Time Team (1994) s18e10 Episode Script

Search for the Domesday Mill

A few years ago, the new owner of this sleepy Somerset field made a remarkable discovery - buried away amongst the brambles and trees, she discovered this.
Intrigued, she did some research and she discovered that these ruins had once been part of a powerful industrial machine, a watermill, which could well have been putting bread on the tables of the people round here since the Doomsday Book.
But despite her best efforts, we still know very little about Buck Mill.
So we've been invited here for the next three days, to reveal the secrets of this powerful feat of engineering.
Right, time to get our noses to the grindstone.
Sorry about that! Buck Mill lies near the village of Stoke Trister in Somerset.
We know that the ruins belonged to a watermill that went out of use 150 years ago, but its past remains a mystery.
Although there is one exciting clue.
A Doomsday reference that suggests beneath the ruins, we could find a mill that dates back to the Normans.
So by excavating Buck Mill, we hope to learn just how this powerful mill would have shaped the lives of people around here, possibly for a thousand years.
What have you managed to discover about it? The oldest mention that I could find of a mill at Stoke Trister goes back to Doomsday and we've been to the records office, where we found some old maps like this one here, this is a 1782 map, and you can see the mill there, there's a little drawing of it.
It's a little drawing, but, Mick, it's a pretty big mill, that's a bit of a puzzle, isn't it? It is, because this is not an arable area where people are growing cereals.
We're at the bottom end of what was the medieval forest of Selwood, so you would expect a lot of trees and grazing and pastured animals, but not people growing cereals.
So why do they need a big mill? Helen, you've hardly had a chance to look at the documents, but have you found any clues? Well, no, there's not a lot, really.
After the Doomsday reference, where it's worth ten pence Which is nothing at all, is it? Which is nothing at all, is it? It's not, is it? And almost nothing after that until our 1782 map, so it's going to be a real detective task to find out what's going on.
So apart from one Doomsday reference, there's nothing else until the 1782 map, and we've no idea how that ties in with the standing archaeology.
This is concrete! You don't expect me to spend three days digging a sheep dip Because of the tough terrain, our geophys team aren't able to survey the site.
Where's this mill then? So we'll have to rely on our experts to tell us where to dig.
That must be the wheel pit, Martin, down there.
The back wall and one of the return walls of the waterwheel pit.
That ought to be where our first trench is, then? I think so, yes, get the wheel pit cleared and we'll know a lot more about the size of the waterwheel, where the water came on, which will give us a good indication of the power, how much work it could have done.
And as we go down through it, what are we likely to find in it? Well, we may find some bits of waterwheel, some bits of metal work, in particular, I would think, possibly even some timber, and maybe some scratch marks on the stones where the waterwheel's fouled it in the past at some time, which would give us a few more clues about its size.
But that is actually a crucial part of the mill? I think it's the heart of the mill, really.
But before we can go any further, the mill has to be stripped of a hundred years of brambles.
Hang on, whoa, whoa, whoa! That's it.
Phil's job will be to uncover the industrial end of the mill by digging down into the wheel pit.
While at the other end of the building, we're hoping to find what we think is the miller's house.
And the moment the brambles around the wheel pit are cleared, we make our first find.
What we got, Phil? Well, that's what I was hoping you'd tell me.
Some sort of metal casting, look.
I don't There's a new break there and that's broken there, but I don't think that fits on there, does it? Let's just try.
No, that ain't it.
There's a bit missing.
0h, hang on, what's that one? Is it that? 0h, that's it.
So what's that, then, any ideas? It seems a little bit lightweight for the mill, but I can't think what else it could be at this point.
I'm told identifying mill parts can be a bit of a brain teaser, because there were so many bits and bobs of machinery required to get the power of the water to the millstones.
But we do know our mill is likely to be one of three common types of waterwheel.
The most basic and least efficient undershot wheel, or a middle of the range breast shot wheel, or the most complex design of all, an overshot wheel.
The whole idea of a watermill must have been a very dramatic improvement anyway.
'As technological breakthroughs go, the watermill was a big one.
'It would have transformed the lives of everyone around it.
' In a way, they're the first machines, you know.
Up until the time that watermills come in, the only power you've got is either human muscles or animal muscles.
To suddenly harness something like a stream and then, of course, later on, wind power, and then later on, steam and coal, it's a real breakthrough, it's a complete change, so it had an enormous impact on people's thinking.
Is that going to fit back on there, Martin? Back at the wheel pit, we now have another piece for our increasingly puzzling puzzle.
