The three weeks digging at Clare Castle have flown by and on Friday we backfilled the five trenches we have been digging across the inner bailey. One of our aims were to try to determine the extent of the cemetery whose presence was first identified in 1951 and which is thought to have been associated with a small religious house founded in c.1045AD and recorded in 1090AD as lying within the castle grounds and moved out in 1124AD. The presence of W-E aligned, ordered burials in every one of our trenches has shown that it was extensive, upwards of 500 burials probably, but has not determined its limits in any but (probably) the western direction and raises questions about its period of use, clearly for longer than the c. 80 years that the religious community was here.
We were also hoping to find archaeological evidence of the sequence of buildings recorded in a wealth of documents to have been on the site in the 14th century. The evidence of falling ground levels to the nearby River Stour, however, suggests that only in the lowest-lying, southern part of the site does a sequence of stratified layers with the potential to provide this evidence survive. The large trench in this area contained layers of demolition debris and structural evidence as well as a large early palisade-type ditch. Across most of the remainder of the site the later medieval horizons have been truncated. Comparison of the levels of the burials in each trench should enable us to estimate the depth of what has been lost. Some building evidence was found near the entrance between the inner and outer bailey where a robbed-out wall, clay floor and the base of an oven was found – again the upper levels were truncated by leveling and these represented the earliest constructions in this area.
A single flint and mortar wall footing running roughly parallel to the southern baily bank did not have an identifiable ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ and may therefore have formed part of an internal partition or garden wall within the bailey.
Finds washing has started on site in the finds tent, which proved very popular with visitors. Preliminary results show pottery mostly dating between the 11th and 13th centuries and consistent with the apparent loss of the 14th century and later ground levels. This will continue in the CA Needham Market office throughout the winter.
This has been an ambitious project but the enthusiasm, skill and dedication of the volunteers who donated 393 days in total as well as the commitment of the Cotswold Archaeology staff has greatly enhanced our understanding of this part of the Castle – the question now is what shall we do next year?
We are now a week into the community dig at Clare Castle in Suffolk, which is being carried out by local volunteers under the direction of archaeologists from CA’s Suffolk Office. The work is part of a large Heritage Lottery Grant awarded to the Clare Castle Country Park Trust in 2018 to improve understanding of the history of the site and the visitor experience.
Following on from last year’s successful dig in the Outer Bailey, this year’s work is focussed in the Inner Bailey, where excavation in 2013 had identified the possible site of a College of Secular Canons, founded c. 1045. As well as evidence for this pre-conquest activity, we hope to identify buildings associated with the occupation of the castle. Clare Castle is one of the earliest motte and bailey castles in Suffolk, constructed by Richard Fitzgilbert (who was awarded the lands of the Saxon lord Aelfric in 1075 following a revolt against William I) before AD 1090. One of the first finds made this year is a cut silver halfpenny of William I (the Conqueror), contemporary with the castle’s construction.
Despite a wet start on Monday, we managed to open enough trenches to start digging in the afternoon. Machining has removed the overlying railway deposits, revealing a buried soil containing medieval pottery. As we have started to remove this layer, flint and mortar walls and rubble spreads/surfaces are being revealed, so it all looks very promising. Considerable quantities of medieval pottery have been recovered, some of it large and very fresh-looking, so it is probably being recovered close to the site of its original deposition.
We have also inserted a single trench to confirm the presence of an infilled stretch of moat around the motte and to determine whether there may have been an outer bank, which perhaps preserves pre-Conquest buried soils beneath it. We have found the moat and can see where part of the motte had slipped into the inner edge and have immediately backfilled this length. A thick deposit of chalk at the outer edge needs further investigation in order to determine if it represents bank material that slipped into the moat.
We were delighted to host our CEO, Neil and three of our trustees during a visit on Tuesday afternoon and I could see they were itching to get involved!
We have a great HQ in the newly refurbished Old Goods Shed of the former railway line, where we are able to present displays and updates. Our volunteer team is consistently large and are proving capable and dedicated – and good humoured as they battle the soil layers compacted by a hundred years of train traffic. We are posting updates via social media and have an Open Day next Sunday between 12 and 4pm, where there will be displays, finds handling and guided tours. So if you’re in the area on Sunday, why not come and see the site for yourself?!
Cotswold Archaeology are pleased to have been working with the Boxford History Project on further excavations at the Mud Hole Roman Villa site. Following the discovery in 2017 of the a very rare mosaic featuring scenes from Greek Mythology, the community group raised enough funds to allow another season of excavation, which has just come to an end.
On Saturday 31 August we supported an open day at the site and were astounded by the numbers of visitors and the very real enthusiasm and interest in the site. Around 3,000 people turned out on the day to see the site, listen to the site team explain what had been found and have a look at some of the artefacts recovered.
While the focus of the excavations this year has been on revealing and recording the full mosaic floor, there were a number of other research questions that we were keen to resolve. The investigations have explored the origins of the structure, sought to determine whether further mosaics might have been present and tried to understand the later history of the building and its use.
The results have been astounding. Further elements of the imagery on the mosaic have been revealed, showing a greater array of tales from Greek Mythology. We also now have a much better understanding of the building’s construction, evidence to suggest that no other mosaic floors were present and evidence of alterations and repair late in the building’s life. There is a wide range of material that now needs further detailed investigation and analysis before we can tell the full story. We look forward to sharing this with you when the work is complete!
On Saturday 3rd August, staff from our Cirencester office returned to Blaise Castle Museum to take part in the fifth Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology Day, celebrating the Festival of Archaeology and the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Council for British Archaeology in 1944.
