Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Archaeological Dig, Week 1

Caroline Raynor from Oxford Archaeology North spared us some of her time this morning, during a break in the rain, to tell us about the substantial progress she and her colleague have made over the past three days.
We are currently expecting to unearth George Quayle's slipway and perhaps, too, the remains of mechanical contraptions and of structures such as George's faux boat deck. So far Caroline has identified six or seven distinct layers of deposits, and that's just in the first 75 centimetres (two and a half feet, if you prefer) of digging! This suggests that the slipway may have been used as a dump on numerous occasions.
More interestingly she has uncovered some interesting features of the building itself. Chief amongst these is that we can now see the head of George's sea gateway. It's located in a wall that is 2.5 metres (eight feet) thick. We had thought the lowest part of that wall was just a rough and relatively recent buttress, but that's clearly not the case. So it seems Peggy would have been pulled out of the sea and up a tunnel...

Dig in progress: L - R: Steve Blackford; Head of Properties at MNH; Caroline Raynor from OAN North; Andy Johnson Field Archaeologist at MNH; and Roland Ardern-Corris, MNH technician.

The sea arch emerges....

Andy inspects a recently discovered buttress

Friday, 21 February 2014

Industrial archaeology at the Nautical Museum

The archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North have arrived on the island and are setting up their equipment ready to begin digging George Quayle's slipway. To prepare for this, local building firm Ryzack Construction Limited have been hard at work removing the stairways and balconies from the area.

Copyright MNH
The yard/ slipway cleared for excavation

Plant hire specialist JCK have created a bridge from scaffolding that will allow a mini digger to remove spoil from the yard...... 

Access platform for mini digger
The view of the boathouse and the platform for the mini digger

 ...... and out through the disused adjacent cellar. Ryzack Construction opened up doorway for us that had been blocked in the 1950's or 1960's. This will be the route the archaeologists use to remove the spoil from their dig, estimated at 100 tonnes (!).

The new doorway. The yard/ slipway is on the left, Quayle's stable yard on the right

This is an unpublished sketch of George Quayle's coach yard from the Manx National Collection IOMMM 1954-5420 signed R.S. Buckingham, 1941. In it you can clearly see, amongst other things, an opening, lower right, giving on to the cellar, or undercroft. This is the opening we have re-established. We have been very careful to take into account Paul Drury's work on the relative significance of the modern additions to Quayle's buildings.

IOMMM 1954-5420 'Harness Rooms, Bridge House, Castletown, April 1941

And this is how the same view appears right now.....

Harness rooms and cellar, from the stable yard