2016 yr 4 Chedworth Villa 7am

 

The last two were 12 hr days but late summer Chedworth at 7am is lovely.

Walking past the Victorian Lodge with tapes and drawing boards. Look right down the valley towards the new day. The mist still hiding the lower fields and hedgerows.. and around the excavations the spoil heaps steaming in the rising low sunlight, burning off last night’s showers.

Pull back the tarpaulins and capture the moment. Birdsong and video.

What information do we have now? What has been gathered from our two weeks of labour?

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

The disabled access ramp was dismantled to give us sight of the north end of the East Gallery. Our trench 4a.. which is really four adjacent trenches.

Carol completed the removal of turf from the SE corner of the great reception hall. The NE corner we saw in 2013 (good condition). The NW corner (rubbish condition) and the SW (brilliant) corner we uncovered in 2014. So Carol’s SE corner (60% survives) confirmed that the striped red and white mosaic design bordered the whole 18m long floor and that although it had been lost against the south revetment wall, this loss had revealed a narrower North Range wall line beneath the mosaic.

The mosaic forming the SE corner of the reception hall and the top right the door threshold into the north corridor. Below this is the wider revetment wall of the north range. No doorway visible from the East Gallery but the offset wall at the bottom of the ranging pole is probably where the Roman floor used to be. The flagstones on the left abut the revetment wall and this is a later wall forming the west side of the gallery. On the right is the broad buttress wall which may have infilled an earlier doorway. Our deep interesting trench is on the right side of this.

The mosaic forming the SE corner of the reception hall and the top right the door threshold into the north corridor. Below this is the wider revetment wall of the north range. No doorway visible from the East Gallery but the offset wall at the bottom of the ranging pole is probably where the Roman floor used to be. The flagstones on the left abut the revetment wall and this is a later wall forming the west side of the gallery. On the right is the broad buttress wall which may have infilled an earlier doorway. Our deep interesting trench is on the right side of this.

Down below, at the north end of the East Gallery, we came down onto clay below the 1906 and 1911 pennies. No Roman floor survived. The offset stone course probably marked where the floor once had been… but it was long gone.

There was no entrance evidence at the north end of the East Gallery into the North Range. In fact the creation of the corridor or gallery seemed a very late Roman after thought..certainly later than the wider North Range revetment wall. This wall’s foundation cut that of the revetment…but, from the archaeological evidence, the doorway through the wall used by the modern disabled access ramp seemed a real Roman feature.

Then there was the thick buttress built into the east gallery wall. The east gallery wall foundations go down and down and this proved to be an early Chedworth feature. The buttress matches the width of the doorway in the west wall and it was Bryn who suggested that the buttress filled an early doorway. A weak point that needed filling in.

It was the trench on the lower east side of the buttress which was interesting. It’s near cousins to the west had been a little disappointing..

Samian in charcoal amongst mortar and painted plaster at the base of the buttress.

Samian in charcoal amongst mortar and painted plaster at the base of the buttress.

Once the modern upper soils had been removed, we hit the AD 295-305 coin and then the 3rd – 4th century mortaria rim and then the tiny late 3rd century coin. Eventually the rich dark soils turned rusty brown and then into an orange brown decayed mortar full of tile fragments and pieces of deep blue and red painted plaster. Against the revetment wall, this mortar ran under its lowest course and beneath a large square paviour of limestone wedged between the buttress and the wall.

On the last morning I cleaned back the mortar layer and found a seam of charcoal within it and a fresh square of samian pottery was flicked out by the trowel point. This boundary between the upper and lower Chedworth courtyard levels seems to have been established by the 2nd century?

Needs some more work next year.

Then there is Fay and Rob’s trench in Room 21. An extraordinary slice through time. A sealed 1600 year old heap of stuff (including a door key! as well as all the decorative plaster). The stacks of tile pilae protruding like broken teeth from the debis. They lie in ordered lines but survive at different levels. The idea that the blocked doorway from the east once led via steps up to the floor above the hypocaust… doesn’t seem to work based on the level of the pilae.

