Day Six Chedworth’s ‘Water Feature’

This work is part of a 5 year research plan supported by English Heritage to understand the North Range of Chedworth Roman Villa to enable the design and to raise money for a cover building. On Friday, we will rebury the site but we now know the potential for future conservation and display of the villa’s hidden gems.

Apart from the mosaic we also want to understand the features that James Farrer uncovered in 1864 (150 years ago 2014) and Sir Ian Richmond in 1963. We do not have photographs or drawings of their work.

Early morning 6th day after removing covers for photos. The islands between Sir Ian Richmonds wall trenches of 1963. We have lettered them in anti-clockwise order from bottom left 'a', bottom right 'b', 'top right 'c'. then 'd' in front of wooden steps and the 'water feature' is 'e' top left.

Early morning 6th day after removing covers for photos. The islands between Sir Ian Richmonds wall trenches of 1963. We have lettered them in anti-clockwise order from bottom left ‘a’, bottom right ‘b’, ‘top right ‘c’. then ‘d’ in front of wooden steps and the ‘water feature’ is ‘e’ top left.

We have uncovered area ‘e’ which is a walled enclosure which projects south into the inner courtyard of the villa.
It is thought to have been an ornate water feature of some kind but we do not know how deep it is or how it functioned. Richmond exposed the wall tops. Farrer dug it out and then it was backfilled with Roman spoil from the excavations. Every now and then a piece of Victorian pottery or a button betrays the fact that we are dealing with something 150 years old rather than 1600. Rob has found a clay lining and fragments of fallen pink mortar but he is about 0.6m deep and has not found the base yet.

We have put two small trenches into the water feature 'e'. Rob is taking out 19th century backfill. Most of it is Roman debris but from time to time we find Victorian china mixed in with it.

We have put two small trenches into the water feature ‘e’. Rob is taking out 19th century backfill. Most of it is Roman debris but from time to time we find Victorian china mixed in with it.

We need to discover details of Richmond’s early walls and I investigated the one that runs under the stone steps. A line of stones proved to be edging for the grand reception room mosaic that runs against its east side. Below Richmond’s concrete was clay mixed with 4th century pottery and this overlay a wall with a mortar floor against its west side at a lower level. I wonder whether the edging stones against the mosaic indicate that there was a door into the Reception Room here in the late 4th century.

This is Rob's trench against the water feature's south east corner. A view from the steps towards the villa courtyard. He is finding some large lumps of pink plaster which may once have lined the pool. We don't know how deep it is and what the floor is made of. In the foreground is my trench to understand one of Richmond's walls. Beneath the concrete was a line of stones. Jan cleaned the mosaic here. The stones were a kerb for the mosaic edge and had been built over 4th century backfill which covered the earlier wall. The kerb/curb may indicate a doorway into the reception room from the west between the steps and the colonnade marked out in stone slabs middle distance.

This is Rob’s trench against the water feature’s south east corner. A view from the steps towards the villa courtyard. He is finding some large lumps of pink plaster which may once have lined the pool. We don’t know how deep it is and what the floor is made of. In the foreground is my trench to understand one of Richmond’s walls. Beneath the concrete was a line of stones. Jan cleaned the mosaic here. The stones were a kerb for the mosaic edge and had been built over 4th century backfill which covered the earlier wall. The kerb/curb may indicate a doorway into the reception room from the west between the steps and the colonnade marked out in stone slabs middle distance.

We have almost completed the uncovering of mosaic islands ‘c’ and ‘d’ now. ‘c’ has some significant loss but ‘d’ is good. Across the wall cutting to the east area’a’ has also lost quite a large area. The decorated panels are varied and impressive. We still have area ‘b’ to uncover but things are progressing well… oh dear heavy rain on Monday we will need to make the most of today.

This is the mosaic towards the end of day 6 looking south-east from 'c'. Within the red and white stripes forming the edge design, the various types of decorative panels are emerging. In the foreground, Harry has uncovered a ring of diamonds forming a star-like panel.

