Hollowforth Mill

The Dig

The photo below shows the site prior to any digging.  Nothing of the original mill could be seen so the site was strimmed and probed to get a general idea of the structure. The mill race and associated stonework is, at the moment, behind a barbed-wire fence and not available for digging. However, some surface investigation along the race was allowed.

A number of finds appeared on the surface or within the demolition rubble which caused some debate.

The two pieces of stone were slightly offset from a semicircular piece of metal that had, on the top, another piece of metal of square cross-section. At the time of the discovery no-one had any idea of it's use. Another fragment of stone was found nearby. The weight and hardness was a surprise to all.

After much research the following comment seemed to be conclusive.

Regarding the photograph, this is the centre of the upper millstone of a pair. The "bridge" connecting the two blocks of French burr is the cast-iron part which supports the upper stone. It locks into a projecting "mace" on top of the "spindle", and imparts the rotary motion to the millstone. If you turn the bridge over you will see a depression. This sits on the top of the spindle and takes all the weight of the stone. This stone and bridge is absolutely typical for the 19th, or early 20th, century.

 More research on the French Burr gives the information that the stone originally comes from a quarry to the NE of Paris.  

Bits of hand-made pottery were frequent finds in the rubble.

These tiles (now known to be Kiln tiles) appear to be handmade. The reverse side (on the right) shows the cement and so it was fixed by this side. More information can be found here.

A decision was made to reveal the walls and remove the general rubble. Once this has been achieved the site will be recorded and only then the main archaeological digging would take place. This, depending upon the time taken to clear the site, could possibly be by a "big dig."

There is still some dispute as to the use of this object. The suggestion of it being a stargate has been abandoned and it is more likely to be the bottom of a cheese press. Part of the wall and the clay "floor" seems to be embedded with small pieces of pottery. A detailed photograph will follow.
More of the Northern section with, what appears to be old mill stones embedded. But why should they be in the floor and why have they metal spikes in the centre? The Western wall pointing towards the mill race. The wall varies in thickness but this may point to a multiphasic building. Which is what we expect.

More rubble was removed on 24th September, 2014. Two more stones were uncovered similar to the ones shown in the bottom left photograph and they continued in a line towards the right. It turns out that the stones were NOT embedded into the floor but placed on top of the floor.

The first two images are of broken pipe in the order of 3 inches diameter found on what we initially thought to be the floor. Presumably part of the Kiln. Image shown to the right is made from the same pottery-type material. One suggestion is that is a way of distributing the heat from the Kiln furnace through different pipes. If any reader has a better suggestion then perhaps they can email the webmaster.

28th September, 2014. More backbreaking work. As we get closer to the trees the ground is getting more and more difficult

The image to the right shows part of the Eastern wall with the roots going over the top of it. In some areas, when the roots encounter large stones they go under them - only to reappear and frustrate the digging elsewhere.

5th October, 2014. A flagged floor on the western wall side is uncovered. Our present thinking is that this is probably the older part of the mill (stone rather than brick.)

12th October 2014. Again very slow progress. Less than 2 square metres cleared by 3 diggers in the day. The first picture gives a view of the major portion of the site.

The next picture shows more of the revealed Eastern wall.

Hollowforth - Mini Big Dig

Over the weekend of the 20th/21st June, several members of WAG continued in their attempt to discover the secrets of Hollowforth Mill. There were two main aims; to determine the extent of the eastern and northern walls. With some reservations this was achieved. The area around the eastern wall is slightly confusing in that there appears to be clay over the top of the rubble. The suspicion is that when a pipeline was put in across the field the clay was thrown on top of the edge of the old mill.

The image on the left has been taken from a 1960's aerial photograph and appears to confirm the pipeline hypothesis.

The red star shows the approximate position of the mill - the blurred white line moving past the mill is the pipeline debris. The pipeline debris also appears on the eastern (right-hand) side of the canal, so perhaps the tunnel that feeds the mill race was re-used as a way of getting under the canal.


A short trench was put in to determine the extent of the eastern wall. The left-hand image confirms that it goes no further (at least in this section) than previously thought. The right-hand image shows the large stone removed to reveal a clay floor. More on this in future digs.

After the last dig it was thought that the northern wall might continue further northwards but it turns out that it was just a slumped wall. Some information can be gathered from this however - the slumped wall was almost intact so it cannot have fallen very far. The implication of this being that it was a ground floor wall that had fallen. The left-hand image below shows this together with part of the gulley that appears to run along the northern wall. The slumped wall will need to be removed to determine the course of the gulley. The right-hand image show the north-eastern corner, apparently marked with a large stone.

Final elevations were recorded and, at the next dig, it is intended that some uncovering of the earlier phases will be attempted. Further cleaning up of the slumped wall on the 12th July, 2015 provides more detail - the mortar still being visible.

The Hollowforth dig continued on the 25th July. The outside of the west wall was investigated and taken down to natural. This, for some reason, was at a higher level than the inside floor level.