The two lines of pilae on the east side of room 21. The blocked door is top right. The burnt plaster lines the wall along the left side of the photo. A broken channel of box flue tiles was attached to this wall. Part of the later heating system.

The two lines of pilae on the east side of room 21. The blocked door is top right. The burnt plaster lines the wall along the left side of the photo. A broken channel of box flue tiles was attached to this wall. Part of the later heating system.

The door seems already to have been redundant and blocked before the hypocaust was installed. Red plaster surviving on the door jamb and burnt plaster within the room at hypocaust level suggest a room at a lower level swept away for the new heating system which in turn was backfilled and sealed with a new Roman crushed brick floor later in the 4th century. The mid 4th century coins just below this floor help us with our dating.

The foundations of the east wall of this room lie on a good early Roman line linked to the plunge pool of the early Roman baths.It was abutted by the charcoal sample we took in 2014 giving us an early 2nd century date.

Trench 4c, on the west side of Room 20 showed us that Sir Ian Richmond’s suggestion that a flight of steps may have existed here leading down from the West Range into the colonnade of the North.. did not exist.. but we found evidence for a narrow access passage down into the boiler room for the early North Range steam heat baths.

Lastly…4d, Alex, Harry, Peter and Les heroically removing the claggy clay backfill of the 1962 water works at the Nymphaeum. The Nymphaeum being the stone shrine created in the 4th century in honour to the spirit of the water source, the reason Chedworth could be created here.

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The pipes issuing from the Roman Nymphaeum culvert. Notice the Victorian change of build above Roman foorings at the grass level. The 1962 concrete wall on the left marks the line of a wall probably redundant and robbed out before the Nymphaeum was built.

The discovery of three water pipes..the 1860s lead pipe heading for the Lodge and the two 1960s iron pipes heading for the north range. They had been shoved into the original 4th century culvert.. which survived though slightly damaged. It was 0.3m wide and 0.6m high with a stone floor. I drew it and noticed that the proper Roman stonework was slightly offset and only survived beneath the turf line. Above..at least on the south-east side, was all a Victorian rebuild…

…and Sir Ian’s 1962 concrete interpretive wall, which continued the line of the North Range running into the threshold stones of the Nymphaeum, was built on almost a metre of 1962 made up ground. No Roman stone wall was found. A robber trench had been cut into the natural yellow clay and concluded that this wall had been taken away before the Nymphaeum was built.

Sue, the marble expert came to see us and believes that Chedworth’s marble is so rare for this country that it must have been used at a very special location within the villa. She believes that the octagonal basin at the centre of the Nymphaeum would be such a sacred place. Chedworth’s Nymphaeum cannot be compared closely with any known structure in Roman Britain. So perhaps a particularly sacred site..

Over for another year. Many thanks to everyone who has helped and supported the archaeological work at Chedworth during the last two weeks.

With best wishes

 

Martin

 

Shapwick’s Roman Fort, Kingston Lacy

This is the view along the Shapwick Road across our field towards Badbury Rings.

This is the view along the Shapwick Road across our field towards Badbury Rings.

Let’s walk across a Dorset field. It’s a good one.. and although we’ll stay in the same space we will be hopping about in time a bit. Well- we’re archaeologists after all.

For the moment it’s late summer, the corn’s been cut and as we leave the far hedge and walk diagonally towards the road our boots crunch on the stubble. Keep your eyes down, there are all sorts of things beneath our feet.

Yes. There. See it ? Sticking out of that tractor rut a black chunk of pottery. Pick it up.

On the upper edge it’s polished but on the rougher zone below you have that typical cross-hatch pattern. Iron Age? Roman?

I call this the ‘Long Field’. Not its old name.. but definitely very large and long. You’d notice that if you divided it up and surveyed it. There’s Geoff, laying out the grid, walking up and down with the magnetometer. He was the first man to map the archaeology here. I walked with him some days fixing the pegs, positioning the lines. We walked miles.. but the results were spectacular. Thanks Geoff.

