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Progress at Brandy Bottom
The AIBT would like to thank Ibstock, Historic England and the Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust for their financial and material assistance to the conservation work at Brandy Bottom. They are also grateful for the help given by members of other organisations, such as the South Gloucestershire Mines Research Group, and by people living nearby.
The lease with the site owners, Ibstock, was signed in late 2008, allowing the AIBT to start work on the site. This included development of the site conservation plan under the direction of the consulting architects, JH Consulting, of Bath. The plans were also discussed with Historic England, who made site inspections. Site and topographical surveys, and rectified photography of the surviving walls, were completed by the end of 2008.
There were 6 work parties at the site during the year, including a further site inspection by Historic England on 24 June.
During the year, the main focus of work at the site was cutting back the vegetation growing around all the buildings and on the top of the northern heapstead. At the same time the ivy growing on the walls of the two building complexes was trimmed, both to weaken the ivy and to reduce the load it imposes on the structures. The location of the shaft associated with the Vertical Engine House in the northern complex was discovered on 28 August. On 30 October, cutting back the shrubs growing inside the ruined Vertical Engine House uncovered the securing bolts for the machinery.
Photo right: Clearing out the chimney flue, October 2010. Photo by G Travers
The floor of the Horizontal Engine House in the southern complex was cleared of rubble on 11 August, making it easier to monitor the deterioration of the roof. At some time in the past the tie rods that bound the walls together have been removed, allowing the walls to spread under the weight of the arched roof. Markers have been installed on the resulting cracks so that any further deterioration can be measured.
The last stage of clearing the flue at the base of the chimney was finished on 30 October, allowing the condition of the brickwork of the flue and the lower part of the inside of the chimney to be checked. This appears to be in good condition. The state of the brickwork on the outside of the chimney has still to be surveyed. A planned inspection of the chimney from a helicopter had to be abandoned, and alternative ways of making the inspection are being looked at. Most of the outside masonry and brickwork seems to be in a reasonable condition, though there are some areas at the top that will need attention.
The history of the pit was being investigated, and is being written up as a report.
There were a total of 17 work parties during the year. The first, on 03 March, saw an earlier start than in 2010 to the endless struggle against the encroaching vegetation. The scrub growing on the top of the southern heapstead and horizontal engine house was cut back to soil level. As a result we were able to locate the shaft capping associated with horizontal engine. The ivy, and other vegetation, growing on the walls of both complexes was trimmed back, both on this and the subsequent sessions. A visit on 26 March by a local expert on Cornish Engines showed us where some of the securing bolts for the cylinder of the Cornish Engine House could be found, and the position of the associated shaft for the pump rods.
Photo right: Details of masonry at top of the chimney, June 2011.
The cold weather at the turn of the year has not kind to the roof of the horizontal engine house, and there has been more spalling of the brickwork and widening of the roof cracks. Reinstallation of the tie rods should control the movement. However the consent of Historic England was first required as Brandy Bottom is a scheduled ancient monument. This was given, and new rods were ordered from a local supplier. This is the first time we have had to ask Historic England to approve conservation work, but there will be more occasions in the future as work proceeds. Historic England Heritage has also recommended that the roof of the engine house is waterproofed to minimise any further damage from water. An old layer of tarmac was discovered on the roof during the scrub clearance on 03 March. That has obviously become porous with age, but may provide a foundation for a new protective waterproof layer.
The state of the masonry on the chimney was surveyed from the ground on 18 June, using a camera and telephoto lens rather than a helicopter.
A start was made on clearing spoil from the passage between the Cornish Engine House and the adjacent pit, with the aim of making access easier to the areas behind. A photo taken in July shows work in progress. Among the finds in this area have been a large bolt and what looks like a bearing attached to a trunnion. These may have come from the beam of the Cornish Engine.
Two tie rods were installed in the New Pit Horizontal Engine House on 09 July, and a third tie rod on 30 July. On the latter date vegetation was cleared from its roof and the top of the associated heapstead. The expert on Cornish Engines made a second visit, and provided useful advice on both the layout of the Cornish engine and associated beam, and of the layout of the Vertical Engine House in the north-east of that complex. He also confirmed that the bearing found earlier was a parallel motion anchorage point from the beam of the Cornish Engine.
More vegetation was cleared from the top of the Horizontal Engine House on 17 August, when a large Hawthorn stump was wrestled into submission and removed. Its roots may have penetrated the hard layer on the top of the roof, and contributed to the damage to the underlying brick arch.
This clearance work continued on 27 August, when the tops of the walls of the Horizontal Engine House were uncovered in two places. The earth and bricks covering the capping of the pumping shaft in the South Pit complex was removed, to reveal a concrete slab with 'Finish 1923' inscribed into the surface. This suggests that the beam engine had stopped working at some time before that date, though this has not yet been confirmed from historical records.
Photo left: An uncovered section of wall on the top of the Horizontal Engine House, showing two bolts (? for securing baulks of timber ?) and channels in the masonry that may have held timber edge pieces, September 2011.
On 03 September one group carried on with vegetation clearance on top of the Horizontal Engine House, revealing more about the layout of the masonry. The edges may have been capped by baulks of timber, as there are securing bolts at intervals around the edge. There are also shallow channels in the masonry, which could have been used to stop the bottom of the baulks moving.
The area around the shaft capping in the South Pit complex, uncovered in the previous session, was tidied up. A start was also made on uncovering the engine beds in the vertical engine house associated with the South Pit. Several robins have territories around the buildings, and are starting to 'inspect' the work in progress as they become accustomed to all the activity on site.
More of the Horizontal Engine House roof was uncovered on 24 September. Another Hawthorn stump was was uprooted, which led to the discovery of an area where bricks had been laid in the soil without using any mortar. Nor were they connected to the nearest wall, and why this was done is not clear.
Photo right: Discussion on the layout of the engine bed, September 2011.
Vegetation clearance continued on 17 October, and a start was made on clearing fallen masonry from the path along the side of the New Pit heapstead. This was substantially complete at the end of the next session on 24 October. Clearance of the path along the bottom of the South Pit heapstead was started on 05 November.
