Category Archives: Norton Church Field Dig 2011

Eighth (and Last) Day in Church Field – Easter Monday 2nd May 2011

On-Site: Philip Dean, Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Chris Hobbs, Stephen Mason.

Weather: Sunny and hot, with a clear sky and strong wind.

Today is our last day in Church Field, for the foreseeable future. I am keen to get people working today as we only have the morning to clean up contexts and finish plans and records, before backfilling the trench. The hose has not been set-up to wet the site and aid trowelling, because the contexts are easier to read dry; and thereby ensure remaining parts of contexts (5) and (3) are fully removed.

The “plateau” of context (7), that was hidden below (3), will be removed to the same height of the rest of (7) surrounding it. Unfortunately, there is not have enough time or people to completely remove all of (7) to the next context before starting to back fill after lunch.

Context (3) is also to be removed in its entirety, so that recording can be completed and new contexts identified, and Mervyn will remove the rest of the sectioned part of (2), hopefully (2) will be left in a state that can be resolved in a future excavation.

Nigel and Philip are tasked with drawing the sondage’s stratigraphy; it will not be progressed further on this dig due to time and safety. It is almost a metre deep and going deeper would require the sides to be shored and hard hats etc worn by the excavators; which we do not have the capacity to provide. The sondage looks interesting and we believe we may have located the ditch. Although the fill looks very much the same, in the stratigraphy it can be seen in the lower part of the sondage to be stonier and sandier in the northern part of the sondage and less stony and more clay-like in the southern end. It is difficult to read the sondage stratigraphy as only two of its sides receive sunlight, and then only later in the day.

By lunchtime context (3) is gone as far as we can determine, everything has returned to its universal mid-grey colour. Areas have been lightly cleaned back to remove remaining loose soil and pebbles/flints for photographs to be taken of the site at the conclusion of the excavation. The final plans, levels and checks on context sheets of the site were completed during the lunch break.

Geo-textile was laid across the site and back filling began shortly after lunch (2pm), the final pieces of turf were repatriated at 4:10pm.

There have been two new small finds today; a fragment of an iron horseshoe from context (3) and an iron rim(?)from context (2). Unfortunately, some time yesterday we ran out of object sheets to record small finds, consequently small finds to have only been registered on the level and small finds registers, plus context sheets.

At this time we have not located the possible Roman feature that was the primary mandate for this excavation. On-the-surface, it seems what has been discovered are two fairly recent deposits of industrial to modern period waste situated above our intended target. Either these originated from the barn excavated in 2007 or possibly past work involving the straightening of Norton Road (if the tarmac finds are anything to go by).

Our only feature (8); a consolidated line of flint and pebble, could be interpreted as a field drain; possibly linked to the barn. Its SW/NE orientation directs it toward the area in which the barn was located. Further excavation would better reveal the true intent of this feature and the site has been left in a state with which future work can continue if the decision is made.


Seventh Day in Church Field – Easter Sunday 1st May 2011

On-Site: Philip Dean, Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Pauline Gimson, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott,  Lorna Holding, Stephen Mason, Jim Skipper. Morning: Wendy Gross

Weather: Sunny and hot, with a clear sky and strong wind.

The day started with a quick briefing which concluded with my accidental discovery of a small find within context (3);and where hot on its heels. Today is our last full day of excavation, and although we will not complete several contexts before tomorrow, we can at least work on tidying up several loose ends. Again, the trench has done its trick of being more easier to read after an overnight drying, than when it is wetted.

Context (3) is in the way… The beginnings of sectioning this supposed rubbish dump has shown that it is only at surface level and not deep in this area, and I have tasked three people with cleaning it to the top of (7) so levels can be taken and then this false plateau reduced down to the current level of (7) that has not yet been bottomed out.

The remnants of context (6) still need to be removed from around the sondage and opposite this is a small remnant of (5) that still needs to be cleaned away to reveal the extent of (3) as it slopes down under (5) to meet (2). The sondage is about 0.6m deep and possibly still a long way from the natural and we haven’t yet hit the ditch that we hope curves into our trench as proposed from the geophysics results.

After lunch it was decided to put up the gazebo to offer protection from the sun, it was noticed that in areas sheltered from the cold wind that the sun is burning particularly ferociously. Unfortunately, this decision proved fatal to the gazebo, which after an hour and after a brief period of harsh, unrelenting battering from the wind has collapsed due to metal fatigue on two of the supports.

