Friday, 7 May 2010

Fossils in our walls

There is a large fossilised shell in the wall of St Michael’s, Little Coates. In fact, there are substantial fossil and shell fragments in the ironstone which makes up the majority of the walls of the mediaeval half of the church. I can’t think why I hadn’t noticed this at any point in the last ten years, but I hadn’t until Rod Collins pointed it out to me this week.

The walls are actually a mishmash of different stone and in fill around the ironstone, and nowhere more so than in the section of which I’ve taken a photograph and in which the white circular object (in the middle left of the bottom third of the picture) is the fossilised shell.

We know that the church was partly derelict at the beginning of the seventeenth century and there is a large late seventeenth century date on the wall of the Chancel which is our only indication of substantial restoration then. Perhaps the mishmash is part of that rebuilding. Or perhaps it is the cumulative result of repairs over several hundreds of years.

This section includes one quite substantial boulder alongside other smaller ones and a couple of cut stones which are not the ironstone. It also includes a river cobble (approximately central to the top half of the picture) of the kind which the most recent archaeological investigation at the west end showed to form the foundations of these walls.

The in fill is equally varied. There are three tiles in there, the use of which Rod was aware of elsewhere (including the reuse of Roman tile, although I guess this example will be more modern). There is also a lot of modern mortar (to the left of the ironstone block in which the shell is embedded) which adds to the variety rather than the attractiveness of the ensemble.

Rod was observed taking close up pictures of the church walls ahead of our mid-week Communion service, and I am thankful that he did not repeat the explanation he claims to have offered when similarly observed at another church 'I'm from the News of the World and I'm waiting to catch one of the people about to come out of the church'.

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