A proposal was submitted to Historic England in November for the installation of a membrane on the roof of the Horizontal Engine House. The membrane will stop rain getting into the structure, which can lead to frost damage to the masonry.
Brandy Bottom was one of the case studies in the Historic England's 2011 survey of Industrial Heritage at Risk, which was published on 19 October 2011.
There were 21 workparties in 2012. The first was on 04 February, though the arrival of snow in the afternoon brought proceedings to an early halt. One of the tasks was to clear up rubbish, made easier by the winter die-back of vegetation. The cold nights had created a crop of icicles in the passageway between the Horizontal Engine House and the New Pit heapstead, which had melted away by the next day. There were no icicles elsewhere on site.
Photo right: Icicles in the passageway between the Horizontal Engine House and the New Pit Heapstead, February 2012.
A start was made on establishing ground levels around the Horizontal Engine House walls, so that the walls could be repaired at a future date using a mobile scaffolding platform. The test trench made last year on the north-west corner of the house was extended southwards. This revealed that the brick floor continued along the length of the cleared area, and was still in good condition adjacent to the walls but deteriorated away from them. There were no finds.
The clearance work continued along the wall of the Horizontal Engine House on 18 February, at least until rain brought a halt to proceedings at midday. This uncovered some brick steps to the doorway.
Clearance work along the north-west wall was finished on 03 March, and a narrower strip was cleared on the other side of the engine house. The end wall was cleared on 17 March, uncovering a section of fallen wall just under the ground surface.This can be seen in the image below.
There have been further discussions with Historic England about waterproofing the roof of the Horizontal Engine House. This would also involve restoring some of the missing masonry from the top edges of the building's walls. The work will be done by a contractor, and quotes for the work are being sought.
Rough levelling of the top of the Horizontal Engine House was finished on 31 March. The spoil was seived, and the fine fraction stockpiled for future use when countouring the roof for drainage. Two test trenches were dug along the side of the New Pit heapstead wall. Nothing of significance was found in one, located at the end where the slope down meets ground level. The other was at the engine house end, at a point where the stone facing of the wall had collapsed. There was no sign of these stones, which suggestes that they may have been removed at some time after the facing collapsed. One significant find here was a securing pin on a chain.
Ivy growing along the path side of the New Pit heapstead was cut back on 21 April to reduce stresses on the masonry of the wall. The roof was surveyed to establish the levels at various points. These measurements will be used in the design of the run-off slopes for the impermeable membrane.
On 05 May a pile of debris was cleared from the path along the South Pit heapstead, at a point where the wall of the heapstead had collapsed. None of the missing stones were found, however an almost complete example of a roof tile was uncovered. Several broken tiles of this type had been found in 2011 outside the Horizontal Engine House, and other finds included what appears to be a track spike.
Clearance work along the wall of the South Pit heapstead continued on 19 May, and again the missing stones were not found. Among the finds were two pieces of rail, one a piece of light rail with the remains of two fishplates and the other a length of tramway rail with joint holes. Markers were placed on the roof of the Horizontal Engine House to indicate the falls for the waterproof membrane.
Photo left: Iron rim, possibly from a coal tub, found at the base of the Cornish Engine House wall, June 2012.
More hawthorn stumps were uprooted on 30 June, and a start was made on clearing a section at the base of the north-eastern wall of the Cornish Engine House. This uncovered the stones that have fallen from the wall of the house, and these have been stockpiled for future re-use. There was also what appeared to be the iron rim of a mine tub, with one complete side 4 ft long, and two partial ends. Clearance work continued along the base of the wall on 14 and 28 July and finished on 11 August.
On 25 August work resumed on clearing a level path along the base of the South Pit heapstead walls, and this is now almost complete. The session on 15 September concentrated on the Cornish Engine House, and a somewhat moth-eaten set of steps were uncovered on the southern side of the building. The reason for the bolt near the top of the steps is being debated, but it may have anchored a set of handrails on either side. The steps led up to a platform running along the side of the wall. The wall of the house in the region of the steps has collapsed, so it is not possible to say if they led directly to an entrance. Clearance inside the Cornish Engine House continued on 29 September and 13 October. This has uncovered a quantity of building stone from the walls, which is being stockpiled for future reuse.
Photo right: Flat plate found at base of one of the Cornish Engine House walls, Oct 2012.
The full extent of the engine bed in the Cornish Engine House was uncovered on 24 October. This has an annular groove worn into the surface, and a crack running across it. The groove is worn unequally on either side of the crack. The outer diameter of the groove is 64" and the inner diameter 55", comparable with the known 60" diameter of the cylinder.
Following agreement with Historic England, stone masons started repairs to the north-eastern wall of the Cornish Engine House at the end of October. They replaced the masonry that had fallen out of the wall, which had left the upper courses unsupported. The extent of the damage can be judged from a photo taken in 1965, which shows the wall to be largely intact. This work was completed in early November. Photos on the 'Buildings and Work in Progress' page of the website show the state of the wall before work started, the work in progress and the outside of the wall after the work was finished.
This work was still in progress on 04 November, so attention was turned to clearing the area around the entrance to the flue to the chimney. The small group on 14 November worked on site maintenance, consolidating the remaining stocks of recovered masonry.
There were 18 work parties in 2013. The original 5-year licence from Historic England to work on site site expired in 2012, and is in the process of being renewed. Until then, the AIBT is restricted to vegetation control on site. As a result the first work party of the year was not until 02 March, when a start was made on clearing the vegetation from the fan housing. The rest of the stocks of recovered masonry were also consolidated.
Vegetation clearance continued on 20 March, revealing that the fan housing extends over a larger area than originally thought. It is now possible to see clearly that one of the walls has been pushed out of true by pressure from the adjacent batch. This can be seen in the picture, which looks along the duct towards the New Pit heapstead, with the batch to the left. The task of relieving the pressure has been added to the list of things to be done at a future date ...
Photo left: Looking along the fan duct towards the New Pit heapstead, March 2013.
Work on the site tidy-up continued on 06 and 17 April, as well as 01 May. Many of the old hawthorn stumps have started to sprout again, and small hawthorn and bramble seedlings are trying to recolonise both heapsteads.
