How to be an archaeologist…

Sara Goodridge – Land of Iron Archaeological Finds Intern

This summer I have been granted the privilege of working with the Heritage Fund‘s Land of Iron Landscape Partnership as an Archaeological Finds Intern, through the Santander Internship Programme at Durham University. The internship has provided a unique opportunity to not only learn all about the inner workings of community archaeology but also to expand my knowledge of the beautiful North York Moors National Park and its industrial heritage.

When the email advertising the post of intern landed in my inbox, I was intrigued, I knew nothing about archaeology other than what I’d seen on the television and in text books but I knew I wanted to learn more. As a student of History rather than Archaeology my knowledge of what the internship would involve was very limited to say the least, despite this I decided to go for it – after all if you don’t try you don’t achieve. However, I felt my desire to learn may not be enough to secure me the position so I turned to the North York Moors National Park website for some much needed research. It is here that my journey began as a volunteer. Having followed the registration process I signed up for the day hoping for a crash course in how to be an archaeologist in time for my intern interview the following week.

I arrived eagerly at a car park in the middle of the moors ready to learn all about archaeological recording. As it turned out the welcome was incredibly friendly and I was expertly guided through a whistle stop tour of archaeological contexts and features. This very first day’s volunteering introduced me to the friendly approach taken by all involved in the Land of Iron Partnership and from that moment on I was hooked. The site of my first ever archaeological experience was at the former Rosedale Railway and inspired the Historian in me to find out more.

Rosedale saw rapid development in the later part of the 19th century due to ironstone mining. By 1861 the Rosedale Railway had been built, with the additional Rosedale East Railway branch completed in 1865, in order to export the iron ore north to Teesside and County Durham. An estimated 11 million tons of iron ore was removed from Rosedale. The opening of the Rosedale Railway way was documented in the Newcastle Journal on the 19 April 1862, and describes the importance of the railway coming to Rosedale;

“The opening of the North Eastern Company’s branch line to Rosedale, by the vice-chairman, George Leeman, Esq., and the directors, took place at Rosedale on Wednesday.  Early in the forenoon a large party arrived by special train from the northy, including the directors of the company and many of the iron masters, and other distinguished persons connected with the great iron trade of cleveland and the district…  After inspecting, with delight and astonishment, the Rosedale Mining Companiy’s magnificent quarries and mines of magnetic ore, the whole party retired to the Crown Inn, Rosedale Abbey, where an excellent dinner awaited them”.
(Extract transcribed by Linda Cummings)

Photo credit; Rosedale Mines and Railway (Hayes and Rutter, 1974)The experience of that volunteering confirmed my desire to learn more about archaeology and made me want to secure the position of intern even more. Luckily my interview for the position was a success! In the meantime I didn’t have to wait long to volunteer again as the Land of Iron community excavation at Combs Wood this summer provided me with the opportunity to not just learn about archaeology from the side of a trench but to actually get in and start digging myself. Over the two week period that the excavation ran I volunteered for a couple of days each week. In these days the knowledge I gained was immense I learned everything from the complexities of measured drawing to the correct use of a trowel. The approach on site, that no question was a silly question, meant that I spent my whole time learning.

Due to my experiences volunteering before my internship had even started I had learned valuable skills and felt ready to take on the finds processing role. Along with my fellow intern Louis we’ve now spent the last five weeks engaging with and learning from the finds that have been discovered across the numerous archaeological sites within the Land of Iron. Louis’s recent blog, The Everyday, the Intriguing and the Odd shows some of the more unique and interesting finds that have crossed our desk so far and is a must read for anyone who wants to find out more about some of these finds.

The industrial heritage of the North York Moors National Park has become a new found fascination for me, in particular the material culture of the Victorians has certainly sparked some interesting conversations between myself and Louis as well as with volunteers during our task days. So much so that I have decided to use the subject for my dissertation when I return to university for my third and final year at Durham in October. The knowledge I’ve gained so far during my time as an intern has been invaluable however it is only the beginning of my research.

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If, like me, you have a desire to learn more about the Land of Iron there is an upcoming Heritage Open Days on 15 September with a walk and talk through the incredible ironstone industry (Grosmont to Esk Valley). For more information and to book tickets visit the National Park website.

In the Zone

Aside

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project area is now considered a Turtle Dove Friendly Zone. These zones form a loose association of areas in England where Operation Turtle Dove is in action. Here’s a link to a recent Operation Turtle Dove blog post with a bit more info on what’s going on across the different zones including ours.

The Everyday, the Intriguing and the Odd

Louis Monntero – Land of Iron Archaeological Finds Intern

This summer I have been granted the privilege of working with the Heritage Fund‘s Land of Iron Landscape Partnership as an Archaeological Finds Intern, through the Santander Internship Programme at Durham University.

My internship deals with the processing of small and bulk finds from the community excavations conducted over the last few years (Combs Wood, Goathland, etc.). I have a range of responsibilities: cleaning, marking, labelling, documenting, and photographing so that the finds are ready for both display and archive with the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum. I am also responsible for leading the training of any volunteers we have for these tasks.