Wow, look at that, that's the bit.
Now then, what the hell is it, then? Maybe that curve was to do with the actual circumference of the waterwheel.
With almost no records to go on, we'll be relying on our army of diggers to explain the mill's past, so now the brambles are cleared, they can get stuck in.
And as Phil and Martin work their way down into the wheel pit, something else has caught Phil's eye.
Look, there's a cavity opened up in here.
I think that is a piece of curving metal going down.
That looks like part of the wheel, Phil.
Do you reckon that's what that is? I think we've found a bit of a metal waterwheel.
This really is a big discovery, and the more of the wheel we find, the more it can tell us about the power and importance of this mill.
Aah, there it is.
That's fantastic, that's part of one of the buckets of the waterwheel, that's part of a metal bucket.
that's part of a metal bucket.
That Is the waterwheel? Part of the bottom of the wheel, it's still in there.
Can you date this design of construction? Well, an all-metal wheel like that is going to be sort of the middle of the 19th century, around about.
If you can find me a bit more with a name on it and possibly a date, then we'll know(!) Middle of the 19th century, that would presumably mean that is the last wheel that was in here when the mill went out of use.
It's one o'clock, day one, and all the diggers have gone to lunch, except Phil, who is a bit of a nutcase, and down here, amongst all this rubble somewhere, we think we've got the mill wheel, the very heart of all the activity here.
We couldn't have dreamt of better in the whole of the three days, but the other thing that's really impressing me is the size of this site now.
We started off with just a few crumbled bits of wall, and now we've got all this, and if that wasn't enough, take a look down there.
Helen, what do you reckon that is? Well, at first sight, that looks very much like an Anglo Saxon comb.
Anglo Saxon? Anglo Saxon? Hmm.
Anglo Saxon? Hmm.
This mill is starting to get rather weird.
That's where the wall is.
It's just after lunch on day one, and we've already found a wheel from the remains of our watermill, Buck Mill, the origins of which remain a mystery, as all we've got to go on is an 18th-century map.
So it seems that we've been incredibly lucky to find our wheel - they were usually removed when a mill went out of use.
So, Phil, what have we got now? Well, we got the other side of the wheel.
That's excellent.
Look, here's the actual circumference, inner circumference of the wheel coming round there, and then we've got a bucket there, and looks as though we've got a bucket coming in there, but the crucial thing is, we've got part of the internal structure of the wheel, cos we've got one of the spokes in there, and then we've got another one there, look.
Right.
And another one here, and another one back there as well.
So they're all coming in to that main axle here.
Have they just been cut off, have they? What they'd done before they demolished the mill was, they looked at all this scrap metal in the wheel and thought, "We could make use of that," so they've chopped the wheel off, and then when they've demolished the mill, all the demolition rubble has gone in on the top of it, and the rest of the wheel's been taken away.
All you've got to do is find this name and date on it! You go away and I'll see what I can do! The mill wheel would have needed a steady flow of water, and it should be Stewart's job to work out where that would have come from.
I would have thought by now you would have been striding across the landscape, not mucking around in sand.
Not exactly play, this, Tony.
I have been doing a bit of looking at landscape round about, and I thought it would be really sensible to try and to understand how the water works in this landscape by making this sand model.
Now, on your model, you've got a blue line, which is presumably a river, and a white one.
Yeah, what we got here is basically a valley which comes down here, and we've got a stream which flows all down the valley.
To turn a water wheel in an overshot or breastshot wheel you've got to get the water higher than the wheel to physically turn it.
You can't do that in that gentle valley there.
So, what you have to do is go up the valley until you're on the stream, at a point that will be higher than your water wheel, and basically cut an artificial channel to lead the water off from the stream, bring it along the contour, so that eventually it's higher than the water wheel you want to turn.
Is that what Mick calls a leat? Yeah, this artificial channel along here.
And do you know that we've got that, have you found a leat? Yes, you can see this going sort of way beyond the mill where they're excavating, it's a deep channel going along the contour.
So we now know millers went to extraordinary lengths to get water to the mill.
But the 1782 map would suggest they also put a lot of effort into their homes.
And our second trench is now going in over the end of the buildin we believe is the miller's house.
And within seconds, Faye and Raksha hit a rather posh stone floor.
This little bit here.
This little bit here.
I just want to see what's happening.
Disappearing.
Yeah, if we just go to that level, then we can hand dig the rest of this.