A talk on Brandy Bottom was given at the South Wales and West of England Regional Conference on Industrial Archaeology, which was held at the Fry's Club, Keynsham, on 20 April 12.
More spoil and rubble was cleared out of the fan ducts on 01 May. The rubble included lumps of concrete from the broken parts of the roof, and an example of a bullnose brick with 'SHORTWOOD' embossed onto a face. The concrete is of poor quality, with voids and embedded lumps of coal.
Progress has been made on the renewal of the licence, and EH offered us an agreement to work under section 17 in May. Work continues on the application for a Heritage Protection Agreement. In the interim there was more vegetation clearance work on 18 May and on 7 June. There was also an on-site meeting with the architect on 07 June, at which short and long term plans were discussed. More masonry was sorted and stockpiled by the small group on 10 July.
The results of research into the history of Brandy Bottom were published as a book in July. Copies are available through the post at a cost of £9.50, which includes £2.50 p+p, by sending an email request to email@example.com.
A flight of 5 steps was uncovered while clearing fallen masonry outside the eastern wall of the Vertical Engine House on 20 July. The steps appear to have been made from stone sleeper blocks from the Dramway. The vegetation in some parts of the site was controlled by strimming.
The top of the South Pit heapstead was strimmed on 31 July to control the growth of bracken and many hawthorn seedlings. The wildflowers growing on the top of the New Pit heapstead have set seed, so that area and that ramp were also strimmed to control the growth of yet more hawthorn seedlings and bracken.
On 10 August more ground was cleared around the steps outside the Vertical Engine House. A test trench was dug in the floor of the Old Boiler House to gain information on the state of the structure. This will form the specification for conservation work in that part of the site. An oval cast iron wagon identification plate belonging to the Bristol and South Wales Wagon Company was found in the bottom of this trench.
Work continued round the Vertical Engine House steps on 24 August and on 07 September. The work parties on 18, 28 September and 19, 23 October were held off-site, recovering building stone by sorting through a dump containing a mixture of lias stone and sticky clay.
Photo right: Wagon identity plate found in Old Boiler House, August 2013.
On 16 November more spoil was cleared from around the Vertical Engine House wall, this time on the other side of the entrance. More stone was recovered, and two irregular shaped metal plates were found lying on top of each other.
A newsletter for the Friends of Brandy Bottom was published in early December, summarising activities in 2013. A copy can be accessed on the archive page of this website.
The final work party of the year was on 14 December, when the last part of the Vertical Engine House wall was cleared of spoil.
Scheduled Monument Consent was received from Historic England in December, and this will allow work to proceed in 2014 on waterproofing of the Horizontal Engine House roof. It also covers the preliminary work on assessing the state of the top of the chimney.
There were 30 work parties in 2014. The first was on 25 January, when the path along the base of the Old Pit heapstead was extended towards the north. When completed this will allow wheel barrow access to the Old Boiler House, and also provide level ground for the scaffolding needed for patching the heapstead wall. The draft up the chimney was sufficient to suck the smoke from a bonfire, lit outside the flue, up the chimney. This is probably the first time that this has been seen in over 80 years.
Photo right: Smoke coming out of chimney on 25 Jan 14.
A FoBB newsletter (No 2) was published mid-February.
The recent gales have brought down a piece of limestone from the top of the chimney. This was discovered during the site inspection as part of the 19 February work party. Work continued on clearing a path along the base of the Old Pit heapstead, and this has now reached the base of the ramp to the upper level. There was also some clearance work inside the Old Boiler House, which has established the floor level.
It was a sunny, but cold, day on 01 March. The path to the Old Boiler House turned the corner at the base of the Old Pit heapstead ramp and was driven towards the Old Boiler House. This part of the site seems to have been used as a bottle tip, to judge by the number that have been unearthed over the last two work parties. The masons have started to install the internal ladder up the chimney. Once that is place, the state of the masonry at the top can be assessed and a specification for the necessary conservation work drawn up and submitted to Historic England for approval.
There was an impromptu work party on 04 March, when some exploration work on the best route for the path into the Old Boiler House uncovered the remains of a wall. This area was investigated in more depth at the next work party on 12 Mar. A tree growing against the southern-most wall of the fan ducts was cut down, as it was starting to destroy the brickwork. By the time of the next work party, on 12 March, the masons had had to stop work on the chimney as they had encountered an area of brickwork short of the top that needed repointing. Historic England will have to approve the work specification before the repointing can take place and the ladder installation completed.
Work on the path to the Old Boiler House continued on 12 March. A tree stump growing against one of its walls had to be carefully removed by cutting the roots that were penetrating the masonry. A start was made on 29 March on clearing spoil from inside the Old Boiler House so that the state of the walls could be assessed. This continued on 12 April, when the window seen in the photo on the right was fully revealed. One of the artefacts found on 29 March was the metal container for Palmolive shaving soap, while the remains of a metal shovel were found on 12 April.
Photo right: Window opening in Old Boiler House, April 14.
Attention switched to the Vertical Engine House on 23 April, when reclaimed stones that had been stockpiled in the western corner of the Vertical Engine House were moved to a new stockpile outside the building. Spoil and stones were also removed from a pit in the floor of the building, which is where two bricks in very good condition were found. One has the name 'Shortwood' embossed into the frog, while the second has an ornate frog. This work continued on 03 May, uncovering a beam socket in the north-west wall.
A FoBB newsletter (No 3) was published mid-May.
There was a site inspection by Historic England and South Gloucestershire Council on 21 May, as they wanted to see progress on site. There were also discussions on proposed methods of working. Approval was given for the completion of the chimney ladder, so that and installing the waterproof membrane on the roof of the Horizontal Engine House can now go ahead.
The pit in the Vertical Engine House was cleared down to a stone floor on 31 May. In one area the spoil included a thick layer of old grease. A brick was found which had the imprint of a hobnailed boot fired into one surface. This can be seen in the photo on the right.
Photo right: Imprint of hobnailed boot on brick, May 2014.
