Lodge Park Grandstand, Behind the Blocked Door

Lodge Park in Gloucestershire was where the last Lord Sherborne lived before he bequeathed his Sherborne Estate to the National Trust in 1982.

It wasn’t originally meant to be a home but a place to go with your mates. It was an ornamental grandstand built in the 1630s by the then owner John Dutton. A posh place to drink and bet on the deer selected from the adjoining park. The deer were sent down a walled corridor of land, chased by hounds across the front of this unique building. The assembly then probably got drunk and had venison for tea.

Lodge Park on the Sherborne Estate, Gloucestershire. This is John Dutton's grandstand where he and his mates could spend boozy afternoons betting on deer chased by hounds across the front of the building. About a century later the park behind the house was transformed into an avenued designed landscape by Charles Bridgeman. Our excavations were on the left (west) side of the building.

Lodge Park on the Sherborne Estate, Gloucestershire. This is John Dutton’s grandstand where he and his mates could spend boozy afternoons betting on deer chased by hounds across the front of the building. About a century later the park behind the house was transformed into an avenued designed landscape by Charles Bridgeman. Our excavations were on the left (west) side of the building.

The park is full of earthworks including the best preserved Gloucestershire long barrow and the earthworks of the strip fields of open field systems. Three parishes meet at a point just behind the Lodge and it was here in the 1720s that Charles Bridgeman chose the key outlook point for his innovative garden landscape design. A segway between earlier formal and later Capability type landscapes. Highly significant and we have his drawn plan. Was it ever completed? Did it work? Should NT redo it? Lots of discussions but that’s not the point of this blog.

We’ve discovered something new.

The stairs down to the 17th century basement kitchen infilled about 100 years ago and dug out again in the 1990s when Lodge Park was restored.

The stairs down to the 17th century basement kitchen infilled about 100 years ago and dug out again in the 1990s when Lodge Park was restored.

Back in the 1990s the NT took out the later additions and divisions within the Lodge Park Grandstand to return it to its 1630s form. The cellar had been backfilled about 100 years ago and this was dug out again to reveal the 1630s kitchens where John Dutton’s feasts were cooked. The cellar had vents put into it 20 years ago but despite this has always been damp wih mould growing off the walls and floors. Bit unpleasant.

One solution was to open the blocked door. In the 90s the discovery of the blocked door led to the suggestion that there had once been an external flight of stairs, a tradesman’s entrance where perhaps the venison and other food stuffs could be brought into the kitchen. So..find the stairs, uncover them, unblock the door, new access and extra ventilation…. damp problem solved.

November 2015 looking for the external stairway into the basement. No trace. We need a machine.

November 2015 looking for the external stairway into the basement. No trace. We need a machine.

So in November building surveyor Christina asked Jim and I to turn up with shovels and mattocks to look for the top step of the cellar stairway. On the most likely north side of the blocked door our hole just found modern service pipes. So we dug beneath flagstones on the south side nothing… the ground here seemed to be natural about 30cm down. We gave up and vowed to return with a machine.

The mysterious blocked door in the cellar. The ranging pole divisions are 0.2m and at 1.7m up you can see that the doorway and blocking has been removed and the wall rebuilt in the 19th century. Note the vent top right can be seen in the next photo outside to the left of the mini-digger.

The mysterious blocked door in the cellar. The ranging pole divisions are 0.2m and at 1.7m up you can see that the doorway and blocking has been removed and the wall rebuilt in the 19th century. Note the vent top right can be seen in the next photo outside to the left of the mini-digger.

A few weeks ago Jim brought his mini-digger. This time we aimed for the centre of the west side of the Lodge immediately above the blocked door. More reduntant drainage pipes and then clay and then… solid stone and mortar about 0.6m down. I jumped into the trench and cleaned back its gently arched top. There was a gap between the Lodge wall and the newly discovered structure. It was where the wall had been rebuilt about 100 years ago.

Mini-digger digs down to find the blocked door.

Mini-digger digs down to find the blocked door.

I took part of the filling from the gap and found that I could put my hand into a void under the structure. I was sitting on the roof of a vaulted chamber. I got a ranging pole and slid it into the gap and then swung it round into the void. It fell away. Only the front end was filled with spoil.

