Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

While the path is being laid in Dark Lane at the top of the lower field and the wall is being slowly and carefully repaired, work continues on the top terrace at the site where the new glasshouses and café will be – and although it’s not possible to get a really close look at the work, it’s always interesting to watch through the viewing windows in the wooden hoarding. There’s now a big heap of rusty old iron pipes and other bits and pieces lying in a twisted pile in the foreground – mostly Victorian heating pipes removed from what was probably a kind of service tunnel. Some of these look very interesting even in the battered state they’re in now – and some will definitely be conserved and kept for the museum, so I look forward to being able to examine them more closely some day.

The day I sketched these, some large red box like structures had recently arrived on site and I sketched one of these in the background as well, wondering what it was. Later I had the chance to ask and now I know that these are trench boxes. They’re lowered into a trench to stabilise the sides and make it safe to work at the bottom of the hole without any danger of the sides collapsing; they’re expandable, to fit different sizes of trench, and they’re also used as temporary shuttering to support cement poured in at the sides. Such a clever solution to a common problem.

The Victorians were as excited about the new technologies of their day as we are about ours – I think possibly even more so – and Cliffe Castle has plenty of examples of these materials and construction methods.A while ago I managed to get hold of a small piece of the original aggregate that lined the pond, so I could get a close look and examine it properly. I don’t know exactly what it’s made from and hope some day to find out. (There are unexpected black shiny bits in it that look like coal.) I dived into the internet to research Portland cement, and found out it was invented and patented in 1824, and sold in barrels – a hugely easier and much safer material to use compared with lime mortar, though expensive. But I can imagine that this would have been good stuff to use for lining the pond.

Whenever I sketch things like this I find myself asking questions and looking for answers (not always easy to find) – and the more I sketch the more interesting it becomes!

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094, at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.