More stone was delivered to site on 04 June, and this was sorted and re-stockpiled on 11 Jun.
Approval was given on 17 June for repairs to the top of the chimney, as well as strengthening the missing brickwork at base of the chimney and the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House.
More stone was delivered to site on 19 and 20 June, and this was sorted and re-stockpiled on 21 June. On 02 July, the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House, and the base of the chimney, were cleaned up ahead of repairs later in the year.
Work parties on 07 and 12 July concentrated on vegetation control. The remains of a flight of stone steps were uncovered on top of the Pumping Shaft crossover on 12 July. Only the inner supports remain, as the treads and outer supports have crumbled away over time. The main aim on 23 July was to clear the ground ahead of the arrival of a storage container. Brick plinths were built to act as supports on 09 August.
The AIBT shared a stand with the SGMRG at the South Gloucestershire show on 02 and 03 August. Our display showcased the conservation work at Brandy Bottom.
There was a visit by around 20 BIAS members on 14 August. One visitor identified the parallel motion bearing found in 2011 as being of the later Boulton & Watt pattern.
Conservation work took a back seat on 20 August as the first distraction was a visit by a Harris hawk (see photo on right). The falconer uses it to chase away the seagulls from the nearby pit. The hawk clearly preferred chasing seagulls to hanging around Brandy Bottom. The second distraction was the arrival of the storage container.
Photo right: Harris Hawk on falconer's arm, August 2014.
A FoBB newsletter (No 4) was published mid-August.
A start was made on 30 August on rebuilding the base of the chimney in the Old Boiler House, using bricks reclaimed from that part of the site. As can be seen from the photo the collapse was extensive. The rebuild continued on 27 September, when a start was also made on rebuilding and repointing the area around the window opening in the north-eastern wall. (This opening was uncovered on 12 April and can be seen in the photo further up this page.) The masons had completed their work on the top of the chimney by this time, though they have still repointing to do on the outside of the top. The top course of stones had become very eroded and has been replaced by a concrete ring that is secured to the courses below. The repaired top can be seen in a photo on the 'Buildings and Conservation Work' page, together with another above it showing the top in March before repairs started.
There was more rebuiling work in the Old Boiler House on 11 October. More courses were laid at the base of the chimney, and the eastern side of the window opening in the north-eastern wall was rebuilt to its original level. Further clearance work in the winding drum pit of the Vertical Engine House uncovered two fragments of a large earthenware pot with a glazed interior.
Rebuilding work continued in the Old Boiler House on 22 October, when the window section of the north-eastern wall was raised to its final height and the brickwork keyed into the remainder of the wall. It will now be given a capping of Pennant stones. The rebuild of the base of the chimney has reached the level of the flue, which is being left as a feature.
Photo right: Base of chimney in Old Boiler House, showing progress in rebuilding, October 2014.
More of the north-east end of the winding drum pit in the Vertical Engine House was excavated, reaching the earth bottom at a depth of 6 feet. The spoil at this level was heavily contaminated with oil.
The masons started work on the roof of the Horizontal Engine House towards the end of October. By early November they had rebuilt the tops of the walls and laid an intermediate membrane. It was too wet on 08 November to work on rebuilding in the Old Boiler House, so the time was spent tidying up the container and the Horizontal Engine House.
A FoBB newsletter (No 5) was published mid-November.
The waterproof membrane was in place on the roof of the Horizontal Engine House by the time of the work party on 19 November, though there are still some final touches to be completed. The rebuild of the base of the chimney continued, and the rebuilt section of the wall in the Old Boiler House was capped with large stones.
The last work party of the year was on 06 December, when more of the base of the chimney was rebuilt. There was also a site inspection by Historic England on 18 December.
There were 29 work parties in 2015. The first was on 31 January, when preparations were made for the restart of work on the base of the chimney. More of the base was rebuilt on 11 February.
A FoBB newsletter (No 6) was published mid-February.
Photo right: Rebuilding of the base of the chimney at the end of the 21 Feb 15 workparty.
Rebuilding of the base of the chimney continued on 21 February, and the photo to the right shows progress at the end of the workparty. Work also started on the foundations for the beam that will butress the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House. This wall is starting to collapse inwards due to the pressure of the material in the adjacent batch. Another group started to clear spoil from the area above the East Flue.
The masons repointed the outside of the stonework at the top of the chimney at the end of February, paid for by a grant from Historic England. Two stones just below the cast concrete ring were too badly weathered to re-use, and will have to be replaced at a later date by new ones cut to fit. The masons will also repoint the top 6 feet of the brickwork just below the top at the same time. The photo on the 'Buildings and Conservation Work' page was taken when the repointing of the stone section was almost finished.
Bracing of the the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House started on 08 April, when the beam was installed and partially bricked in place. The rebuild of the base of the chimney was completed on 18 April, and work will now concentrate on the wall on the batch side of the building. The photo on the 'Buildings and Conservation Work' page shows the rebuilt base. One of the half sheave wheels alongside the cycle path was cleared of encroachinmg vegetation on 18 April. While this was being done it was noticed that it carried an entwined TS as the maker's mark. This was subsequently discovered to be the logo of Thompson & Southwick, Tamworth.
Spoil was removed from above the entry passage to the New Boiler area on 06 May, uncovering a platform with a stone floor whose purpose has still to be discovered.
Photo right: Plate at base of winding drum pit in Vertical Engine House, June 2015.
A FoBB newsletter (No 7) was published mid-May.
On 16 May a beam was installed in the wall of the Old Pit heapstead by the Pumping Shaft, which will allow the wall above it to be rebuilt. The first course of bricks was laid on 13 June.
More spoil was removed from the centre of the winding drum pit in the Vertical Engine House on 16 May and 03 June. Among the artefacts hiddden among the spoil were an enamel basin that had been repaired with two washers, and a complete sole for a hobnailed boot. There was also a metal plate at the bottom of the pit which appeared to cover a drain leading towards the batch and the mineral encrusted remains of a wooden channel going down the eastern side of the pit. More of the channel was uncovered on an evening work party on 09 June.
