Wednesday 8 August
Weather sunny and dry
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Hilary Wood, Jane Waterman, Chris Appleyard, Rosie Sarkar, Philip Dean, Mervyn Evans, Kat Madison, Kate O’Neill, Mick James, Owain James, Muriel Hardman, Anne Lake
There was fortunately little real damage caused by the cattle on Monday: one bent peg (fortunately not on the grid), a few cow pats in the trench, hoofprints and a flattened spoil heap. It could have been so much worse, especially had the weather been wet and the site very muddy!
We have too many people on site! It was seventeen by 9.30… In terms of excavation, we are restricted to the lower (south-western) end of the trench, until (1) is completely removed and the relationship between (4) and (9) is completely resolved. There is room for six people, working in pairs. Finds processing can only accommodate four people at most, which leaves us with a surplus of seven… It is very difficult to ask people to leave as they are giving their time for free and they are full of enthusiasm, but one of the reasons for Mick compiling a list was to restrict numbers to about eight people a day. The system is obviously not working as people are turning up without booking and I need to find a way to get round these issues of overcrowding.
We have six people removing (1), five people finds processing, Mick and Muriel surveying the site grid in relation to the fences around the compound and everyone else has had to go home. I telephoned Heritage Network about waterproof finds labels and Helen has told me that she has some they can let us have. Mick went to pick them up.
The day is passing very quickly: it was 11 o’clock before I realised that I had not given people a tea break. It’s by no means as hot as it was on Sunday, so there is not such an urgent need to ensure people don’t dehydrate.
The finds from deposit (1) are predominantly industrial residues (the usual green vitrified clinker), which is surprising. I wonder if Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation has records of such materials being collected from factories int he town and distributed as hardcore on its properties.
After lunch, Gil Burleigh called in to find out about progress and get some pictures. He confirmed that the industrial residue is from a Letchworth Garden City factory and that it was produced before the Second World War. It apparently turns up on sites throughout Letchworth (including Green Lane 1988, although I don’t actually recall seeing it), Baldock and some of the surrounding villages. He wonders if the company was paying local farmers to dispose of it by ploughing it into their fields.
Part of the way down the slope, Mervyn and Philip have uncovered two pieces of brick and a stone in alignment, which may be the south-western wall of the barn. If this is the case, it suggests that it has been more thoroughly truncated during the demolition process than wall (7) to the north-east. It does also indicate – if the identification is correct – that we have almost the entire width of the building, which would be good! With any luck, a floor will survive beneath the demolition deposit (9). North-west of this possible new wall, there is a large spread of mortar and chalk beneath (1), which also looks as if it may be related to the former barn structure.
We ought to be in a position to do a quick plan of (4) before tea break and remove it afterwards. Then there will be room to work on both ends of the trench, with one team attacking (9) and another defining (10) more closely.
The cattle arrived at the trough around 2.30, which is the usual time. They are now hanging round by the gate from 127 Norton Road into the field, where the residents sometimes feed them. They seem to be very much creatures of habit, which is presumably why they entered our compound at the first opportunity on Monday morning.
The plan of (4) has been done, so the deposit can be removed once we have levelled it in the morning. It seals (10) to the south-west and (9) to the north-east. There is no trace of what was planned as (6), which must have been either very superficial or an area of differential drying.