Dig Notes and Dates

20 April 2018

The final act was a presentation at the monthly meeting, by Tony Lintott, which effectively closed-out the project.


Today, 7 October, we pretty much closed the site having completed the back-filling and removed most of the Netlon fencing. We will finalise this closure when Trent and Peak come to do an end of dig audit.

Amazingly we had three new finds and they appear, to the untrained eye,  to be really interesting pieces of pottery. They will be winging their way to Trent and Peak next week for investigation.


Now we await the formal report and our DAHG report is already taking shape in draft form.

Don’t forget to come to our Open Day at the Village Hall on 22 October

when lots of information and, hopefully, some finds will be on show.


Day 10. Friday 29th September – Today is our last day on the dig and there are many feelings from the DAHG diggers and our professionals. Last night we enjoyed a pleasant social evening at The Paper Mill and there was applause all round for a successful and very social dig, one on which many would happily have continued for another week. Our Lottery money and our professional’s schedule and contract makes this impossible of course.

The two main activities of the day have been back-filling (we received permission) and preparing the finds for shipping back to Trent and Peak for analysis.  We may have a piece of Abbey stone too.

The final sketches and paperwork was completed on the trench with the Octagonal Game Larder – marked on old maps as an Icehouse – and this feature was covered with a membrane before putting soil on top.  Not all areas were fully back-filled in the time available and DAHG will arrange to complete the job. The site, however, is now secure.

So what have we learned?

First the maps have a feature, the one we found, in the right place. However, the feature is not an Ice House but a Game Larder. Call it Cartographers licence as there was another Ice House just up the village.

Second, the site has revealed many, many finds ranging from pot, ceramic, brick, tile, glass, flint, charcoal, shell, painted pottery, glazed ware, bone, teeth, glass, contemporary items and some ‘rubbish’.

Third, the spread of age for the finds is from the 13thC right through to 20thC.

Fourth, possibly our most valuable find is an unbroken ceramic pipe bowl dating from the 17thC. However, a large piece of stone with an unexplained (as yet) surface marking may be Abbey related and would upstage the pipe bowl I would suggest.

Fifth, we’ve all learned a lot about archaeology and the surveying process and have experienced it first hand.

Sixth, at the lowest point we hit the base rock. This was identified as Silt Stone and Mud Stone.  Our experts estimated this to be from the mid Triassic age and around 250 million years old.

Seventh, Over 175 amateurs have been involved in the dig of which over 150 were young persons. Each has benefitted from the opportunity to assist professionals in a professional dig.

Eighth, we HAVE found our Ice House, but it just has a different name. And, we may have found a piece of Abbey stone!

Thanks to all involved – the public who came to see us in droves, the newspaper and radio interest, the amazing feedback, the support from so many organisations. Hope no one has been left out.

Mission accomplished, we think.

p.s. on Monday 2 October – The National Trust confirm our octagonal feature is indeed, to all intents and purposes, identical to one part-exposed in their dig at Calke Abbey in 2016. We have jointly agreed to remain in contact.

Please scroll down to view the mystery find picture . Let us know what it is please.  We’d love to have your ideas.

Day 9. Thursday 28th September – We’re well on with trench and pit closures. The City / County Archaeologist is now coming to assess the dig tomorrow, we hope.  After that we will be ready to back fill and make the site safe. The ‘Game Larder’ area will be covered with a membrane before the soil is put back.

Trench 5 (Tony’s trench), drawing here, shows some of the detail in the extensive recording process used in archaeology.There was a lunchtime and evening celebration with much food and hilarity – seems like we’re becoming demob happy!

Day 8. Wednesday 27th September – Here is the fully exposed foundation of what we now feel is an early 19thC Game Larder, possibly circa 1810. It is 3.9m across the points and is on the larger side as web searches suggest 3m dia. to be the norm. Further research is ongoing via the Local Studies Library who we will visit in a week’s time. A web search suggests that a Game Larder can also be and Ice House too, as at Elvaston Castle. Another visit beckons.