In the middle of the building, Tracey is looking for the cog pit, which would have held the gears required to transfer power from our 19th-century mill wheel to the millstones.
Mick suspects the mill's history should go back much further.
Well, the big question is, this is only, what, 18th, 19th century - what's underneath it? That's the problem - we could end up with a really good plan of an 18th or 19th-century mill, for which there are hundreds still standing.
Cos they've all been turned into tea shops.
Posh restaurants, the sort of place you go to, you know! What we really need to do is to go through underneath this, where there are holes in the floor, and see whether the 16th, 17th-century mill, with all the fittings and pottery going with it, is encased underneath somewhere.
That's the only way we'll get the early stuff.
I don't go into teashops! And in the cog pit, Tracey has uncovered what could be another important piece of the mill's machinery.
We've got the cog hole here, which would have attached to the wheel.
The cog pit which would have been in here, we haven't got, but we endeavour.
Yeah, but then behind me, I think you're going to like this.
0h, crikey! First millstone.
Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.
Half a millstone, anyway.
Half a one - is that in situ there, is it? We don't know until we've cleaned more of the demolition material, but it looks flat.
It might form a back wheel - the back wall, rather - of the cog pit.
But that should help, because the size of it, the type of stone, the patterning on this will give us the date of it.
Yeah, and then where James is working, we've got the floor coming up.
Great.
Yeah, it's starting to really come together.
So, across the site, there's a strong picture of the building in the 1782 map emerging.
All we need now are some solid 18th-century finds to tie in with the ruins.
But the only finds we've got so far are pointing to a completely different era.
It's all a little bit late for me.
Just looking at this, to my semi-untrained eye, that looks like an Art Deco bottle to me.
Very much.
And you've got this beautiful blue glass ashtray - again, it looks Art Deco.
Have you got any idea of what date this is? This bottle here, with its clear glass and a mould seam running through the lip, is certainly post 1920, and possibly even later than that.
It's a technique that wasn't used until the '20s.
It looks like the locals have been using this as a rubbish pit when it's fallen out of use.
You've got everything you could possibly imagine from the household of the period dumped in there, haven't you, from the 1920s and 1930s.
The archaeology of Buck Mill isn't proving as straightforward as we first thought.
So, can our 9th-century Anglo-Saxon comb help clear up the mill's past? It's got these lovely blue-green coloured rivets, which are what would have held the whole comb together.
Then, if you have a look at this inscription on the bottom, you can see it says "Copyright BP 1999 West Stow".
So my inference is that this was bought in the gift shop at West Stow, which is a fantastic place to visit, and was perhaps deposited on our site by somebody who came along and saw that it looked like a very ancient place, with an ancient wall, tree on the top, and this was the right place for perhaps their sacred comb! Maybe planted by someone who knew we were coming! Possibly! Whatever, this is not the scene that I thought we were going to! 0ur rather convincing replica comb means we're still stuck in the 20th century.
In terms of dates, this site's really not making any sense at all.
And the only solid historical evidence that can take us any further back is the 1872 map and the reference in the Domesday Book to there being a mill somewhere in this parish in 1086.
Which, for some reason, two of our experts now seem to think might be in a nearby field.
And I thought, what the hell is another leat doing cutting across country like this? Yeah, well, as I walked it, I've had exactly the same thought, and I think I'm walking along a leat same as you do.
That's what it looks like, doesn't it? Does that makes sense to you? Absolute sense, as you walk all the way down Absolute sense, as you walk all the way down That's the bottom of the valley, Isn't It? That's where the stream should be, really, to walk it.
What are you guys doing? Everyone else is about 300 yards over there! We've looked at the earthworks, and we think this is where the early mill is.
Here?! Yeah.
But I thought you said that the early mill was underneath the later mill up there? Well, this might be another mill, and everything points to being a mill somewhere where we're standing here.
What sort of date? 11th century, something like that? 0r earlier.
Yeah.
Are they common? Less than half a dozen have been excavated, so it's a real find.
What an extraordinary day this is turning out to be, and it's only day one.
Who knows what else we'll find in this sleepy Somerset field? Maybe we'll get a brush to go with our comb! It's the start of day two in Somerset, where we're trying to get to the bottom of a watermill, Buck Mill.
Spurred on by a Doomsday reference, we were hoping to find a much older mill beneath it.
But last night, two of our experts convinced themselves they'd found an early medieval mill, possibly our Doomsday mill, 300 metres to the west.