We think it’s fair to say that this year’s event was the biggest and best yet, with more archaeological groups, societies and companies than ever before. Thankfully the rain stayed away while the droves of visitors descended.
Visitors to the Cotswold Archaeology stand were able to learn about 6000 years of Bristol and South Gloucestershire history! We showcased a variety of finds, dating from the Neolithic era through the Iron Age, Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods. Our ‘Bristol Finds Timeline’ went right up to 1944 to mark the special anniversary.
Children learnt about the important part Bristol played in the Second World War and how our historic buildings specialists investigate and record wartime defences. They were also able to design and keep their own aeroplanes, which proved very popular.
We think some of them could have given the engineers of the Bristol Aeroplane Company a run for their money.
Its volunteers’ week!!!! The 1st – 7th June is a week dedicated to celebrating the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. Here at Cotswold Archaeology we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for us to shout out about the wonderful work our amazing volunteers do by looking back at some of the various projects they’ve helped out with recently.
Helping out in the field
In April a team of archaeologists from our Milton Keynes office were on site at Great Linford Manor Park conducting a community dig alongside The Parks Trust. We were joined by volunteers from across Milton Keynes and beyond, including the Young Park Rangers, who were all very passionate and enthusiastic about the archaeology being unveiled.
The volunteers assisted with the excavation, recording and photography of features such as the Doric structure, a long-lost sundial and the HaHa wall (a sunken wall that provided a boundary to livestock without interrupting views). Feedback from volunteers was resoundingly positive with the site staff seeing many familiar faces at the site open day, keen to see how the trenches they’d worked on had progressed.
Volunteers from the North Devon Archaeological Society and other interested locals recently joined staff from our Exeter office to assist with the North Devon Hillforts Survey. The project included a geophysical survey of Bucks Mills hillfort hosted by North Devon Coast AONB and supported by Historic England and North Devon National Trust. Working alongside Substrata Limited and our staff, the volunteers assisted with the setting out of the grids and used survey instrumentation to plot the earthworks. We’re keeping our fingers crossed the project will help determine the date of the hillfort, which is currently a mystery!
The volunteers also helped our staff record the hillforts of Windbury Head, Embury Beacon and Hillsborough and Senior Heritage Consultant Zoe was “grateful for the assistance of the volunteers” especially as they worked “through all weather and dense vegetation”.
Our volunteers help us out on a real variety of projects and tasks and many of these are carried out not only on site, but back in our offices when the hard work of analysing and interpreting everything uncovered begins. In our Andover office several dedicated volunteers have been ordering and preparing the recording sheets completed by the excavators at a large multi-period site in Kent. This ensures that everything necessary for understanding the features, and the eventual creation of the detailed report, is all present and correct. They have also been assisting with the quantification of a large assemblage of samian pottery from a recent local excavation. Volunteer Victoria has “enjoyed learning new skills such as differentiating between parts of pottery vessels” and was pleased that she “was able to assist with the paper archive for large sites”.
A team of volunteers have also proved invaluable to the post-excavation staff in our Cirencester office by helping out with the washing of over 40 skeletons from a recently excavated Roman cemetery site. Their hard work means the assemblage is now ready to be analysed by our Osteoarchaeologist and the volunteers are all eagerly awaiting hearing about the results. Several of these volunteers have also carried out the very different but no less important job of auditing all 2,500 books and journals in the Cirencester office library. Volunteer Sue says “the task was thoroughly enjoyable” as it allowed them to set aside some more interesting volumes for reading at a later date. One of Sue’s particular favourites was ‘Hanged at Gloucester’ (not that we think she’s morbid or anything!!).
Our new Suffolk office has an impressive history of volunteer engagement both on site and within the post-excavation department. One such project involved volunteers assisting with the excavation of over 100 Iron Age storage pits. The volunteers then carried out finds and soil sample processing and were trained in finds identification so they could aid with the identifying and quantifying of the finds recovered from the pits. Project Manager Joanna said the work of the volunteers “provided an important link between a large new greenfield development on the edge of town with the community affected by it”.
The Suffolk post-excavation team have also been regularly joined by a small number of volunteers who’ve turned their hands to most tasks, with notable projects including the sieving of cremations and the reconstruction of pots from two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries.
If you’re interested in being added to our mailing list so we can keep you updated about any volunteering opportunities in our various post-excavation departments, then please contact our volunteer co-ordinator email@example.com or take a look at our volunteer website page for more information.
CA is pleased to present you with a fantastic animation produced for The Seaside Museum Herne Bay exhibition ‘The Mystery of the Roman Pudding Pans’.
The Kentish mystery, which is now the subject of an ongoing exhibition and animation, concerns the story of the contents of a Roman ship that sank or jettisoned its cargo off the Kent coast, c. AD 180 –200. Pottery from the wreck has been recovered by fishermen since at least the 18th century and was used to cook a Kentish pudding, hence the site being known as ‘pudding pan’.
The animation was written, produced and directed by Phil Gomm, and CA’s very own Senior Marine Consultant Dr Michael Walsh acted as archaeological consultant, due to his ongoing research into the site. Michael’s research was published in 2017 by the British Museum Press, and is available from their online bookshop.
Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the animation is the result of a partnership between staff and graduates of the Computer Animation Arts at the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) Rochester, professional voice actors, The Seaside Museum and pupils from Herne Bay Junior School, where Michael led a whole school assembly on Friday 26 April. We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this wonderful project.