We will add to these pages most days during the dig, newest photos at the top, i.e. reverse chronological order.
If you don’t yet know about our dig, click here .
17th August. If you didn’t see last night’s piece on Look North, click here.
The process of measuring and recording continued in trench two.
There was much discussion about what was being uncovered in the test pit.
The general consensus was that there were three boats. The Cuckoo was on the left. The bow of the maintenance boat was top left and the wood on the right was from a third boat. Unfortunately there was no time to dig further because we finish tomorrow. There will be an Open Day on Saturday.
The maintenance boat was being cleared ready for recording.
Many of the planks had been lifted, in order to see the bottom timbers.
The knees – the L-shaped brackets – had been cleared.
You could see the timbers curving in towards the stern of the boat.
16th August. Tom Ingall from Look North (Yorkshire) came today.
He was here all day with the cameraman Ed, and there was a super piece on Look North in the evening.
Meanwhile, digging by children of all ages was underway in the sandpit.
This is an extract from a 1876 map. B shows trench one where the boats are, C denotes trench two.
You can see an arm of the canal that went south to serve the Gas Works. This arm only lasted a few years before being filled in. At A you can see that the canal narrows. We believed that these narrows were made of masonry and would have had slots to fit stop planks, used to seal off the canal for maintenance work.
Today, the digger cleared that area and the stop plank slots were found as expected.
Detailed measurements and drawings were being made at trench two. The pink line at the top is a horizontal datum line from which the levels could be taken.
This is the side of the trench on the left of the previous photo. This had been cleaned really neatly so that you could see the strata of infill very clearly.
The same is true of this section from trench one.
This was the test pit at the top of trench one where the two boats met. It was still far from clear what was part of which boat. Might there even have been a third boat?
This is a detail from the side of the maintenance boat. Note the zig-zag on one of the timbers. This is a scarf joint.
This scarf joint is on our own Cuckoo boat Dawn Rose. Click here for more.
15th August. We had lots of visitors today. Steve Jarman came from to whom we are incredibly grateful for the loan of the digger.
Next were Jane and Karen from Tesco, who had given us lots of water and drinks from their community fund; joined by PC Cooney.
A photographer from the Derbyshire Times captured Andy and Russ …..
….. Richard and Angela …..
….. and some of the bottles that had been found.
The next photographer was from the Yorkshire Post.
In the afternoon we were joined by some children from a local playgroup.
Richard had a lesson in digger driving from Dave.
There were lots of onlookers.
But the serious work of digging continued on the maintenance boat …..
….. the test pit …..
….. and in trench two, which was being tidied up for recording.
14th August. The planks of the second boat had been exposed.
Here’s another view.
After lifting a couple of the planks, it was clear that the timbers at the bottom of the boat ran lengthways. The sides were held in place by large L-shaped metal brackets called knees. You can see one of these knees bottom centre right. It runs across the boat and is anchored to the bottom timbers in three places. It is also held down by thin runners, which also support the planks.
Yesterday’s test pit was causing much debate. There should not be metal knees at the front or back of a Cuckoo boat. Had the two boats been crushed into each other?
The digger had been into trench two to reveal more layers. This had been netted off because it is fairly deep, so there were limits to the number of volunteers allowed.
The other end was still revealing lots of finds and the upper layers were being neatly revealed.
Any ideas as to what this might be?
13th August. This bottle, found today complete with marble, bears the legend: “Hardy & Martin, Kirkby, Staveley”.
This was on top of the side of the second boat, but crumbled off. It is where cross boards could be secured.
This bottle was in the silt under the first boat and was being kept in situ.
The second boat was being cleared gradually.
The test pit ahead of the first boat was yielding lots of finds. It appeared to be tapering in towards the projecting bit of metal.
This shows the whole of the trench one investigation.
12th August. The digger went in first thing and exposed the other side of the second boat. It also started a new test pit north of the main trench.
Work continued on the first boat whilst the digger did more work on the test pit.
We had a visit from the Hunter Archaeological Society.
Meanwhile, in trench two, the steady progress continued.
Sometimes it can be painstaking work with a trowel.
However it’s worth it when a stone like this is revealed.
The new test pit revealed timbers in line with those from the first boat.
This was nearly clear …..
….. and the second boat was getting cleared rapidly as well.
11th August. Whilst the digging may attract much of the attention, someone has to clean and sort out all the finds. (Photo by Mark Walker)
The volunteers were struggling to get through the rock hard clay, so the digger was brought in.