This is the mosaic towards the end of day 6 looking south-east from ‘c’. Within the red and white stripes forming the edge design, the various types of decorative panels are emerging. In the foreground, Harry has uncovered a ring of diamonds forming a star-like panel.

Day 5 Joining the Islands. A Grand Reception

We had a lot of help today and so were able to make good progress and work together on the careful uncovering of the mosaics.

Looking  south-west from c towards d on the right and a on the left. All the islands of mosaics have gaps but what remains all link together into one 18m long and 6.75m wide mosaic.

Looking south-west from c towards d on the right and a on the left. All the islands of mosaics have gaps but what remains all link together into one 18m long and 6.75m wide mosaic.

We discovered today that the concrete walls we had removed had not defined four rooms each with different mosaics but had divided and cut through one large late Roman mosaic. A strange and destructive 1963 decision.

Looking north from d-c. The north-west corner of the reception room where there is a blocked door.

Looking north from d-c. The north-west corner of the reception room where there is a blocked door.

Professors Peter and Simon, Chedworth’s specialist advisers on Roman Britain, visited today and saw that our discovery had confirmed their hypothesis that this 18m long and 6.75m area was one large, grand reception room. Guests of the villa owner would have been brought first into this room and were wowed by the scale and opulence of the place. The owner was showing off his wealth and power. The intricate designs of he floor would have been matched by decorated plaster walls but only fragments of this design survive where bits of plaster fell to the floor. Most was taken away in 1864 by the Victorian excavators. We uncovered the north-east corner of the reception room mosaic last year and now we are looking at the opposite end of the room.

The views south from c -d towards the backfilled water feature e.

The views south from c -d towards the backfilled water feature e.

It has the same broad white band at the edge surrounding red and white stripes that in turn enclose a variety of geometric designs.

Last day for a few of us today. Many thanks particularly to Luke and Tom. The early days shifting concrete enabled the gentler pursuit of mosaic cleaning.

Last day for a few of us today. Many thanks particularly to Luke and Tom. The early days shifting concrete enabled the gentler pursuit of mosaic cleaning.

Day 4 Beneath Topsoil, Mosaic Islands

Things have become rather interesting at Chedworth (which is an understated archaeological way of saying..very exciting indeed).

Yesterday Terry visited the Villa and told us that he had assisted Professor Richmond 50 years ago. He had built the kerbs and laid the pink concrete. ‘We only dug where Sir Ian had marked out the walls’ he said, not the islands in between’

That explained it. We didn’t expect to find mosaics. None of the villa plans we had seen had marked any here and the mosaic survey of 2000 didn’t bother looking here, thinking that Sir Ian would have mentioned them… but he didn’t look between the walls.

Kate and Megan cleaning the topsoil off the southern room, perhaps a backfilled plunge pool. Beneath this there were lots of Victorian bits and pieces including an button fastener..and quite a few buttons.

Kate and Megan cleaning the topsoil off the southern room, perhaps a backfilled plunge pool. Beneath this there were lots of Victorian bits and pieces including an button fastener..and quite a few buttons.

Now that the concrete is up, there are five islands (we have lettered them a-e)and so far mosaics have been found on four. Very little survives in the southern room (e). It sticks out into the courtyard and has been described as a ‘tank’ with a drain coming out of it. It may be a plunge bath.. a small bit of mosaic was found by Luke at the threshold but the rest is backfill (Terry says not dug in 1963) and the finds in the top layer included items that may be of 1860s date. One small metal tool was found, possibly Roman but no, it was a Victorian button fastener. Over in the north-west corner of the site (island c) Carol found a very worn coin..Fay saw that it was a ‘bun’ halfpenny and Nancy spotted the date 1867 (3 years after the villa was excavated following discovery).

We've put green plastic where the Roman walls were meant to be to protect the surfaces while we work on the islands of Roman archaeology between. So far we have found areas of mosaic in four of the five islands. In the foreground (island c) Alice has almost taken off the last of the topsoil to reveal a landscape of mosaic fragments.  At the foot of the wooden steps (d) Carol has begun to clean back a much better preserved area,

We’ve put green plastic where the Roman walls were meant to be to protect the surfaces while we work on the islands of Roman archaeology between. So far we have found areas of mosaic in four of the five islands. In the foreground (island c) Alice has almost taken off the last of the topsoil to reveal a landscape of mosaic fragments. At the foot of the wooden steps (d) Carol has begun to clean back a much better preserved area,

Now that the concrete is gone… there is nothing for it but to put aside the mechanical breaker and pickaxe and gently tickle the topsoil with trowel, plastic spatula and fine brush.