The field is bottom left. This is Geoff's magnetometer survey showing the fort in detail and the underlying Iron Age settlement. If you look carefully you can see the parallel side ditches of the Badbury to Dorchester Roman road. Our walk is from fort entrance to fort entrance. From middle right to bottom left.

The field is bottom left. This is Geoff’s magnetometer survey showing the fort in detail and the underlying Iron Age settlement. If you look carefully you can see the parallel side ditches of the Badbury to Dorchester Roman road. Our walk is from fort entrance to fort entrance. From middle right to bottom left.

You almost missed that. An orange samian base fragment. It has that silk sheen to it. Unlucky, the potter’s stamp is fractured at the edge and we can’t quite read who made it. Came all the way from Gaul though.

We’re approaching a large’L’-shaped trench. Ian’s in a ‘bee-hive pit, narrow at the neck and twice the width at the bottom. It’s cool down there. He hands up something like samian except it’s ruby-coloured. An earlier pottery.. dates this grain storage pit to the Late Iron Age- 2000 years ago.

At the other end of the trench is Martin..he’s in a large pit. No, he’s gone,
someone’s placing a dog in the pit on top of a piglet. The field’s disappeared.. there are circular houses all around us, a hub-bub of people livestock and wooden fences within a settlement stockade.

Gone again.. the place is blacksmith’s workshop, furnaces and hearths. These guys look Roman.. at least the pots are 3rd century style.

From scaffold tower to scaffold tower. Looking towards the  trench to locate the SW entrance of the fort.

From scaffold tower to scaffold tower. Looking towards the trench to locate the SW entrance of the fort.

We’re in the field heading to another larger longer trench with a scaffold tower beside it. This is the main highway, the Roman road from Badbury to Dorchester but we are also in the middle of a large Roman fort.

It was first seen on aerial photos in 1976, three concentric ditches with rounded corners. The first idea was that it was 1st century.. built on top of the Iron Age settlement right after the Roman Conquest of AD 43-44. Very different to the Roman fort at Hod Hill a few miles away though. It has only two entrances, one in the NE corner and one in the SW… and the ditches at the corners don’t quite match.

Let’s climb the scaffold tower and look down at the trench. We’ve put it at the SW entrance. We can see the three ends of the ditches in plan. The road metalling has sunk into the soft ditch filling so it has not been ploughed away.

The fort SW entrance from the scaffold tower. The outer ditch terminal is clear with remains of road metalling crushed into its surface. The middle and deep inner ditch have not yet been excavated. Most of the upper layers including the road have been ploughed away over hundreds of years. This land was part of the Shapwick common fields in the medieval period.

The fort SW entrance from the scaffold tower. The outer ditch terminal is clear with remains of road metalling crushed into its surface. The middle and deep inner ditch have not yet been excavated. Most of the upper layers including the road have been ploughed away over hundreds of years. This land was part of the Shapwick common fields in the medieval period.

Gerald, Becki and Rob, if you could just remove the upper layers..yes, there are the ditches filled with pottery, animal bone and the occasional coin. It seems to date mostly to the end of the 2nd century. The outer two ditches are only a metre deep but the inner one is massive.. over 4m deep. Strange, some of the finds are 4th century.

Here it is..white chalk ramparts with a timber wall along the crest of the innermost defence. Inside it is full of rectangular buildings. Curious, the Dorchester road is blocked by the fort gates guarded by soldiers. They’re checking all the traffic. The Saxon raids along the coast have increased in recent months and this place, Vindocladia, is vulnerable. They haven’t the resources to build stone walls like those at Durnovaria (Dorchester). This secure place, the burgus fort, will have to do the job. A place of last resort for the Romanised Brits. Tense times.

Lets climb down from the scaffold and get into the car. I hope you enjoyed my favourite field. Nancy climbs in beside us. “How was it for you”…. “The earth moved”.. it certainly did.. and there was so much in it!

All about Eve: Chedworth, the Mithraeum and 1954

27th July 1954 Oxford

Dear Mr Irvine (National Trust Custodian Chedworth Roman Villa)

This is about the proposed excavation at Chedworth..I am unable to do it myself at that time of year so we have the services of Miss Eve Rutter who has just taken her final exams here and has already been on many excavations including one she has directed herself so I think she will do it very well. Would you and Mrs Irvine be able to put Miss Rutter up during the excavation as she has no means of transport….

