Kelmscott Community Archaeology: our second and third test-pitting weekends

Following on from our initial test-pitting weekend in April/ May, as part of the Kelmscott Manor Community Archaeology Research Programme (CARP), two further test-pitting weekends took place during June and July. With the help of 34 volunteers and a local Young Archaeologists’ Club, unfinished test pits from our first weekend were re-opened and new ones dug in local residents’ gardens and within the grounds of Kelmscott Manor, bringing the total to ten test pits excavated across all three weekends.

Our Senior Finds Officer, Alejandra Gutierrez, identified this 13th to 15th-century dripping pan potsherd
Our Senior Finds Officer, Alejandra Gutierrez, identified this 13th to 15th-century dripping pan potsherd

During our second weekend in June, two test pits were excavated in a private garden on the western outskirts of the village. By the end of the second day, we’d reached a depth of 1m, where the test pit yielded medieval pottery including Minety-type ware dating to the 14th or 15th century (many of the sherds were probably from the same vessel), and this glazed dripping pan sherd of 13th to 15th-century date.

Another test pit was opened in the front garden at the same property on the second day, with high hopes of similar finds to those found in the first test pit. The star find from this pit, as identified by Cotswold Archaeology’s Senior Finds Officer Alejandra Gutierrez, was this small sherd from a medieval jug, with rouletted decoration in green and yellow. The jug was made in the Brill-Boarstall area of Buckinghamshire, where similarly decorated jugs were produced in the 13th and 14th centuries. Such fine and striking decoration was restricted to tablewares, such as jugs used for serving light ale or wine, whereas cooking pots were usually plain. Examples of intact Brill-Boarstall ware jugs can be found in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Volunteers Finley and Rosie recording their test pit
Volunteers Finley and Rosie recording their test pit

Our re-opened test pit at the Morris Memorial Hall exposed more recent finds in the form of large cobbles, charcoal and coke, in what turned out to be a soakaway pit for the Hall’s guttering. Ceramic building material, Post-medieval pottery (some dating to the 16th to 17th century) and window glass were also found.

Two further test pits were opened up in local residents’ gardens; one yielded the largest concentration of post-medieval pottery and glass from any test pit, dating to the last 100 -150 years; the other yielded a range of finds including our first clay-pipe fragment, a medieval potsherd and bone, reaching a depth of approximately 0.6m.

North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists’ Club members excavating a test pit in Kelmscott Manor’s garden
North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists’ Club members excavating a test pit in Kelmscott Manor’s garden

During our third weekend in July we focused on continuing three test pits in Kelmscott Manor’s gardens previously started by local primary and secondary schools, as well as opening a fourth in a meadow beyond the manor’s walled garden. All four pits were worked on by 16 members of the North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists’ Club on the first day, supported by seven group leaders. They washed finds, recorded sections and photographed the test pits before backfilling at the end of the day. Post-medieval pottery and glass were excavated from one of the Manor’s test pits, while the meadow test pit yielded lots of animal bone and medieval potsherds. The meadow test pit was then continued by our regular volunteers on the second day.

One of our key aims was to reach the ‘natural’ level in each test pit, which was achieved in some cases, at varying depths, but not in others. One of our volunteers, Brian, used a hand auger in the Morris Memorial Hall test pit, but even at a depth of 1.4m, the ‘natural’ level still hadn’t been reached.

Our July test-pitting staff and volunteers at the local pub, The Plough
Our July test-pitting staff and volunteers at the local pub, The Plough

Our Community Archaeology project will continue in 2023 – if you would like to volunteer during our second year at Kelmscott, please contact me, Caz Adams, for more information: caroline.adams@cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk

Caz Adams

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