Trench 5 (Tony’s trench) has been finished, and recording by camera and paper records will be completed by mid morning tomorrow. Then it’s ready for back-filling.

The Scout’s trench has been deepened even further to expose a rock or maybe ‘concrete’ level at the slope end. Selective deepening will be done in the morning on an area which looks very much like a wall section. Our dig Director is very doubtful that it is. The two pits are ready for back-filling.

We had the last of the school groups visit us today and the attendance of youngsters at the dig has exceeded 150, including the Darley Scout group weekend visit. The young people have been a credit to themselves and to their school/troop.

Tomorrow we have visits from Derby City Council  Parks management and the City/County Archaeologist. The latter to approve the dig and the process(es) we have used.. We are asking the Council to consider keeping the foundation trench accessible to the public and DerwentWise, who also visited today, as did Radio Derby, will consider funding and advertising, probably by installing an information board.

The end of the dig is approaching fast. We need to be thinking about what we’ll be doing in our lives next week!

Day 7. Tuesday 26th September  – Expansion of the angular brick feature area identified  it is indeed an octagonal foundation for a building.

Current research identifies a few possibilities for the building’s use, namely –

A Summer House, a Game Larder or a combination of a Game Larder and Ice House.

The octagonal Summer House option is seen in a painting of one that used to be at Calke Abbey. The National Trust have researched it via a ‘quick dig’ and they will be doing more research in 2018.  We  are liaising with their archaeologist who is most helpful. The next possibility is a Game Larder and it appears these are in many sites around the UK. Our nearest is Kedleston Hall and we plan to visit and view soon. The final possibility is the Game Larder / Ice House combination. Here we find we are very lucky to have such a thing at Elvaston Castle. Another visit we think.

So, we may not have found the Ice House we expected – yet !

We had two more school visits today and the children, and teachers, seem enthralled.

The Scout’s trench has reached an interesting point where what appears to be bed rock has been exposed. Similar bed rock is visible in Tony’s trench, but at a much lower level. It is difficult to imagine how the rock formation can drop so steeply from Scout’s to Tony’s. More work to be done here tomorrow to, hopefully, find an explanation.

Finalisation of the pits should soon be completed and we may fill a couple in. The last school visits are tomorrow along with a second visit by Radio Derby. These will see us approaching the end of our adventure on Thursday.

Friday will be restoration-of-site day. Unless ………… !!!!

p.s. we had a great article in the Derby Telegraph today. Pretty much a two-page spread with pictures. On the Net, there was video too.

Day 6. Monday 25th September – Today was  a better day – see later for the “however”.

The first two of the local school groups came to visit; we expect six in all, including the sixth form from the private school on Wednesday. Each group receives an informative talk from Alan then it’s down to the site for activities – a bit of digging, finds washing, sieving,  metal detector practice, a quiz sheet, instruction by Laura etc.

A great time for all involved and lots of happy, if sometimes muddy, faces.

The octagonal brick-built structure was further exposed, but it is not finalised due to extra features found.  Theories abound as to what it is. Is it a Garden/Summer House? Could it be a Game Store in which the rich meats from the estate were stored? Did it have ice in it to keep the meat ‘fresh’? Is this the Ice House, but above ground !! ?? Watch this space.

The ‘Scouts trench’ is now much deeper and  a stone  bearing section has appeared across the middle part of the trench. What are these stones?

Tony’s trench saw more excavation and was converted to a stepped trench about 90cm deep on one side.  See  >>>

In the deepest side are large stones which ‘may have been properly laid, possibly with mortar’. Where do these stones fit into the scheme of things?

The other two pits are still in-work, one for sketching, recording etc. the other continues to be dug in-part.

However, there is no confirmed sighting of the elusive Ice House found on our maps.

Day 5. Sunday 24th September – Last evening an email arrived which almost certainly established the built wall as the foundation of a Victorian building, probably a Summer House. Investigation of a dig at Calke Abbey in 2016 will be undertaken as this too found a similar, ground-level structure. The ‘wall trench’ was extended to reveal a equivalent angular wall section (at 130deg) on the opposite side, suggesting that the foundations are octagonal. This trench must be finalised on Day 6.

