This April we are once again blogging along with the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our team of one-place studiers will be sharing some of the treasures to be found for a one-place study, particularly around the theme of Visualisation, our Shared Endeavour for 2016.
I'm lucky enough to be able to visualise my place by looking out of the window. For others, Google Maps gives a fair idea of its appearance now. Maps and photographs allow changes to be tracked over time. Artifacts help us understand the daily lives of residents of our places. All of these however help us visualise our place above ground. What about underground?
We can get some idea of what's under our places from geological maps and surveys. This shows us the underlying bedrock, soil composition, water chemistry and the like. The British Geological Survey has various resources in this area. Many of their maps are available under the Open Government Licence - a bonus. However I have chosen to illustrate this with a quaint old geological map from 1820 which illustrates the bedrock of millstone grit with outcrops of the Pennine lower coal measures. The seams were piddling, about 18 inches in places, but were worked pretty much continuously from C17 to nationalisation in places. This has left both workings on the ground and records in the archives just waiting to be explored, and the main property in Springhill was built by a colliery proprietor.
This leads onto things visible above ground which give clues to things underneath. Springhill is so called for a reason, as the number of blue Spr labels on the OS maps readily indicate. The picture shows a spring emerging in the woods above Springhill after the recent rain. The ground is dry in summer. Others are permanent fixtures and some are even culverted. For Springhill it's springs, mines and quarries. For other places there will be evidence of abandoned villages, former industrial sites, old field patterns... now covered over but with tell-tale signs of their role in your place's history.
The third way to investigate underground is to go and explore it. This is easiest during excavations for other reasons, usually commercial development. There have been none in Springhill itself but the opening of the River Roach in Rochdale has led to the exposure of a medieval bridge.It is always worth having a look when excavations are taking place.
However the more intrepid have taken to exploring the underground cavern from which the springs of Springhill emerge. There is probably more than one reservoir there and they are probably interconnected but the area is prone to rockfall so full exploration his difficult. However alternative visualisation of my place has been provided by Chris Lord and his friends of the Rossendale Historical Detective Agency who have paid a number of visits to the caves. For the less intrepid, some places have commercially run guided tours of subterranean medieval streets.