Best wishes Yours sincerely Mr D. Harden Keeper Ashmolean.

Plan of Chedworth before Eve Rutter's excavation.  The 'Porter's Lodge is the small room (IX) bottom left on the plan protruding south of the south range.

Plan of Chedworth before Eve Rutter’s excavation. The ‘Porter’s Lodge is the small room (IX) bottom left on the plan protruding south of the south range.

13th August 1954 Long Crichel House, Wimborne Minster, Dorset

Dear Miss Kirk (Joan Kirk Assistant Keeper Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

After getting your letter, I had a chat with Irvine who thinks that two men for a week might be enough..After having Lord Vestey’s men for a week after harvest we may have to pay for additional help… I hope you feel you can go ahead. Of course if the dig reveals some wonderful finds you may be tempted to go slow and then the labour problem will grow more serious…

Yours sincerely Eardley Knollys National Trust Regional Representative.

28th September 1954 Chedworth

Dear Mr Harden

Herewith the plan of the excavation at Chedworth: any suggestion as to what the well drained room is will be welcome….

Plan and sections drawn by Eve Rutter of the 1954 excavation

Plan and sections drawn by Eve Rutter of the 1954 excavation

Could this have been a scullery – old farms do have similar drains in their sculleries although not such a complicated trip up pattern!

I hope you have found all the things returned alright. Mr Ovenall was on duty when I came in on the Sunday. I don’t know whether Joan has returned: I thought she said she would be away a week but the Museum said two?

The glass fragments, mainly from one vessel I think, although few seem to fit, came from the first trench and were associated with a Rhenish thumb indented jar. Is any result yet available on the bracelet?

..the NT has asked for a report and plan to be available for the annual general meeting on 12 Oct to liven up the members and if I could have a photograph or two to include, the dig might look a little better – the Mithraeum is setting a high standard of what the public expect!

I go to the Guildhall on Friday. The Mithraeum is very interesting although I can’t help feeling that many of the thousands must have been disappointed at the rather wet stonework. Life there is very hectic consisting chiefly in an attempt to avoid too many press reporters all seeking to see the latest head!

Please send the photographs to the Guildhall as time is running rather short.

With best wishes, yours sincerely Eve

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9th October 1954 Ibthorpe, Hurstbourne Tarrant

Dear Joan

Thank you so much for your letter and help over the Chedworth stuff. I enclose what I hope will be an adequate report for the NT…

I am enjoying life at the Guildhall very much indeed although it is extremely hectic there at the moment. The other morning we were crowded out by the press (a usual event in the past Mithraeum statue-a-day week).. The statuary is absolutely fantastic – Miss Toynbee says that the Serapis head is as good, if not better than anything in the Rome museums…

Best wishes to all Eve

October 1954

The aim of the short excavation was to discover if the mound to the south of the south wing had been disturbed since Roman times, and if not, whether it merited further investigation and, incidentally, whether the present reconstruction walls of the south wing are correctly aligned….
Eve Rutter

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18th October 1954, Queen Anne’s Gate, London

Dear Miss Kirk Joan Kirk, Dept of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

I was delighted to get Miss Rutter’s fascinating report on the excavations. I should like you to know how how grateful the Trust is to the Museum for undertaking this work on our behalf…

As regards the possibility of further excavation next year, I am asking Mr R. Stewart-Jones our representative for Gloucestershire to get in touch with you…

Yours sincerely R. Romilly Fedden

18th October 1954, Warwick Road, Earls Court, London

Dear Joan

..I sent the Chedworth photographs per express and hope they will arrive in time. I enclose the bill for the film and some drawing paper…

I am interested in Richard’s “C.I.D.” investigations on the bracelet. It was not close by the coffin, at least not close enough to be part of the burial I shouldn’t think. Anyway the details I could gather from Mr Irvine about the burial suggested that anything worn by the child when inside it could not have slipped outside the coffin stones, or if it had only just down the side. There were no human bones otherwise associated with it. Anyway I shall be glad to hear Richard’s final verdict. Gold sounds exciting, quite beyond one’s wilder dreams: I only hope this doesn’t mean that I shall be pursued by coroners seeking to prove that the owner is still alive and presently returning to recover his lost possessions!
Life at the Guildhall has become less hectic this week. Mr Cook and Mr Merrifield are very kind and have made me feel very welcome. Mr Cook seems a little worried that I shall expect every excavation to produce marble heads!