Solid stone and mortar roof of the vault cut by the rebuilding of the Lodge annex in the 19th century. We slid the ranging pole between the gap an waved it around in the empty space which is the hidden room or passage heading west...

Solid stone and mortar roof of the vault cut by the rebuilding of the Lodge annex in the 19th century. We slid the ranging pole between the gap and waved it around in the empty space which is the hidden room or passage heading west…

We speculated…is it a tunnel and where does it go? or is it just a hidden chamber. Jim reckoned it might lead to slaughter barn where the deer are supposed to have been dispatched before being brought to the Grandstand..

A mystery…I wonder whether we should unblock the door.

Open the door

The north side of Kingston Lacy House. Designed by Roger Pratt for Ralph Bankes in the 1660s. Revamped for Henry Bankes by Brettingham in the late 18th century and then done over again by Charles Barry for William John Bankes in the early 19th century.

The north side of Kingston Lacy House. Designed by Roger Pratt for Ralph Bankes in the 1660s. Revamped for Henry Bankes by Brettingham in the late 18th century and then done over again by Charles Barry for William John Bankes in the early 19th century.

We often get called in to check everyday repair work inside our great mansions, electric cabling, loose flagstones or finding where water is getting into the building. This kind of watching brief (monitor and record) gives us a chance to look beneath floorboards and behind paneling, it provides an opportunity to see how the buildings were put together and more importantly any changes done through time.

At Kingston Lacy wiring and ceiling checks are being done in some of the rooms with just a few floorboards being lifted. Having found scraps of  original wallpapers and notes left by previous workmen during work like this in the past we were called in to record anything we could see.

Floorboards lifted in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy

Floorboards lifted in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy

In the saloon we found that a lot of the material between the joists had been removed in the past with just a few wood shavings and the odd nail left behind. The most interesting areas were accessible via the doorway, with just enough room to dangle my camera into the void and between the joists. I set it to do 10 shots on the self timer setting and hoped for the best. This technique is a good way to see down and along voids, it had produced good results in the past at Chedworth roman villa when checking for hypocausts and wall alignments.

View along the hypocaust at Chedworth Villa in room 5b

View along the hypocaust at Chedworth Villa in room 5b

We were not disappointed an odd metal concertina like heating system, a large vaulted void, Pratt bricks from the original mansion, (now encased in stone) and an intriguing door mechanism.

The metal heating system on the left

The metal heating system on the left

A vaulted ceiling of a room below the Saloon at Kingston Lacy, the plaster can be seen oozing between the lathes

A vaulted ceiling of a room below the Saloon at Kingston Lacy, the plaster can be seen oozing between the lathes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two metal bars part of a cleaver mechanism

Two metal bars part of a cleaver mechanism

The Saloon is entered and connected to other rooms  by double doors, the lifting of the floor boards revealed how they opened exactly together, even when just pushing gently on only one door. This would help servants when carrying trays open the doors without putting the tray down or needing someone to help them, also when entering or exiting the room with swishing skirts ladies could move effortlessly through the doorways.

It works by using what look like bicycle chains and smooth cogs, a simple but effective mechanism.

The chain and smooth cog, with a metal rod up into the door

The chain and smooth cog, with a metal rod up into the door

There are more planned surveys to be done at Kingston Lacy in other rooms, I wonder what awaits to be found under the next floorboard………….

 

Corfe Castle Begins

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It would be wrong to let the day go by without our NT anniversary post. This was the Outer Gatehouse at Corfe Castle, Dorset on 7th April 1986. I was there again today 30 years later.

The ticket office and the turnstiles are gone now and the Outer Bailey today was alive with people dressed in medieval costumes, amongst the tents and archery practice. Lots of children on holiday getting involved and soaking up the atmosphere.

In 1986, Nancy and I met the first mini-bus full of National Trust working holiday campers and we began to cut the turf to understand what lay under the grassy mound.

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Under the turf was a courtyard of limestone gravel and the west wall of the Outer Gatehouse guard chamber which had fallen against the curtain wall (to the right) burying a flight of stone steps.