The volunteers during my internship thus far have been fantastic, and I’m always impressed by their dedication towards the project. Contrary to my belief that they would only be interested in the excavation side of archaeology, we have a multitude of volunteers offering their services for just about any task you can imagine.

Post-excavation finds processing can be long work at times, but that’s not to say that it isn’t rewarding, as I have learned first-hand. All the finds from years past end up on the desks of myself and my fellow intern, Sara. Over these past few weeks, we have seen both the every day as well as the more intriguing (and occasionally the odd).

Today, I’d like to share some of my personal favourites with you.

The Everyday

Perhaps some of the most interesting items to come from the excavations have emerged from Goathland Incline.

In order to overcome the steep incline between Beck Hole and Goathland, over which horses were unable to haul locomotives, Whitby and Pickering Railway installed a hydraulic lift. The abandoned reservoir from this system was later used as a a rubbish dump by locals, and it was from here that we’ve had most of our finds, as well as some of the most well-preserved glassware and pottery.

It may not look like much at first glance, but this salt or pepper cellar quickly became one of the things that I became intrigued by. Instead of the presence of a logo or some other feature, embossed upon the base is the word ‘foreign’.

My initial thought was that this was likely for economic purposes, ruling out the label as a means to denote this as a prestige good. The main parallel that this drew for me was with country of origin markings used to impose tariffs (e.g. ‘Made in China’). Perhaps this was from a period which predated a requirement to list the specific country of origin.

The Intriguing

Let me first defend myself in my choice of this item. Those who are familiar with Victorian archaeology will immediately note that this is a poison bottle, which is not that uncommon a find. Poison bottles were primarily green, but they could also be a range of colours from a deep blue like this, to clear, or even a brown. The green was supposed to immediately stand out and warn any would-be drinkers about the contents; however, there were some other safety precautions as well. Embossed upon the side of the bottles are usually some variation of the words ‘NOT TO BE TAKEN’ or ‘POISONOUS’. Should that too be missed, bottles were made to feel poisonous; they characteristically had “ribs”, either vertically or horizontally.

FIND - poison bottle. Copyright NYMNPA.

So why did I pick this item? Well, at Goathland Incline, the reservoir was used as a rubbish pit for some time. As I was sifting through some of the finds, I noted the similarities between the colourful glasswork of the Victorian Era as well as that of the 1900s, when a variety of glasswork known as “carnival glass” increased in popularity. It was surprising to me that such bottle colours became destigmatised in such a short period of time. Indeed, carnival glass, with its bright colours, was often highly sought after, being awarded as prizes at fairs and carnivals, leading to its name.

The Odd

This was probably one of the most bizarre finds that I have come across thus far. The design itself is not a popular one; however, more interesting is the level of detail that was applied in its creation.

Upon closer inspection, the face was found to feature many smaller details such as hair and ears (when viewed from the side), jawline, and the philtrum (the little cleft underneath your nose). The use of colour; blue for the eyes, black for the eyelashes, and red for the cheeks; all further display the thought that went into the design of this object.

Perhaps this find was purchased humorously as an unwanted gift, as it is still largely intact. Perhaps it was thrown out as the individual who purchased it grew out of their previous tastes. I’m hoping to look more into this sort of pottery later on.

All of these finds were simple enough to prepare for archive, as we tend to avoid marking the glassware as well as the glazed pottery, removing an extra step from the process. Nonetheless, we needed to both photograph the profile of this glassware, as well as the base to ensure all of the key features were visually recorded. This was to allow for the creation of a digital archive, so that researchers might be able to remotely access the collection.

Louis at work. Copyright NYMNPA.

Overall, I’m enjoying my time here. I’ve learned new skills and can carry out tasks safely, efficiently, and independently. I’ve been able to handle a range of artefacts with differing properties, and have been taught how to process them. It’s a pleasure to work with the Land of Iron team, and especially with the volunteers and the local community, who always take a friendly interest in what we’re doing.

For more information on the Land of Iron please see our webpages, email us or phone on 01439 772700.

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Short term closure for a good cause

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF ROSEDALE RAILWAY PUBLIC ACCESS ROUTE BETWEEN BLAKEY RIDGE CAR PARK & REEKING GILL
8 JULY – 30 SEPT 2019

Summer is in full swing now and the North York Moors is a great environment to take in a breath of fresh air surrounded by wonderfully diverse and rich landscapes.

In looking at a landscape in the UK it’s always useful to remember that it’s been shaped by people throughout history. Relics of an industrial age in the North York Moors still take visitors by surprise coming across Rosedale Bank Top kilns or the Rosedale East iron and stone kilns; silent majestic structures today overlooking the dale that once roared with the noise of the mining, processing and transporting of local ironstone.

Rosedale Dale Head with railway route and water tower. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rosedale is a highly distinctive landscape; with a bit of understanding it’s possible to trace the influences of the ironstone industry on its shapes. The ironstone ore was found in particularly rich seams at Rosedale, once extracted it was calcined (roasted) on site to purify the ore before being hauled away on the railway network to places such as Teesside. Here it was turned into iron via blast furnaces and used in construction projects across the world.