So with half our team now shifted to this new site, Mick and Stewart's reputations are already on the line.
Where the leat comes through here, there's a potential that it's still wet down at the bottom of it, cos it's certainly wet further up, so it could get quite dark.
The only problem is geophys can't see anything.
Emma's done the model now, the topography, and it looks nice.
Just looking at it in plan you can see the leat coming through here.
She's got the turn as well? She's got the turn as well, the bank's showing in red.
There's nothing here that suggests building to us, but we wouldn't expect to see it.
That was gonna be my question, would you expect to see a timber wattle and daub building that's got no occupation in it? No.
They might not be able to see any remains of the mill, but geophys helped them pick the most likely spot for it to be.
So that's where we're putting in our third trench.
We've got the cleanest clay there.
You could say there was something there.
Just looking at the geophys, you've got that arrow-straight leat and then the wiggly bit, that's classic mill.
If there's one here, this is where it should be.
If they uncover a mill dating back to 1086, it'll be a major discovery because, of the 6,000 watermills recorded by the Normans in the Doomsday Book, only a handful have ever been traced.
What is it in the landscape that makes you think there might be an earlier mill up there? There's a couple of things.
This depression is the original stream course, the course of the stream that comes down the valley.
See it rises up, up here? And where Mick's heading up here, that terrace he's walking, from all the way up there, he's walking along it, that carries on up this side of the valley, in to the hills up there.
And what that leat should be doing is bringing water, like a mill .
.
just about there.
Let's make it a bit more dramatic than that.
Here is your theoretical mill.
Let me explain that in a bit more detail.
What you find on the landscape is a big leat which starts high up there, comes in a nice gradient.
This is the terrace that Mick was walking along just there.
It comes all the way to here, and then it turns a corner and goes back into the stream.
It's the same principle you've got at that mill.
So, ideally .
.
there should be a mill somewhere about there.
I've seen the geophys, there is nothing there.
But you wouldn't expect that.
Because this is not a site that's lived in, it's not gonna have hearths and fires, ovens and so on, you wouldn't expect it to show up if it's a timber building.
We're happy either way.
If it's a mill, great.
If not, we'll have learnt something.
LAUGHTER Quite how arrogant and wrong you are! Compared to the industrialised Buck Mill, an early medieval mill would've used very basic technology and would've looked something like this.
Built largely from timber, all that's likely to remain of it are fragments of wood or traces of post holes.
So Matt and his team are sifting the clay for any possible fragments of mill they can date.
While Mick and Stewart's early medieval mill remains a wild theory, thankfully we do have a real mill that we're excavating.
Phil hasn't stopped digging into the wheel pit at Buck Mill since he uncovered a section of waterwheel.
0h, Martin, come and have a look at this.
0h, Martin, come and have a look at this.
Hello, PhIl.
It's getting quite a lot of this wheel now.
You've got a lot more showing than yesterday.
Yesterday, we started to expose the wheel over there but now we're away from the wall, you've got a nice run of the metal wheel running under my feet, and we're beginning to get these spokes going right through.
It's gonna be fascinating.
You've exposed so much more of this now that I can see my initial thoughts weren't quite right.
In what way? I was thinking that it was a brush shot wheel turning that way.
And now, as you can see from the way the buckets are, it turned that way, didn't it? It's an overshot wheel, the water must have come over the top, they could only be filled on the down side.
You can see that here, because of the curvature of this bucket.
Forgive my ignorance, but what difference does it make which way round the wheel goes? In a way, the direction doesn't matter too much, it's where the water comes on to it.
The fact the water's coming on the top and it's an overshot wheel means it's the best solution, it's the most powerful, it's the most efficient type of wheel you could have.
So is that upping the status and power of this mill? Yeah, I think we're putting it up where I'd like to see it.
It points to this being an older site with an overshot wheel.
So this final phase of Buck Mill is older and grander than we thought.
And Martin says he can tell us exactly how powerful it was by crunching the numbers from its measurements.
0ld money, 3ft 6.
New money, 1.
07.
With no finds that tell us about the previous occupants of Buck Mill, Helen has enlisted the help of its current owner, Stephanie.
I've been doing a lot of digging about, and I've found a couple of references I think are quite interesting.
This is a will of 1703 by a chap called John Bengerfield.
He describes himself as, "John Bengerfield the elder, "of Buck Mill in the parish of Stoke Trister.
Miller.
" So he's not just living at Buck Mill, he's defining himself as a miller.
He leaves all sorts of bequests.