Work continued on the ‘Scouts’ trench taking off more soil etc. Finds occurred from every excavation site and finds washing continued throughout the day. A further trench/pit (Tony trench according to Laura) was opened on the East side of the site in an attempt to find a drain. At approx 60cm depth large stones were encountered. More work in these areas tomorrow.

The Scouts trench will become the focus of activity over the next two days as it crosses the mound and slope. Hopefully we will find evidence of the Ice House from this trench as all others have yet to reveal anything to indicate an Ice House exists.

Being positive, there have been many and interesting finds, but the Ice House and Abbey structures still elude us.

Day 4. Saturday 23rd September – The new trench laid out yesterday was opened by the Scouts who visited us for the morning. Finds washing began in earnest and by the end of the day over ten trays were drying fragments of bone, pottery, glass and tile. Work continued to further expose the angular wall in trench 1. See pic.

The pit produces finds on a regular basis as it is deepened – now 40cm or so deep. Charcoal, pottery, bone, shell and other finds feed the washing area.

Tomorrow we will put more work into the ‘Scouts’ trench where there are good indications and solid features felt by a thin rod pushed into the ground. We also want to mark a line on the ground where the drain may lie.

Day 3. Friday 22nd September – Having sketched, measured and recorded the area around the exposed brickwork deepening the large trench progressed. This identified a lower, wider band of bricks. It is unclear whether this is the Ice House, at this stage. Could it be a building and we’ve exposed the foundations, as suggested by a lady visitor to the site?  Here is a “site-recording” picture >>

Removal of residual top-level rubble adjacent to the angular wall immediately exposed the soil level. Work further down the trench produced little more than a few pieces of 18thC? pottery. The ‘path’ trench was almost finalised and will be ready for closing soon.  Probably with no meaningful finds. The pit at the bottom of the site continues to produce pottery  and other finds including two adjoining pieces of a 16thC? pot.  A fourth trench crossing the edge of the mound is now set out for excavation on Day 4, Saturday.

Day 2. Thursday 21st September – Excavation continued and after around an hour of digging properly laid bricks appeared in the West end of the large trench. The other trench produced a few finds, but little else, bar different soil layers and types.  The pit is slow work, but finds continue to appear. The main task force cleared the large trench (in the rain) leaving it in a condition for sketching and measuring/recording.  This was a long day for some as Radio Derby came with their roving reporter not long after 7am to conduct live-on-air interviews with various people, over a period of an hour.

Picture of the brickwork exposed on Day 2.



Day 1. Wednesday 20th September – Following the layout of a large trench and a pit at the bottom of the site, digging began mid morning. Within a short space of time pottery finds were appearing, one dated as early as 13th C. Excavation continued through the day with finds accumulating and a further trench (the path trench) opened up. A local villager said that the site had been a dump used by the Parks Dept. back in the early 1950’s. This gave the Dig Director a problem to ponder over night.



Excavation starts on Wednesday 20 September

The Resistivity Survey shows areas of interest and a ‘mystery find’ appeared in the undergrowth on the eastern slope.

It appears to be a mechanical device of some age. What is it?


Doc 1 Darlab2

Derby Telegraph article issued on 1 September


9 August Update

Go to the “Key Dates” page for the timescales

  >>>> We need volunteers to make urgent contact  <<<<


We’re working with DCC on site clearance and timescales

The developing story …..

As at 27 July – We have an email and they want our Bank details !!  Watch this space :))

As at 21 July – We await a letter, with baited breath !

As at 16th July 2017 ……

  • Waiting response from the Heritage Lottery Fund to our application in May. HLF review meeting slated for 20 July.
  • DAHG Ice House sub-committee meetings being held, essentially weekly.
  • Local schools alerted . Walter Evans plus The Old Vicarage School are keen to participate. Contact points established. Information pack provided.
  • Darley Scouts group have been briefed and are keen to participate. Scout contact point established.

hlfhi_blk (20mm)