Rosedale East new mines highlighting the top and bottom trackways to deliver the ironstone into the kilns and to take it away once it has been purified. Photograph courtesy of the Rosedale History Society Archive.

Rosedale kilns and railway wagons, a detail of the process to move the ironstone. Photograph courtesy of the Rosedale History Society Archive.The Rosedale Railway line made mining ironstone at this location both accessible and financially feasible. Today you can still see the line of the railway hugging the hillsides of the dale, which can be traced with the naked eye for up to 16 kms at many points.  Although it has been 90 years since the track closure the Rosedale Railway still retains its allure for visitors to the area, even as nature has reclaimed much of the track-bed area. This natural change in a previously heavily industrialised landscape now long passed its original function has led to a number of issues, including landslips and flooding episodes as wear and tear damage the route due to a lack of maintenance. Soil degradation from so-called desire-lines walked by people have also added to the erosion of nearby ground, further weakening the trackway.

Rosedale East Kilns with Rosedale Railway line in front. The railway fencing has been installed through the Land of Iron LPS. Copyright NYMNPA.

As part of the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership scheme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the David Ross Foundation, we have been hard at work helping to conserve the ironstone heritage and enhance the ecology of the associated landscape. An important part of this is recognising where access for the public can be improved upon so people can experience history in situ. It has been acknowledged for some time that the Rosedale Railway, now an iconic route traversing the original mineral railway route around the head of the dale, was in need of major improvement to maintain its integrity as a public access route.

So the more intrepid local explorers among you may have noticed that the Rosedale Railway route is currently closed from Blakey Ridge car park to Reeking Gill due to temporary construction works. From 8 July until 30 September 2019 this 2km long stretch of the northern end of the Rosedale Railway is undergoing reinforcement to help improve access and drainage capability.

Temporary Open Access Closure Sign

For members of the public the temporary open access closure means taking notice of the signage and barriers. Please keep clear of the works area as there are heavy machines on-site throughout the length of works. Here at the Land of Iron we do appreciate that this may cause temporary frustration for visitors, the summer is the best time to carry out the work before bad weather means machinery could get stuck and sensitive habitats could be damaged – we promise you that it will be well worth it once the works have been complete. The work will ensure long-term stability of the path and improved access for members of the public, including disability access. This will help encourage greater exploration of a hidden landscape gem within the North York Moors and help to ensure that historic features and ecological habitats at this location are cared about long into the future.

For information on the Land of Iron please see our website pages or phone the Land of Iron team on 01439 772700 for exciting volunteer opportunities and to find out what we are up to. If you have any questions please do drop us an email

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Let Ryevitalise begin!

Alex Cripps – Ryevitalise Programme Manager

For the last two years we have been leading on the development of Ryevitalise, a landscape partnership scheme focusing on the River Rye and its tributaries.

So we are really delighted to report that we were successful with the final Stage Two application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and have been awarded nearly £2 million towards the delivery of this fantastic four-year scheme – starting now.

Top of the Rye Catchment. Copyright NYMNPA.

With match funding included Ryevitalise is a £3.4 million programme in total, focusing on three key themes:

  • Water quality and the environment – restoring and conserving the aquatic habitats of the Rye and the rare and threatened species that the river and wider landscape supports;
  • Water Level Management – harnessing natural flood processes to create a more naturally functioning river; and
  • Reconnecting people – improving the understanding of the river landscape by telling the story of its evolution and encouraging people to protect their heritage.

River Rye - copyright NYMNPA.

Ryevitalise is very much a partner-led scheme with over 15 organisations working together to deliver their common goals across this part of the River Rye catchment. The River Rye and its tributaries meander through a variety of landscapes including moorland, upland farmland and lowland arable and livestock farmland; crossing over the National Park boundary into the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and into the non-designated wider Ryedale beyond. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to work closely with partners like the the Howardian Hills AONB, Ryedale District Council and the Environment Agency.  The North York Moors National Park Authority itself is the lead partner and we’re currently recruiting the delivery team.

Rye at Ness. Copyright Liz Bassindale, Howardian Hills AONB.

I’ve recently been appointed as the Ryevitalise Programme Manager and I’m really excited about this amazing opportunity to share my enthusiasm for rivers and the fascinating wildlife that the freshwater habitats and the surrounding areas support. One of the main goals is to reconnect people with nature and our river environments. I am really keen to raise the profile of rivers by looking at how valuable these ecosystems are, and how important they are to people both within the Ryevitalise area itself but also beyond. Over the next four years we will be working alongside local communities, including land managers and young people, reconnecting people to their local river systems and exploring how simple every day actions to help care for our rivers can collectively make a huge, positive difference.

There will be lots of opportunities to get involved, from practical conservation tasks such as Himalayan balsam control to species monitoring. There will also be a programme of expert talks, exhibitions and discovery events. Keep an eye on social media, our website or this blog for further updates once the new team are up and running.

If you are keen to get involved at the start please get in touch, perhaps you are a member of a local community group wanting to know more, a local land manager interested in improving water quality, or you would like to sign up as a Ryevitalise Volunteer – it would be great to hear from you!

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