Saturday 31 May 2008

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Chris Hobbs, Muriel Hardman, Alan Goodwin (am only), Nigel Harper-Scott, Tony Driscoll, Pauline Gimson, Frankie Saxton, Lisa Waldock, Mick James, Tim Vickers, Matt Pilsbury, Kevin Kendrick, Cameron Gormill (to 2 pm).

Mick has brought in the Cade Close evaluation report, which shows that far from revealing nothing, the trench closest to the gardens we’re investigating had a posthole containing a sherd of Romano-British pottery in it. So there’s a potentially Roman posthole about 15 m south of the end of the gardens…

An iron candle holderTrench I at 111 continues to be the most interesting of the three. As well as another piece of débitage, Frankie has found a complete iron candle-holder. It’s difficult to be precise about its date, but as the deposit is producing nothing later than around the fifteenth century, I’m happy to see it as medieval (provisionally).

A very nice barbed-and-tanged arrowhead has turned up in Trench II at 111. There is some ancient damage to the barbs but apart from that, it’s in perfect condition.

The trench at 113 continues to be disappointing. The burnt material trowelled away rapidly and it’s come down onto a deposit with apparently recent tile in it. However, it turns out that this trench is not located in the former vegetable garden but in an area that was waste before being laid down as lawn (which probably explains the evidence for a nearby bonfire).

Context (7) in Trench II is now producing mostly medieval pottery, so I suspect that it is the same deposit as (6) in Trench I. There’s no sign of plough disturbance, which is what we’d expect as the documentary evidence indicates that this property has been part of a close since at least 1406.

Deborah Giles called in during the morning. Her health is very up and down, but she’s working on trying to document the owners and tenants of all the properties documented in 1796 back as far as she can go (which will certainly be into the Middle Ages for at least some properties). Hard work but incredibly useful!

Muriel organised finds washing during the morning. The finds from the Caslon Way test pits dug in February had not been washed, so a start was made on them. They aren’t especially exciting.

Ken Bird also called in at lunchtime and brought cakes for later…

No finds processing took place during the afternoon as Mick and Chris are getting anxious about bottoming the test pits. I don’t think that they have much to worry about: the Cade Close evaluation suggests that the topsoil and subsoil are no more than a maximum of 0.45 m thick. Even allowing for the effect of the turf in raising the level of the garden surface, I suspect that in Trench I at 111, we’re within 10 to 15 centimetres of natural, while in Trench II, it’s more likely to be 20 cm. The trench at 113, though, has further to go (perhaps as much as 35 cm) because the more complex stratigraphy there has meant that progress has been slower. And just to make things more complex, a probable posthole has turned up in the yellowish deposit that elsewhere contains medieval material. It’s more-or-less on the line of the relict boundary that seems to be the southern boundary of Bootings Close in 1796, so it may be part of a fence line. After the posthole was excavated, a stakehole turned up.

Possible tileA piece of decorated ceramic building material has turned up in Trench I at 111. It’s a curious object, thicker than the usual floor tile, yet it’s the upper surface that’s decorated. The decoration itself is very rudimentary, consisting of parallel scored lines in two directions that are clearly not an artefact of manufacturing or to provide keying for mortar. All in all, I’m inclined to believe that it’s a floor tile.

By the end of the afternoon, none of the trenches had been finished, so I got the diggers to put sondages into the corners of trenches I and II at 111. As I suspected, the natural clay was a matter of centimetres below the depth reached and, in II, the water table was hit. I agreed with Mick and Chris that they could carry on tomorrow without my supervision, so we did not backfill the trenches.

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About Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

I'm the Archaeology Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council Museum Service. I was born and brought up in Letchworth Garden City, so I have a life-long connection with the area.

Posted on 2 June 2008, in Test Pits. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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