Old iron

To the north of Camber Castle, just past the Honeybee Tree, is scattered the brickwork of an old Looker’s hut. In autumn, migrant Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails seem to like the vicinity, probably recognising the perpetual aridity of the site as attractive to the insects on which they feed. Right now, the whole landscape is desiccated so that the old shingle ridges show up more clearly than usual as they contrast with the greener grass growing inthe silt of the former estuary.

This aerial photo shows with reasonable clarity the hooked spurs at the end of each successive storm ridge where the stones were swept round by the surge of the flood tide. The well-drained shingle shows as brown, the creeks and river course green. The Honeybee willow is where the paths meet and the hut remains show as pale patches of disturbed sand to the north.

The former tidal landscape is shown well in this map from 1590 in the British Library, but what struck me is the house shown more or less where the Looker’s hut stood. I has assumed that remote position on the estuary foreshore had never been occupied by more than a humble 19th century hut but this suggests a building had stood in that spot three hundred years before. It looks like a more substantial house as well but, comparing it with urban representations on the map, it could just be a symbol. Whatever it was, it was there forty years before the Castle was decommissioned.

I’ve walked past this spot hundreds of times but, until the other week, paid no attention to the bits of rusty agricultural machinery scattered about. It’s obvious enough but I’d just never looked. We were actually trying to count a group of Egyptian Geese half-hidden by the slope of the ancient shore when I paused to search for the usual manufacturer’s name embossed in the metalwork. I could trace B A U.

I knew at once that This Was A Job for my old friend Tim, for whom no oxidising junk in a bramble thicket is anonymous. I sent him my photo and next thing I knew he had been down there and scraped back the dry soil in the cause of Industrial Archaeology:

“A closer look at the wheels hubs and the cutter bar at the old Shepherds hut to the north of Castle Water,” he emailed me.

“The finger bar in my opinion is nothing to do with the wheels etc and is a separate article and part of an old mower.”

“The two sets of wheels and axles have cast iron centres with the name of the manufacturer which is  H C Bauly of Bow, Wagon & Wheel Works, London. This company went into liquidation in 1932.”

“The axles have the remains of leaf springs, but the wheels appear to have plain metal rims which would suggest that this was from a trailer as driving wheels would have a grip pattern, however there could have been  a solid rubber band on the outside of the rim common to steam lorries that have disappeared over time.”

So that was one mystery cleared up. But not so simple:

“As most agricultural trailers don’t have springs I guess these come from an industrial past such as aggregates which the area is known for.”

As far as I’m aware, no-one has taken any interest in this stuff before. Reasons for that are generously offered by those who, for instance, do not follow the Facebook “Corrugated Iron Appreciation Society” page. If you are one of those people, here are some examples to whet your appetite:

On the doorstep at Winchelsea Beach. This lean-to leans against a very much more solid concrete WWII blockhouse.

…while this barn near Knepp is not only the beneficiary of vigorously gestural Abstract Expressionism but also bears the sign of a manufacturer new to me: CROGGON.


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