Heritage Bulletin

 Northcliffe Heritage Projection: archaeological survey 2016

Because it is difficult to bring all volunteers together simultaneously I thought it might be helpful if I produced a document explaining the situation, as I see it, of the future archaeological side of the NHP. I'm sorry that it is so late and is so long. I would be grateful if you could email me with your comments and questions. Val will be in touch separately to arrange actual dates and times for planned activities.

The end of 2015: open meeting

I'd like to write a few final words about the public meeting that ended our first 12 months work. It is a pleasure to thank to all those volunteers who were able to attend and to help in various ways. I hope you will all agree that the event was a very considerable success. One of the Bradford University bio-archaeologists was present and was very interested to discuss botany with Jane R. A second archaeologist, who lives in Shipley, couldn't make it on the day but hopes that Tony and I could give her our presentations individually, which we would be happy to do of course. Finally there is a Bradford PhD student who is researching the relationship of industry and the environment in the South Pennines and whom I hope to meet soon. I'm not suggesting that any of these professionals will be of immediate help in our project but I'm sure you'll agree that the more people who know and value Northcliffe the better. Those present will have seen a 3D computer model of Northcliffe which Tony's brother produced, based on LiDAR data. It is truly amazing and shows the surface topography much more believably than any other presentation of the data I have seen before. I'm sure that the model will repay detailed further investigation. I'll come back to this when I discuss 'data interpretation and short report writing'.

Geophysics report

Another hangover from last year is that we have unexpectedly received a final geophysics report from Hannah Brown. It is really quite dense material so I have not immediately sent it out to all volunteers. But if you would like to read it please let me know and I'll happily email a copy to you. (Chris: in view of your starring role in geophysics data gathering I'll print you a hard copy in colour if you like – just this once!)

Excavation – Northcliffe Park

The most important activity this year will be a small excavation in Northcliffe Park. I know some volunteers have wondered why this area has been selected. The first and most important reason is safety. Permission from the landowner (Bradford Council) is contingent on my providing them with an acceptable Health & Safety Assessment. In 'coal pit close' we shall be working on hard, flat, ground which we know from geophysics has been ploughed but not undermined and we shall move cautiously over an identified shaft edge. The GPR data confirms that the shafts are filled and do not contain large voids. There may be more interesting areas, like the 'Golf Club boundary' pits, but I would really feel most apprehensive in working there among spoil tips, and shaft depressions, and on  steeply sloping ground.

The second reason is that the upper Northcliffe Park area has already been examined with every other technique at our disposal. Excavation will provide the opportunity to compare what is actually under the grass with the results of the various surveying methods including AP and geophysics. No other section  of Northcliffe can offer this opportunity. Thirdly, you will all know that no excavation should be undertaken at all without there being definite questions to answer. So what are the questions about this site?

We have assumed that these are shafts down to a coal seam; it would be nice to confirm this by obtaining some coal debris. Geophysics shows that south of the circular features the ploughing marks are very 'sharp' whereas north of the features furrows are 'blurred'. Possibly the blurring is a spread of colliery spoil over the ploughing remains. It would be nice to be able to confirm this. I would also like to know if the shafts are lined with stone or brick. This is most improbable if they were in operation for relatively brief periods, in fact if they were actually lined we'd have to think again. It would be wonderful if we could find some dating evidence such as clay pipe bowls, coins or pottery, but this is highly improbable I'm afraid although you never know. Finally there is a small rescue element to the excavation. Val and I visited the Parks manager who plans, this year, to fill these the depressions with soil. It is probably best to tackle this area before any further conservation work is done.

In a two day session I'd like to de-turf two patches of ground, perhaps 1 * 2m, to define the north and south edges of one of the circular features and examine the sub-soil and shaft fill. The Parks manager, who seems very happy to let us do what we wish, can provide some fencing to identify the area where we are working. I think that it will be better to remove the turf by hand than to use a mini-digger. It is cheaper, gives a cleaner result, and won't leave tracks on wet ground. The situation is not like Time Team where a digger can be continuously in use throughout a full working day.  Does anybody have spades or archaeology trowels they could loan us? Funds are available to buy extra equipment although I should like to reduce FoN expenditure as much as possible.

We need to fix a date for the excavation before the grass starts to grow, but late enough for a severe frost to be less likely. The middle of March seems plausible and if we avoid Easter while retaining our Friday/Saturday split then 18-19 March is one possibility. Val will be in touch over volunteer availability but I'd like Eddie to head up this activity since he conducted a very similar and highly successful excavation on Baildon Moor. Those of us of less robust constitution can work on defining the ploughing marks on the adjacent land. It looks from AP and geophysics that those nearer the road are wider than those in subsequent fields. I should like to confirm this and take some measurements.

