Brandiers Farm, Roman tile kiln excavations: Week 4 highlights 

Cola in the rain

Week 4 of excavating a Roman tile kiln at Brandiers Farm was off to a rocky start after torrential rain and winds brought by Storm Antoni undid a lot of Friday’s hard work cleaning back the kiln and its surfaces. Thankfully our wonderful volunteers got stuck into bailing, and our own Anthony brought enough cake to soften the blow! As if Storm Antoni wasn’t enough, Tuesday saw the volunteers bravely battling their way through even more persistent rain.

And we’re not kidding when we say the volunteers braved the weather — just look at damp little site dog, Cola! But we didn’t let it deter us as this week, as the tile kiln continued to surprise us…

If you fancy seeing a Roman tile kiln from the air, this week was the week, Rosanna and our fab volunteer Bev collected a series of stunning photos of the project using the drone:

The Roman tile kiln should be symmetrical, but so far we haven’t been able to see the back edge of the northern half. We initially thought the wall had been lost through robbing, but even as we continued to clean around it we were just not finding any tile!

photo of possible new structure at SW of Roman tile kiln

On Monday we machined off some of the redeposited natural to try and understand why there’s nothing surviving here, but this still didn’t solve the mystery of the missing north half of the kiln. So on Tuesday we tasked Cliff (our ace digger driver) to gently machine off a layer of Roman rubble to the south-east of the kiln instead, and focus our energy on that area.

Our efforts were rewarded when we discovered a new structure! Cliff’s machining revealed some tiles that are currently up for discussion: is it coursing/some sort of structure, or just a pile of rubble and wasters…? To add to this excitement, Rob and Josh have been excavating just to the west of this, down the side of the kiln, and have found evidence of an even earlier kiln, that may have fired the tiles that built our Brandiers kiln!

On Wednesday it was all about recording (and partying). The volunteers did an epic job of cleaning back the kiln again. During this clean Lindsey, Phoebe and Amanda uncovered a heat-affected surface at the back of the flue, and revealed the north-side interior wall. The south-side exterior wall was also discovered to be heat-affected, confirming suspicions that an early kiln stood next to our kiln, and likely used our south-side wall as a flue wall. We’re even floating the idea of a chain of kilns, each sharing walls and flues and time went by…

Elsewhere on site there were still discoveries to be made — in Trench 6, the volunteers found a drainage ditch that took rain off and away from the kiln terrace, helping keeping the Roman potters’ feet dry in the British summertime.

Will and Roger draw the pit of doom's section

Sadly there was no clamp kiln to match the geophysics in Trench 7, but Phoebe and Robert have recorded a pit, which was capped with a layer of tile rubble and contained a 4th century coin (later than our kiln). Possibly it was for water collection, or a small clay extraction pit.

In Trench 2, Roger and Will finished recording the “Pit of Doom”. This had to be drawn and photographed before Will could cut into the section to extract the wood found earlier in the season. Will’s wood is even bigger than expected, and goes right underneath the face of his carefully cut section. The question is now – What is it…? Could it be a plank? Or perhaps the rung of a ladder, used to help build the superstructure of our kiln for firings?

Post-excavation model of Trench 2, captured by volunteer Stuart Rippon

To celebrate the end of the 2023 season we were joined by those who had volunteered across all 4 weeks, for a pizza party hosted by the Laverys and ourselves (with just a little cider, kindly donated by Roger and Mates Cider — cheers Roger!). We can’t thank the volunteers enough for all the incredible hard work and time they have poured into the project over the last 4 weeks! This season has been phenomenal and we couldn’t have done it without this incredible lot 👏

The volunteers celebrate the end of the 2023 season at Brandiers Farm

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

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