This page is a regularly updated selection of photographs taken of a remarkable phenomenon found in the northern moors of England: a babbling brook that proffers up from its riverbed a transitory collection of objects from the past.
Every time the brook floods - a new curation of curios spouts forth from a midden onto a stony bank.
For the full story behind the midden see here.
Why am I photographing these objects?
Firstly, unlike finds set within the context of a dig, these artefacts are transient, they are regularly washed away by the brook. The immediate feeling is that I want to capture that which might never be seen again, and honour the people behind each object.
They are keyhole glimpses into the past - little pockets of contact.
The photographs are also an intervention, an act of opposition to the flakiness of the present. For me, the photos act as anchors, helping me find purchase on the levelling forbearance and wisdom of these hardy people.
For some of the finds I use a portable booth and light. After photographing the finds, I put them back where I found them. If I come across an object set into the river bank in context - I leave it. It has a story to tell for another day.
Every single photograph that I've taken on this site has nourished me, like a bowl of soup.
Like the brook, this page will replenish with new delights after every visit I make.
The latest photographs are at the top. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the earliest finds.
3rd December 2019
I went back to the new area to see if I could find the boot - it turned out to be a child's leather shoe. During my visit I chatted to a chap out walking who said that he'd found clay pipes with names etched onto them: 'O'Brien' and Dublin. It was cold - so the visit was quite short - but one of my favourite finds was part of a cup with an idyllic summer scene upon it.
Here are the finds from today's visit.
19 November 2019
More of the bank has collapsed revealing a chronological layering of ceramics. The receding undergrowth has exposed a deep cut further up the river. The bank here is at least 2.5 metres high. This is virgin territory, I haven't seen it before, and the wealth of artefacts on display is overwhelming. Is that the outline of a boot that I can see on the riverbank across the brook? I'll have to come back again to capture it - but I'm anxious to get as much as I can before it's washed away. Intriguingly, I find the first object that has a date upon it....quite a significant date.
Here are the finds from today's visit.
“Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky 1861 “ - This is the first dated object I’ve found. There’s an intrinsic beauty to its ‘found form’ - cut, broken and faceted by the tumbling brook.
Such a significant date for this area - 1861 was the start of the American Civil War which led to the Lancashire Cotton Famine . Perhaps this bottle of whisky was the last indulgence for the owner before being cast into hard times.
Thumbing over the type, I try and think of its tenure, the life of the bottle. Brought in along the packhorse route - rattling in its crate as the cart wheels scuff up against the runnels of the track. Perhaps bought by a resident of the terraces: Foreman of the Fourdrinier. The first half of its contents emptied with enthused regularity, until the war takes its hold, and then a slower pace of use. Perhaps a drop on birthdays and anniversaries, and then the final dram left until after his last breath.
I often get fixated on the range of decorative and typographical clues as to what period the objects came from, revealing a delicious layered cake of historical tastes.
Mesmerised by the sheer variety and complexity of the objects on the bank, I start to think fancifully of the components of a time machine. Firstly add three metres of layered midden, then cast against it a fast flowing water course. The river in spate provides the gears and cogs to fission a movement in time. This brief synchronous spark, this alchemy of place, turns the brook into a clepsydra, revealing momentary interventions into the past.
June and August 2019
June heralded the first discovery of the midden, it wasn't until I returned later in August to the brook, that I realised that after heavy rain, it was replenishing the original finds with new objects of delight. Read the full story behind the first finds here.
“They were just like us.. “, I remember mumbling to myself whilst thumbing over a muddied cup; and for the first time in a decade of visiting this place, I could see the heat of their lives beyond the robbed out walls at Deeply, burning like an embrasure in the night.
See the story behind the finds...
Link to: Midden