The mound turned out to be a large block of walling, part of the Outer Gatehouse guard chamber which had been blown up in 1646. After the second siege, the Parliamentarian soldiers captured the Castle and undermined the walls. It seems that they filled the guard chamber with gunpowder and blew it to pieces. Everything flew outwards and the barrel vaulted roof dropped onto the floor burying the guard chamber fireplace and flagstone floor.

Nancy excavated the diamond leaded window which had been scattered outside ..as the blast tore through it.DCOC743

Nancy excavating the diamond leaded window pieces. The stone west window of the guard chamber top right.

We found that the top and edges of the collapsed wall had been picked over and a lot of the good stone blocks had been nicked by the locals to make repairs to their houses.Well, why not after all the damage that had been done to their properties during the Civil War… some of the Corfe cottages acquired some very grand fireplaces in the 17th century.

The west wall had fallen and broken over the stairway that once led to the top of the gatehouse.

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Clearing the broken blocks of fallen gatehouse to reveal the stairway up to the top of the curtain wall. Part of the first floor of the gatehouse can be seen to the right 90 degrees out of true.

We cleaned the revealed walls, photographed and drew them and then it was time for the stone masons to come and consolidate the masonry.. the mystery of the mound of grass had been revealed.

I got a particular buzz when we cleaned the steps and saw the wear marks of the feet on the stone. Nobody had walked there for 350 years. We walked up and down them..our feet where theirs had trod.

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Sherborne’s Romans: Under the Stubble

On Monday I had a meeting in Bristol but I really wanted to be in Sherborne Gloucestershire.

After several years of fieldwalking and geophysical survey, the time had arrived to test the ground and see if anything survived beneath the wheat stubble on Woeful Lake Farm. The survey plots showed rectilinear patterns across the fields, surely there were still building remains, enclosure ditches and other features…under the soil.

These fields had been ploughed for 100s of years and this vital process of producing food had gradually dug into, turned and jumbled the ground many, many times.. eroding away the archaeology.

Ann, Tony and other members Gloucestershire Archaeology had put in three small trenches over the weekend and they needed to be backfilled to enable the farmer to plant his next crop.

So, when the Bristol meeting was over,  I scooted up the M5 and across the Cotswolds via Crickley Hill and reached the field… to see everyone poised with shovels and spades. The ring of tea break chairs and a survey tripod silhouetted against the skyline…

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The excavation trenches on the skyline poised to be backfilled.

but I had arrived in time, the piles of spoil still stood beside the trenches and I was able to see what had been found.

One trench had come down onto an 0.8m wide limestone wall. The geophysical survey plot indicated that it should turn a corner in the next small trench but there was only the rubble foundation surviving there. The wall courses had been ploughed away.

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The newly unearthed Roman wall survives two courses deep on a rubble foundation just beneath the ploughsoil.

The best finds came from the trench about 15m further across the field. Here, a mint condition silver coin had been found. It lay where it had been dropped 1700 years ago on the surface of a rough limestone floor.

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The coin of Marcus Claudius Tacitus.. Emperor for 200 days  September 275- June 276

The name Tacitus could still be read around the head of the Emperor with his typical 3rd century spiky crown (barbarate radiate).

Later, I looked him up. He wasn’t a bad emperor and seemed to be sorting things out but only reigned 200 days. The jury is out, one source states that he died of a fever but he may well have been assassinated. These were unsettled times.

A pit had been cut through the limestone floor and within the dark soil filling was found a bronze brooch. This one was in very good condition and still had the pin to enable you to hold your cloak in place.

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Ann’s brooch from the pit. Bit of a clean up and it’s almost good enough to wear.

The pottery and other finds from the trenches showed that people had been living here from the 2nd-4th century.

I took some photos and thanked everyone for holding back until I could see their discoveries. Further deep ploughing would quickly damage the shallow buried remains but minimum tillage saves on agricultural fuel and preserves archaeology below the old ploughsoil depth.

These are just small window trenches. Perhaps we will return next year to see more of this Roman settlement at the head of a small valley just a few miles from Chedworth Roman Villa. There are many more acres to cover with geophysical survey before we have an idea of the extent of this place.

I wonder how many people lived here and what place name they had for their home.

