Karen Nichols's blog

Moorgate Mill, Blackburn

The Sheffield Office has recently undertaken excavation and recording of the site of the former Moorgate Mill in Blackburn, adjacent to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Excavation and documentary research revealed numerous phases of rebuilding, renovation and extension in the development of the mill from its construction in the 1830s, through fires in 1869, 1886 and 1925, to its recent demolition. Artefacts recovered from the investigations, predominantly pottery, ceramics, glass and CBM, appear to relate to the use of the site as a spinning and weaving mill from the 1840s through to the late 1920s. 

775 Moorgate Mill

The original six storey construction of the Mill was begun in 1836 by John Parkinson. In 1841 the mill passed to Joseph Eccles, a local entrepreneur, who gradually improved and expanded the mill until his death in 1861. 
The excavation focused on three areas to the west, east and south-east of the site. Structural evidence relating to the early phases of development of the site from the 1830s to the 1870s included the western wall of the weaving sheds, walls enclosing the steam engine and boiler room on the eastern side of the mill and partially surviving flagstone floors and base plinths to support roof struts. Historic mapping from 1841 shows a gas holder on the Moorgate Street frontage in the early phases of development and firebrick from a gas retort arch was found in this area indicating that gas was probably produced on the site, most likely for lighting in the mill and associated buildings. Also identified was a long flue tunnel taking exhaust fumes from the steam boilers to a chimney at the southern side of the site.
Fires in 1869 and 1886 would have resulted in extensive rebuilding to the mill buildings, although it was difficult to precisely correlate what we know historically with the recorded structures. By the 1890s the size of the mill had grown to occupy almost the whole plot of land. Some of the developments noted during this phase were probably alterations and additions carried out by Edwin Hamer between 1911 and 1914, the most visible aspect of which was the surviving sign left by the canal bank. External structures were added to the weaving sheds and modifications were made with the drainage and flue tunnel.
Despite all the renovations the mill did not survive and the machinery was sold off in 1933 and the mill closed. For 67 years the mill buildings were used as a warehouse for processing artificial yarn. Developments in this phase relate to internal concrete partitions, re-flooring and internal and external drainage. 
In 2008 demolition of the extant buildings was carried out in preparation for the plot to be developed into housing. Evidence of the demolition and landscaping of the site was seen in all excavated areas. 

Heritage at Risk


Services to English Heritage in respect of marine designation 2013-15

773 Surveying the Salcombe wreck site

Wessex Archaeology are very pleased to announce they have been awarded a contract for the provision of services in relation to marine designation for 2013-15 on behalf of English Heritage.  Wessex Archaeology has worked with English Heritage on designated and undesignated wreck sites  since 2003, pioneering an innovative approach to the recording and interpretation of cultural heritage and archaeology underwater. We look forward to developing new ideas with English Heritage and its partners over the contract period and continuing to deliver high quality evidence based recommendations to assist with the protection of our shared maritime heritage. We have been delighted to undertake this work for the last 10 years and we look forward to continuing for the next two years.
Associated Links

Bramham Park Wetherby

In May and June 2012 the Sheffield Office undertook excavation and recording of an 18th century garden feature, a former water cascade within the grounds of Bramham Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire. The Grade 1 listed grounds and park at Bramham were laid out during the period 1700–1713 for the Benson family, and include early water garden features which have not often survived in contemporary gardens. Repair and restoration of the features is underway and the recent excavation work focused on a former cascade feeding water from a reservoir pond to a parterre garden, cut into a terrace to the immediate rear of Bramham House. 

749 Bramham Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire



A plan of Bramham Park by John Wood the Elder in 1728 indicates that water in this cascade "falls 21 feet on thirty steps". However the cascade appears to have only operated as a temporary feature and fell out of use at a fairly early date due to an inadequate water supply. Attempts were made to try and improve the water flow, including the removal of almost all the steps and their replacement with a stone-capped culvert. However, this too seems to have failed and the culvert and cascade were covered over by the end of the 18th century. The results of the excavation, including laser scanning of the excavated cascade and extant fountain, are now being used by the project team at Bramham to inform restoration proposals. A watching brief on the restoration of the Rocky Cascade is on-going.

Bishop's Mill, Durham

729 Bishop's Mill Durham

In June 2012 the Sheffield team recorded the Bishop’s Mill and the former 1940s Ice Rink at Durham. Although the original Bishop’s Mill was first mentioned in 1183, one of eight medieval mills on the River Wear, the surviving ‘Bishop’s Mill’ is first recorded on a 1754 plan. Level 3 survey employed laser scanning to produce metrically accurate plans and sections.
At least 6 phases were identified ranging from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. The mill buildings had been adapted in the 1940s to accommodate refrigeration and electrical generating plant serving the adjacent former Durham Ice Rink, and elements of this plant remained within the building at the time of survey, although no original mill machinery, gearing or waterwheel had been retained.


