8th November 2016

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.

Treasure means different things to different people. To me, anything that’s been buried and then rediscovered years later has a story to tell, and trying to unlock its history and understand what it is and how it got there makes it fascinating and uniquely valuable.

Intriguing old corroded metal objects dug up during the site clearance

These objects were discovered by metal detector while the top terrace was being cleared, before the diggers started work on the deep trenches for land drains and the foundations for the new buildings. As soon as I heard about their discovery I was dying to have a look and to draw them and I wasn’t disappointed – rusty, corroded, broken, and when I saw them, still encrusted with dirt – they all have a story. And if their full meaning is impossible to make out that only makes them more intriguing. It’s tempting to think of cleaning them up, but at the same time their present state is what they now are, and as the manager of the museum Daru Rooke puts it, ‘their mystery is tied up in their corroded uncertainty.’

Some of them are not in fact all that old (there’s a 2p piece there somewhere) but others are obviously from earlier times. Looking closely I could identify nails (some I thought possibly horseshoe nails) and a squashed thing that looked as if it might be silver – perhaps the tip of a cane? Others looked as though they were brass, but I couldn’t work out what they might be.

Since my sketch they’ve been thoroughly examined by the museum staff and the collection includes ’19th century nails and brads; a disputed umbrella ferrule/ crushed cartridge case and some non specific fixings.’ So the squashed thing could be a cartridge case. I hadn’t thought of that. (I think I prefer umbrella ferrule…) And a brad, for those – like me – who are not familiar with the technical specifications of nails, according to the dictionary definition is: ‘1 : a thin nail of the same thickness throughout but tapering in width and having a slight projection at the top of one side instead of a head. 2 : a slender wire nail with a small barrel-shaped head.’

Very strange rocks dug up from the site of the old pond

Unlike metal, limestone doesn’t corrode. Bury it, and it won’t be very much changed when it’s dug up again, and these extraordinary rocks were unearthed when the pond site was excavated. They weren’t entirely unexpected as they appear in old photographs, firstly making a craggy sort of edging around the original pond, and later forming the structure of a rockery when the pond was filled in. But perhaps no-one expected them to be quite so wild and strange, the way eroded limestone can be. They’ve now been removed from the site to be stored, ready in due course to be reassembled around the pond and this should be interesting. Another milestone to look forward to!

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.