…In the afternoon I went down to the site and the temple has produced a very nice door step..The “reconstruction”, if one can call the pile of Roman used debris so, is a pathetic affair and the way they are carving the original up with electric drills is tragic.

How is Oxford? it seems odd not to be pottering about it. Look after yourself and don’t catch any more peculiar diseases ‘cos I shan’t come out to the Slade this year Love Eve

6th November 1954 Warwick Road, Earls Court, London

Dear Joan

Re the Chedworth stuff Mr Irvine asked if it were possible to have a short report for the Museum. Secondly, were two coins amongst the stuff I brought back? Mr Ovenall said he would have them sent to Dr Sutherland. Only one is from the site, the other was given to Mr Irvine by a local forester for identification.

John Harris tells me that the “graffiti” “samian” looks suspicious. I haven’t looked at it myself apart from giving it a hasty clean. It should be alright according to the level it came from. Has Dr Harden had a chance to look at it yet? I should be interested to know the date as it was found in connection with the Rhenish ware which is the only apparently early pottery amongst fourth century pie dishes etc..

Hope to see you fairly soon. Give my regards to Roper and Miss Carter Yours Eve

5th March 1955 The Roman Inscriptions of Britain

Dear Miss Kirk

Thank you for sending me the Chedworth graffito for examination.
I read the graffito as ABCDEFGHI[… It is not clear whether further letters were cut or whether the space after I marks the termination of the original text. The letter forms are of Roman type and unlike modern falsifications. This graffito may have been cut when the bowl was intact or on this sherd after the fracture of the bowl.
If space allows, I should like to include this in my next JRS report.
Yours sincerely R.P.Wright

8th March 1955 Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Dear Eve

I am enclosing a copy of Mr Wright’s letter about the Chedworth sherd with the alphabet on it, from which you will see that it is perfectly good Roman graffito. If you felt like it you might drop him a line to say that you would be glad for him to publish it in J.R.S.

Yours ever Joan

25th June 1956 Guildhall Museum, Royal Exchange, London

Dear Dr Harden

Thank you very much for your letter which greeted my return home. France in many ways was maddening…

As regards to Chedworth, I am interested to continue the excavation of the Porter’s Lodge area to see whether there is a definite clue as to what it is..

I don’t like to ask Mr Cook to “wangle” me the extra time off which Chedworth would probably involve. However, if it is a case of now or never with the National Trust I could ask him about the possibility..

I have wondered whether anything should be due in the way of an interim report..should the local archaeological society at least have a note of what was found in their reports…

I hope you enjoy the conference and have good weather Best wishes Yours sincerely Eve

Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol 78 1959

the so-called Porter’s Lodge (Room 2) which was proved by excavations conducted by Miss Eve Rutter, now Mrs Harris, to have had a very different purpose. It proved to have been twice reconstructed, serving as a latrine in the first and second existence, but deprived of the sanitary fittings in the final stage. Sir Ian Richmond

Guildhall Museum Reports..Coleman St. E. Rutter 1956; Lombard St E. Rutter 1957; Clarence Place E.Rutter 1958; Midland Bank Gresham St 1959 E. Harris & and P. Mardsen; Oldgate Hill E. Harris 1960.

19th December 2014

Dear Martin

The Museum of London has forwarded your enquiry to me. I worked with Eve Rutter in the 1950s employed to record the archaeology while the old WWII bomb sites were being developed within the City. She married a John Harris and left the Guildhall Museum in the early 1960s. He was a specialist in the cult of Mithras I think.

Sorry not to be of more help.

