Indiana Jones has nothing on us…

Alright, so maybe we’re not saving the world or managing to outrun death by avoiding a boulder of doom, but we’ve had an expert team of archaeologists in from Matrix Archaeology in Manchester, who are making some really interesting and important finds in the gardens.

The curvilinear glasshouses in the Upper garden in the 19th century
The curvilinear glasshouses in the Upper garden in the 19th century

The Gregs may have found Quarry Bank House and Norcliffe Hall draughty during the winter, but their exotic plants were warm and toasty thanks to the luxury of central heating

The glasshouses as the appear today
The glasshouses as the appear today

These exotic plants included peaches and palms, although the once elegant glasshouses in the Upper gardens were originally designed for use as a vinery. Such plant-houses were a status symbol as well as a hobby for families of the Greg’s standing, and those on the dig knew there must have been a sophisticated heating system for the lush plants to thrive.

The hot-air system has been uncovered by archaeologists
The hot-air system has been uncovered by archaeologists

The work was potentially hazardous (so a little bit like Indiana…alright, alright, I’ll give up the metaphor) because some of the glasshouses are in a precarious state. However the team were delighted when they uncovered evidence of a hot-air system dating from around 1830 and a hot-water system from the late 1880s.

The remains of the hot-water system which dates back to the 1880s
The remains of the hot-water system which dates back to the 1880s

“It has been very rewarding and produced rather more than I had dared hope for”, said Jamie Lund, our Regional Archaeologist, who is overseeing the project. “These are important finds.”

A series of flues and boiler pits have been unearthed. These show that to begin with a hot-air system powered by huge amounts of coal and coke was used. Fast-forward more than 50 years and the glasshouses were in the shared tenancy of the Gregs and a tenant of Norcliffe Hall (which had been rented out by Edward Hyde Greg), who was less than impressed by this system and suggested that a hot-water system, the new technology of the time, should replace it, which it did.

The site of the coke stove, used to power the hot-air system
The site of the coke stove, used to power the hot-air system

“The glasshouses would have been a costly if enjoyable past-time for the Gregs. There would have been a high initial financial outlay, as you can tell from the quality of what we’ve found” says Jamie.

The team has uncovered lots of interesting gardening tools from the 19thC
The team has uncovered lots of interesting gardening tools from the 19thC

As part of the Quarry Bank Project we’re hoping to restore some of the system so that visitors can see how it worked.

Find out how you can help us achieve this here:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank-mill/donate-now/

Laura, with thanks to Ross Mackintosh and Jamie Lund

(Admit is, as soon as you read the title you started singing the theme tune in your head…)

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