History on your doorstep

Tom Barnard
Tom Barnard
Osgathorpe Dig
Osgathorpe Dig

Story: Elizabeth Shaw

Local resident, Tom Barnard, an archaeology student at Sheffield University lives next to Osgathorpe Park. Digging up pieces of worked bone in his garden led to a five month archaeological dig that could put Osgathorpe Park on the map as an historical site. The Messenger went to meet him at the University Archaeology Department to find out more.

We started by looking at some pieces of bone, some of Tom’s earliest finds. He explained how marks on the cross section of bone indicated it had been sawn to use for bone handles within Sheffield’s cutlery industry and dated to the mid 17th century.

Osgathorpe Cottage

Tom explained how his garden had once been within the site of Osgathorpe Cottage, which had a number of outbuildings used for metal working. The cottage, demolished in the 1970s, had stood since the 16th century. Tom explained how aerial photography and a geophysical survey had shown up where a boundary ditch had been. Tom was intrigued, so the dig focused on an area three metres by seven overlapping the trench area.

Pipes from the 17th Century

Among the finds were clay pipe bowls for smoking tobacco, which have been dated between 1630-1670. The pipe stem was very long so the smoker would sit with the pipe bowl resting on a table. Dating of a pipe bowl can be accurate to within one-third of a century by noting the angle of the bowl to the stem. This has helped to date other finds in the dig.

The revolution in metal work

A large amount of smithy waste was found, which at first sight looks like lumps of clay, but is much heavier. Tom explained this was formed when flakes of iron came off during the heating process. This waste can also be dated by the presence of coke (more recent) or charcoal (earlier period) which were used in the fire, and shows the changing processes as metal technology developed. Tom said,

“This dig shows that the site of Osgathorpe Cottage was important in the early metal production of Sheffield.”

Medieval find

Tom made a rough sketch of the excavation area showing a workshop area above the trench. The trench itself revealed stone walling, which was found to be a typical medieval drying kiln, perhaps for wood or crops. It was in this burning area that he made one of the most exciting finds, several sherds (fragments) of Lincolnshire shelltempered pottery. This ceramic, dated between the 11th and 14th centuries, would have been a part of a rim and body of a large vessel for holding water, for quenching thirst or dowsing the fire of the kiln.

The exciting thing about these discoveries is that it takes us back to the foundations of Sheffield industry, the very beginnings of smelting iron. With evidence of medieval activity, Tom has found valuable links in Osgathorpe’s long history, from its Norse origins as ‘Osga’s Farm.’ Eventually, Tom would like to set up an information point in the park with diagrammes, photographs and information about his finds. He said,

“I’d like people to know what used to happen here and how important Osgathorpe has been in Sheffield’s past We should be proud of our area and its rich heritage.”

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The content on this page was added to the website by Derrick Okrah on 2011-04-02 14:20:05.
The content of the page was last modified by Rohan Francis on 2014-06-02 14:01:48.

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