A Walk With Sidney Jackson #7

We are very pleased to continue with the series of articles by local historian Derek Barker.

Derek wrote in his introduction:

‘When Sidney Jackson was keeper of Archaeology, Geology and Natural History at Cartwright Hall he edited a subscription journal called the Archaeology Group Bulletin. Although compiled over 50 years in the past it can still be read with interest today. I am impressed by the quality of both articles and the correspondence.’

A walk with Sidney Jackson #7

Sidney Jackson inhabited a totally different world to that of present-day archaeologists. A world in which boy-scouts could excavate caves, and amateur collectors amass large numbers of ancient objects. A world where cruck-built barns, querns, and lengths of Iron Age walling would occupy the thoughts of museum curators for months on end, and the museum service of the City of Bradford would actually spend good money to identify the rocks, potsherds, clay pipe bowls, and coins brought back by its citizens from summer holidays, or turned up in their allotments.

However, in many respects, SJ’s views on investigating and exploring the past were quite modern. In the November 1966 edition of the Archaeology Group Bulletin he tried to promote the concept that those who wished to be involved in archaeology should first learn what could be seen above ground. Members of the public had approached him when they wished to be involved in ‘digging’. SJ tried to explain that dry stone walls in this area were very worthy of study. Many dated from the application of Enclosure Acts to areas of local common land. But some include earth fast boulders or orthostats which might have been as old as the Iron Age. The materials subsequently built into such walls has included: querns, carved heads, mortars, bricks, iron making slag, fossils, and a variety of glacial erratic cobbles. All are well-worth identifying and may well contribute more to our knowledge than yet another Roman coin of a common series.

Although even SJ had his limitations. He once hurriedly arranged a party to excavate a stone circle noted in the woodland between the Hirst Wood and Nab Wood Cemetery, Shipley. His group removed the brambles and other plants growing over the small boulders that formed the circle, but it was soon evident, from the looseness of the boulders, that they had not been in position since prehistoric times. Eventually they came to a hearth made of bricks imprinted with ‘G. Heaton, Shipley’, and it was then pointed out the corners of what had been a square or rectangular hut. It seemed that children in playing on the site had used material from this building to make a small circular enclosure.

While the result of the afternoon’s work was a disappointment to the participants for those of us interested in Victorian industry for several years it was the single piece of evidence that George Heaton, who operated a coal mine at the Shipley end of Heaton Woods (c.1845- c.1875), made bricks too and marked them with his own name. Eventually one of the bricks was spotted at Goitside confirming Sidney Jackson’s observation, but I have never seen another. Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

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