He's obviously quite a wealthy man, but he doesn't specifically leave the mill to anybody, so it's been rolled up with the residue that's going to wife Margery.
Which is interesting, isn't it? Presumably, he's leaving the business to her, which I think is lovely.
And he mentions here, "My said daughter Mary.
" Yeah, he's leaving her £100 here, and elsewhere she gets another five.
And there's another Mary Bengerfield that crops up a bit later.
This is a deed, dates to 1790.
If you look along this line, it says, "Late in the tenure or possession of the said Mary Bengerfield.
" So 1790, it can't be the same one, but it could be a granddaughter, or great-granddaughter of John Bengerfield.
So we're getting a few names, beginning to piece it together.
At the industrial end of Buck Mill, Martin reveals its vital statistics.
We've got the diameter and width of the wheel, about 12ft diameter, 3.
5ft wide, six horsepower.
Does that make it a big mill or a little mill? Does that make it a big mill or a little mill? Sort of average.
Average.
It gives plenty of power for driving a pair of millstones.
So even though we've got a very big building, we've only got a middling size mill, which makes more sense given the area we're in, Phil? Yes, but given this type of area, where there's a lot of pastureland, it shows that if you had a corn mill here, it was a very important building.
0ur mediocre mill might have been an important building in the 1830s, but the records tell us nothing about the millers who were running it at this time.
Further back, Helen has uncovered a little dynasty who ran Buck Mill for at least three generations from the 17th century - the Bengerfields.
And, at last, the diggers could've made some finds that could tie the Bengerfield's to the remains of our miller's house.
We've got some pottery from under the floor, and some of it's 17th century.
and some of it's 17th century.
Which is that? Things like this local earthenware.
Could this tie in with our Bengerfield family? John Bengerfield's a miller who dies in 1703.
His children are born during the 1670s and 1680s.
So they could well have broken this pottery? They could, if they were badly behaved enough.
What else have you got? Some of this would date reasonably closely to that.
These fragments here, I could date those to 1660 to 1680 or thereabouts, and we're getting a background scatter of earlier stuff.
That piece is 16th century, so that's a little bit early.
Anything else you can work out from the pottery you've got? It's more-or-less what you'd expect in this part of the world.
The cup is quite nice.
It's not fantastically high status, but it's a nice piece for the time.
Thanks to the Bengerfields leaving some of their kitchenware behind, we're in the exciting position of being able to connect them to this earlier phase of the mill.
I'm hoping this luck will have spread to our other site, where they've spent all day digging the lumps and bumps in the landscape Mick and Stewart are convinced contain an early medieval mill.
They've opened two more trenches up, and as Mick and Stewart are discussing opening another, it seems they might still be looking for it.
The mill's not gonna be massively far that way, because they use the water for the wheel and when they've finished with it, it's off back down to the stream.
and when they've finished with it, it's off back down to the stream.
Chuck it back in the stream, yeah.
So if it's not in this section here, we need to be sampling along this terrace for another 30 metres cos it really ought to be in the next 30 metres or so, I'd suggest.
Why don't we put a trench in that takes in the edge of the leat, back along that 20 or 30 metres? Because there ought to be something coming off that, and we'll see it on the edge of the leat if it's there.
After half an hour of our experts deliberating where to dig next, our diggers are struggling to share their enthusiasm.
I can't believe they've gone to all that trouble to bring the water for no reason.
It doesn't make sense.
There should be something to use that water when they get it here, otherwise it doesn't work.
So Matt and his merry band of diggers have another trench to open.
0K, helmets on.
Ian? You woken up yet? You woken up yet? Not yet.
I fell asleep half way through, I've lost the will to live at this point.
It seems as though the doubt must be contagious, because at the site of Buck Mill Phil has just thrown everything up in the air, just when I thought it was all coming together.
So Mick is taking a break from his wild goose chase to try and get to the bottom of Phil's woes.
Phil, last time I was here it was all covered in scrub, it looked 19th century.
You've done a hell of a lot of work.
it looked 19th century.
You've done a hell of a lot of work.
We have, and now it's all complicated.
Is the house at the other end still a house, is that still contemporary? I think that's still residential, but we've still got to try and tie in the phases of building with what we've got where Tracy is, and then we've got to start building on from that and try and understand what's gone on in the phasing over this side.
And this wall here, once we get up on the top here, we've got a wall coming through here, comes through underneath here, and goes straight down through the wall pit.
This doesn't appear to come straight through here.
