At the start of the project we had very little information on archaeology in the area. A few miscellaneous and fascinating pieces of information were known. For example the Somerset Historic Environment Record (HER) states that part of a possible medieval crucifix was reported to have been found in the garden of Park House, Bowlish (Allen, 1888). We also knew of a local cave known as ‘Nancy Camel’s Cave’ above the present-day water treatment works in Lower Darshill. Local metal detectorists had searched in a number of gardens without finding much of note.
We had a wider range of largely visual information on the past industrial activity in the area, especially with respect to the woollen industry. We knew of historic leats and other watercourses including an ancient leat and sluice buried under the kitchen of the Old Sluice House in Bowlish. We were also aware of a significant number of ruined buildings in all three hamlets, some of which might be of an industrial nature, such as the ancient structures in the gardens of Old Bowlish House.
In 2009, a resident of Old Bowlish House dug up a cloth seal in the ruined Scribbling Loft in their garden, as well as other artifacts including a fragment of a George 1 mug, weights and other milling accessories. In the 1990s, development of the Lower Silk Mill in Darshill precipitated an archaeologist’s report by Hollinrake and Hollinrake 1997.
There was also a record of the historic routes through the area, notably the principal route between Shepton and Croscombe which passed through Bowlish and Ham before dropping down to Croscombe. This route existed for centuries before today’s road was driven through in the mid-19th century.
It was clear that there was a fascinating history to uncover here.