Mythe to Mitcheldean

Gloucester Update

728 Pipeline between Mythe and Mitcheldean

Between April and June 2012 a team from Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office carried out the excavation of two sites on the Severn Trent Pipeline between Mythe and Mitcheldean, Gloucester. The work revealed late Iron Age field systems and enclosures and the stone foundations of a Romano-British villa, probably dating from the 2nd century AD. An associated waterhole, field systems and enclosures were also revealed.

726 Atrocious weather conditions

A watching brief along the entire pipeline route was completed in December 2012. The team have valiantly worked through some atrocious weather conditions.



New Image Bank


Announcing Wessex Archaeology’s stock image site, an online archaeological image bank aimed at publishers and museums.


Over the years we have amassed many photographs of artefacts, people engaged in archaeological activities and artists impressions. We already offer many of them free for educational purposes on our Flickr site but thought it was time to make it easier to purchase the copyright for publication or display purposes via an online service.

We are trying to keep the pricing as competitive as possible and are happy to discuss discounts for bulk purchases. Your feedback is important on this so please let us know your thoughts.


Currently we have artefact images readily available but keep an eye on the site as we will be adding more and more content over the following weeks and months. We hope you like the site and find it useful.


Follow this link to find our new image bank

Wessex Archaeology – making sense of heritage



As a new year and a new chapter in our history begins, the time is right for a reaffirmation of the Wessex Archaeology brand. The trilithon symbol, inspired by the world-famous Stonehenge monument, has remained at the core of the Wessex Archaeology brand for over 30 years, and will continue to do so into the new era – sleek, crisp and elegant, and a brand synonymous with quality, innovation and excellence.
Underlining and enforcing this brand are the core sectors we operate in today, HeritageArchaeologyGeoServicesSustainabilityCoastal & Marine, and signposting our direction as a market-leading heritage practice in the UK.

Chief Axes Hair!


Acting Chief Executive Chris Brayne has had his hair cut for the first time in many a year today, and all for charity. In front of cheering staff he braved some of their number wielding scissors and finally the clippers set to no. 2.


Asked why he was doing it Chris said “ …we think we’ve had a rough year, but there are people on the planet who have had a much tougher time. Even locally here there are people without enough money to eat.” Donations are going to The Trussell Trust. Staff are much impressed with his new look.
To watch the video click here

Current Archaeology Awards 2013 – Dual Nominations!


We are delighted to receive a dual nomination for the Current Archaeology Awards 2013.

Rescue Dig of The Year The First East Enders

(Museum of London Archaeology/Pre-construct Archaeology/Wessex Archaeology)

The First East Enders, featured in issue 269 of the magazine, has been nominated within the Rescue Dig of the Year category in the Current Archaeology Awards 2013. This category recognises archaeology that has been carried out in areas threatened by human or natural agencies. The London Olympics site certainly fulfils this criterion.

The new Olympic Park provided unprecedented opportunities for excavation, producing 10,000 finds spanning 10,000 years.


Archaeologist of the Year

Phil Harding

692 Phil Harding
Phil has been nominated in the 2013 Awards for the many and varied projects and works he has undertaken, in particular his work on Operation Nightingale.  

Voting for the awards is now open,

so click here to vote now


Voting will be open until Friday 15th February, and the winners will be announced at the Current Archaeology Live! 2013 conference, held at the University of London's Senate House on the 1-2 March.



39 Charles Street, Mayfair, London


Members of the Built Heritage team from both London and Sheffield offices have recently been involved in the recording of a Grade II* listed Georgian town house in Mayfair, London. The house was built in 1750-4 on land leased from the Berkeley Estate, and had some illustrious residents during its life, including the Marquis of Anglesea and the Earl of Westmoreland.
The principal rooms at first floor retained high quality Georgian and Regency decorative schemes, including some imported 18th century, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in one room, and painted silk wall hangings in two others. These, together with the highly decorative cornices, door surrounds and pelmets were all to be removed from the building for conservation during a major programme of refurbishment works of the building and its mews cottage. Once removed from the listed building, and the protection that listed status affords to all in situ elements, the challenge of ensuring their appropriate management becomes more difficult, and Westminster City Council required a highly detailed drawn and photographic record to be made of the decorative features, to enable them to be exactly replicated should they be lost or damaged during the refurbishment works.


Large format photography was undertaken using a Linhof plate camera to create 5” x 4” (125mm x 100mm) colour negatives, providing orthographically correct images at a level of detail necessary for production of the required prints at A2 size. Large format images were recorded of each elevation of the three principal rooms, and scans of the negatives will allow the conservator to zoom in to record all areas of damage to both wallpaper and silk hangings. On closer inspection, the wallpaper proved somewhat surprising in terms of the scope of ‘cut and paste’ that had been deployed in its re-use in this property. Not only were two distinct patterns of wallpaper used, but there were numerous areas of patching, and elements such as individual birds and branches clearly cut out and stuck on.
Due to the ceiling height in these rooms and the intricacy of some of the mouldings, the survey of the cornices, ceiling roses, door surrounds and pelmets was undertaken by means of a 3D laser scan, in order to produce the required 2D drawn profiles and elevations. 


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