The sondage is now about 0.7m deep but is still producing pot, and by the end of the day it produced a nice piece of coarse ceramic ware, with a grooved patterning. As there are no pottery specialists on site this weekend, we have adopted it as Bronze Age grooved ware… We are under no illusion that this is the case and await informed advise on its actual age, but it seems to improve morale a little over the disappointment that we haven’t managed to progress deeper than these two modern debris fills; (2) and (3).

Context (3) is my biggest concern, it is not playing game and trowelling has revealed that it dips sharply into a pit or large hollow at the western extremity of the trench and into the trench wall. This suggests that the sectioned area of (3) assumed to be across its centre was just a large area of overspill, which has cascaded northerly toward contexts (2) and (6). Will we complete this by tomorrow? Tony has started a new plan of the trench, but levels have not yet been taken on the “plateau” of context (7) under (3), in part, due to this discovery.

Context (6) has been cleared, however this has complicated matters more; east of the sondage (6) has come down on to (9) discovered in the sondage. Immediately south of the sondage, context (6) has come down on to a new context that looks more like (7) than (9). This needs to be reviewed tomorrow morning. No new small finds, and all other finds follow previous discoveries, however, it is being noted that we are finding a lot of sherds that may belong to the same three possibly four ceramic objects.

Sixth Day in Church Field – Saturday 30th April 2011

On-Site: Philip Dean, Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Pauline Gimson, Alan Goodwin, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott,  Lorna Holding, Henry Marshall, Philip Thomas.

Weather: Sunny and warm, with a clear sky and strong cool breeze.

Again, this morning, we find that the contexts are showing up better in the dry than when wetted; a complete reversal to my previous experience.

Tony starts the day planning the new contexts that have been revealed from under contexts (4) and (5). Ernie is continuing to clean back (6) and the two Philips are excavating the sondage. Pauline and Mervyn are to section across the centre of context (3) and Nigel will continue sectioning context (2). Henry, Lorna and Ruth will clean away context (7) surrounding (3). The area south of context (8) is looking extremely gravelly compared to the remaining (7) and I have numbered this context (10). It will be interesting to see if the remaining (7) north of (8) produces the same surface as (10) or a new context that might suggest the line of pebbles borders something.

Home-baked biscuits were provided by Nigel at tea break. This year we are really being spoiled!

Context (2) is proving to be perplexing. It is definitely a dump, however, a dump for what is difficult to establish as there is just an amorphous array of detritus coming from it; livestock remains, nails, barbed wire, CBM, pottery (of various styles), glass, tarmac, industrial waste. One thought is that this was a dumping ground for refuse produced from the change in the road layout.

After lunch a quick review of the sectioning of context (3) seems to suggest that it is not as deep as first thought and lies as a shallow layer across what seems to be more of (7). Whilst I decide what to do with (3), I’ve asked Mervyn, Nigel and Pauline to quickly excavate out contexts (11), (12), (13) and (14). As thought, these are relatively shallow deposits of a silty loam soil, in the case of (12) this has ended in what seems to be the remains of a tree root that has rotted completely away, and my thoughts are that this may be the case for some if not all the other three shallow contexts found under (5). A button was recovered from the bottom of context (11).

A new context (15) has been located in the sondage, and seems to be a shallow layer of soily clay; that doesn’t quite stretch the length of the sondage (north to south), compared to the compact clay of (9). Context (9) continues down a good 0.1m below (15) and so after planning, levelling and excavating away (15) context (9) is seen to continue underneath (15) effectively sandwiching it. My initial thought is that (15) is just a shallow less compacted area of (9). Nevertheless, almost 0.6m down the sondage is still producing pottery. We are now past the halfway mark before I close the sondage due to its depth for health and safety reasons.

South of the shallow area of context (3) on its plinth of (7) a new clayish layer (16) is emerging, whilst adjacent to this layer and almost running parallel with (8); and possibly just an extension of this context, is another emerging area of consolidated flint and pebbles (17).

No small finds today. But, again, the usual finds are being made as remains consistent with the previous days digging.

Fifth day in Church field – Royal Wedding, Friday 29th April 2011

On-site: Philip Dean, Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Pauline Gimson, Alan Goodwin, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Chris Hobbs, Henry Marshall, Sid Rowe

Weather; Cool and overcast with a slight wind, afternoon warm with occasional bursts of sun.

The day started off with cakes provided by Pauline and hanging flags from the compound fence, one would almost think a wedding was going on. Keeley has stepped in to oversee the finds processing whilst Christl has been called away. Alan has volunteered to help.

