During the summer months there are opportunities for members to get involved in a number of possible fieldwork projects which involve surveying and recording of industrial items. These depend on better weather, access arrangements, and permissions, so details cannot be finalized as yet.
We have further work to do at Otterhead, where we have been carrying out archaeological investigation and recording of a number of features, but we may not include much work here to allow time for catching up and reporting our findings.
All are welcome to come and help or even only to watch. Please contact the Field Officer (phone no and e-mail address below) for details of dates, to notify your interest in helping, and to check equipment needs or effects of weather.
Dates: There are currently no dates fixed for fieldwork but any planned dates and arrangements will be announced in due course, both at meetings and here.
(e-mail contact is preferred when possible, but telephone 07736 374003 if urgent)
Recently work has been taking place on two projects:
SIAS are undertaking a series of archaeological investigations into features at
the site of Otterhead House and these include a farm watermill, a miniature
waterwheel for water supply pumping, a hydraulic ram, an acetylene gas plant,
and various leats and watercourses.
SIAS attention is currently focused on the miniature waterwheel chamber which pumped water to the house and is situated immediately north of the house where the leat goes underground at the start of the house terrace.
With a view to determining the position of the water wheel the leat above the steps was examined before excavation commenced.
Features revealed in the leat included what was probably the outlet pipe feeding the miniature waterwheel and a sealed off pipe which might have been used to drain the leat when maintenance work was required.
After starting digging without success on the north side of the steps up to the house terrace it was concluded that the wheel chamber was on the south side.
The entrance to the intact wheel chamber was found to be located on the south side of the steps and to extend partly under the platform on the steps.
Clearance work revealed that the chamber was only partly filled by the deposited rubble which had been dumped in front of the structure.
The wheel was supported by one bearing recessed into the chamber wall while the other was on a timber trestle which had been dismantled when the wheel was removed. There was another wall recess where the connecting rod drove the pump but the mechanism was not clear and will require surveying to determine how it worked.
The gates in situ
The rescued gates at Westonzoyland Pumping Station
awaiting restoration and display.
The Bridgwater Glasshouse
A talk by Dr. Burroughes on glassmaking reminded long-standing SIAS members that the Society had contributed to the history of the industry through the excavation of the remains of Bridgwater Glasshouse in the 1970s.
The works was established by the patronage of James Brydges, the First Duke of Chandos in the 1720s as what would now be termed an ‘investment opportunity’, but glass production was short-lived and the site became far more successful as a pottery in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The following images illustrate some aspects of the SIAS project. They are taken from the Society’s Archive. Text is by the SIAS Archivist, Brian Murless
The layout of the former glasshouse on the Ordnance Survey 1/500 scale map of
The cone, approximately 33 metres in height, dominated the Bridgwater skyline as shown in this Edwardian postcard scene. The subsequent development of housing and a marina has altered this view considerably.
A worker waves from the cone during its demolition in 1943. The bricks were used as hardcore for the runways of wartime airfields at Ilton and Westonzoyland.
During the early stages of the SIAS excavations a machine was employed to remove rubble on and around the features. The raised area of brickwork in the centre is the remnant of the original 18th century glass furnace. The buildings to the right are in Valetta Place.
A SIAS team at work in 1976. The late Frank Hawtin, the Society’s first
The massive stonework and blocked archways on the inner north side of the
cone. The ceramic blockwork was probably built as a security screen at the time
of the demolition.
A cache of steens (jars) uncovered during the excavations.
A catalogue dated to 1911 was invaluable in identifying the pottery found.
An usually complete but typical jug.
Fragments of window glass bullions. The poor quality of the glasswork, which included bottles, was one reason for the brief life of the enterprise. All SIAS finds were deposited with the Blake Museum, Bridgwater.
The site at the time of the completion of the excavations but before conservation work began. The cone base and surrounding area is a Scheduled Ancient Monument with open public access at Northgate (ST 298375).
For further details see:
Boore, E., and T. Pearson, ‘Red earthenware pottery from the Chandos Glass Cone, Bridgwater’, Proceedings Somerset Arch. & Nat. Hist. Society, Vol.153 (2010) pp.131-150.
Hawtin, F. and B. J. Murless, ‘Bridgwater Glasshouse’, SIAS Journal, No.3 (1981) pp.2-5.