Rebuilding of both the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House and the Old Pit heapstead wall continued on 01 and 11 July. The photographs on the 'Buildings and Conservation Work' page show progress on the Old Pit heapstead and Old Boiler House walls on 01 July and 11 July respectively.
The AIBT had a stand at the South Gloucestershire Show on 01 and 02 August, adjacent to that of the SGMRG. Copies of the display boards, seen in the photo to the right, can be found on the display boards page of the website.
Photo right: AIBT stand at South Gloucestershire Show, August 2015.
The rebuild of the Old Pit heapstead wall was completed on 08 August, while work continued on the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House. This in turn was largely completed on 12 August, with only a few final touches to the interface between the stone and brick sections to be added.
A FoBB newsletter (No 8) was published mid-August.
The final touches to the north-east wall of the Old Boiler House were completed on 29 August. Work continued in the Vertical Engine House where the central wall was uncovered on 29 August and 09 September. The remains of a drain running under part of the floor of the winding drum pit was uncovered on 26 September, and more was found out about its layout on 07 October. In one direction it heads towards the sump in the Old Pit heapstead alcove, while in the other it goes towards the Old Boiler House.
A start was made on 17 October on the removal of spoil from the inside of the south-eastern wall of the Vertical Engine House, starting from just inside the old doorway. This uncovered a stub end of a holding down bolt against the wall, followed by the suggestion of an engine bed. All the spoil was removed from this part of the engine house on 04 November, uncovering all of the engine bed. There are signs that the scrap metal crew struggled to remove the cylinder, as one nut remains attached to its bolt. It has been partly cut with a cold chisel, and there is still a fragment of the casting they secured attached.
Photo right: Engine bed in Vertical Engine House, November 2015.
A FoBB newsletter (No 9) was published mid-November.
The area around and under the engine bed was cleaned up on 14 November. The north-east and south east walls of the engine house are being cleared of spoil so that they can be patched/rebuilt and capped at a later date.
The last work party of 2015 was held on 05 December, when there was more spoil clearance in the Vertical Engine House. Its main aim was to give the masons clear access to the walls on the eastern side of the building when they, hopefully, rebuild and cap them in January 2016.
2016 was a busy year, with no less than 55 work parties. Many of those in January to April concentrated on preparing different areas of the site ahead of the masons, or investigating features they had uncovered.
Photo right: Historic England sign on Old Pit heapstead, February 2016.
In early January Historic England gave the project a grant to pay for masons to rebuild and patch walls in the Old Pit enclosure, and around the fan ducts. The masons started on site in the middle of January, and by the end of February they had finished working on the Cornish Engine House. The walls have been cleared of vegetation, and the tops capped. A 'before and after' pair of photos can be seen on the 'Buildings and Conservation Work' page of the website. A buttress has also been built at the southern end of the bob wall, giving support to the arched opening at the base of that wall. By the end of February progress had been made on rebuilding the south-east wall of the house. A photo taken in 1982 showed that there had been a fireplace in this wall, and this feature has been incorporated in the rebuilt wall. In addition a buttress has built against the south-west wall of the Vertical Engine House to support an overhanging section of the central wall that divides the engine bay from the winding drum bay. The base of the Old Pit heapstead ramp has been rebuilt, and a start made on strengthening an adjacent stretch of the heapstead wall.
A FoBB newsletter (No 10) was published mid-February. This summarises the work done from the start of the project in 2008, as well as covering recent developments.
Photo right: Brick base of fan housing, February 2016.
The volunteers investigated the area around the fan ducts in January and February, uncovering a number of features. The remains of a damper was found at the heapstead end of the southern duct wall. A sloping floor was uncovered when the northern duct was cleared of spoil in January. The brick base of the fan housing was uncovered at the eastern end of the duct (photo right). More spoil clearance on the outside of the northern duct uncovered two square engine beds on a concrete plinth, next to a short section of armoured power cable. The cable suggests that the fan might have been driven by electricity.
In January the masons stripped vegetation from the tops of the Old Pit heapstead walls prior to capping them. This has uncovered two features: two tippler slots at the top of the north-west wall, and the clamped remains of two cables at the top of the south-west wall. The latter may have been part of a structure that can be seen spanning the gap between the heapstead and the Horizontal Engine House in the 1881 and 1903 Ordnance Survey maps.
The masons continued to make good progress and by the middle of March the wall of the Old Pit heapstead ramp had been capped, and the north-east and north-west walls of the Old Boiler House had been rebuilt and were awaiting capping. The base of the capping of the Pumping Shaft had been rebuilt and good progress had been made on rebuilding the adjacent wall of the Pumping Shaft crossover and the brick lining of the passage.
Photo right: Rebuilding the south-east wall of the Old Pit heapstead, March 2016.
By 26 March the repointing of the brickwork on the outside of the top of the chimney was in progress, and more of the walls of the Old Pit heapstead had been capped. The bricks used for capping have been produced specially by Ibstock, using clay that has been matched to that used originally. The AIBT would like to thank Ibstock for this assistance to the project.
Work on repointing the chimney was completed by 06 April. Good progress had been made on capping the walls of the Old Pit heapstead, and the walls of the Old Boiler Area and the Vertical Engine House had been capped with cement. The original intention had been to cap them with bricks, but the change will make it easier to build the walls upwards in the future.
By 13 April, the masons were working on the north-west wall of the Old Pit heapstead. Sleepers had been inserted into slots slightly below the top where the original timbers had rotted away (see photo right), and a start had been made on rebuilding the brick walls around the tippler slots. This work had not been completed by 04 May.
Photo right: New timbers have been inserted into slots in the Old Pit heapstead walls, and the brickwork is being rebuilt, April 2016.
There was more spoil excavation in the Vertical Engine House on 20 and 23 April and 04 and 14 May. This has turned up significant quantities of building stone, but has not uncovered any new features. Investigations on the top of the Old Pit heapstead have uncovered the foundations of a wall. This may be part of a structure that can be seen in the 1881 OS map of the mine.
The masons had completed the rebuilding of the Old Pit walls and the tippler slots by 18 May, bar a few finishing touches. The next stage in the project will be to rebuild parts of the New Pit heapstead and the Horizontal Engine House, which could take place towards the end of this year, or in early 2017.
