Canoe found near Shap is 700 years old, not 4,000

Date: Friday 14th February 2014

SHAP Local History Society’s first meeting of the year took the form of a members’ night.

The first contributor, Patrick Neaves, described how last year a small group of archaeology enthusiasts was givenpermission to walk across three newly ploughed fields in Shap.

Field-walking is one of the rare opportunities to see what relics lie close to the surface and any artefacts found can help with understanding of Shap’s long and fascinating history.

The previous year the group enjoyed great success when it discovered many important objects in Orton, so the fields in Shap were expected to yield some interesting pieces,especially as two lay within the line of the prehistoric avenue.

Unfortunately, nothing was found in the vicinity of the Stone Age monuments, and adjacent fields explored in the past had yielded little.

Another field was ploughed towards Keld and the group had a brief opportunity to see ifanything from the past would turn up in the area.

This time a few nice pieces were found, including a flake of greenstone (the same material used for Langdale axes), which had been worked into a small cutting tool in the Neolithic period, and a few flint and chert tools. One of the nicest finds was a small, flat river pebble with a hole bored through the centre. This was thought to be aprehistoric bead from a necklace and, together with a couple of other stone beads found near the village, was identified as such by the portable antiquities officer at Kendal museum.

Other finds from this field included a lead spindle whorl from the late medieval period with intricate markings on both sides and a damaged clay pipe bowl with masonic symbols.

The group had also visited some of the interestingprehistoric sites in the area of which members of the society might not previously have been aware. One was a settlement to the south of the village whereseveral hut circles are visible. An archaeological investigation had been carried out here in 1984 when the site was identified as probably dating from the Bronze Age.

The last subject in Mr. Neaves’s talk was the Wasdale boat found when the main gas pipeline was being laid in 1984 near the Shap Granite pink quarry.

This was identified at the time as a Bronze Age canoe, and the vessel was taken to York for preservation before being boxed up and stored at the Windermere Steamboat Museum. Twomembers of the society hadvisited and been able to see the boat stored in its crate.

It has been very wellpreserved and will become an important part of the displays when the museum opens again following refurbishment. The only disappointing news was that the boat has now been dated to 1300AD, and was not 4,000 years old as had first been believed.

The second contributor was Liz Amos, who told the audience how she had discovered the World War I story of her great uncle, Leslie Taylor, who was killed in action at the battle of Pozieres on 27th July, 1916. This was a topical subject, since many groups have projects about the First World War planned for this year.

Five years ago, before so much information was available on the Internet, it would have taken much longer to research his story and she acknowledged the help she had received from her third cousin, also discovered via the Internet.

Leslie Taylor was the second eldest son of her great-grandfather, John Taylor, who owned a brewery in Manchester. Following his education at Manchester Grammar School and Harper Adams Agricultural College, Leslie emigrated to Australia at the age of 21 to farm.

He enlisted at Sydney with the 19th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and sailed to Egypt for training. Thebattalion was sent to Gallipoli, where it fought against the Turks, defending Hill Sixty. After it was withdrawn from Gallipoli, the battalion was sent to France, arriving at Marseilles in March, 1916.

The next information Mrs. Amos showed came from the files of the Australian Red Cross Society wounded and missing enquiry bureau a copy of a letter dated 16th September, 1916, from Leslie’s elder sister, Doris Taylor, to the British Red Cross asking for information on him as the family had received no word from him since the first week in July, 1916.

A second letter from Doris, dated 29th November, thanked the Australian Red Cross for the information on Leslie’s death. Other official letters on the file recorded that he had received a direct hit from some shrapnel while waiting in a first line trench near Thiepval, and his subsequent burial where he fell by fellow soldiers.

Another set of records, received from the National Archives of Australia, included a form detailing the medals awarded to Leslie the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which were given to everyone from the British and Empire forces who took part in the war.

Mrs. Amos then showedphotographs of her visit to the Australian War Memorial at Villiers-Bretonneux, near Amiens, France, where soldiers with no known grave arecommemorated on a series of panels, and she showed a picture of the panel where Leslie’s name is engraved.

At the next meeting on 24th February, society vice-chairman Jean Scott-Smith will present “Over Shap by track, road and rail”, an illustrated lecture detailing the routes crossing Shap Fell throughout history.