We find the trench in a myriad of different soil colour; a blessing and a curse in many ways. The different contexts are showing up well, and areas still with a minor covering of topsoil are easily identified, however, it can be seen that in one area that a new context has been found, unidentified and excavated through to another context; possibly (2), beneath. Thankfully this is only a small area; approx 0.3m x 0.1m, no finds were discovered in this area on the Monday when it was being excavated.

Tony and Ruth begin by finishing the trench plan; started Monday evening, whilst I briefed the others on how we would continue the excavation. Chris and Sid are to mark off the north-east corner of the trench with a 1m x 1m sondage to evaluate the depth of the archaeological stratigraphy; recording contexts and finds as they progress. We have only three real days left for excavating and it is looking unlikely that we will reach our possible Roman feature.

Mervyn is to remove the rest of context (4) and Ernie (6), whilst Philip and Henry continue trowelling down (7) to try and expose more of our flint feature; context (8). Pauline is to start sectioning context (3) whilst Nigel takes over from Keeley in sectioning (2). After looking at the damaged contexts mistakenly excavated last Monday, it looked as though context (5) maybe lying over contexts (2) and (3), I asked Nigel and Pauline to delay excavating these contexts and remove (5) first.

This was shown to be the right decision, because as (5) was removed it could be seen that (2) and (3) do start to converge. What is also interesting is that three small oval fills of soil have emerged under (5) these could be natural hollows in context (3) that have a natural soil fill. Nigel has also uncovered a hollowed soil area dividing contexts (2) and (3) but it is also not connected to (5) or any of the other contexts. These have been given new contexts numbers (11), (12), (13) and (14), but because of the size I do not think these will amount to much or produce much in the way of finds.

In our sondage context (9); a thick layer of clay with chalk and gravel inclusions, has been uncovered under (6) and is being planned and levelled before work continues. Whilst trowelling back context (7) has revealed a more flint/pebble included layer south of our feature (8) and this has been numbered context (10).

Before the end of the day, Sid has found our one and only small find of the day; a shaped sandstone bar(?), located in the northern wall of the sondage. Quite what it is; whetstone or rubbing stone, I am not sure, but I am certain something similar was found during one of the NCAG’s previous excavations in this field. Other finds have remained consistent to the previous weekend’s inventory. Although, finds processing of items found in the unstratified layers during turf removal has found a fragment of sea shell with a number of small holes drilled through it.

Fourth day in Church field – Easter Monday, 25th April 2011

On-site: Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Chris Hobbs, Christl Squires; Afternoon: Mary Wood; Lunchtime (only): Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews.

Weather; Sunny with a clear blue sky and cool breeze

Planning and digging are the order for this morning’s work; after dampening down the site with the hose. Ruth and Tony will plan the northern half of the trench, including the newly labelled context (6), which seems to be more clay-like than topsoil and could possibly be associated with (5). Chris, Ernie, Mervyn and Nigel will work on removing the remaining top-soil (beginning with some very careful mattocking). Keeley, after updating our paperwork, volunteered to sieve the mattocked loose.

Again more of the same material; ceramic, metalwork and bone are coming out of the southern part of the trench beyond (3). As suspected they were soon coming to a clay layer with gravelly inclusions (7) and mattocks were abandoned for trowels, however, it was becoming evident that a distinct line of flint pebbles were becoming uncovered within (7); stretching from the south west corner of the trench to the east travelling at a slight northward angle. This line of flint has become more pronounced as trowelling continued; a definite new feature.

At lunchtime we had a visit from our site director; Keith, who had a look over the site and some of the finds. Keith’s preliminary sift through our finds suggests a lot of 17th to 19th century wares with a few possible pieces of medieval ceramic. One sherd was hesitantly suggested as possibly Romano-British, however, if this is the case it does not confirm that we have a Roman feature below the current contexts. He also stated that the industrial waste that we have been collecting was different to that previously found in the field. Keith also suggested that we dig a test pit of 1m x 1m to observe and record the stratigraphy and get an idea of the possible layers and level we may face before we reach our possible Roman feature.

After lunch, I have asked my trowelling team to pass over the southern end of the trench to tidy up areas where the earlier dampening had caused the soil to become sticky and thus left a rough, untidy surface after the first pass of trowelling. This should then make it ready to be recorded. Ruth and Tony are digging up (4), which we now believe to be a thin, transitory layer of gravelly soil sitting above (5), further strengthening the belief that (5) and (6) maybe the same.