A FoBB newsletter (No 11) was published at the end of May. This covered the rebuilding work in both the Old Pit heapstead and around the fan ducts.
The Horizontal Engine House and storage container were given both a clean out and a tidy-up during the work parties on 18 and 25 May. On 04 June rubbish was cleared from the path along the north-western side of the Old Pit heapstead, and old bricks restacked. A start was also made on clearing up the top of the heapstead. The clear-up continued on 13,15 and 25 June.
Photo right: The transition between square and octagonal sections of the chimney after the shaped stones had been replaced in their correct positions, July 2016.
By 06 July the masons had repointed all the brickwork on the outside of the octagonal section of the chimney, and repositioned the shaped stones on the shoulders below. There was also a site visit by Historic England.
The masons were working around the shoulder of the chimney on 13 July, and a photographer from Historic England took photographs of people and the site. (See later entry) More spoil was removed from inside the Vertical Engine House on 23 July and 04 August.
The AIBT had a stand at the South Gloucestershire Show on 06 and 07 August, adjacent to that of the SGMRG.
Spoil removal from the engine bay of the Vertical Engine continued on 10 August, uncovering a solid metal plate at the bottom of the bay and recovering more good building stone. One piece of stone split while being stockpiled, revealing two almost complete halves of an ammonite fossil.
A FoBB newsletter (No 12) was published towards the end of August.
Photo right: Spoil being removed from the engine bay of the Vertical Engine House, August 2016.
More spoil was removed from the engine bay of the Vertical Engine House, from the south-western side of a dividing wall on 20 August and from the north-eastern side on 24 August. One of the artefacts found on 20 August was a 15" long cranked spanner.
Work continued in the same area on 03 September, uncovering a solid platform against the south-east wall. Buried in the spoil were a piece of what appeared to be manometer tubing and a metal bucket. The manometer would have been used to monitor the performance of the cylinder's condenser.
There was more work in the pit below the engine bed of the Vertical Engine House on 14 September. This uncovered a second platform against the north-west wall. A length of chain lay on the platform, with one end disappearing into the spoil at the base of the pit.
Photo right: Second platform at base of pit below engine bed, Vertical Engine House, September 2016.
Spoil was removed from both the flywheel slot and the pit below the engine bed on 24 September. Among the artefacts found was a 40" long lifting chain and a metal casting that had what appeared to be a 2" wide groove machined into the outer edge.
Work continued in the Vertical Engine House during an unscheduled work party on 01 October. A number of lumps of spoil, found at the last work party, in the base of the pit below the engine bed were cleaned up to reveal a variety of pieces of iron artefacts. The base of the holding down bolts in the north-east end of the flywheel slot were uncovered, and an iron guide was found in the well at the bottom of the adjacent engine bay pit.
Work continued in the Vertical Engine House on 12 October. The walls of the pit below the engine bed were photographed and measured, prior to being drawn. More artefacts were recovered from the bottom of the adjacent engine bay, and a new structure was uncovered outside the south-east wall of the Cornish Engine House.
A photograph of Brandy Bottom, taken in July and seen on the right, was used for the cover of the South-West section of Historic England's '2016 Register of Heritage at Risk', where it is highlighted in the text as an example of a successful partnership between Historic England and other organisations. The conservation work at Brandy Bottom is a collaboration between the AIBT, the landowners, Ibstock, and Historic England.(Photo right: Copyright Historic England Archive, James O. Davies, July 2016.)
More of the structure outside the Cornish Engine House was uncovered on 22 October, though it is not yet clear what it is. Current thinking is the setting for an egg-ended boiler, though this has still to be confirmed. There was also some vegetation clearance on the top of the New Pit heapstead.
A volunteer unearthed some photos he had taken in 1985. One showed the Horizontal Engine House, taken from the top of the Old Pit heapstead. This was before the cycle path had been constructed or the site fenced in. The other, taken from near the now-derelict platelayers hut to the north of the site, shows the chimneys of Shortwood brickworks in the distance.
A site tidy-up started on 05 November. A number of conglomerates, recovered from the base of the pits in the Vertical Engine House at the previous work party, were broken up to recover the contained metal artefacts. They included a variety of bolts of different sizes, and some unrelated hexagonal nuts. The surface of the Old Pit heapstead was levelled off, uncovering some brick panels near the chimney. These would appear to be sections of wall that have either been pushed, or fallen, over. After recording their positions, these panels were covered over on 09 November with the intention of investigating them at a later date.
A FoBB newsletter (No 13) was published towards the end of November.
The site tidy-up continued on 19 and 26 November. The outlet to the pond was cleared of spoil and rubbish on 30 November and 04 December. This work uncovered a culvert in the southern corner of the pond, which discharges a constant stream of water into the pond area.
More spoil was removed from under the engine bed in the Vertical Engine House on 10 December, and two of the smaller tree stumps were uprooted from the top of the Old Pit heapstead. The final work party was on 20 December, when vegetation was cleared from around both halves of the mine wheel lying on either side of the cycle path.
There has been 55 work parties so far in 2017. The first was on 04 January, when the area above the New Pit passage was reinvestigated.
There were enough people present on 07 January to split into two groups, with one continuing to level the top of the Old Pit heapstead. They uncovered a metal handle near the tippler slots. The other group continued to clear the vegetation from along the fence on the cycle path side of the New Pit enclosure (photo right).(Photo right: Vegetation clearance in progress along New Pit fence, January 2017.)
There was more vegetation clearance on 11 January, which will give passers-by a better view of the New Pit. The tidy-up of the Old Pit heapstead continued when two large old tree stumps were uprooted.
Work started on 21 January on clearing the vegetation from around the cycle path side of the Old Pit enclosure, watched closely by a robin. Scaffolding was also erected on the north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead, allowing the ivy to be cleared from the top of the wall. By the end of the work party, a platform was partially uncovered. Comparison with the Old Pit suggests that this may be a tippler slot. In the middle is a 6" diameter pipe that extends more than 5 m into the heapstead.