With best wishes

Peter
……

Eve Harris and John R. Harris, 1965, The Oriental Cults in Roman Britain.

……

The newly qualified graduate Eve Rutter began modern excavation at Chedworth 60 years ago.. spending the late summer of 1954 at the villa before starting her new job at the Guildhall Museum London.

She arrived during great excitement, the extent of Londinium’s temple of Mithras was beginning to be revealed together with its exotic statues and carvings (see British Archaeology no 140, Jan-Feb 2015). The discovery caused great excitement in the press, thousands queued to visit the site. The P.M., Winston Churchill stepped in to give the archaeologists more time.. but the temple was eventually broken up and re-erected by the building developers.. the structure blocked their construction site.

Museum of London is involved in a new project to rebuild it in a far more authentic way in the next few years using the information collected by the London archaeologists back in 1954.

Through Mithras, Eve met her husband and together they published a definitive work on eastern religions in Roman Britain.

I wonder where her archaeological career took her after that…

It would be good to speak to her about her memories of Chedworth all those years ago.

(These letters were found a couple of weeks ago amongst the Richmond Archive at the Sackler Library, Oxford)

Into the West: Cornwall

Cornwall is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

A Neolithic dolmen above New Town in west Cornwall with the familiar outline of a 19th century tin mine engine house behind.

A Neolithic dolmen above New Town in west Cornwall with the familiar outline of a 19th century tin mine engine house behind.

As a soft easterner and Wessex archaeologist now united with Devon and Cornwall, it was time to travel to the uttermost west and find out something about it. This is based on two days last week looking with a stranger’s archaeological eyes on a new world.

The view from Cotehele, of the dovecote and the woodland garden that leads down to the River Tamar.

The view from Cotehele, of the dovecote and the woodland garden that leads down to the River Tamar.

When I started with the National Trust, I asked Tony, the old experienced curator, “which is your favorite property?” “Cotehele!” he said without blinking an eye and so it went on my list of places to visit.

We eventually got there, wound our way round Plymouth, crossed the Tamar and threaded our way along narrow roads. A medieval fortified manor house revamped in the Tudor period. A beautiful setting above the border river between Devon and Cornwall.

Cotehele medieval manor house. Cotehele river front lies below the steep slope of the wooded gardens to the right.

Cotehele medieval manor house. Cotehele river front lies below the steep slope of the wooded gardens to the right.

My 1977 guide book (which I dusted down.. found on the shelves of my home office Eastleigh Court… amongst others that had washed up there over the decades) summed up medieval Cotehele “in the south-west peninsula the landed classes still lived lives of semi-barbarity”. Not very PC but I guess stuff took time to get there. The Romans didn’t leave much of an impact and the Anglo-Saxons barely registered.

The place-names are different…very celtic.

Apparently there was a feud between the Cotehele Edgecombes and the Willoughby’s of Bere Ferrers across the river and his henchmen attacked Cotehele and in 1483 Richard Edgcumbe escaped his pursuers by putting a stone in his cap and throwing it in the river. Seeing the cap sinking they rode on thinking he had desperately drowned himself rather than be captured.

So Cornwall was a bit wild west but also very industrial. The mining industry here has World Heritage Site status. The craggy rocks are full of precious things. Cotehele had copper and arsenic mines and down at the water front beside the Tamar, we found mills and kilns where rock was burnt to create lime used for mortar and improve the quality of the local acid soils.

Map of Cornwall and the Godolphin Estate

Map of Cornwall and the Godolphin Estate

We headed further west to Godolphin. The family here made their money out of tin mining and the medieval house was upgraded in the 17th but there are many different phases to the house. One wing stops short as though the money ran out and the grand design was never completed. The guides in the King’s Hall told us about the house and the Godolphin family…there was so much more to be discovered. The Trust have not owned the house for long.

The various phases of Godolphin House. The Neo-classical house is unfinished,

The various phases of Godolphin House. The Neo-classical house is unfinished,

Cornwall is famous for its wild coasts so we went to Godrevy near Redruth. Here, excavations had found an Iron Age and Romano-British farmstead beneath the remains of the small medieval manor. No villas here though. The odd sherd of samian pottery but the native ’rounds’ continued into the Roman period.