We've got this one that comes across there.
So there's walls everywhere, and until we actually look at the way each wall joins on or butts up against every other wall, we won't understand what's going on in this building.
It's gonna be tricky, isn't it? We can do it.
Somewhere in this area, Mick and Stewart are pretty sure that there's a Norman mill.
In fact, they've staked their reputations on it.
Well, they've looked here and there isn't a Norman mill here.
They've looked over there, no Norman mill.
See a trench over there? There's no Norman mill in that.
But if you look here Well, I'll leave you to decide what's here.
It's Mr Misery again.
Here he comes.
Do you know what that is? That is a line.
See these? These are your reputations, and they're on it.
We don't care.
We don't care.
We're still confident this has to be the site of a mill.
We've got this leat, we can see it in the ground, we can see it in the side of the trench, we can see it in that trench over there.
Everything focuses into this area, in the corner in here.
I love the way they keep rediscovering the leat.
We've known about the leat for 24 hours! Never mind the leat, give us the mill! Give us the time! With only one day left, we still have an early medieval mill to find and a lot of detective work to do.
In spite of this, the team feel they've earned a treat, or, as they prefer to call it, some experiential archaeology.
We're rewarding them with some genuine medieval bread and cheese, and because this is Somerset, they've got genuine Somerset Cider.
This is a good version of what the medieval peasant diet would've been like in Somerset.
We know they ate a lot of cheese, they drank cider, and we know they ground up corn to make bread.
And the upper class people ate the white bread, which isn't very good for you, and the peasants ate brown bread, full of bran, which is really good for you.
There's a good history lesson at the end of the day.
So, what are we gonna do tomorrow? Well, the site is really, really complicated, and the thing we've really got to get our head round is the relationship of all those walls, because it's a very, very complicated story.
At the end of the day, we'll be sorting the wheat from the chaff.
There are a lot of phrases in everyday use that come from milling.
Grist to the mill.
This site is a total millstone round our necks.
Stop now! This is a serious archaeology programme, no more of these run-of-the-mill jokes.
Have a bit of bread.
Cheers.
Cheers, everybody.
To day three.
Beginning of day three here in Somerset and yesterday evening, everything seemed to be going swimmingly.
We've got our lovely mill, Buck Mill, we knew what date it was, what it was for, how it worked, all that kind of thing.
That was until the archaeologists started drinking that cider.
After three glasses, they began to have doubts.
After four glasses, they were wracked with doubt.
They no longer think that all that is all this, but why don't they think so, and if it isn't that, then what is it? Mick, what's the problem? I think the problem we've got is there's so many walls, we don't know what phase is what at the moment.
So this isn't all part of one mill? So this isn't all part of one mill? 0h, no, clearly not.
So is it fair to say that this isn't this? Well, in a way, but what they've done there is they've put a facade on a whole mish-mash of buildings that were there before that have gradually developed, to make it look as if it's one new build.
So how are we going to tell the story of the mill, or the mills on this site? We need to look at the junction and the change of direction of every piece of wall across the site, so that, if that bit going across to where Phil is is contemporary He's obviously happy about something there, look.
Look at him, look at him, look, look at him! He's obviously sorted that, right.
Got another phase in here.
Got another phase in here.
Another one.
Got another phase in here.
Another one.
Another one.
And I thought it was good news! You've got a lot of work to do and not much time to do it.
We have, we have, we've got a lot of junctions to look at all over the place.
Yesterday, we were beginning to get a clear picture of the Bengerfields, who lived here from the 17th to the late 18th century, but the archaeology of the mill is giving our diggers a headache to go with their hangovers, because the walls seem to suggest 40 different phases.
When Stephanie invited us to dig her mysterious mill, we thought explaining its past would be easy.
Any news? Ha, ha, I wish there was! I mean, first thing this morning, everything went very, very well and we established that we've got two phases of building up on the top.
We've got the early phase, which is that main block of wall over there, and then this later wall which has been tagged on, probably when they put the metal wheel in.
We think we can see that this stone that belongs to this wall here Hm.
Hm.
.
.
is actually later than this wall.
So that is not likely to be part of the original mill.
What it might be is a wall that was put in when they put a narrower wheel in.
Right.
So the current theory is, is this wall part of the original mill Mm-hm.
.
.
was there a much wider wheel pit in here and that when they actually put in the narrower wheel, they backfilled the cavity with a lot of rubbish, which is why there's so much instability and we've got all these cavities? Right.
Right.
But Right.
