My name is Vikki Ashton and I am a mature second year History student at the University of Huddersfield. I undertook my work placement in the summer after my first year of study. My placement was with a local community group called ‘The Friends of Stank Hall’ (FOSH). The FOSH are actively trying to preserve and restore a site of historical interest which has been derelict for around 20 years. Stank Hall, New Hall and Stank Hall barn are listed buildings located in South Leeds and owned by Leeds City Council.
The FOSH’s efforts to raise awareness of the site comes in many forms. First and foremost, they have created a medieval garden in which fruit and vegetables are grown and gifted to the local community in a bid to address food poverty. One of the co-chairs of the project, Sue Ottley-Hughes has also conducted independent research into the site’s history, to emphasis just how important it is to preserve the site going forward. It is believed that the site was a former royal hunting lodge dating from c.1280 which was part of the Rothwell Castle estate. Stank Hall features a rare chimney garderobe which was an indoor toilet/wardrobe and was something only found on high status buildings.
My role with the FOSH included practical tasks like helping out in the medieval garden and taking the delivery of donations, to doing small talks on barn open days and at outreach days at local festivals and the annual International Medieval Congress (IMC). When I was not on site, I was busy conducting my own independent research in an effort to broaden our understanding of the Stank hall site’s history. All of these roles helped me to build my confidence, especially at public speaking, and to improve my research skills.
A few times a year, we have corporate volunteer days whereby employees from the likes of Marks and Spencer and Lloyds Banking Group, come up to the site and help out with the garden, building raised beds, planting seeds and getting involved in some amateur archaeology. As the site is a scheduled ancient monument, we are prohibited from digging into the ground, which is why raised beds have been used to grow the fruit and vegetables in the on-site garden, however despite this, we are able to conduct archaeological digs. The digs can only take place on the spoil heaps created by the council after they erected security fences a few years ago, nevertheless despite our limited access to the sites hidden pickings, we have unearthed quite a few interesting finds. The finds include pottery dating from the Roman occupation, to medieval stone carvings which include half an apostle’s face believed to have originated from Stank Hall itself. During the digs, my role was to oversee the other volunteers and document any finds.
Despite officially completing my work placement in the summer of 2016, I continue to volunteer with the FOSH. I am passionate about the preservation of Stank Hall, Stank Hall Barn and New Hall, but I also hope that my continued involvement with the group will enable me to work towards an entry level role with Historic England from which I can work towards a position as a historic building conservation officer.
Posted in Uncategorized