Removing a sixteenth-century spread
Thursday 13 August
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Mervyn Evans, Muriel Hardman, Howard Webber, Nigel Harper-Scott, Phil Thomas, Lisa Waldock, Lorna Holding, Chris Hobbs, George Hunt, Mick James, Christina Farley, Oscar Farley, Sophie Brookes, Elizabeth Brookes, Alice Brookes, Christl Squires
Weather: overcast, dry
Today, I want to concentrate on removing deposit (14), which covers everything at the top of the slope. It’s got nothing later than the sixteenth century in it (apart from a tiny piece of post-medieval local glazed earthenware small enough to have fallen through a worm burrow), the top is very uneven and its stones are completely unsorted. For these reasons, I think that it’s a deliberately laid deposit rather than a natural accumulation. I’m hoping that it won’t be too thick: the section dug deeper at the end of last year suggests that it ought to be no more than 30 mm deep at that part of the site.
Christina, Oscar and Chris are continuing to work on the north-western slope of the hollow way. The rain yesterday has made the chalk “surface” stand out beautifully. It’s very uneven and looks to have been disturbed, although it’s too early to suggest by what.
The bullocks did not break in last night. This is encouraging. The bottles weren’t put on the grid pegs yesterday when we abandoned site, so it may be true that they were attracted by them (perhaps they look like some succulent plant, but I didn’t think that cattle were that myopic).
A surprising quantity of prehistoric material is appearing in (14) together with medieval pottery and metalwork. There are several struck flints, one of which appears to be the broken end of a plano-convex knife, while some of the ceramics appear to be of Iron Age character (though I don’t want to commit myself until I’ve seen them washed). There is also what appears to be a sherd from a Roman colour-coated vessel. This adds a new and somewhat unexpected dimension to the site. Although we had some Romano-British material last year, it wasn’t in such quantity. Given the finds from 15 Church Lane and the allotments west of the church, it looks as if there’s a Romano-British settlement (probably with Iron Age origins) in the south-western part of Church Field and the church yard.
There is a fair amount of deposit (14) to remove and things will have to speed up considerably if we’re to get to the point I want to be at by tomorrow morning. It’s worrying that I won’t be on site this afternoon, but I hope that nothing crops up to complicate what seems to be a fairly straightforward situation.
I left the site at lunchtime to spend the afternoon at Letchworth Museum; Mick is in charge for the rest of the day, with almost everyone working on the removal of (14).