It soon shifted lots of infill leaving a large section of boat exposed.
Here’s a closer look. We believe that it may have been an ice-breaker because of the thick metal plate at the front (right).
The next job was to dig on the other side.
After some hard graft, wood was found.
This was the bottom of the boat, at perfect right angles to the side.
Here’s another view. Tomorrow an area on the left and ahead will be cleared to try to find the other side.
Meanwhile lots more of the first boat had been uncovered.
This is a mystery; could it be an early iron pig?
Work was steaming ahead on the towpath trench
The old fence post might not be of archaeological value, but, if it was just dug up, the careful work of uncovering the site layer by layer would be ruined.
10th August. On the towpath site, the various layers have been exposed down to a line of stones. Possibly the stones were the original wharf level, but constant subsidence (there was lots of mining in this area) meant the towpath had to be built up frequently.
You can see this again on the bottom right.
We have lots of tools and other kit.
You can tell the experienced diggers; they often have their own tools like this long handled shovel.
Meanwhile on the main site, there was some serious digging.
On the right you can see that more of the boat has been exposed.
The other boat seems to have a large piece of metal at the front.
Here’s a closer view.
Our Work Party was also digging, but this time at the remains of the railway bridge – see 7th August below.
They retrieved some scrap iron …..
….. and lots of good stone that can be reused during the restoration.
Some were seriously big. This was 6′ 8″ x 3′ 6″ x 1′ 3″. (Photo by Dave France)
Finally, this is Page 1 of the dig diary into which everyone is encouraged to write comments.
9th August. The weather was certainly a lot better then yesterday, so digging restarted.
It seemed as if the side of the boat had been bulldozed into the clay bank.
Work continued on the towpath site.
There was some surveying going on – note the figure in the undergrowth on the right.
Yesterday’s downpour had left a serious bog in the main assembly area. This was solved by a delivery of straw from Carl Pass of Premier Pitches.
We are very grateful to Carl and to Dingo and Wayne who delivered the straw.
At the end of the afternoon, Andy contemplated the scene …..
….. whilst Phil finished moving the old spoil heap to its new position on the left.
8th August. It was a bit on the damp side, so unfortunately there was no digging today, however the forecast for the rest of the week is good.
7th August. The first day of public digging and the lucky folk who had booked were signing in.
Christine Rawson from Elmet Archaeological Services gave a briefing.
Down at the site, there were three choices.
Some chose to work at the basin site.
It’s great when you make a find.
Some went to clear the canal bank and towpath.
They soon got stuck in.
Some youngsters tried their luck in the sandpit.
By the afternoon real progress was being made.
This is the second boat.
Meanwhile Dave had been using the digger to clear the canal line back towards the Loop Road. The masonry on the right is the towpath side abutment wall of a railway bridge.
This is the same view in 1970. The Great Central Railway Bridge in the distance is now part of the Trans-Pennine Trail.
There were lots of boxes of finds, all of which had to be washed. (Note the palaeolithic tennis ball!)
And we end with today’s quiz. What is this?
5th August. Phil started digging the first trench.
Before too long a crowd had gathered.
No wonder they are looking so pleased, we believe this might be the Cuckoo boat.
Gradually more was exposed.
In this shot, you can see quite a length was soon visible.
We already had some stuff in the finds box.
By now, people were gathering along the fences.
The remains of another boat were also exposed.
We don’t know whether this is part of a Cuckoo or one of the pans used as working boats for maintenance. Note the nail on the left and the metal strip.
By the end of the day you could see clearly what had been exposed.
The evening scene – an eventful day and we don’t start properly until Monday 7th!
4th August. Upon arrival at the site this morning, the bottom of Bellhouse Lane was completely blocked.
Banner Plant was delivering our office/store. The gentleman in the shorts on the left is Andy Robinson, who submitted the bid and is in charge of the project; the gentleman on the right is Henry Day, who has very kindly allowed us to use his field for equipment, parking and camping.
Moments later, the Heras fencing arrived.
Mark and Pete were there to supervise the unloading and help to get it erected.
Back at the field, the sand arrived – more about this in future bulletins.
The Work Party had installed some steps to the office.
Next came the toilets.
So we had gone from this on 3rd …..
….. to this today.
This was the basin site in the 1950s.
This was yesterday (3rd August).
10 a.m. today.
1 p.m. today.