Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Leeds VC holders

I was coming back from a meeting in a very wet Leeds today when I came across a memorial I hadn't thought about for a long time. In front of the Art Gallery on the Headrow is a bronze plaque dedicated to the VC winners who were either born in Leeds or were buried in Leeds.

The name are alphabetical but I want to give you the story of the first name on there, Acting Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron of the RAF. He was the only winner of the medal from Leeds during World War II.

Arthur Louis Aaron – Flight Sergeant, Age 21 - No.218 Squadron, RAF Volunteer Reserve, Turin, Italy - August 12th 1943

Three engines, the windscreen and the elevator controls of his Stirlling bomber were hit by gunfire. This made the aircraft unstable and very difficult to fly. Aaron and other crewmembers were injured. The navigator was killed. Aaron’s jaw was broken, parts of his face torn away, his lung damaged and right hand unusable. The aircraft dived several thousand feet until he managed to level the aircraft at 3,000 ft. His bomb aimer took control of the aircraft whilst Aaron received medical attention and morphine. Too weak to control the aircraft and unable to speak because of his facial injuries he wrote instructions with his left hand. Aaron died nine hours after the bomber belly landed at Bone airfield in Tunisia.

The mission was his 20th. Arthur Aaron was also the holder of the Distinguished Flying Medal. Because of his lowly rank Flight Sergeant Aaron was not eligibe for the Distinguished Flying Cross, a rank divide that was rectified in 1993 when the DFM was withdrawn and the DFC became available to a ranks.

Born and educated in Leeds, Aaron studied to be an architect and, in March 1941, he became one of 23 cadets who formed the Inaugural Flight of Leeds University Air Squadron.

To mark the millennium a statue to Arthur Louis Aaron was sited on the roundabout close to the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the start of the Headrow.

Friday, 30 September 2011

York military railway

River Ouse looking downstream from the Millennium bridge towards the old Terry's factory

An Indian Summer set in over the UK and Val and I decided to take Friday off from work and walk across the Knavesmire and then follow the River Ouse up into the city of York.

Once we had crossed the Millennium Bridge to the right bank of the river (heading upstream) I came across a feature that I had been told about but until recently had never been able to find. Now I know where it is I can't miss it and wonder how I ever did!

The remains of the military railway narrow railway looking towards the bricked gateway

That feature is the military light railway constructed to run from a wharf on the River Ouse (sadly now lost) to run into the military supply depot and army hospital that existed a short distance away. The railway was constructed in 1888 to move supplies brought by river from London. I don't sadly know when the feature was abandoned and the gateway into the establishment bricked up.

The River Ouse looking upstream towards Skeldergate Bridge with the River Foss confluence on the right.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Castlerigg stone circle

Recently returned from a week in the Lake District. On one of the hills outside Keswick is a stone circle called Castlerigg.

The stones are of a local metamorphic slate, set in a flattened circle, measuring 32.6 m (107 ft) at its widest and 29.5 m (97 ft) at its narrowest. The heaviest stone has been estimated to weigh around 16 tons and the tallest stone measures approximately 2.3m high. There is a 3.3m wide gap in its northern edge, which may have been an entrance. Within the circle, abutting its eastern quadrant, is a roughly rectangular setting of a further 10 stones. The circle was probably constructed around 3200 BC (Late Neolithic/Early Bronze-Age), making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain and possibly in Europe.

It is important to archaeoastronomers who have noted that the sunrise during the Autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill 3.5 km to the east.

Recently a Roman fort has been discovered to the south of the stone circle, dissected by the narrow track. Nothing above ground is visible and it is hard to see how the presence of te fort influenced the name of the area as some have suggested.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Glenelg Iron Age Brochs

Dun Telve

I’ve recently returned from holiday on the Glenelg peninsular in Scotland, just across from the Isle of Skye on the west coast. Three miles down the road were two brochs or dry stone, hollow walled towers that date from the 1st cent. BC/AD called Dun Telve and Dun Troddan.

Dun Telve

Brochs are the most spectacular of a complex class of roundhouse buildings found throughout "Atlantic Scotland".

Dun Troddan

The construction is rather strange in that there are steps and floors in the hollow walls that suggest they served as corridors, although they do get rather narrow the further up you go.

Dun Troddan internal staircase

Brochs' close groupings and profusion in many areas may suggest that they had a primarily defensive or even offensive function, although it is probably best to consider broch sites individually in that there may never have been a single common purpose for which every broch was constructed.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A ghostly apparition of Carausius

I was leafing through the 1948 volume of Seaby's Coin and Medal Bulletin when I came upon a note by Edith M Mellor on the reported ghostly visits through the ages of the Romano-British usurper Carausius:

"When any great crisis in our history has been successfully surmounted, or about to be, Carausius is said to lead his triumph once again through Britain. The most curious feature of the story is that persons of 3 different centuries, two Elizabethan undergraduates, a divine of Queen Anne's reign and a young yachtsman of the Napoleonic era all claim to have seen him, and have left record in writing to that effect. The details of the apparitions encountered do not vary. First in the procession come the Roman soldiers, marching in ranks, then lions led in front of a golden chariot in which stands a man in a laurel wreath of great statue, powerful physique and most forbidding appearence, Carausius himself. After the chariot come fair haired captives dragged along in chains, and then more legionaries.