The decision has been made to dig a section across (2) and plan it before removing the rest of the context. A similar method will be done for (3) when time and opportunity permits next weekend. For now, Keeley is dealing with the excavation and section work for (2).By 3:00pm (7) was revealed and I moved the team to take over from Ruth and Tony, so that they could finish the new plan of the trench.

By 4:00pm Keeley had finished excavating the section of (2) and Ruth and Tony had completed the plan of the trench. Levels still need to be taken for the southern half of the trench and the section drawing to be started for (2), these will have to be completed Friday morning when we return to the site. Work will also continue in clearing away (4).

The sectioned area of (2) has produced a lot of ceramic as well as other materials, in the unsectioned area of (2) there is a base of what looks to be an “oval-shaped” bottle showing; we can only hope that it is complete, this will be removed in time. There has been less material extracted today than in previous days, however, the character of the finds continues to be similar to previous days. There have been no new small finds.

Third day in Church Field – Sunday 24th April

On-site: Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Pauline Gimson, Alan Goodwin, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Lorna Holding, Jim Skipper.  Afternoon: Christl Squires, Mary Wood.

Weather: Clear sky with hazy sunshine and a cool breeze.

Today is our first full day of digging. Because of numbers the group is divided into two rows of four; each working separate halves of the trench, trowelling south to north. In hindsight, I should have had one row of eight trowelling west to east, but there you go: lesson learned for next time.

Trowelling was hampered by the toughness of the soil; the surface having been baked for two days in the sun. Once the first pass of the morning was completed the trench was reviewed. The dry soil showed no colour changes at all within the trench and only the rubble-like inclusions of contexts (2) and (3) provided evidence of any context changes.  

Trowelling commenced for a second pass over the areas still containing context (1) and a metal object was uncovered by Lorna at the western extremity of the trench just outside context (3). The blade-like shape of the object first suggested an association to a bone handle found during turf removal near to that location. This was recorded as, however, upon removing it we found that it was rounded underneath and therefore not a blade. At lunchtime, the site was sprayed with water using a hose and left to soak into the soil.

The spraying did not produce the desired effect of revealing a smorgasbord of differently coloured soil contexts to identify, instead the site remained a solitary colour; just darker in tone. Unperturbed, trowelling recommenced over the areas still deemed to be deposits of (1) and in the northern half of the trench two new contexts (4) and (5) were exposed. Context (4) consists of a light surface scatter of fine, flint gritted inclusions extending from (2) to the eastern edge of the trench. Although some top soil still remains to be trowelled away, it is preliminarily thought that (4) may extend underneath (2), which looks very much to be a deposit of rubble. Immediately south of (4) stretching east to west across the trench; dividing (2) and (3) is an ill-defined, yellowish clay surface which was numbered context (5).

By the end of the day’s digging a sixth, possible, context may be extending from the northern edge of the trench. It will be re-evaluated in the morning as there is a little contention as to whether it is a new context or still context (1). The site was closed for the end of the day and the team were packed and left site at 4:00pm.

Other than <SF3> the finds were similar to those of the past two days, however, it is being noted that a number of ceramic pieces collected over the past three days look as though they originate from the same or similarly manufactured vessels. Also, a larger quantity of glass has been excavated today; specifically shards from bottles are being found; some with moulded text or numbers; which might be used to trace both manufacturer and possible use.

Second day in Church Field – St. George’s Day, Saturday 23rd April

On-site: Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Alan Goodwin, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Lorna Holding, Louise Pateman. Afternoon: Mary Wood.

Weather: Sunny and hot, sky is clear of clouds with a hazy horizon, forecast of storms in the afternoon; possibly around the end of the day’s digging.

It is noticeably warmer today than yesterday, and I am naturally concerned again about dehydration and heat exhaustion, however, Keeley brought along the new gazebo which provides the team with necessary shade. The gazebo was erected outside the compound because its large size would interfere with work around the trench; it also allowed smokers to use it during breaks. Smoking is banned within the compound to prevent cigarette ash contaminating the site.

The first task was to plan and locate the trench. As this can take some time, I decided to split the group into two teams and use the time as an impromptu training session. Whilst one team learned how to set up tapes, measure and plan the trench, another team learned how to assemble and set-up the dumpy level and take level readings. Nigel and I used this time to retrieve some extra equipment from the NCAG’s garage and set-up the Temporary Bench Mark (TBM) for our trench. Hopefully, this training session will prove beneficial for the summer dig in Stapleton’s Field.

