SIAS

 

Fieldwork

During the summer months there are opportunities for members to get involved in a number of possible fieldwork projects which involve surveying and recording of industrial items. These depend on better weather, access arrangements, and permissions, so details cannot be finalized as yet.

 

We have further work to do at Otterhead, where we have been carrying out archaeological investigation and recording of a number of features, but we may not include much work here to allow time for catching up and reporting our findings.  

 

All are welcome to come and help or even only to watch. Please contact the Field Officer (phone no and e-mail address below) for details of dates, to notify your interest in helping, and to check equipment needs or effects of weather.

 

Dates: There are currently no dates fixed for fieldwork  but any planned dates and arrangements will be announced in due course, both at meetings and here.

 

Peter Daniel,

peter.daniel51@btinternet.com

(e-mail contact is preferred when possible, but telephone 07736 374003 if urgent)


Recently work has been taking place on two projects:

 

1. Clearance and archaeological investigation of water power features at Otterhead

2. Restoration and Conservation of the Langport Flood Gates

 

1. Clearance and archaeological investigation of water power features at Otterhead

 

SIAS are undertaking a series of archaeological investigations into features at the site of Otterhead House and these include a farm watermill, a miniature waterwheel for water supply pumping, a hydraulic ram, an acetylene gas plant, and various leats and watercourses.

Otterhead House was built around 1841, adjacent to the site of Week Farm. It was built by William Beadon who was a Taunton surgeon and parliamentary candidate with a great interest in technical matters. After Beadon's death in 1864 the estate was in the hands of the Mellor family and then the Lewis Lloyds who both extended the estate and developed further water features. Ultimately it was 1700 acres and included 8 lakes. After 1904 the house and estate were occupied by tenants until 1937 when it was acquired by Taunton Corporation Water Department and developed for water supply purposes. Eventually it passed to Wessex Water who still own it. After the war the House was demolished and the site later landscaped as a picnic area.

The map extract below shows the house and grounds in 1904. The boat house is probably the old farm watermill but initial excavations indicated that this is buried under mounds of demolition rubble.
 

 

SIAS attention is currently focused on the miniature waterwheel chamber which pumped water to the house and is situated immediately north of the house where the leat goes underground at the start of the house terrace.

 

 

With a view to determining the position of the water wheel the leat above the steps was examined before excavation commenced.

Initial inspection of the leat

Features revealed in the leat included what was probably the outlet pipe feeding the miniature waterwheel and a sealed off pipe which might have been used to drain the leat when maintenance work was required.

Features in the leat revealed

After starting digging without success on the north side of the steps up to the house terrace it was concluded that the wheel chamber was on the south side.

Preliminary clearance work was undertaken on the south side of the steps

The entrance to the intact wheel chamber was found to be located on the south side of the steps and to extend partly under the platform on the steps.

The entrance arch to the wheel chamber becomes visible

Clearance work revealed that the chamber was only partly filled by the  deposited rubble which had been dumped in front of the structure.

The fully exposed entrance to the wheel chamber

The wheel was supported by one bearing recessed into the chamber wall while the other was on a timber trestle which had been dismantled when the wheel was removed. There was another wall recess where the connecting rod drove the pump but the mechanism was not clear and will require surveying to determine how it worked.

The recess in the side wall of the chamber which held the wheel bearing

 

Further clearance of the entrance to the chamber

 

Peter Daniel reveals the south retaining wall of the entrance passage

 

Three steps lead down into the chamber

 

Water from the leat was fed into the chamber above the water wheel

 

After use, the water collected in a sump from which a pipe underneath the

steps discharged it into the lake while the sump is also bridged by a further

steeply inclined pipe emerging from under the edge of the steps

 

A wooden support lies on the floor where it had been left after being

sawn through to facilitate the wheel's removal

 

Behind the piles of spoil removed during the excavation, members examine

a newly revealed small cast iron inspection cover

 

The cover, when removed, was found to provide access for clearing the

steeply inclined pipe where it turned through 90 degrees to enter the chamber.

 

2. Restoration and Conservation of the Langport Flood Gates

 

The gates in situ

 

The rescued gates at Westonzoyland Pumping Station

awaiting restoration and display.

 


The Bridgwater Glasshouse

A talk by Dr. Burroughes on glassmaking reminded long-standing SIAS members that the Society had contributed to the history of the industry through the excavation of the remains of Bridgwater Glasshouse in the 1970s.

The works was established by the patronage of James Brydges, the First Duke of Chandos in the 1720s as what would now be termed an ‘investment opportunity’, but glass production was short-lived and the site became far more successful as a pottery in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The following images illustrate some aspects of the SIAS project. They are taken from the Society’s Archive. Text is by the SIAS Archivist, Brian Murless

The layout of the former glasshouse on the Ordnance Survey 1/500 scale map of the 1880s.
Although the cone remained, smaller kilns for firing and glazing ceramic wares had been
introduced. The rail link is to the Great Western Railway’s Wharf & Dock Branch.

The cone, approximately 33 metres in height, dominated the Bridgwater skyline as shown in this Edwardian postcard scene. The subsequent development of housing and a marina has altered this view considerably.

 

 

 

 

 

A worker waves from the cone during its demolition in 1943. The bricks were used as hardcore for the runways of wartime airfields at Ilton and Westonzoyland.

 

 

 

 

During the early stages of the SIAS excavations a machine was employed to remove rubble on and around the features. The raised area of brickwork in the centre is the remnant of the original 18th century glass furnace. The buildings to the right are in Valetta Place.

A SIAS team at work in 1976. The late Frank Hawtin, the Society’s first chairman,
directed the excavations. He is the central figure wearing a light coloured jacket.

 

The massive stonework and blocked archways on the inner north side of the cone. The ceramic blockwork was probably built as a security screen at the time of the demolition.
(The ranging poles are in 50cm graduations).

 

 

 

 

 

A cache of steens (jars) uncovered during the excavations.

 

 

 

A catalogue dated to 1911 was invaluable in identifying the pottery found.

 

 

An usually complete but typical jug.
Other clay products made included
chimney pots and ornamental finials
for the gable ends of roofs.

 

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Fragments of window glass bullions. The poor quality of the glasswork, which included bottles, was one reason for the brief life of the enterprise. All SIAS finds were deposited with the Blake Museum, Bridgwater.

The site at the time of the completion of the excavations but before conservation work began. The cone base and surrounding area is a Scheduled Ancient Monument with open public access at Northgate (ST 298375).   

For further details see:

Boore, E., and T. Pearson, ‘Red earthenware pottery from the Chandos Glass Cone, Bridgwater’, Proceedings Somerset Arch. & Nat. Hist. Society, Vol.153 (2010) pp.131-150.

Hawtin, F. and B. J. Murless, ‘Bridgwater Glasshouse’, SIAS Journal, No.3 (1981) pp.2-5.

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