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The earthwork remains of the Roman amphitheatre at Corinium Dubunnorum, a few miles down the Fosse Way from Sherborne. The tiers of wooden seats surrounding the floor of the auditorium have long gone .. as have the cheering and jeering local crowds who once watched the entertainment.

The Cotswolds had a high population in the Roman period. Their main town would have been Corinium, the second largest place in Roman Britain. We call it Cirencester today…I drove through the town on the way home and stopped off to look at the abandoned  earthworks of its amphitheatre.

Perhaps the owner of the newly rediscovered brooch once visited here to see a show….

 

 

Giving memories a voice

We can write down our memories for future generations to read, but we can also hear the past through sound recordings and videos.

Today Alex is visiting from The Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN http://www.citizan.org.uk), an organization set up in response to dynamic threats to our island coastal heritage. It is a community archaeology project and actively promotes site recording and long-term monitoring programmes led by volunteers.

Alex will be soon leading a walk at Studland on the Dorset coast, looking at the WWII sites, and as well as research for the tour she hopes to play snippets from our sound archive of local people talking about what it was like, what they saw and stories of life in Studland during WWII.

Studland played an important part in WWII as a testing area for amphibius tanks and  fougasse (burning sea). In April 1944 Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King George VI and General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and in charge of the military operation) met at Fort Henry on Redend Point at Studland to watch the combined power of the Allied Forces preparing for D-Day.

Alex l listening to the taped memories and working on her tour notes

Alex listening to the taped memories and working on her tour notes

 

The copies of the small sound archive we hold at the office are all still on original cassette tapes. For younger readers there is a picture below of what one is!

A cassette tape

A cassette tape

 

 

Alex has had to come and use our old technology to be able to then record a digitized copy for use in the field. We will need to digitize our archive so the recordings are more accessible. Luckily we have a cassette transcribing machine and a cassette player. The transcriber has extra controls so you can slow the tape down, change the tone and various backspace and counter options. It even has a foot pedal control!

Transcribing machine –  a special purpose machine which is used for voice recording processing, so the recording can be  written in hard copy form.

The Transcribing machine

The Transcribing machine

 

 

One day these machines will become part of the archaeological archives. At the moment they are thankfully still available and needed to play the memories from the past.

Finding Killerton’s 1776 House

Killerton near Exeter Devon is a large farming estate. The Acland family gave it to the National Trust in the 1940s along with their Exmoor Holnicote Estate.

Killerton was where the main house was and generations of the family lived there. If you go there today you’ll see the house nestled beneath Dolbury hillfort and surrounded by mature wooded parkland.

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Killerton House with Dolbury Hill behind

In the medieval period, the old centre of the Estate lay to the west, beside the river at Columbjohn. There is still a chapel there where some of the Aclands are buried… but 250 years ago Sir Thomas Acland wanted a new grand house and shifted his home to a new location.

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The chapel near the old manor house site at Columbjohn

I had a meeting a couple of weeks ago. It was to discuss the recent archaeological recording work and repair along Killerton’s scheduled park boundary wall.

When I got there I was shown a LiDAR image of the park. The amazing thing about LiDAR is that it can strip away the trees and show the archaeological earthworks hidden beneath. As the plane flies over, it fires numerous laser impulses at the ground. The first return hits the tree canopy but the second return is from the laser impulses that filter though and bounce off the ground beneath. The thing to do is to filter out the first returns and there is your picture of the archaeology on the forest floor.

The LiDAR showed something very strange in Columbjohn Wood. A big rectangular feature on the ridge top with an L-shaped feature to the west.

There was time. Friday afternoon, a bright clear winter day, leafless and no undergrowth. I set off on a ground-truthing exercise. Up past the mansion house, through the garden and the parkland edge, crossing the boundary into Columbjohn Wood. Then through the trees and along the ridge top looking at the ground beneath my feet (archaeologists tend to look at the ground).

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The ditch and stone revetted boundary bank of the 18th-century deer park

Great views out to the south.. and there was the conical Mount Pleasant, which, I had been told, had the foundations of a hexagonal garden folly tower on it. Worth having a look….

…a great location and the stone footings were still clear jutting from the top of a barrow-like mound. The folly tower would once have been clearly visible in the surrounding landscape but not really from the present Killerton House.

