Day 5 The 4 Trenches and a day of moisture

I’m back in Warminster this evening so we have internet connection for the blog.

Our nice dry site became very wet today but we pressed on and made some good discoveries.

So from east to west.

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Trench 4a: The north end of the East Gallery where it abuts the North Range. What is this corridor between 2 walls for? Was there ever a doorway into the North Range corridor from here? Is the disabled access route through the west wall into the courtyard original? What is the big thick wall against the North Range for?

Well, we’ve found that the original gallery floor level has gone. Below the soil containing 20th century coins was a worn hardcore layer of limestone which once supported the Roman floor.

Looking north-east showing the two walls of the East Gallery butting onto the higher North Range reception room (we will uncover the mosaic, if it is still there, under the turf top left next week). The probable doorway into the courtyard bottom left. Mortar floor cut by foundation trenches bottom left. Thick buttress wall top tight.

Looking north-east showing the two walls of the East Gallery butting onto the higher North Range reception room (we will uncover the mosaic, if it is still there, under the turf top left next week). The probable doorway into the courtyard bottom left. Mortar floor cut by foundation trenches bottom left. Thick buttress wall top tight.

No evidence of a door into the North Range and the threshold in the west wall to the courtyard is lost but there was probably an entrance there. The foundation trenches for the walls were excavated and the mortar floor between them is cut through by them and is therefore earlier. Any finds in the mortar floor or below it will pre-date the gallery and North Range wall

The thick wall in the east East Gallery wall is deeply rooted on a clay and mortar foundation and we think that it is a sturdy buttress to brace the North Range from downslope movement at a weak point where a wide doorway led from the great reception hall into the private apartments.

The east side of the buttress looking south west. Where the coin and carved stone fragment were found.

The east side of the buttress looking south west. Where the coin and carved stone fragment were found.

Sue excavated on the east side of the buttress where the early 4th century coin was found yesterday and discovered painted plaster and a carved fragment of stone column.

Room 21 Trench 3b/c: We have joined up the two trenches we had last year along the eastern edge of the changing room for the North Baths. We are now back into the 4th century time vault of the backfilled hypocaust. This afternoon Rob and Julian found additional pieces of the painted plaster jigsaw to link up with last year’s finds. This room is part of the early bath house room leading to the 2nd century tepid and hot baths which we part excavated in 2013.

Latest painted plaster finds from trench 3c this evening.

Latest painted plaster finds from trench 3c this evening.

The blocked doorway from the grand reception room is gradually being revealed.

Trench 4c: In Carol and Seb’s trench on the west side of the North Baths we are looking for steps down from the West Range into the North Range colonnade and steps down into the boiler room and fuel store which created the steam baths of the earlier bath house. We are still on backfilled Roman and later rubble with no trace of steps so far. The walls of the boiler room have been refaced and repaired in the 20th century and this helped to hide the evidence.

Investigating the south wall of the boiler room in 4c

Investigating the south wall of the boiler room in 4c

Trench 4d: The last trench is right at the water source in the north west corner of the villa site. Alex and John have been working in the wet clay there today. We are looking for the link between the North Range and the water shrine or Nymphaeum. A concrete path, one of the interpretation features of the 1960s put in by Sir Ian Richmond, seems to be built on clay rather than a Roman wall but at the end of the day Alex found a black soil layer under the clay. The Nymphaeum structure seem to be mostly Victorian on the east side but today we found the Roman stone under the 1860s stonework… but following a different angle.

The Nymphaeum north east wall showing the Roman stonework under the 1860s reconstruction.

The Nymphaeum north east wall showing the Roman stonework under the 1860s reconstruction.

We are hoping to find the main drain feeding the baths in this trench but it looks unpromising at the moment.

What will tomorrow bring? Wind and rain according to Holly on the local news.

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