November 19, 2012

Final Report

Kirby Hall is a great Elizabethan house, now under the care of English Heritage, which was built during several campaigns in the 16th and 17th centuries. The purpose of my research was to complete the first ever complete survey of the mason marks of an entire building, rather than just a range, as an archaeological technique. This enabled the identification of specialisms by masons, the identification of masons and the assessment the current dating of Kirby Hall. Employing techniques including drawing, photography and coding details, the data recorded on site was compiled into a readable/comparable format in Microsoft Excel. The type and location of the mason marks were then analysed. This supported much of the original dating of Kirby, yet some discrepancies have arisen suggesting alternative theories. The data produced at Kirby Hall and also achieved at Rushton Triangular Lodge, along with prior recordings at other nearby buildings has suggested relationships between them and the masons they employed. Where there is documentary evidence, marks can almost be read as a signature, thus some important, known marks were discovered by the team at both Kirby Hall and Deene Park.

Completion of URSS Project – My reflection

Kirby Hall

Kirby Hall, day by day:

Friday 29th June, 2012: Upon arriving at Kirby Hall, we familiarised ourselves with the building- through a tour by our Project leader, by getting grips with its architectural features in the flesh and by setting up a coding scheme for each section of the building.

During the pitch black of the night, when the moon was high... we used torches, at angles, to uncover mason marks on the exterior faces of the inner-courtyard. This was the first time we photographed and recorded, which gave us added practice doing it in the dark with just flashlights and peacocks for company.


Saturday 30th June, 2012: We focused exclusively on getting to grips with the mason marks of Kirby Hall- we surveyed the bed chamber, great staircase, the west and north ranges of the loggia, courtyard, pilasters, ante room etc.

Again, in order to achieve as much recording as possible we continued, after dinner, at night.

Sunday 1st July, 2012: After two extremely packed days, we visited some external, but related buildings: Starting at the beautiful Rushton Hall (Hotel), we travelled to another English Heritage site, Rushton Triangular lodge, where we recorded the mason marks of its basement. Finally, we went on a tour and had tea at Deene Park, even managing to get hold of the key for the estate's little church. Most exciting however, was a mason mark we spotted at Deene mark that was extremely important to another piece of research our tutor (Jenny Alexander) had been working on.

In the evening, we returned to Kirby Hall and worked on the East range.

Monday 2nd July, 2012: We were joined for the next two days by one of Jenny's Masters students, Chris, who has written his dissertation on mason marks and had completed a URSS project with her before. He was also extremely useful because of his height, which meant he could easily see marks we often had to scan for with binoculars.

At Kirby we worked on the Ante room, lesser stair etc. Before heading back to the Triangular Loge to work on the ground and first floors, as well as its little cubby rooms.

Tuesday 3rd - Thursday 5th July, 2012: We continued sweeping over the building, recording marks on the north range frieze, loggia, porch, west range, loggia, east range, as well as focusing in on the second floor and marks found even higher on the Hall's exterior. During this time, we managed to complete the analysis of Kirby Hall and learn what a peacock's bum feels like.

Friday 6th July, 2012: Having completed Kirby Hall in such a short, efficient period, this gave us time to complete the recordings of Rushton Lodge as well, which we had not anticipated we would do. However, it rained and rained, so we tried to record the exterior of the Lodge under two massive umbrellas- one protecting the tripod & camera, the other protecting the data sheets. However, although we record in pencil because it is easier to draw and make mistakes, the paper from this day got so wet it had to be dried out and re-written.

After the on-stite work, we did data entry/ analysis on the computer and research on an owner of Kirby Hall separately, before coming together in September in Warwick to discuss our findings.

I learnt from the whole experience the value of persistence and how to carry out research from its inception to collecting data to presenting findings to a conservation body, such as English Heritage. It was not always easy or simple, there were times when we had to find creative solutions: for example, how to manage umbrella and recording in the rain or how to effectively code the stair cases, with their flights, walls and bannisters. Yet, there were times, such as on the interior of Kirby's porch, when we found many, many different marks and made interesting discoveries such as the circular circumference marks on the interior of a wall at Rushton Triangular Lodge. Equally, there was lots of joy when we finally complied the many hundreds of marks we had recorded into a readable, concise and uniform data set in Microsoft Excel. As a result, the research has required many different elements, each with its own difficulties and rewards.

It was an extremely great achievement, that we managed to not only achieve the first complete investigation of the masons' marks of a building but the first two. We are still currently in the process of analysing and writing up the findings of the Triangular Lodge, which the team aspire to present in the Student Reinvention Journal. Since, I have continued to be a part of Jenny's research and she has passed onto me work to do on architects and masons wills at the National Archives in London, near where I live.