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Mount Pleasant from Columbjohn Wood with the folly mound on the top

Back down the hill and then up to Columbjohn Wood ridge again and ..there were some clay roof tiles churned up in an animal burrow and ..there was the L-shaped rampart and a large rectangular pit. A track cut close to its north side and here I bumped into a spread of brick rubble eroding out of the wheel ruts… Amongst the trees were scattered chunks of stone.

Interesting…

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The site? of  Sir Thomas Acland’s never completed mansion in Columbjohn Wood.

I spoke to Denise at Killerton House. She told me that it might be the house that Sir Thomas Acland changed his mind about.

1775-76: in America, the British colonists had chosen to disconnect themselves from the mother country and at Killerton, Sir Thomas had chosen the location for his new house. He appointed a fashionable architect  James Wyatt and work began.

The Acland family archive contains the accounts for £1000s spent on building work.. creating the cellars and beginning to construct the walls, but something went wrong. There’s a terse exchange of letters in early 1777. Mr Wyatt was to cease all work and the builders were to leave the new site.

Everything stopped. Then the work began again in 1778-9 but at a different site and with Mr Johnson not Mr Wyatt. The accounts tell of payments to the salvage team, 33 men taking down bricks from the site on the hill and unpicking the mortar. Loading the materials onto carts to bring to the new site where Killerton House is today.

Nobody had worked out where this almost mansion was but it seems that the LiDAR has found it for us. Our big rectangular pit may be the cellars mentioned in the documents and the pile of stuff to one site may be unwanted building material left behind during the salvage work. IMG_3104

Old oak at the foot of Mount Pleasant

Perhaps this 1775-6 site was a windier location… but with great views across the Devon landscape and with the hill top tower folly clearly visible in the foreground. I wonder why Sir Thomas changed his mind.

Back to Badbury

Reconstruction drawing of Badbury Rings, Dorset by Liz Induni for the National Trust

Reconstruction drawing of Badbury Rings, Dorset by Liz Induni for the National Trust

Yesterday I met Radio Solent’s Steve Harris in the car park at Badbury Ring, on the Kingston Lacy estate, near Wimbourne, one of Dorset’s many Iron Age hill forts. We headed towards the large banks and ditches of the fort as the nippy wind blew across the fields to cool our faces. As we walked across the Roman road and stopped to look at the Bronze Age burial mounds a Skylark rose into the air singing its soaring song.

Steve Harris with Badbury Rings behind him

Steve Harris with Badbury Rings behind him

Steve wanted to talk about the hill fort for one of his regular features on his show. He hadn’t visited the hill fort for a very long time so this was my que to show off all the wonderful archaeology under our feet. There are almost too many stories to tell, across the thousands of years of human activity in the area.

Excavating the ditch of a iron age round house, just inside the inner bank of Badbury Rings

Excavating the ditch of an Iron Age round house, just inside the inner bank of Badbury Rings

Apart from the obvious ‘humps and bumps’ of the Bronze Age barrows, Iron Age hill fort and Roman road, we have found evidence of the earlier use of the high ground the hill fort is on. When we excavated on he very top of the interior of the hill fort we found flint tools from both Mesolithic and Neolithic times.

One of the trenches in the interior of Badbury Rings hill fort. Each white tag is a worked flint or waste flake.

One of the trenches in the interior of Badbury Rings hill fort. Each white tag is a worked flint or waste flake

As Steve and I reached the summit of the hill we found evidence of a more modern use of the site, large concrete blocks with iron loops in the top. These were the remnants of fixings for a timber beacon tower which emitted a signal to guide planes back to Tarrant Rushton airfield a few fields to the west during WWII.

Next to one of these blocks we finished the interview and looked out across the landscape, cars traveling along the road between the avenue of Beech trees, people walking their dogs, children running along the banks, birds chattering and the memories of our excavations came flooding back to me. Was it really 12 years since we were here, finding a clay sling shot, part of a small twisted iron torc, and beautiful worked flint tools. I will return when the many and varied wild flowers are in bloom, so long Badbury,  till we meet again.

A very happy archaeologist in a trench at Badbury Rings with a large sherd of Iron Age pottery

A very happy archaeologist in a trench at Badbury Rings with a large sherd of Iron Age pottery