In ‘c’, below topsoil are loads of mosaic cubes scattered across the area but against the wall a line of white tessera still in place and we hope for a pattern beneath the scattered tessera when we go deeper tomorrow. This area has the look of an area not excavated in 1864 but we will see.

We haven’t looked in ‘b’ yet but Fay and Jeremy found a red and white design in ‘a’.

But in ‘d’.. in ‘d’… at the foot of the wooden steps, beneath a scatter of gravel thrown down to limit erosion.. where many thousands of feet had crossed,less than an inch higher and oblivious of what lay beneath… a rather nice pattern is beginning to emerge.

Here is where we have got to so far, a red and white broad border with a finer blue frame around a woven style guilloche (I think that's the right spelling) mat. We found something like it in the West Range corridor in 2012.

Here is where we have got to so far, a red and white broad border with a finer blue frame around a woven style guilloche (I think that’s the right spelling) mat. We found something like it in the West Range corridor in 2012.

Day Three – technical frustrations, give me a trowel quick!

Well, once again internet technical frustration plague our best intentions!  its day four and I am still trying to let you all know what has happened  on site during day two and three! 

Day three turned up more mosaics and Mike cleaned the wall tops that we have in one part of the site and a great job he did.

small section of mosaic apearing

small section of mosaic appearing

 

Mike in red surveying his handy work

Mike in red surveying his handy work

Day Two – Pink and green we have seen

Another day of showers but good progress to clear the pink concrete and clean off the make up layer underneath it. With in this mixed layer we found more tesserae, bone, shell, pottery and painted plaster. We have so far found coins from the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s and a 1963 sixpence, the diggers are hoping for a full 20th century set! 

Pottery, bone, tile and tesserea

Pottery, bone, tile and tesserae

 The painted plaster is a dark green, and blue colour which we have found before at Chedworth and is quite an unusual shade.

Roman painted plaster from the walls

Roman painted plaster from the walls

 As we are doing archaeology of archaeologists we have saved a 1960s curb from Prof. Ian Richmond’s excavations, it is part of the story of the site as much as the mosaics.

 

 The team have settled into the dig routine and are all still happy even after two days of concrete clearing!

 

Day one – Sunshine and rain

The volunteers gathered, the turf was dug and the crowd parted for the concrete breaker to be wheeled onto site.

Martin tackles the pink concrete

Martin tackles the pink concrete

Day one, usually one of opening up the site  down to the recent layers produced a few surprises!  Mosaic popped out just under the turf!   

 

First area of mosaic just under the turf

First area of mosaic just under the turf

 

The turf came up and low a mosaic!

The turf came up and low a mosaic!

 We are excavating an area dug in the 1950s and 1960s by Prof. Ian Richmond ( the concrete was put down in 1963)  and no where in the archive we have found for this part of the site is mosaic mentioned! So it’s very exciting as we probably have new mosaics to uncover. 

Very interesting 1960s concrete in two colours

Very interesting 1960s concrete in two colours

 Between the sun and the showers we found time to celebrate Kate’s birthday with candles and cake, most welcome after concrete bashing :-) 

Happy Birthday Kate :-)

Happy Birthday Kate :-)

 

‘Twas the night before Chedworth and ………

….. all through the house not a tool was unpacked not even a mouse  (sized roll of string!) apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

We start the excavations at Chedworth Roman Villa tomorrow and will be posting daily what is happening so sit back and enjoy :-) 

Assorted brushes

Assorted brushes

 

lots of buckets

lots of buckets

 

Finds trays and g;oves and trowels

Finds trays, gloves and trowels

 

 

Wheelbarrow and spades

Wheelbarrow and spades