There was a further tidy up of the bushes around the fences on 25 January. Work continued on the north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead on 04 February. Hidden in the spoil filling the first slot was a bracket that may have held wooden planks in place. The structure outside the south-east wall of the Cornish Engine House was investigated further.(Photo right: The Old Pit buildings can now seen clearly from the top of the Horizontal Engine House after the trees and shrubs were cut back in February 2017.)
Ibstock's contractors were on site between 07 and 09 February, felling a number of trees and cutting back bushes. This has opened up views of the Old and New Pit structures to passers-by. The marked improvement can be seen by comparing the 'before' and 'after' photos of the Old Pit and the Horizontal Engine House seen from the cycle path. The removal of the willow tree has also allowed the New Pit to be seen clearly from the Old Pit, and the Old from the New. The AIBT would like to thank Ibstock for this contribution to the project. There was more work on the structures found at the top of the north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead and the outside the south-east wall of the Cornish Engine House during the scheduled work party on 08 February.
A FoBB newsletter (No 14) was published in the middle of February.
It was back to the usual background noises of birdsong on 18 February, instead of the roar of chainsaws and chippers that were heard at the previous work party. There was more work on the structure outside the Cornish Engine House, while another group started work on the winding ramp of the New Pit heapstead.
At the Cornish Engine House, the south-east wall of the foundations for the egg-ended boiler have now been located (photo right). Among the bricks making up the wall were some with a crown stamped into the face, together with the legend JOHNSON AND.... There were also a number of glass and pottery artefacts in the spoil, including a piece of pottery with a blue pattern. On the New Pit heapstead, the north-west wall of the winding ramp has been located. Adjacent to it, but running at right angles, were what appeared to be two lengths of wire rope that had been joined by a clamp. (These were subsequently found to be one piece doubled back onto itself to form a loop.) An ornate tea pot lid was found in the bushes close to where the spoil was being dumped.(Photo right: The south-east wall of the foundations for the egg-ended boiler, marked by a yellow/black scale, outside the southern corner of the Cornish Engine House, February 2017.)
On 21 February one of the bricks discovered at the previous work party was given a good clean, allowing the maker's name to be read as JOHNSON ANDREWS & CO. More ivy was stripped from the north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead, uncovering two brick lined slots, about 24" deep. Their purpose is at present unknown.
The scaffolding along the New Pit heapstead was moved to a new location during a brief work party on 28 February and there was more work on the top of the New Pit heapstead on 04, 08, 18 and 22 March, and on 01 April. A brief work party on 15 Mar concentrated on planting hawthorn whips around the boundary fence of the Old Pit. Once that was completed more of the pond area was explored, uncovering another culvert in an area where water had peviously been seen welling up. Some glass artefacts were recovered: a 2 pint capacity brown bottle was recovered, together with the necks of two others; a complete glass bottle carrying the name of a Wickwar brewer; and a fragment of a clear glass bottle bearing the name of a Leicester company.
The design work for a set of interpretation boards is underway, paid for by a grant from Historic England.
A grant of £20 000 was received from the Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust, to be used on stabilising the structures of the New Pit for the foreseeable future. Masons will cap the tops of the New Pit heapstead, to stop rainwater entering the masonry, replace part of the missing face of the north-west wall, and rebuild the brick surroundings of the door and window openings of the Horizontal Engine House.(Photo right: The north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead after spoil removal, April 2017.)
Spoil had been removed from the top of the north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead by the end of the work party on 05 April, allowing measurements to be taken for use in drawing up the specification for the proposed conservation work. There was a site tidy-up on 12 April.
Spoil removal along the north-west wall of the New Pit heapstead had uncovered a section of the the brick floor of a building that stood at the top of the heapstead ramp. This has a very uneven floor, which was photographed during the work part on 18 April. Some of the floor appears to have sunk over time while another area appears to be have been deliberately built up as a pedestal. The building is a late addition to the site, as it first appears in the 1936 map. It appears to be complete in the 1947 aerial photograph, but had lost its roof by the time the 1955 photograph was taken. Its purpose is currently unknown.
An egg-ended boiler was delivered to Brandy Bottom on 22 April. A boiler of this type was one of the items in the 1900 sale catalogue, and it was located outside the south-east wall of the Cornish Engine House. The intention is to put the new boiler in the same place, once the area has been cleared.(Photo right: Egg-ended boiler in temporary location, April 2017.)
George Watkins, the Bristol-based steam engine photographer, visited Brandy Bottom in the 1930s. A recent comparison of his notes on the pumping equipment of the Cornish Engine House with that of the 1900 sale catalogue suggests that there had been a change in the intervening period. The diameter of the cyclinder had decreased from 60" to 54", and the stroke had reduced from 8' to 6' 6".
There was more work in the Vertical Engine House on 06 May, and on top of the New Pit heapstead on 10 May.
A FoBB newsletter (No 15) was published in the middle of May.
Rain hindered work at an impromptu work party on 17 May, so time was spent on getting the inside of the Horizontal Engine House ready for the storage of the building materials needed for this years' work on the New Pit.(Photo right: Newly uncovered section of wall to the south-west of the Cornish Engine House, May 2017.)
The weather was much better on the following Saturday (20 May) and there were small groups working in several areas. One group was clearing a mound of spoil from outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House when they uncovered a section of wall that was part brick and part stone (photo right). The area had been covered in vegetation when it was used in 2012 as a dumping ground for the spoil removed from inside the engine house. Spoil clearance in the Old Boiler House uncovered a clear glass bottle with a distinctive shape. This had the logo 'Southwells' in raised letters at the bottom of one side.
The walls of the machine and condenser pits in the Vertical Engine House were measured and photographed on 24 May, and the information will be used to make a drawing of them. Work has started on repointing the stonework in the machine pit. A solid floor, made of what appeared to be cobbles, was uncovered in the eastern corner of the Old Boiler House. Spoil removal continued outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House.
Spoil removal from outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House continued on 03 and 07 June, and the steps that had been first discovered in 2012 are once again visible. More of the cobbled floor of the Old Boiler House was uncovered on both days. Hidden in the spoil were a number of glass bottles, many of which carried company names. Other bottles with company names have been found in the Pond area.(Photo right: The uncovered steps outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House, June 2017.)