A late lunch was called as planning and levelling of the trench was completed shortly after 1pm and the “door latch” found yesterday was recorded as our first small find. This also provided a convenient break between planning and the next task of digging. Because the planning has taken up the morning, Nigel has contacted Christl to suggest aborting this afternoon’s finds processing. Unfortunately, word has not reached Mary who has consequently turned up; her trip wasn’t in vain as there are still some unstratified finds requiring post-excavation work.

There is still a lot of topsoil evident in the trench, in some areas up to 2 cms possibly deeper, caused by the uneven lifting of the turf. I have therefore decided to use mattocks on these heavier deposits to carefully reduce the height to that of other adjacent areas; the loose created being sieved. I am nervous about mattocking the areas immediately surrounding contexts (2) and (3) and have asked these to be trowelled. The team was therefore divided into three groups; Keeley, Mervyn and Nigel mattocking (wearing steel-toecapped boots) with Louise, Ruth, and Ernie clearing their loose, Lorna and Alan are trowelling and Tony sieving.

By 2:45pm the areas excessively covered by top soil had been reduced to the same height as contexts (2) and (3), although topsoil is still prominent in these areas I thought it prudent to trowel these remaining surfaces away, whilst Tony and Louise sieved the remaining spoil created by the mattocks. This continued for the remainder of the day’s excavation and the site cleared and locked up at 4pm.

A number of finds has again been found today and are consistent in range and type to those found during yesterday’s removal of the turf. There were no new small finds today.

First day in Church Field – Good Friday, 22nd April 2011

On-site: Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Pauline Gimson, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Sid Rowe. Afternoon: Christl Squires, Mary Wood.

Weather: hot and sunny with high, thin cloud.

Late last year, Pauline and her geophysics team surveyed Church Field, intended to be a final close on the NCAG’s investigations in that location. The survey produced unexpected results, including an anomaly that has been tentatively identified (by its shape) as a “Roman corn-drying kiln”. Subsequently, the committee agreed on planning another trench to investigate this possible feature over the Easter and Royal Wedding/May Day weekends. Preliminary work was carried out in previous weekends to mark out and erect a fence around the proposed trench in a position that transects the northerly aspect of the feature.

The excavation team for today assembled at 9:45am and was on-site promptly for 10:00am. This is my first time as a site supervisor and my morning speech reflected this with its lack of rousing Braveheart-style charisma. Nevertheless, we began the day by fixing string around the four corners of our planned 7m x 2m trench to provide a guideline for removing the turf. De-turfing using spades was made difficult by the long grass which was close to a 30cms in patches, and drier soil in areas with shorter grass. Fortunately Nigel had a turf-cutter which made easier going of the work.

Another problem was the heat of the day; it was already quite hot and the area where the trench is located is very exposed. Naturally, with this heavy work, I was nervous about members of the team becoming ill through dehydration and heat exhaustion/sun stroke. I made it a rule that work will be stopped for short water break every twenty minutes between the main tea-breaks and lunch break, with an unwritten rule that people can take water as and when they felt the need.

NCAG members turf cutting on the first day

Nevertheless, the team work hard and the turf was removed, conveniently, before lunch break. A considerable collection of finds has already been collected from the unstratified soil within and immediately underneath the turf sods, including various ceramic types; pottery, tile, brick and drain pipe, some metalwork; nails, metal rods and a large door latch (possibly from the barn excavated in 2007), a button, glass fragments, and numerous pieces of industrial metal and glass waste including a piece that looks like a fossilised blackcurrant.

Suspected Door latch

After lunch, Tony and Nigel measured out the 5 metre pegs for planning, although two placed outside of the trench were shortened to 3m and 2.4m due to limitations of space within the compound. Meanwhile, the other team members removed the loose spoil that had fallen from the turf sods, which was subsequently sieved for further unstratified finds. It is plainly evident that we have three contexts revealed by the turf removal; context (1) is the layer of remaining topsoil, context (2) looks preliminarily like a dump of amorphous modern waste extending out of the north-west section of the trench, and context (3) which consists of large flint and chalk pebbles sits just south of the centre of the trench.

Due to the hot weather, lateness of the day and the hard work accomplished by the team, I called an early halt to the dig and we packed up and left the site just before 4pm. I feel today has been quite successful and tomorrow we should be ready to start planning the trench and begin trowelling away the remaining top soil.

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