• Isadora Martin-Dye

Big Ice History and a Jurassic Mystery

Welcome to the History Through a House: Blogosphere presented by me, Isadora Martin-Dye. This blog, and accompanying podcast series, will bring you along in the education process of my husband Ben and his cousin Adam; two Americans who are painfully ignorant about England’s history. I earned my history degree from Exeter University so hopefully I’ll be able to teach them something. I am going to hang their education on the framework of our newly purchased and aptly named Tudor longhouse Longlands.

Longlands is situated in the South of England on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, and has foundations in English history back to the Great Census conducted by William the Conqueror and is listed in the Domesday Book circa 1086. Through the centuries our house has experienced every monument of human history, and the lives of its inhabitants often reflected the feelings and sympathies of the English public. As a base for the Hennock Home Guard during World War ll or as a kiln during the Beat Movement Longlands has lived a storied history that deserves exploring.

Today the boys learned about the importance of England’s geology and how it would affect the location of Longlands’ foundations and supporting industries of the area. Devonshire geology is most well known for its Tors; large granite peaks that were created due to the county sitting on the Sticklepath Fault Line, the largest of which sits at 621 meters. Prehistoric volcanic activity resulted in Brent Tor a monument of geological interest because of the fact that it’s made up of lava rock instead of the more commonly found granite, Due to its prevalence and durability the granite was utilized as a building material, and it’s common components were also utilized. Granite in Devon is made up of quartz and feldspar; the quartz made tools found at dig sites are an indicator of prehistoric civilization. As the feldspar in granite breaks down it becomes a fine white powder known as kaolin. Kaolin, or china clay, is used in the production of fine china and toothpaste and was mined heavily in Devon and Cornwall.

This week at Longlands we addressed our damp problem. As the old house and two holiday cottages sat empty and unused our lovely English climate created a few problems for us. We sought assistance at the Listed Building Show in London and to our unending excitement we learned some methods for identifying and handling our damp. Firstly in identification the longhouse is afflicted with rising and penetrating damp. The telltale tide lines that gather at the termination of a rising damp line can be seen on the stone work in the house. In the upper floors of the house years of wallpaper and paint are peeling off of the walls, which to me and my husband, indicates a penetrating damp problem. Water from the exterior either through a gutter or poorly sealed window is seeping into the interior walls. To finish off our discussion we dug into a Jurassic mystery that also conveniently ties into geology.

The Joint Mitnor cave in Buckfastleigh was discovered in the 1930s after two young boys fell into a disused quarry. They were excavated after the second world war and were declared the finest finds in any British cave. Fossil finds included bison and hippo bones as well as the teeth of wolves and bears. The cave is one of the most historically important places in England. Unfortunately in 2015 thieves broke into the heavily secured cave and burgled several fossils from the cave. Despite years of investigation none of the fossils were recovered. In order to remedy this replicas of the bones were 3D printed, dipped in gypsum and put back in place so the cave could be reopened.

Hopefully our first week of reporting about our new home was informative and interesting for you. The Americans managed to stay awake during their first lecture so hopefully you did too.

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