Consequently, the whole project has been extremely rich in learning, new tasks and developing the skills I set out to achieve. Thus, it has been extremely invaluable and enjoyable experience.

I would like to thank the URSS managers/mentors at Warwick and my tutor, Jenny Alexander, for the opportunity.

June 19, 2012

URSS Action Plan

Action Plan

Researcher Development Goal 1

What is the challenge or skill that I would like to develop?

To develop, improve and gain practical and recording skills.

What am I going to do to achieve this?

I am going to have hands on experience, carrying out fieldwork analysing masons marks and recording them with equipment at Kirby Hall, Northants.

Why have I chosen this particular objective?

It will provide highly applicable skills to both my degree and to future research. Such hands-on practical skills are often not developed in seminars or lectures. Thus, this is an excellent opportunity to broaden my experiences.

Is this achievable within the timeframe and resources available?

Yes: 1 week of fieldwork + training

When will I achieve this by?

July 7th, 2012

How am I going to know that I have been successful?

I will complete a diary during my week in Northamptonshire to reflect on and review my progress.

Researcher Development Goal 2

What is the challenge or skill that I would like to develop?

A greater understanding of architectural history and as a consequence, to develop the skills needed in order to carry out architectural research.

What am I going to do to achieve this?

I am going to achieve the first part of this goal through the recording at Kirby, which will involve a deep understanding and knowledge the building's architectural features, as well as wider background reading and research.

The second half of the goal will be achieved by learning and practising, on my feet, how to analyse and record data for an entire buildings. Also, through detailed research on the history of Kirby Hall, the compiling and entering of the recorded data into the computer, and analysis of this for patterns. This will enable me to experience the different stages of research and how these are put together to form an academic paper.

Why have I chosen this particular objective?

I have chosen this objective as it will offer a greater appreciation and understanding of my university course as well as the foundations to carry out research. I aspire to go on to do a masters and PHD.

Is this achievable within the timeframe and resources available?


When will I achieve this by?

The completion of the write up of the findings, which will be presented to English Heritage.

How am I going to know that I have been successful?

By completing all aspects of the research to the best of my ability and by writing the reflective entry at the end of my URSS.

April 28, 2012

My Researcher Profile


Name: Roxanne Ravenhill

Department: History of Art

Project Department: History of Art

Supervisor: Jenny Alexander

I am currently a second year student in the History of Art department, studying for a BA (with Honours). My interests include architectural history, medieval and early modern material culture, and the impact of global connections on art and architecture, including the spread of Islamic art.

Why does my URSS project interest me?

Whilst studying Geography at Oxford University, I was drawn to the cultural and historic implications of the Elizabethan English country house. My research into this topic founded my academic interests in History of Art and decision to change subjects. The project at Kirby Hall would allow me to pursue my initial passions for the architectural history of this period, as well as those I have gained from my course this year.

What skills am I hoping to develop?

- An understanding of how to design, approach and carry out research

- A greater foundation in art historical/architectural academia

- Practical, on-site skills; specifically how to record masons marks and code buildings for research

- To develop my commitment, self-discipline and time-management skills

- To gain a deeper understanding of architectural history, including developing my understanding of terminology and wider knowledge

What am I hoping to achieve through my URSS project?

- Highly relevant experience and skills to my degree and to my dissertation, as well as encouraging my aspirations to go onto postgraduate study.

- To develop all of the skills discussed above to the best of my ability

- To be able to transfer these skills to future projects; thus, to gain highly applicable experience and expertise that can be drawn on in future jobs/research

What contribution to knowledge could my URSS project make?

Masons' mark analysis is a new method used in the archaeology of buildings. Thus, this URSS project will be the first time a whole building, rather than a section of one, has been analysed in this way. Furthermore, investigating the building in its entirety will enable the dating of the building phases to be tested. Thus, this will enable the current, accepted architectural history of Kirby Hall to be assessed. Being commercial research for English Heritage, this will provide them with key details on the construction, masons and development of the building.


Change in Project:

Stonemason marks were not only recorded for the west range of Kirby Hall in Northants, a great Elizabethan started in the 1570s. Rather, the whole building was investigated in order to assess the dating of the building's phases (to test for any continuities in the marks), to see if any known mason's marks could be identified and to see if there was any specialisation, by the masons, present. This involved a detailed examination of all the dressed stonework of the walls, door and window frames of the building, on both the exterior and interior, and the precise recording and photographing of the masons marks found. The results were later turned into a computer-readable form and analysed.

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  • Hello again Roxanne, As I said in the last comment, we need to have your results and reflections of … by on this entry
  • Dear Roxanne, Thank you for putting your updates of the URSS Project here. However, have you found t… by on this entry
  • I have done them, but they didn't post? They are all on my dashboard, I had to redo most of it– it a… by Roxanne Ravenhill on this entry
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