The "trench" on the northern wall was continued in two main areas. The western edge which turned out to be the lowest part of the trench. The eastern edge, under the slumped wall, was partially uncovered without discovering any obvious reason for slumped wall being found at that level. In uncovering this section it was discovered that the brick wall continued under large slabs of stone. The wall being 4 bricks wide and un-mortared. It didn't seem to have enough strength to support a brick or stone structure - perhaps this portion of the mill was made of wood.

Further investigations on the site continued on Sunday, 16th August. The Northern gulley was continued towards the East whilst the extent of the Eastern was investigated. Surprisingly the gulley was starting to move UNDER the NE corner. This will need to be investigated further.


On Friday, 4th September, more investigative work was carried out. The NE corner (near the tunnel shown above) contained more than a metre of rubble so this meant slow progress.

Other diggers investigated the "passageway" on the western side of the site. The confusing remnants of broken mill wheels with spikes in them was looked at first. A small sondage was dug close to the most northerly spike to determine the surface below the mill wheel. Only the natural surface was revealed.

At this point it was decided to investigate the small square section, bounded on one side by the second broken mill wheel; on the other sides by brickwork. It was obvious that an attempt had been made to level the brickwork by laying some of the bricks side-on, by adding mortar or slate.

The brickwork work was, in turn, removed and taken down to the natural. One problem that had been posed was the relative timings of the building of the wall and the broken mill wheels. A final section of wall was removed to check how the brickwork butted up against the mill wheel. No final decision was made on this but it looks like they were probably put down at the same time or within a short period of each other.

The writer was missing from the Saturday dig but on his arrival on Sunday the North-Eastern corner had been almost dug out.

This was continued on the Sunday taking the Eastern side back further as well as removing the confusing, probably supporting, walls. One observation that threw the cat amongst the pigeons was that the flags only went up to the fragile eastern wall of a later build. The implication being that jerry-built wall and the flags had been put down contemporaneously! Prior to this observation it was suspected that the flag floor was part of the earlier mill.

Other diggers investigated the corner of the flagged area nearest the large tree. The intention was to determine if the flagged floor disappeared under the tree and, possibly, around to the SW corner where there is more flags.

On Tuesday, 6th October, more members gathered to continue the dig, looking at the NE corner and taking the debris further down & back along the Eastern wall. The debris continued below what we suspected should have been the natural level on this side and, more surprisingly, debris appeared under the substantial NE stone corner. The working hypothesis for this being that there had been more than one phase of destruction.

Towards the end of the digging day another unexpected find appeared. Deep down along the Eastern wall appeared a clay pipe. This partially disappeared below the NE corner in a northerly direction. On the following Friday the webmaster returned to excavate the pipe further but was frustrated by significant stone protection for the pipe.

Te pipe revealed - shows joints.   The pipe coming from the bottom right to the NE corner   Some form of cover for the pipe (brick & substantial stone)

In "The Archaeology of Improvement in Britain, 1750-1850" by Sarah Tarlow there is the following quote "We know that tiles and pipes marked "DRAIN" date from the period 1826-1850 when tiles used for field drainage were exempt from the tile tax that had been in force since 1784."

Hollowforth - Big Dig - Day 3

The ditch at the northern edge of the site was investigated first and a second, parallel trench added to check if the ditch continued. It did. At the moment we have come up with several possible reasons for the ditch but none of them satisfactory.

The central area, initially thought to be the kiln, was cleared further. Large stones, found at the south-eastern corner, were cleaned ready for recording.

The site closest to the mill race causes problems. The large stone, similar to the one from Freckleton mill shown on day 2, is too heavy to move and traverses the field boundary. Once the flagged area to the west of it has been recorded it may be possible to manoeuvre it down to the flags. Perhaps another day.

The difference between this and the one from Freckleton mill is obvious when you see the images side by side - but do they do the same job. If they do then this is one of a pair of "hurst frames". The other being so embedded in the tree roots that we would need to kill the tree in order to remove it.

There has been much discussion about the cheesepress base; had it fallen into the place where it was found; had it been dragged there after the mill had collapsed or had it always been there? The only way to check was to move it out of it's original position. There was no debris found under it and the bricks laid to enclose it. Also slates had been used to level the base.

Hollowforth - Big Dig - Day 2

Much of he day was spent cleaning up the walls that we revealed last autumn by clearing away the destruction debris and the floors and surfaces that we exposed yesterday. They are now ready for recording before we cut through them looking for earlier features and dating evidence.

The section nearest the wheel pit was cleared as far as was possible. The limit being the base of a cheese press and a large stone associated with supporting the main cog-wheel of the mill. A similar one can be seen to the left of the gentleman in the photograph of Freckleton water mill. Thanks to Ted Lightbown and the Blackpool & Fylde Historical Society for permission to reproduce this image.

The weight of the support precludes any movement. This is unfortunate since it covers, what appears to to be, the main mechanical portion of the site. The cleared area is shown below.

We also did more work excavating a trench outside what, to date, has been regarded as the northern wall (because it has always struck us as being a bit flimsy for an external wall). What we found has come as something of a surprise. We found a ditch! There's more work to do on it because we haven't yet found its southern edge, but as that seems to be below other features, we will have to wait until those are recorded. Photos to follow tomorrow.