But But, there's always a but! There is a but.
If we've got a wider wheel, we should expect to have a wider hole up there for the water to come in.
Absolutely.
And at the moment, we haven't got it.
So it was going very well first thing, now it's not going quite so well.
With the inner walls of this building still a jumble of confusion, Faye and Raksha are investigating the outer walls, in the hope they'll give us the bigger picture.
We're looking for the corner of this house, so we're hoping it's going to be about where Raksha's standing.
Yeah, you might have to get rid of some of this.
Some of that vegetation? Yeah, cos we might have to go a little bit that way.
At the site of our possible early-medieval mill, Matt and his diggers have spent a day and a half sifting through clay, but have yet to make a single find.
And if you thought life couldn't get any more miserable for them, it's started to rain.
The only person who seems unfazed by the many phases of Buck Mill is Helen.
Yesterday's finds are telling her there was once a flourishing family business here.
Well, we've got a will of the miller, um, who died in 1703, John Bengerfield, and he leaves a big estate.
It's worth something like £300, and it includes land as well.
I don't think he should have been making that money from the mill, did it come from the land? Maybe.
This object though really illustrates that because it's a clothing clasp.
It's got very detailed, very well cast decoration, and you can probably see in the sunlight that it's got a little bit of silver coating on it, so when new, it would have looked like silver.
This would have looked really smart.
'And there's also a tantalising glimpse 'of another much earlier miller.
' We've got another clue here.
This dates to the first few decades of the 16th century, so it's nearly 200 years older than the 17th-century items.
It's a purse hanger so it would have had a fabric purse hung from this little bar here and the loop would have been tied with strings to the belt, so it would have had coins or something like that in there.
You wouldn't have one unless you had a bit of money, a kind of middle-class item, and that was also found in the 18th-century mill.
So one wonders if the people associated with the mill were always a bit more middle class than you might expect.
'The scale of the mill house that John Bengerfield lived in late in 'the 17th century also points to our millers being surprisingly posh.
' That is the corner coming through just there, perfect.
So we've got the corner of the house, and I actually think where I am is the front wall of our house.
Yeah, if you look just here, it's perfectly aligned with that front doorstep.
And in front of you is our side wall of the house.
And in there should be our nice floor.
There should be a nice flag surface, yeah.
Brilliant, perfect.
We've cracked it.
'Revealing the corner of the mill house has given us a sizeable chunk 'of solid archaeology.
'It's just a shame the same can't be said for our early-medieval mill.
' Well, you two have given Matt a great couple of days.
He's happy in his hole.
What you got, Matt? We've put this section through the leat area here, and you can see this kind of brown silt fill there, we've got these clay bands, the blue clay and the yellow clay.
But, I mean, that's about it really.
I'm no mill expert, but I don't see much.
You may not be a mill expert, but is there anything down there that looks remotely, even vaguely like a mill? I'm prepared to say there is a water course coming through here.
There've been no finds or evidence of any structure.
We're stuffed, aren't we? We're stuffed, aren't we? No, I don't think so.
It was always going to be a long shot, this.
This was always going to be a long shot.
We've only got, what, a metre-and-a-half wide, it could be under here.
It's going to be a very ephemeral structure.
What do we do now? I think we stop, we haven't got time to chase it any further.
Somebody else might come back and look further, but there's nothing more we can do.
Yeah, but I'm not giving you a hand! 'Clearly, they're going to keep on saying there's a mill here, and with 'over 70 years' experience between them, who am I to argue with them? 'While our early-medieval mill is condemned to the clay, 'at the cog pit of Buck Mill, Tracey has had what can only be described 'as an archaeological epiphany.
' Yeah, I had a real Agatha Christie moment earlier on.
Well, we had the strange tale of the broken clasp, the smashed teacup and the careless smoker.
Recount the story to me! Well, we got down to the bottom of the cog pit yesterday and we've a really well rammed in stone floor down there.
Underneath the floor, just at the point where it was being laid, we found this.
It's mid-17th century and would have been some sort of dress fastening.
So somebody's been standing up here, this has broken off and fallen down, they haven't found it, they've carried on laying the floor.
So that gives us a really nice date for the laying of the floor.
Then straightaway, before anything's built up, no silting or anything like that, we have a chappy who's smoking his pipe.
This is the careless smoker? This is the careless smoker? ThIs Is the careless smokerI He's smoking his pipe and he's dropped it and he's smashed it.
He's smoking his pipe and he's dropped it and he's smashed it.