The steps outside the Cornish Engine House were fully exposed on 14 June, giving us an indication of the original ground level in that part of the site. More of the floor of the Old Boiler House was also uncovered.
The exposed section of the Old Boiler House floor was swept of the remaining traces of spoil on 24 June, and more of the area outside the south-west wall of the Cornish House was cleared of spoil down to the original working surface. There was more work in the Old Boiler House on 28 June, and the base of the wall outside the Cornish Engine House has now been fully exposed between the steps and the Pumping Shaft passage.
Spoil was removed from the wall outside the Cornish Engine House on 08, 12, 19 and 22 July, this time to the south-east of the steps. Hidden in the spoil in this area was the complete bowl of a clay pipe, but minus the stem. A platform was fully uncovered outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House. The stone surface had been removed out at some time in the past, leaving just one broken stone in place. This has been marked with an arrow in the photo, and the close-up shows that there is a drill hole rising upwards from the base. Work in this area also an alcove at the south-eastern end of the platform (photo right). The south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House forms the back of the alcove, and there is a low triangular brick platform at the back of the alcove. There are no signs of heat damage to the brickwork, so its function has still to be discovered. There was also more spoil removal in the Old Boiler House, uncovering a coil of wire rope and a military-style brass button. A start was made on 12 July on building a viewing platform in the Vertical Engine House, which will allow visitors to look into the flywheel slot and winding drum pit.(Photo right: The alcove under the platform outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House, July 2017.)
The AIBT had a stand at the 2017 South Gloucestershire show, again next door to that of the South Gloucestershire Mines Research Group.
The base of the viewing platform in the Vertical Engine House was completed on 09 August. The site was also tidied up ahead of a visit by BIAS members on the following day. Another brass button was found in the Old Boiler house during the visit.
As part of the preparations for the forthcoming 'Doors Open Day', the paths around the New Pit were levelled off on 19 August, and an extension built at the base of the New Pit heapstead ramp. This will make it easier for visitors to move around the site. Some more pieces of glazed stoneware were found when working on the north-west side of the Horizontal Engine House. These appear to be associated with the pieces found when this area was first worked on in early 2012. One of those pieces appears to be the corner of a sink, the other appears to contain a sink overflow. The latest pieces have the same type of glaze, and could be some more parts of a sink and the associated pedestals. A broken piece of a roof tile, with "Phillip's" stamped into one face, was found by the Fan Ducts. The only other named piece of tiling was found in the Vertical Engine House in February 2015.(Photo right: The completed ramp extension at the base of New Pit heapstead ramp, August 2017.)
Signs, funded by Historic England, have been fixed to various parts of the sites to help visitors identify the either the buildings or their functions.
A FoBB newsletter (No 16) was published at the end of August.
The last part of the spoil covering the floor of the Old Boiler House was removed on 30 August. Work continued on the viewing platform in the Vertical Engine House on 30 August and it was completed on 02 September.
Brandy Bottom was open for 3 days during the Heritage Open Day weekend of 08 to 10 September, when a total of 78 people were shown around. A set of steps had been constructed to give visitors access to the inside of the Cornish Engine House.
A slope had been left in the entrance to the Old Boiler house to allow easy access for the visitors over the previous weekend. This was removed on 13 September, exposing the floor of the entrance. Among the artefacts found were the two broken pieces of stoneware seen on the right, one in spoil at the entrance to the Old Boiler House and the other outside the south-west wall of the Cornish Engine House. They were later found to have come from the same flagon, allowing the location of the grocer to be identified.(Photo right: These two fragments of stoneware were found in different parts of the site on the same day, September 2017.)
On 23 September the remaining spoil was removed from under the engine bed in the Vertical Engine House. It was a short work party on 07 Oct, as the afternoon was spent visiting other mining sites in the locality. The work party on 11 Oct was spent preparing the ground for the erection of scaffolding along the south-east wall of the New Pit heapstead. A start was made on 18 October on covering up some of the exposed masonry around the site to protect it against the winter weather.
More of the site was covered against the winter weather on 21 October. Spoil removal continued just outside the door to the Old Boiler House, uncovering some fragments of two stoneware jars and a metal guide. The latter was identical to the one found in the well in the Vertical Engine House in October 2016. The fragments from one of the stoneware jars, which would have been some 16"-17" tall, carried the legend 'Peter Showell Wine & Spirits Merchants Oldbury'. The two fragments from the other, smaller, jar carries part of message about its non-return. During cleaning it was found that these pieces fitted together with the neck fragment of a jar that had been found inside the boiler house in June. This allows the owner of the second jar to be identified as the 'Pickup & Co Botanical Brew... Bristol'. Subsequently an old photo provided more information on the message on the Pickup jar, and the complete message on a 1940 jar is: "This bottle is not sold. Any person delaying or using same will be prosecuted". However the complete jar does not carry any part of the phrase 'Botanical Brew...', which appears on the fragments of the 1925 jar.
Spoil and rubble was cleared from the area of the fan ducts closest to the shaft on 04 November, uncovering the remains of a low wall some distance from the shaft end (photo right). As this would have obstructed the flow of air, it is thought that it was built to full height after the mine was closed so as to seal off the shaft from the fan housing. More spoil was cleared from the area outside the entrance to the Old Boiler House, uncovering a pipe.(Photo right: A view of the low wall found at the shaft end of the fan ducts, November 2017.)
There were site tidy-ups on 08, 15 and 18 November, which included preparations for the arrival of the masons.
The masons started work on rebuilding parts of the New Pit heapstead walls towards the end of November. By 02 December they had finished work on the eastern corner, and were progressing with rebuilding the top of the south-east wall. They had also made a start on the northern corner and the north-west wall.
A FoBB newsletter (No 17) was published at the beginning of December.
Work on Site - 2017 and 2018
At present access to the site is limited to days when there is a work party in progress. The last scheduled one for 2017 is on Wed 13 December.
Click on this link to return to main Brandy Bottom page
Page updated 07 Dec 17