Friday 24 October 2008
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Tony Driscoll, Pauline Gimson (a.m. only), Howard Webber, Philip Dean, Alan Goodwin, Sophia Brookes, Chris Hobbs, Nigel Harper-Scott
Weather: cool, overcast and dry following overnight rain
We’re digging three trenches, at 107 (built 1947), 109 (originally known as Valcroft, after Valerie, daughter of the builder, who died in a motorcycle accident aged only 15, plot 966, built in 1955) and 111 Norton Road where it will be Trench III. Those at 107 and 109 are towards the back (south) of Botons Close, in other words about half way along the garden. That at 111 is right at the back of the garden to get as close as possible to the Cade Close feature that produced Roman tile. Stupidly, I’ve forgotten to bring any record forms with me and, to cap it all, the battery in my camera is dead. I am going to have to go home to collect the spare battery and pick up my Burymead keys the go and pick up the context sheets…
All three trenches appeared very different from the moment the turf was lifted. At 107, there’s a gravelly deposit with a jam jar set into it; it’s perhaps the foundation of a surface rather than a surface proper. At 109, it is down onto a very fertile looking topsoil with almost no inclusions. At 111, it’s dumped material from when Chris dug his pond in 1996. It consists of clay, which comes away in lumps. There are a lot of finds from this material, including St Neots ware, late medieval sandy wares and probable seventeenth-century pottery.
I took a trip down to Hitchin, so I now have a working camera and record forms. I also got a mattock for Chris’s pit, but on returning, found that the mixed material has almost gone and is peeling away from what looks to be the previous topsoil.
Chris’s trench is producing the most finds, which is hardly surprising, and none of the others are yet earlier than the twentieth century (there has been a little possible nineteenth-century material from 109, but it’s in a recent deposit). I’m hoping that the sequence at 109 is going to be like that at 111 in Trenches I and II, excavated back in May, where a fairly homogenous soil deposit has finds sorted by depth. What I’ve seen so far doesn’t contradict that. At 107, the story is more complicated, but we expected that, as we deliberately targeted the little platform by the relict boundary.
Once the sun is no longer on the gardens, it’s turning cold rapidly. The low raking light also makes it difficult to see what’s being excavated and by about half past four, it will be too difficult to continue.
Although today hasn’t been hugely productive in terms either of finds or of information, I am confident that we will get plenty of results tomorrow. We need to do some levelling tomorrow, as well: none of the test pits dug so far has ever been levelled, which happened only because the project did not have a dumpy level until the summer. We can now tie in Trenches I and II at 111 Norton Road and establish a temporary bench mark on Norton Road that we’ll be able to use for future projects.