Wednesday 27 August
Weather: overcast, dry and breezy
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Sarah Ironmonger, Alan Goodwin, Phil Thomas, Oscar Farley, Georgina Farley, George Hunt, Nick Smith, Zara Cameron, Nigel Harper-Scott, Tony Driscoll, Philip Dean, Christl Squires, Hilary Wood, Mick James
It’s the last week on site and it’s become abundantly clear that we are not going to finish the trench this year. We were perhaps over-ambitious with the size but the weather has also been against us: it has been far too dry. Perhaps next year we should consider a spring excavation rather than summer, or sort out a means of using a hose on site to give it a good soaking regularly throughout the day. We also need to recruit some more confident and experienced diggers (it’s tempting to suggest that we should employ one or two professionals, but I doubt that the budget can take that as well as a supervisor).
We’re being visited this morning by Dione, Lady Verulam, who is Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire. She has an interest in archaeology, so it’s good that her visit to North Hertfordshire coincides with the excavation; we will also have a senior manager from the council here, which can only serve to further the cause of museums and, in particular, archaeology as something that local taxpayers should fund. Even if there’s not much to see in the ground, we do at least have a few pretty finds.
Today’s priorities will be to complete the removal of (7)/(8) and (9); to remove the deposit below (9), which appears to seal the road surface, (12); and to find out the relationship between the deposit sealed by (7)/(8) to the north-west and (14) to the south-east. The forecast is that today should be dry, but the clouds are worryingly grey.
I’m hoping that if we can complete today’s priorities, by tomorrow we will have something concrete to show the visitors to the open evening: a floor, perhaps, or structural traces.
Lady Verulam was accompanied to site by John Campbell, the Chief Executive of the Council, and Alison Ashley, the Chairman of the Council. I was able to show her some of the nicer finds and the trench. She seemed impressed with the community involvement, as did the NHDC representatives.
The ground is dreadfully hard and needs regular spraying to stop it drying out too much. Mick has found part of a tyg (a late sixteenth- or seventeenth-century cocoa mug) in deposit (7)/(8), which further confirms its early seventeenth-century date. To the south-east, the ground is so dry and hard that it’s all but impossible to excavate: it’s tending to come away in lumps or not at all. There is a fair amount of what looks to be late medieval/early post-medieval tile, which encourages me to think that there must be a building in the vicinity. Perhaps the material under (7)/(8) derives from its demolition.
Around mid-day, Ken Bird dropped in to visit the site. He’s still weak from his recent illness (he lost a stone in weight) but is now on the road to recovery and should be back in circulation soon. Cameron also called in at lunchtime; it’s his birthday tomorrow, but he’ll be in on Friday.
I had to leave for a meeting at the museum at lunchtime and during the afternoon, further progress was made on the removal of (7)/(8).