Historic England as “…the best illustration nationally of iron-smelting technology development from the early 18thto the 20thcentury.” John Wilkinson’s father, Isaac, moved to Backbarrow in the 1720s and pioneered new metallurgical processes and John will have learned from him.
At most, 18 people worked there and the last blast was in 1964. The metal was taken away for scrap and the trustees are now attempting to preserve and conserve the site for the future. Richard illustrated his talk with photographs of the site when it was in use and the remnants that are spread around the site.
The trustees are working with many bodies, including Historic England, and would like further support from industries and local history societies. They would like to hear from anyone who has memories of the ironworks and hope to provide conducted tours of the site in the near future.
Louise Martin, the Cultural Heritage Officer for the Headlands to Headspace initiative within the Morecambe Bay Partnership, was our September speaker. Louise presented examples of the recent archeological work; Barrow’s Military History on Walney Island, Gleaston Castle, three sites on Birkrigg Common, Hampsfell Hospice and Kirkland Tower, two sites at Jenny Barrows Point, and Warton Craggs on the south shore of the Bay. For each site available documentary evidence had been brought together and detailed recording carried out using ground survey, aerial photography using drones and geophysical surveys. One use of the data was to create dramatic 3D images. An archeological dig had been carried out at Jenny Brown’’s point. Conservation assessments were carried out and necessary restoration work identified. The projects were often carried out in partnership with Universities and all involved volunteers. Training was a key element in all the projects. The report for all the projects would be available on line.
The Walney sites included pillboxes, searchlight emplacements and gun battery foundations. At Gleaston Castle the surveys had shown an earlier tower near the thirteenth century manorial buildings, and the location of enclosing walls. The Birkrigg work had involved three sites on the Common. A major task had involved bracken removal both to reveal and protect the stone circles protect: 40 ton bags of bracken were removed in 2015. At Appleby Slack a small living enclosure and a larger stock enclosure had been identified. Documentary evidence and old photographs had been brought together for Hampsfell Hospice and Kirkhead Tower and condition assessments carried out. The chimney at Jenny Brown’s Point was shown to be associated with a calcining furnace linked to possible copper mining. A large embankment running 2km into the Bay was the remnants of a failed land restoration scheme. LIDAR had been used at Warton Craggs to clearly show the three series of remparts whish are masked by trees. They are probably hill top enclosures rather than a hill fort.
Kevin Grice gave an entertaining and informative talk on a relatively hidden aspect of our local history. It seems that the Dad’s army of WW2 was not the first time that Volunteer Forces had been used in military history.
A number of events in the mid nineteenth century including the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the limited effectiveness of the Crimean War, and an assassination attempt on the life of Napoleon the Third in 1858 which involved a grenade made in Birmingham all raised fears of a possible French invasion in 1859. Thus RVC’s ( Rifle Volunteer Corps) were formed all over the country with Lancashire over the Sands and Kendal being no exceptions.
He talked principally about the rifle ranges which were created to fulfil the 24 days a year target practice the RVC’s enlisters were required to carry out. Needless to say these sites were of necessity in relatively isolated areas and amongst those he discussed in detail was the site at Silver How, above Grasmere. Others noted were on Torver Common another at Helsfell, Kendal and one even in Cartmel at Holker Bank in what is today part of the Cistercian Way.
For our first lecture of 2017 the hall was packed to hear Claire Asplin talk about her explorations of Lindale Low Cave. In a light hearted but very informative talk Claire described how as a child she played in the 3 caves that were situated on her family’s land, making her own cave painting which baffled the archaeologists at a later date. Claire eventually worked with the archaeologists in the caves.
Claire explained how Lindale Low cave proved to be very important in showing that people were living in the north at the last ice age which went against the academic argument of the time. Although other caves, including Kirkhead cave, had artifacts dating back to the ice age, the flints found below the stalagmite floor laid down 9000 years before present in Lindale Low proved the late Chris Salisbury and his colleagues were correct in their belief that people were here.
Claire illustrated her talk with photographs and diagrams of the caves and photographs and drawings of the artefacts found and answered many audience questions.
At our March meeting Ian Boyle told us about his involvement with the R2R project recording the archaeology of the Duddon Valley. The Duddon Valley Local History Group and the Lake District National Park Authority Archaeology Unit worked together on the Reservoirs to Ring Cairns (R2R) Project, a four year project recording human impact on the landscape. An area of 75 square kilometres was surveyed by 4 teams, each comprising 6 to 8 people, who went out 50 weeks each year for 4 years. They recorded many previously unrecorded, interesting features relating to agriculture, industry and human habitation. They identified several longhouse sites probably dating to the Viking era. Excavation of a ring cairn produced evidence showing humans have occupied the valley since about 2500BC. They added 1679 sites to the valley’s previously known 343 sites recorded on Cumbria’s Historic Environment Record. The lecture was enhanced by stunning pictures of the valley and the features.