Quarry Study

This is simpler. I'd like to take one of the less complex small quarries in the wood adjacent to Northcliffe Park. We can clean up a section of one quarry edge for photography and dig down to find the depth of the original quarry floor. We should undertake a detailed search looking for worked or shaped stone, or any tooling marks on the quarry edge. We should allow two days for this although one day may be sufficient. Again Val will be in touch about actual dates. Originally I assumed we'd undertake this after the Northcliffe Park activity but Tony says that the bluebells are already starting to grow! Ideally I'd like the ground to be snow free and not waterlogged. Perhaps the end of February or very early March would give us such a chance?

Old Spring Wood

Tony has also pointed out that although we did some early training here there are some pits left unsurveyed. It would be sensible then to designate one day to re-visit OSW so we need to agree a date. The mud in the wood is spectacular at the best of times; might we be alright in 5-6 weeks? Recently Tony and I have been writing reports about the individual sites we have visited: the S-shaped Path, the Northcliffe Dike etc. The possession of these provisional reports will make the compilation of a final publication easier. I wondered if any other people in the survey group than Tony or myself would like to experience the joy of co/leading the group working here and putting disparate sources of information together as a coherent whole to produce a short OSW report? I would supply survey data and copies of any maps or LiDAR images showing OSW. There may be historical information as well. Do I hear any volunteers to be co/group leader and official scribes for this activity?

High Bank Lane Field – Noon Nick

Jim, Maggie and other volunteers wanted to re-visit High Bank Lane field. Maggie has kindly spoken to the landowner, Mr Jowett, who is happy about this. Could those interested give Val their names and suggest some dates. I assume that as no bluebells are involved this activity could be later than the Northcliffe Park excavation; early April is one possibility. Again I think this might again be a good opportunity for some people, other than Tony or me, to co/lead the group, decide on the work, and write a short report. Anybody up for this? Please let Val know.

Dungeon Wood

After Tony's scholarly exposition on Saturday I'm now not totally clear where Dungeon Wood actually is! It would be sensible to re-visit the wood between the Dike and the road on Northcliffe Golf Club land and check that we have all the pits that show on LiDAR. I assume that bluebells are not an issue here so this could also be a later activity.

Unsurveyed Golf Course Boundary Pits

There is clearly more work to do south of the Dike in this general area which we can discuss in detail later. I'd like to see if there is evidence on the ground at Dike level for the collapsed drifts that seem to show on LiDAR. High above at boundary path level there may be unsurveyed pits. I think we should allow a day for this work even if several different small projects are subsumed within this title.

Data interpretation and short report writing

There is a huge amount of work we need to do on the material we have before we can regard it as definitive. Imagine that we were meeting to agree a short report on the Northcliffe Gold Course boundary pits. I imagine we would have Tony's historical data available, and also his 3D model and maps. We should also have access to the images that Chris and I took, and the survey data. Are there pits shown on LiDAR which we didn't identify on the ground? Are there drainage soughs shown on LiDAR that we missed completely? Do the historical sources reveal anything about ownership or date? My feeling is that we would need a two hour discussion and we might then designate some volunteers to return to the site to 'check' on disputed facts. We probably cannot (and don’t need) to record every hole but writing a short report on the area will be helpful.

A subsequent meeting might deal with 'ploughing marks in Northcliffe' in exactly the same way, and so on. My feeling is that throughout the late spring and summer we should have a series of 'report sessions' every 2-3 weeks. It would be quite an imposition for anyone to have to attend every meeting but with the number of volunteers we have this should not be necessary. In any case some might wish to contribute by email. It would be helpful to agree a series of topics, dates (?Friday and Saturday afternoons) and locations in advance. I'd be happy to offer a place to meet, if you don't feel I am too far away.

Final Publication

Those of you who were at the recent meeting will know that I am already thinking of the end of the NHP with eventual publication. I accept that there never will be an end to what we can learn about the area and I hope that others will build on our work in the future, just as I have been very influenced by what I learned in an earlier project on Baildon Moor. Publication of our results should result in at least three outcomes:
 1 An archive of all our data, images, maps and reports.
 2 A simple booklet and/or web-page which those unfamiliar with Northcliffe and its history can take with them on exploratory walks.
 3 An academic publication in a journal such as the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal or The Bradford Antiquarian.
I'm really aiming to complete field work in 2106 and the publication process by the summer of 2107. Does this seem reasonable?


It would be helpful if we could agree dates and times for the following activities:

Northcliffe Park Excavation: 2 days
Quarry Study: allow 2 days
Old Spring Wood: allow 1 day – leader and report writer needed
Noon Nick re-visit: allow 1 day – leader and report writer needed
Dungeon Wood  re-visit: allow 1 day
'Golf Course boundary pits' re-visit: allow 1 day

Data interpretation and short report writing: we need dates & accommodation perhaps at 2-3 week intervals in the May-September period.