Saturday 25 October 2008

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Chris Hobbs, Nigel Harper-Scott, Keeley Hale, Sophia Brookes, Clare Skelly, Philip Dean, Julie Goodwyn, John Goodwyn, Tony Driscoll, Pauline Gimson, Greg Ford, Ernie Ford

Weather: dry, overcast, chilly

We have a lot more people today, as well as two new starters (Julie & John). We need to make good progress as tomorrow’s forecast is bad and the trenches at 107 & 109 are only about 20 cm deep, while medieval finds were made in June at a depth of about 40 cm.

At 111, the material dumped during the 1990s, (13), came down onto a thin buried topsoil, (14), which overlies an earlier dumped layer, (15). At the interface, there was a 1956 sixpence.

At 109, the homogenous soil deposit removed in 5 cm spits has given way to a more chalky layer. This has surprised me, as the homogenous layer looked very similar to the material in Trench I at 111 that contained only medieval finds. In the south-eastern corner, there is a distinct patch of burnt clay that may be the base of a bonfire.

At 107, they are still dealing with rubbly material, although there seems to be a change at the bottom. There is still rubble in this, but it’s possible that it has been compressed in from above. On the other hand, there is as much rubble as in the overlying deposit, so it may be part of the same dump.

At 111, (15) has turned out to be about 20 cm thick & to overlie a yellowish clay with little in it. I think it’s safe to abandon the trench.

After lunch, Chris & team backfilled, having first located the trench with reference to the garden shed. It looks as if this end of the garden has been used to dump unwanted soil for half a century or more.

The apparent change of deposit at 107 turned out to be a false alarm. Instead, there is a very rubbly deposit, consisting of a great deal of chalk with some quite large pieces of brick, still of evidently twentieth-century date. As it comes out, though, the brick is clearly not of nineteenth- or twentieth-century date, but is seventeenth- or eighteenth-century.

And that was it. Superficially disappointing results in all three trenches, but they still tell us several things. Firstly, that at the back of 111, there has been too much dumping of material during the twentieth century to make searching for Roman material worthwhile. Instead, we need to maintain a watching brief during construction work at Cade Close, which is due to take place early in 2009. Secondly, the lack of medieval material at 109 suggests that the original discovery at 111 and the material found during the test pitting of earlier this year marks a genuine concentration of medieval material that corresponds to the location of more intense activity. Thirdly, the discovery of apparently eighteenth-century bricks at 107 must be connected with works associated with what is now known as Manor Farm ar 105 Norton Road. In other words, we’ve actually got a lot of information, which is what the pits were intended to do: archaeology is absolutely not treasure hunting for spectacular finds!

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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 5 November 2008, in Test Pits. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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