Archaeological Dowsing – Combining the Disciplines

by Derwent Levick

I was introduced to archaeological dowsing at the Lincoln training course in 1996 by Philip and Beulah Garcin. In subsequent years  I have concentrated on finding buildings enjoying a week long course with Dennis Wheatley, the following summer ‘doing stone circles and churches’

My main interest has been in finding lost buildings and I was given a perfect location when my daughter and husband bought the house and outbuildings of a farm in Lincolnshire.

Without realising the potential of the fields around farm, which is still a working farm, I practiced in the paddock with my recently acquired skills. I was quickly attracted to an oddly level site in the near paddock on ‘our ground’ which subsequently dowsed as being a domestic house/barn which I was able to date as being built in 1665 and burnt down in 1683.

Whilst concentrating on the shape of the building below ground, added excavations produced bricks which were dated as “sixteenth  century” by my archaeological university tutor in 1998.

In the meantime the I noticed that  the fields north of the farm which are criss-crossed by  humps and hollows signs of what I was to realise was a mediaeval village. To check my findings and get a feel for medieval deserted village, I visited the well documented English Heritage protected medieval village site at Gainthorpe, Lincs on the A15 which lies close to my way out to Lincolnshire.

In the days before ‘foot and mouth’  I was able to crudely map out the visible site and to wonder to  the farmer whether there was more of the site such as further paths and platforms which had  now been ploughed out as one track ‘vanished’ in the next field. ‘Yes‘, was his sheepish answer, he had ploughed part of the village in the 50s and this is borne out in subsequent correspondence

Then writing to the Lincolnshire Archaeological service I discovered that the site was generally known in outline from SMR aerial mapping (NMP No LI.370.1 copyright acknowledged) in their possession and from Rex C Russell’s 1982 drawing of the village field system around the village in medieval times, but lacked the detail which I could now hope to provide.

The drawing shows the trackways within the houses in the old village and I was able to dowse the actual positions of the houses out on the fields, the Dovecote and the two village ponds, one of which still exists amid the jumble of semi-derelict working farm buildings. Hopefully we can in the future complete an EDM survey of the village and with the farmer’s permission do a trial dig one the house sites I have found, possibly on what seems to be a larger house than the others dowsing as having five rooms. Following the village and its houses under and through the actual farm buildings has produced more ‘sites’ which now tie up with the 1640s farmhouse/ building which I had first discovered.

The latest discovery was part of a buried tree trunk which should(?) be part of the barn where wooden structures still exist in one of the outbuildings on our side of ‘our’ farm wall. This tree is being dated by kind permission of Kathy Groves of  Sheffield University, Department of Dendrochronology,  hopefully to provide a date for the tree wood being felled which will tie in with dating which I made back in 1997 when I first  dowsed the building  in the paddock. Dowsing has an important role to play in evaluating sites before further actual exploration and is being nowadays is slowly accepted  as a means for preliminary searches.

© 2001 Derwent Levick & BSD EEG