Brandiers Farm: Roman kiln excavations begin again!

We lost ground at Mintey last week… but for us that’s a good thing! The 2023 season of the Minety Roman kiln excavations has started off strong! A team of volunteers have joined our site team and the ‘big yellow trowel’ to remove all the topsoil and last year’s backfill from the trenches. That means this week we can crack on with the excavations!

Minety site team and the big yellow trowel
Minety site team and the big yellow trowel

We have re-opened Trench 1, now with an extension, so we can learn the full dimensions of the tile kiln and to fully excavate the kiln’s firing chamber and flue. We hope this should clarify the kilns phasing and allow us to understand better the construction of the kiln, as well as show any ancillary activities and buildings.

We are also re-opening and extending Trench 2, which covers the clay extraction pit we found last year. The larger trench area will allow us to step the edges and can continue to work safely at depth! We hope to reach the bottom of the clay extraction pit this year, but as we have no idea how deep this pit goes we could be setting ourselves an unachievable goal! Whether we reach the base this year or not, the material recovered from this pit is rich with tile and brick, and adds further dating evidence for the kiln and its working lifespan.

Rosanna and Anton show us around the freshly opened Trench 2!
Minety 2023 trench locations

We will also excavate a trench (Trench 6) on the northern extent of the earthwork mound, to the north-east of Trench 1. This was targeted to an area of magnetic geophysical anomalies, potentially indicative of a further kiln location. However, after machining off the topsoil, it’s actually looking more like a second large pit for tile wasters and kiln rake-out (ash etc), just like the one in Trench 2.

A further two trenches (Trench 7 and 8) to the south and south-west of Trench 1 will be excavated to target additional strong magnetic geophysical anomalies. Could these also be kiln locations? Or possibly a contemporary pottery kiln? Spoiler alert — a similar anomaly to that in Trench 7 was found in last year’s Trench 4 (not on the plan), and this turned out to be barbed wire, so keep your fingers crossed!

And finally, Trench 9 will investigate a turning linear anomaly, potentially representing a ditch-type feature associated within the kiln activity. Even at the stage of stripping, this has revealed two medieval halfpennies, a stash of medieval Minety ware pottery, and Roman black burnished ware. It’s looking very promising indeed!

The volunteers have put in some real graft this week, and their hard work has paid off. All the trenches are open and we got to enjoy this satisfyingly moment of the terram being removed to reveal the tile kiln…

Is there anything better than watching a Roman kiln perfectly reveled under terram? Last year’s work to protect the kiln has paid off… What a beauty! 😍

Only one week in and we already have some star tiles! Cassie and Sue in the finds tent have already started processing the immense amount of tile and finds coming out of the trenches…

Half penny
Half penny, found by detectorist Lee in Trench 9

And it’s not just tiles we’ve found — in a furrow in Trench 9, Lee detected some silver halfpennies, and we’ve got a stash of medieval Minety ware.

Bev dug an epic cuneatus tile out of the kiln’s flue. These massive tiles would’ve been stacked in such a way as to create an arch over doorways etc. And Ken has been slogging through tightly compacted hardcore at the back wall of the kiln, which he’s now really started to define!

Jason has whipped out near-literal tons of the fill of tile-laden clay that caps the deep layers of burnt rake-out from past firing and he found more stamps too!

Kara has found a chunk of stamped LHS tile in the kiln’s front wall! These have a specific distribution along the length of Roman Ermine Street, and were made in our kiln along with the TPF tiles.

You can follow updates from the trenches via our social media profiles, with live posts on Twitter!

Indie Jago (Assistant Community Outreach and Engagement Officer)
and Rosanna Price (Digital Engagement Manager)

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