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East Coniston Woodland, Cumbria- Historic Landscape Survey Report

Schofield, Peter (2010) East Coniston Woodland, Cumbria- Historic Landscape Survey Report. Project Report. OA North. (Unpublished)

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Oxford Archaeology North (OA North) was invited by the National Trust to undertake an historic landscape survey of their holdings on the eastern side of Coniston Water, Cumbria (SD 3044 9261). This was intended to combine documentary research and field survey in order to identify and describe the features of archaeological and historical interest within the 2.3sq km of study area. The survey will inform estate management plans for the archaeological resource by providing management recommendations for the identified sites.
The survey entailed a basic, mainly cartographic, documentary study and an archaeological field survey to identify the archaeological resource within the land holdings.
The East Coniston study area comprises long-established coppiced woodland that has been providing wood for fuel and as raw materials for a considerable period. The history of the area is closely linked into woodland industries, and in 1339 a grant was awarded to Furness Abbey to enclose woods and make parks, including Lawson Park, Parkamoor and Water or Watside Park, all of which fall within the survey area. To extend the useful life of the woodland, the monks employed the traditional practice of coppicing. Following the Dissolution of Furness Abbey in 1537, the King’s Commissioners found little timber of any value, and what remained was let by the commissioners to William Sandes and John Sawrey to maintain their three iron smithies. Two definite bloomeries have been identified in the study area and both have been subject to geophysical investigation, revealing significant sub-surface deposits. Neither has been securely dated.
In the post-medieval period, the woodland on the steep valley side was sub-divided into enclosed woods, presumably owned by different speculators, farmers and landowners. The woodlands were further sub-divided into coppice hags, to differentiate between blocks of coppiced trees in different stages of a rolling cycle of growth and harvest. Coppice management and associated industrial processes were labour intensive there is evidence for at least five potential woodsmen’s huts where workmen would have lived for an extended period of time
Charcoal burning platforms are the most ubiquitous of the archaeological remains left by charcoal burning. There were 164 examples recorded by the present survey, which were distributed in a densely-packed swathe along the steep wooded enclosures of the valley side. Many platforms were located adjacent to access trackways and/or streams, as water and transport were integral parts of the process. A network of at least 23 sinuous trackways were recorded. Evidence for the peeling of bark, a primary process in the tanning industry, is moderately well represented throughout the study area, with six surviving examples of bark peelers’ huts. Evidence is limited for potash production, with just three surviving large circular potash kilns located near to the lakeside road.
It seems that post-Dissolution the Parkamoor farmed landholdings (not The Park) were eventually sub-divided into Low and High Farms in c1614. The extant farmhouses have elements of surviving seventeenth and eighteenth century architectural design. The survey identified two areas of building platforms, one at each of the farmsteads; they may relate to a further domestic sub-division of tenements at each farm in the early eighteenth century.
Traditional woodland industries declined in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and by 1920 the furnace at Backbarrow had turned to using coke, stifling the last major market for charcoal in the region.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cumbria
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology North
Depositing User: Sandra Bonsall
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2015 11:26
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2015 11:26
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/2357

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