During a survey of the Calke Estate in 1987/8, an irrigated meadow was identified immediately behind Standley's Barn Farm, possibly created to provide improved or early pasture for the bullocks which appear to have been kept on the farm. The meadow is irrigated by a number of roughly parallel channels made below ground, running in a north-easterly direction, which are supplied by a substantial brick culvert, entering the field from beneath the Ticknall/Heath End road and continuing as an open grassy ditch towards the farm. The system is no longer in operation and the channels are dry. The brick culvert is circular in section, with an internal diameter of 60 cm, built of a single skin of bricks laid on end. It is visible on the ground as a raised grassy ridge and in places has collapsed. Shortly after entering the field it encounters a second smaller brick culvert which may have provided it with water from Sedgebrook. Alternatively this second culvert may have diverted water away from the meadow when it was not required. After a distance of c. 45 m it then turns towards the east and continues as an open grass ditch, 3 m wide, for a distance of about 100 m, terminating roughly at the point where it meets a waste water tank. Irrigation channels run at right angles from the ditch. They are fed by small square openings cut into the north bank of the ditch, covered with an iron grille, which lead to vertical brick-lined chambers c. 74 cm deep, 37 cm long and 23 cm wide. The water presumably entered these chambers and then flowed along the channels, which are presumed to be brick-lined. Only two of these channels were located by the measured survey, made possible by locating brick-lined vertical openings which allowed the water to rise up into the field. One example was found with a square wooden cap which would have allowed for the regulation of water entering the field. The field exhibits a slight gradient, sloping towards the north, which would have allowed for the spread of water. A low grassy bank between 3.8 and 4.1 m wide around the east and north margin of the field may have served to contain the water before it entered a large drain covered with an iron grille at the north end of the field. It is assumed that there may have been further channels in the field, no longer traceable but possibly defined by a low collapsed channel along the east margin of the field. This is a unique feature on the Calke Estate, construction of which (assumed to be 19th century) probably involved considerable capital outlay to provide improved pasture for livestock. Detailed field walking may reveal the existence of further openings and channels not observed by this survey. (1)
The meadow was investigated by the Ticknall Archaeological Research Group in 2011 and 2012, both through fieldwork and through documentary research. The latter indicated that the irrigated meadow and its feeder system were probably created in 1834-1845 under Sir George Crewe's direction. Field research confirmed that it comprises a sophisticated irrigation system rather than a full water meadow, and that a reservoir in Archers Alders was the header pond. Several underground brick channels were identified, with a series of plug holes which enabled the feeding of water to only parts of the meadow if required. Alternatively the whole meadow could be irrigated at once - if the plugs were removed, water would rise up the holes and slowly flow across the meadow. (2)
Bibliographic reference: Marshall, G & Walker, J (The National Trust). 1988. The National Trust Archaeological Survey: Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, Volume 1, Estate Survey. pp 161-162, Fig 23.
Unpublished document: Ticknall Archaeological Research Group. 2012. A Nineteenth Century Irrigated Meadow at Standleys Barn Farm, Ticknall.
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