Friday 29 August
Weather: overcast, dry, warm
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Mick James, Nigel Harper-Scott, Tony Driscoll, Alan Goodwin, Phil Thomas, Pauline Gimson, George Hunt, Owain James, Zara Cameron, Jim Skipper, Christl Squires, Hilary Wood, Chris Hobbs
Yet another very dry day, with no overnight rain. Progress is dreadfully slow and with only two days to go, it looks as if we won’t actually uncover a building. Looking yesterday at the types of late medieval peasant buildings from Caldecote, which is only five kilometres away, and Broadfield, which is about 15 km, we’d expect to find chalk rubble foundations, of which there are so far no traces.
Last night’s open evening was a success, with over sixty visitors, including the Chairman of North Herts District Council, councillors from Letchworth Garden City Parish Council, Stewart Bryant (the County Archaeologist), Josh Tidy from the Heritage Museum and representatives of the Heritage Foundation. The display prepared by Sam and Phil Howard was impressive and attracted a lot of good comments, while the marquee where we put it and the refreshments is enormous.
Pauline has found a broken blade of Neolithic character in (18). It’s noticeable how we seem to have had more lithics this year than last. There are not enough to suggest that we are on a prehistoric site and they seem to be of various dates, so it’s presumably just background noise relating to the intensive prehistoric activity just a few hundred metres away. On the other hand, last year’s Bronze Age pit shows that there is the potential for finding prehistoric activity in Church Field.
The group has received a letter from Oliver Heald MP, offering congratulations for the lottery grant. He wasn’t able to make it to the open evening, which is a pity, but we need to make sure that we keep him informed of what’s going on.
Phil has found a rather nice copper alloy buckle of sixteenth- or seventeenth-century type. This end of deposit (18) is becoming rather productive of good, display worthy finds. This makes me hopeful that we’ll get lots of decent, datable finds when we eventually get to domestic occupation (if we’re not already in it).
Gil Burleigh called in to the site during the late morning as he wasn’t at the open evening last night. He took a couple of photographs and seemed generally impressed with the potential of the site. He also confirmed my provisional dating for the knife handle and the buckle.
During lunch-break, we took down the marquee, which took a lot less time than it did to put up, apparently. It would look good with a group logo painted onto one of the panels…
I’ve decided to get a sample of 10 litres from context (18), sample : it’s an evidently undisturbed late sixteenth-century deposit that is producing domestic debris. I’m wondering whether it accumulated in the open air, close to habitation or inside a building (among other possibilities). The ceramics are mostly unfamiliar fabrics, which I assume are largely sixteenth-century types, as I have never really seen anything of that date locally.
Working at the bottom of the slope, George has found that the gully was slightly underdug. Beyond that, he’s taking out (17), which Owain and Chris are working their way down from the top. I’d really like to know how thick it is and if it really does seal road surface (12) before we finish this season’s work. I’m also keen to know if it formed close to contemporary habitation or after the abandonment of a building, so we’ve taken sample  from this deposit. In retrospect, it would have been good to get a sample from (7)/(8), too. Interestingly, the quantity of finds from (17) drops off going down the slope, so that by half way down, there are none.
It’s become terribly humid as the afternoon has progressed. The temperature is well into the 20s, there’s very little breeze and the almost unbroken cloud cover is barely moving. People are definitely flagging, even after Hilary’s eclairs, which she provided at afternoon tea-break.