(1) The two Elizabethans said they "suffered a strange enchantment" while they were bathing in a mere near Cambridge, when they saw the Emperor and his train approach the edge of the mere and vanish in it.

(2) The clergyman and his party from Westmorland were just taking an al fresco lunch on their way to revisit his old University by coach, when they saw the triumph approaching them.

(3) The young yachtsman saw it parade along the bank of the broad, in which his boat was moored and sent a letter to his father describing it.

A friend of my own, an archaeologist, working in Suffolk towards the end of the Great War, was assured by the old country people that everything would be well because "that old there Roman Circus is on the move again""

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Hebden Beck mines

Looking upstream from where Bolton Gill joins Hebden Beck, three mine shafts are located behind the left hand wall.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit some of the abandoned industrial sites along Hebden Beck in rural upper Wharfedale.

An office and store overlooking the dressing floor where ores were cleaned and concentrated ready for smelting.

The area was extensively mined until the late 19th/early 20th for lead (galena, lead (II) sulphide) and zinc (sphalarite, a sulphide ore of zinc that also contains iron). The geology is such that, although not mined, there would be cadmium present in the form of greenockite.

Charger Level. Begun about 1863 to cut the Beever vein in the bearing grit this level only found a poor vein full of clay.

The areas of mining spoil are still so barren, even after 100 years, that they look to have been deposited yesterday.

Cottages near the smelt mill that was built in 1858 by the Hebden Moor Mining Company.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Carausius and Sol yet again

In October and November 2009 I posted three times on the jugate bust coins of Carausius and Sol.

I noted that RIC and the Hunter Coin Catalogue publication both incorrectly listed an unillustrated coin of the Glasgow University coin collection as having the bust depicted to the right (clearly in error as the coin was said to be an obverse die duplicate of another illustrated coin).

I believe I have now found an illustration of the Glasgow PAX AVGVSTI coin as such a specimen is listed as being in the collection of Scottish doctor John Kennedy in his book, Further Observations on Carausius, Emperor of Britain, and Oriuna (1756).It is interesting to note that Kennedy’s collection of coins of Carausius and Allectus, 256 of the former (including nine silver) and 89 of the latter were purchased by a Mr Webb for the grand total of £86/10 when they came up for auction in 1760 (J Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century (1810)). Many of the Kennedy coins from his two publications on Carausius and Oriuna can be identified in the plates of Anne Robertson's Hunter collection catalogue from 1978.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

West End Pier, Morecambe

Postcard postmarked 1905

The archaeology of relatively modern lost features also interests me and it is to that area that I want to dedicate this post.

As a child of the sixties and seventies I spent a lot of time in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. Recently, whilst clearing out the garage of my late mother I came across two pieces of a structure that was largely destroyed in 1977 and finally demolished in 1978 - West End Pier. They were picked up from the sand and even now, having being submerged in seawater and then left forgotten in the garage, retain the pale blue paint that was their final colour.

Work began building the pier in 1893 and it opened in 1896 when it had a length of 1800 feet and was extended in 1898.

Postcard no date

It was breached in two places by a storm in February 1903 and further storm damage occurred in 1907, washing away 180 feet of the extension.

1903 storm damage

The pavilion was wrecked by fire in 1917. After a further storm, on 18th October 1927, the pier measured just 900 feet. It remained, however, a centre for a variety of entertainment despite the loss of the concert building.

Postcard postmarked 1943

In November 1977, further storm damage wrecked a third of the pier and isolated the open-air dancing and roller-skating area. Repair costs were estimated at a prohibitive £500,000 and the pier was demolished in 1978.

Postcard postmarked 1917

Monday, 7 March 2011

Derventio Roman Fort

Towards the end of January I had the opportunity to visit the remains of the Roman fort at Malton in North Yorkshire on a wonderfully crisp winter morning.

Sadly at this site, located on the Pickering Road on the outskirts of town on a piece of land known as Orchard Field, there are only earthworks remaining and a single stone erected in the corner of the site commemorating the structure.

The fort was probably known as Derventio, a name recorded in the Antonine itineraria and it is this that I want to comment on. The town of Malton is located on the River Derwent and this got me thinking..... is the fort named after the river or the river named after the fort?

In the itineraria Iter 1 shows the road from Bremenium (High Rochester) to Praetorio (assumed to be Petuaria, now known as Brough on Humber). The Antonine itinerary is quite accurate to Eboracum (York), but then a discrepency creeps in:

Eboracvm - Derventio: 7 Roman miles, 6.5 modern equivalent miles, 18 actual miles
Derventio - Delgovicia: 13 Roman miles, 12 modern equivalent miles, 13 actual miles
Delgovicia - Praetorio: 25 Roman miles, 23 modern equivalent miles, 19 actual miles

The most plausible explanation that has been put forward is that there is a copyists error in the itinerary of vii for xvii and this would then accurately follow the known Roman road network.

I'm on my way back........

Hi, the blog has lapsed after a torrid time at the end of last year and the beginning of this. I am now going to be posting more regularly again in the next day or so.

Thanks for sticking with this,