Why's he careless? Well, you can't have a naked flame in a flour mill, cos the flour would just combust.
Boom, bang goes your mill! So the only time he could have been smoking was when they were building the walls.
And then unfortunately, the same poor chap, he's had his cup of tea and he's smashed his teacup.
And what sort of date is this? The cup dates 1660 to about 1680, so that ties in really nicely with the clasp and gives us a good dating for the construction of the first phase of this part of the mill.
So very possibly thanks to John Bengerfield and his butterfingers, we now know that the earlier phase of the mill was built between 1660 and 1680.
But just how he became so wealthy remains a bit of a puzzle.
Because the mill was only average in size and power, we don't know how he came to have such a big house, unless perhaps he had his fingers in other pies.
Although they've run out of time, it seems Mick and Stewart haven't entirely given up on their early-medieval mill.
Let's say 1200, round figures, yeah.
And that leat, another one like that one, like that, it's a leat to bring water to.
0h, no, no! Yes, you said it.
Yes, you said it.
A third mill.
A third mill which ought to be there by 1200.
'And our experts have cooked up a theory stretching back 1,000 years 'as to how this landscape could have supported three mills.
' What that points to is a sequence of events, in that we've got one system coming down here on this side, which is very low technology, low gradient to Mick's mill here.
We've got one system comIng down here leading to another mill just here.
These two are fairly inefficient, low technology, so replaced by Buck Mill up here, implying a sequence of three mills.
It's a fantastic story and we're just going to have to leave these two mills vivid in the sand.
Because unfortunately, we haven't got the time to dig any more.
No, no, but I think, you know, if we came back, we'd know exactly where to go now.
Yeah, sure(!) Phil has finally solved the problem that's been giving him a headache, how the water was brought to the mill wheel during the 17th and 18th centuries, when a much wider water wheel was in use.
It's been a real archaeologist's trench, it's been really challenging, it's been wonderful.
What was the challenge? Well, what we wanted to try and do was try and establish whether or not there had been a wide water wheel in here before the narrow metal one.
Now, to put that metal wheel in, you have to block off this wide opening, so what I really needed to do was actually find the proof, and the proof is in here.
We started at the top and we began to realise that this was part of this big blocking.
And originally, we thought it came to here, we thought this was going to be a major stone wall.
But the crucial bit of the jigsaw was taking off all the limescale that covered this part of the wall.
And you can see here actually, now I've got rid of the limescale, that there's a joint running up through here.
This is part of this major wall that runs down here, all of this is blocking that was put in when they put the metal wheel in.
So what does that tell us about the history of the wheel and the pit? Well, it seems that we had a wide wheel working off a lesser head of water, and later on, in the quest for more power, more productivity in the mill, they put in a bigger water wheel, an overshot wheel.
And that way, by raising the head of water, by embanking the pond and getting a bit better head of water coming into the wheel pit, they could put in a narrower water wheel.
It was more powerful because the water was coming from higher? Absolutely.
With an overshot wheel, you've got the best arrangement.
And because of our archaeologists' detective work, we now have a pretty good idea of what Buck Mill would have looked like right back to the 17th century.
This earliest phase of mill could have been built by John Bengerfield between 1660 and 1680, at which point, the mill would have had a much wider water wheel.
In the 18th century, another pair of millstones were added.
Around the 1830s, the more primitive wooden wheel would have been removed and replaced by the cast-iron overshot wheel, which required fundamental changes to the water supply and wheel pit.
Buck Mill had a leat bringing water from the stream over a mile up the valley, so it would have been a remarkable feat of engineering that supported not only generation after generation of miller, but the entire community around them.
And only this morning, we thought we'd be leaving Stephanie with a more confused picture of her mill's history than when we arrived.
Pleased we came? No, it's all been a terrible inconvenience, look at the mess(!) No, it's all been a terrible inconvenience, look at the mess(!) Go on! 0f course I'm pleased you came.
It's been a brilliant three days.
I'm really sad you're going.
It's been a brilliant three days.
I'm really sad you're going.
What have we learnt? 0h, an enormous amount.
I mean, not only about the building that you asked us to come and look at, which is all these phases of development and reflects mill development generally, but also the whole valley.
I know you don't like it, but we think we've got two medieval mills down there as well.
That's a real bonus, that is.
If ever you or your horses stumble on a medieval mill If ever you or your horses stumble on a medieval mill I'll let you know! Yeah, cos he's getting a bit desperate!