Two items of local interest in the Leeds Museums and Galleries

Mary Slater
 JOURNAL 
 2011 
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

The Giggleswick Tarn Logboat

An item of particular North Craven interest, which is housed in the Leeds Museum Discovery Centre under the expert care of Katherine Baxter, Curator of Archaeology, Leeds Museums and Galleries, is the Giggleswick Tarn logboat.

The new 6m Leeds Museum Discovery Centre, formerly the Museum Resource Centre for Leeds, opened in 2007 at Carlisle Road near Clarence Dock, 1.5 miles south of Leeds city centre. The state-of-the-art, environmentally-controlled building houses the one million or so objects of the city’s diverse museum collection, of which only about 5% can be displayed at any one time in the museums. However, the remainder can be viewed by appointment or on a tour at the Discovery Centre.

The logboat, like a dugout canoe but at first thought to be only a log, was discovered on 25th May 1863 by Joseph Taylor during field drainage works at the site of Giggleswick Tarn (at the present Settle golf course). The Tarn had been drained earlier in the century. The landowner, William Hartley, donated the boat, which included some additional timber fittings, to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society where it was displayed. It was thought by Brayshaw to be “of Celtic or British workmanship”. The Society’s collection was transferred to the Leeds City Museum in 1921. No proper recording or conservation work was done on the boat, and it began to shrink, warp and crack, as shown in a photograph taken in 1883. Finally, in March 1941, the Leeds Museum received a direct hit in an air raid, and the boat was found in the rubble, shattered into forty-five pieces and many smaller fragments. These were subsequently wrapped in newspaper and crated.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, when it was realised that Britain had many logboat finds, but few had been properly conserved. In 1975 the Giggleswick boat pieces were sent south to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich for research, up-to-date conservation and reassembly. It was discovered that the boat was made from a single ash tree (rather than the expected oak), had transverse and longitudinal fittings and was in fact medieval (from around 1335 AD) rather than prehistoric. It was about 2.45m long and was probably designed to carry one person who sat on a board at the stern to propel the boat with a paddle.

The restored boat was returned to Leeds City Museum in 1988 (not having been totally destroyed in the bombing as some people have assumed) and is now shelved at the Discovery Centre.

The Malham Iron Age Bone Pipe

Also in Karen Baxter’s care, but displayed in the Leeds Story Gallery in Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, is the Malham Iron Age Bone pipe.

During 1950 and 1951 a barrow on Seaty Hill, about two miles northeast of Malham, was excavated as part of a field archaeology course directed by Arthur Raistrick. There was a primary Early Bronze Age burial, but also a number of secondary fragmentary Iron Age burials with pieces of iron knives and beads. However, the most interesting Iron Age find was a bone pipe, like a primitive recorder, carefully placed under limb bones. Despite having only a thin covering of gravelly soil and turf, the pipe was well-preserved, being pressed into a layer of clayey soil. After careful cleaning it was passed to Carl Dolmetsch, the virtuoso recorder player, and other experts to examine.

The pipe was found to have been made from the right tibia of a sheep. It has three holes on the upper side and one on the lower, the holes being similar in size. It is several centuries older than similar whistles known from late Saxon or Viking times. There are teeth marks on the mouthpiece. The experts considered that the pipe was an instrument of music rather than, say, one merely for producing notes to ensnare birds; the holes are skilfully placed and the notes produced are sweet. Vinyl recordings were made of the pipe being played in the 1970s, by the University of Leeds Phonetics Department, and can be heard in the gallery, next to the pipe.

With thanks to Mike Spence for drawing these items to our attention and to Mary Slater for producing this note. Note: The Maritime Museum in Lancaster also has two 14th century log boats on display.

Sources

  • Brayshaw, T., British Canoe. Collectanea Giggleswickiana, 1887. No. 9 in the Stackhouse series of local tracts.
  • McGrail, S., A medieval Logboat from Giggleswick Tarn, Yorkshire, in Annis, P. (ed), Ingrid and other Maritime Studies (1978B). National Maritime Museum Monograph No. 36
  • McGrail, S. and O'Connor, S., The Giggleswick Tarn Logboat. The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 51, 1979
  • Raistrick, A., Spaul, Prof. E. A., and Todd, E., The Malham Iron-Age Pipe. Galpin Society Journal Vol. 5, 1952
  • Speight, H., The Craven and North West Yorkshire Highlands, 1892
  • http://www.culture24.org.uk/
  • http://www.leeds.gov.uk/discoverycentre

LogBoatdrng.jpg
The Giggleswick Tarn Logboat 1888
LogBoat2.jpg
The Giggleswick Tarn Logboat (courtesy of Leeds Discovery Centre)
BoneFlute.jpg
Bone Pipe



LogBoatdrng.jpg
The Giggleswick Tarn Logboat 1888


LogBoat2.jpg
The Giggleswick Tarn Logboat (courtesy of Leeds Discovery Centre)


BoneFlute.jpg
Bone Pipe