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Chapel Fell Diary
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016 - week 1
May 2016 - week 2
Chapel Fell Diary
an informal view of the IAG excavation
May 2016 - week 1
Day 5 of the excavation
Friday 20 May 2016
The end of the first week of our excavation at Chapel Fell. A wet start (thank you BBC weather forecast), but the rest of the day was fine - mostly.

A quiet day, with note taking, drawing, photography and measurement. The mood changes on days like this: most of the time is quiet, with concentration taking over from conversation.

There were a couple of new areas of work: a test pit was dug where an anomoly was noted - by the inital magnetometry survey of the site - and an exploration of the wider Chapel Fell to locate sites identified through HER (Historic Environment Records).

The test pit revealed a piece of metalwork (hurrah) but not of historic interest (boo). However, it also revealed samples of flint - something not native to the local area.

Map references held at the HER identified the features we were already working on, but also referred to features higher up the Fell, to the north and to the west. We used a GPS locator to find the map references and confirmed a number of other potential sites of archaeological interest. It must be said that some of the map references were a little inaccurate, so the least we can do is send an updated list back to HER.
cause of the anomoly found

test pit to find the anomoly recording the inside wall of the trench

the south-east corner of the 'chapel' measurement and recording

Day 4 of the excavation
Thursday 19 May 2016
A foggy start to the day, with fine weather from late morning through to about 3.30. Then the rain came, so we packed up a little early.

Given that we are excavating a site visited before, we'd like to be referring to detailed plans made earlier. Unfortunately, the excavation in the 1960's left little permanent record, so it's up to us to record our endeavours, and make sure they are available to others in the future.

Arthur Raistrick tells us he found a dais (a raised area where one might find an altar) at the east end of the 'chapel', followed by a 'cobbled floor'. We have found neither. This doesn't mean that Raistrick was wrong, it might mean we're excavating an area where material was removed in the 1960s dig.

We started out with the intention of trying to confirm or correct Raistrick's findings, but at the moment we can do neither. The best we can do is describe what we've found in as much detail as we can.

So today was mainly about making detailed records. Photos, measurements, drawn plans were taken, made and constructed.
preparing to record the 'entrance' to the chapel

the north-west corner of the 'chapel' the north-west corner of the 'chapel'

As little surveying was needed today (my current role is apprentice surveyor) I was given the intriguing task of doing more mole hill sifting. My colleague and I repeatedly came across small pieces of limestone. Is it a shard of pottery?! No, it's a piece of limestone :-( Sadly, the most exciting things I found were ladybirds and spiders.

Once again, thanks to Muriel for an excellent serving of cake. The ginger cake was superb! Many thanks! discussions over cake

Day 3 of the excavation
Wednesday 18 May 2016
And the rain came. As forecast, it rained for most of Tuesday night / Wednesday early morning. It drizzled a little until lunchtime, but after lunch we were back to fine weather and an occasional bit of sunshine.

Excavating in wet ground is tricky. One of the clues we look for is a change in the colour of the soil we are excavating. Not easy when everything is soaking wet.

Once everything started to dry out (including us), things got a little easier and spirits rose.

The rise in spirits was enhanced by an excellent serving of cake - made and brought to us by fellow IAG member Muriel. Many thanks!

It was mainly a day of consolidation - making sense of what we had uncovered so far, discussing the true purpose of the 'chapel' and trying to distinguish 'rubble', 'cobble', 'back fill' and 'tumble'.
resching for success

recording recording

The afternoon brought something new to me: sifting mole hills! Apparently, this industrious little mammal has the habit of clearing its network of tunnels of sharp objects - hence our wish to go through the mole hills to see if any objects of interest had been turned out. mole hill sifting
mole hill sifting

The confusing difference in levels within the 'chapel' began to reduce as it became clear there was a great amount of rubble within the structure. This came from either the original walls falling in, or from 'back fill' from a previous excavation - Chapel Fell was investigated in the 1960s but, unfortunately, detailed records of the dig have been hard to locate.

Dating evidence (in the form of charcoal) has been retrieved from within the structure of the 'chapel', so (hopefully) carbon dating should tell us the period of  its construction.
spotting the pattern

The two pictures below show the site in 1985, and today. Notice how the tops of the walls of the 'chapel' were still visible in the 1980s, but only show now where we have removed turf and topsoil. I wonder how long it would be before all evidence of the site disappeared from view altogether?
site - 1985 site - 2016

Day 2 of the excavation
Tuesday 17 May 2016

A little cooler than yesterday, but still fine and rain free.

An interesting and puzzling day: the two trenches started yesterday to investigate diagonally opposite corners of the 'chapel' produced inconsistent results.

One would expect a chapel to be built carefully, with level floors and good quality stonework. Each corner of the 'chapel' (as in 'Chapel' Fell) seems to be way out of level with the other. A chapel with diagonal steps? Hardly.

The quality of the inside of the 'chapel' simply doesn't look good enough - but are we just looking at the mess made by a previous excavation?

We started a test pit to investigate an anomaly identified through metal detecting back in March.

We also started a small pit to investigate the doorway. The apparent doorway into the building seems too small to accommodate livestock, so if it isn't a chapel, then it doesn't appear to be a building for animals either.

Keeps us thinking.

Look out for puzzled brows in the photos....
getting an overview

concentrating investigating

perplexed? looking for inspiration towards Malham Tarn

large scale pondering lunch

Day 1 of the excavation
Monday 16 May 2016
Arrived at the site in glorious sunshine to find most of my colleagues had already got there, and were trying to erect a mess tent. That was the most strenuous activity of the day, and only took about half an hour!
how many IAG members does it take etc. etc. ?

David, our intrepid leader, gave us a briefing, telling us how Arthur Raistrick surveyed the site in the 1960's, and how we were going to verify (or disprove) his findings.

We marked out two trenches on corners of the 'chapel' remains and commenced the excavation. Colleagues cleared turf, topsoil and loose stones. The structure of the 'chapel' quickly became clear.

For some reason, the two new trenches were called 'Trench 3' and 'Trench 4'. Perhaps someone will tell me why tomorrow.

The work rate was helped by excellent weather throughout the day, and excellent progress was made. By the end of the day we had:

  • marked out and started two trenches
  • cleared turf and some topsoil and loose stones from the trenches
  • marked out and surveyed the (probable) sow kiln
  • marked out and surveyed the quaried area North of the trenches
  • and built a mess tent

Here's hoping that tomorrow will be as successful.


the pressures of leadership
anyone seen a trench?

trench 3 the latest highstreet fashions in surveying

the A-team (with tent) trench 4