Sunday 4th August.Report by Francesca, a Member of Astley & Dunley History Society (As seen on TV)


On 4th August 1919, nine people; two men, four women and three children, drowned while crossing the River Severn at the Hampstall Inn, Astley. There were seventeen people standing up in the punt which acted as the ferry boat and when the steamer, ‘May Queen’ went past, the wash swamped the boat and it overturned.

On 4th August 2019, residents of Astley and other interested people gathered at The Hampstall Inn, to remember those who drowned a hundred years ago. After an account of the disaster had been read, the plaque and information board were unveiled by Fred Greenhow and Terry Matthews. Prayers were said by Rev Mark Turner and roses were thrown into the river in remembrance. Finally a poem written by the poet laureate of Wednesbury was read out.

ferry pic 1

Introduction to the event by Clare Badham.

ferry pic 2

The unveiling by Fred Greenhows the grandson of Ellen Greenhow who rescued five people from the disaster; Terry Matthews the grandson of the brother of Harry Matthews, one of those who drowned.

August 7th 2019 another day at Winnall Mill.

An overcast but warm day, saw six members of NWAG on site at Winnall Mill. New member Chris assisted by Ian then later by Keith and Sam. The job in hand was to clear the area to the rear of the Cool House ready for drawing as part of the Stage Two report. Sam had been reinforcing the base of the Waterfall where the water enters the pipe under the track.

winnall waterfall

Looking up at the six metre plus height Winnall Waterfall.

Meanwhile Liz and Terry were perched on the top of the Waterfall looking for the start of the leat proper after a possible spillway. There are clear signs that the sandstone bedrock had been cut to form a giant set of steps to break the fall of water. This work was most probably carried out at the beginning of the watermill construction, hundreds of years ago!

More work will need to be carried out here.

top of waterfall 1

Top of the WATERFALL showing the clean cut sandstone step

with a  wall left to act as a possible spillway down the steps.

North Worcestershire Archaeology Group is following government advice that everybody should stay at home apart from getting essential supplies, so they are suspending their activities until further notice.

If you require more information, please contact us via the website.

Many thanks Regards Francesca

It was so rainy last Wed that in Terry's absence Francesca was forced to cancel the weekly dig at the Orchard. Margaret and new boy Chris who had been allocated to go to Winnall on the same day to draw the area shown below, decided to change it and go there on the Thursday instead, which proved to be a fine day with just a few spots of rain now and then. 

winnall mill unloading area clean

This area near the wall was originally excavated back in 2015/16 when Terry labelled it the "Curve". Since then a set of very worn steps were discovered at the back (you can see the start of it in the photo below, off to the right) and, with the possibility of it being a cart turning area, it was renamed the Loading Bay. 

As the smaller area was nicely cleaned up for our recent Open Day it seemed the perfect opportunity to return to draw it. Carved out of the bedrock many years ago, the horizontal lines are natural, although the ones forming the wall do give the impression of being laid stone. Also the original tools marks are still visible!

It is quite a soft stone and as each year passes sadlyit erodes a bit more so that recording it, as seen below, is very important. Although it was nice and dry after all that rain, it was still tricky to draw and measuring it was difficult too. 

Margaret drawing unloading area

With no straight lines to work to and nowhere to fix a string line from which to take their measurements, Chris and Margaret had no choice but to use chalk lines for their points of reference. Quite a challenge! Also the area has since been further excavated so more of it is now exposed and the drawing done today of the original trench will need to be extended later. 

margaret and unloading area

Viewed from the above walkway, you can see where it steps down on the left and also on the far right (near tree roots!) see the beginning of the curved recess that houses the unusual sunken Cool House.


swag geo

In the photo S.W.A.G are shown doing the initial geophysical survey of the Russell Pipe kiln's location in Cripplegate Park. For over 50 years this bottlekiln had produced claysmoking pipes for local people (both men and women) to fill with tobacco. The manufacturer's name was even stamped on it. This site was well known, being positioned according old map close to other associated buildings as well as workers living quarters. 



roger explains

 The team receive a briefing

A team of volunteers, mostly from Northwag, were brought in to help out for a whole week by opening and excavting the three necessarytrenches. On the basis that the subterranean remains of the bottle kiln had been accurately located, after a quick briefing from Site Director Roger Moore, two targetted trenches were then dug to find the circular edge. Most of the first layers of each trench were filled with general building material, which was not surprising since the area had been flattened back in the 1960s. In the 1800s John Russell is believed to have built a row of 20 houses there (Russell Terrace) where many of the kiln’s workers lived. Even so, among these were found numerous pieces of pipe and other finds that according to our expert on hand, Malcolm, hinted at the definite presence of a former kiln.

what we are looking for

Roger Moore pointing to photo of similar kiln at Broseley Pipeworks in Shropshire

By Wednesday the work was only halfway through, so hopefully there will be an update about this exciting dig by our next newsletter.