Godrevy, a disused  stone-edged field boundary bank eroded by a footpath and cut away at the cliff edge.

Godrevy, a disused stone-edged field boundary bank eroded by a footpath and cut away at the cliff edge.

The field systems retain elements of their prehistoric form, small and irregular earth banks faced with stone. We found one eroded and cut by the sea cliff. This is a land of Neolithic dolmens and subterranean Iron Age fogous. I have much to learn. Even the WWII pill boxes were of igneous rock rather than my familiar brick and concrete.

Stone WWII pillbox guarding Godrevy beach.

Stone WWII pillbox guarding Godrevy beach.

I got back on the A30, drove across Bodmin and Dartmoor to reach the rolling chalklands of home.

A Sequence of Events.

There is only so much time and everything has to happen in the right order. It ended with two 12 hour days. Although, Chedworth at 7 in the morning with the sound of birdsong for company is rather nice. Chedworth at 12 with the bubbling atmosphere of enthusiasm and excitement is rather nice too.

The site after cleaning

The site after cleaning

The turfs are back in place and our hard-won walls are hidden again but what we take away (apart from pleasant memories) are the photos, the plans and sections, the context sheets and the finds and the site diary. These we will use to weave the story of the site from the evidence and arrive at somewhere as close to the truth as possible.

After excavation there is careful cleaning. The site shines for the record photographs and then there is the final drawing of all the revealed detail. Tiptoeing across the archaeology in bare feet to keep it clean. The drawing took time and as each drawing was completed the site disappeared under soil.

The last turfs were put in place ..and we assembled in the villa courtyard. Nancy presented awards to Hannah, George, Harry, Harriet, Lizzie and Anna. Gifts were exchanged. Mark took away two bottles of wine which was fitting given his heroic concrete demolition. The remains of the giant chocolate final tea break cake were claimed for Birmingham student base camp.

So what can we say? That Sir Ian Richmond excavated two early baths. In 1958, a hot bath with a semi-circular apse and in 1963 a rectangular one on the east side of it. That autumn, he marked them both with concrete kerbs and paving to interpret them to the public.. much to the annoyance of the National Trust managers. ‘this laying of concrete-which looks for all the world like a series of concrete paths – is in my view hideous’

Well….50 years on they have gone. The depth and solidity of their construction was quite a challenge.

The support wall for the columns built on a foundation of stone with the raft of mortar and rubble butting against it on the north.  This covered the footings of the old baths before Professor Richmond excavated and revealed the walls. The flight of steps and the walls abutting them were all proved to be Victorian or later in date.

The support wall for the columns built on a foundation of stone with the raft of mortar and rubble butting against it on the north. This covered the footings of the old baths before Professor Richmond excavated and revealed the walls. The flight of steps and the walls abutting them were all proved to be Victorian or later in date.

We now have photographs of the walls and have excavated the islands of archaeology Professor Richmond left behind. Frustratingly we found no coins and very little pottery to date the buried baths. It seems likely they were built in the 2nd century and perhaps the finds analysis will support this. We have a fragment of stratified samian pottery and some other fragments that the specialists might identify. We found a charcoal deposit above the bath floor and will get it radiocarbon dated (C14 is not a particularly accurate dating technique for the Roman period but it will help).

Professor Richmond dug trenches to reveal the central drain of each bath. He left islands of archaeology on each side and these had layers of demolition rubble and floor surfaces within them

Professor Richmond dug trenches to reveal the central drain of each bath. He left islands of archaeology on each side and these had layers of demolition rubble and floor surfaces within them


These baths were demolished (perhaps in the 4th century) and a new set of baths were constructed on a hypocaust 1.5m above and covering the north side of the remains of the old ones. To the south, a row of stone blocks 0.2m deep and 0.6m wide were placed on a rubble stone foundation to take a row of columns framing the new baths.

Between the new baths and this wall, a rubble surface was laid across the old baths which included the painted plaster fragments we found. Over this was a thin layer of dark soil and then a mortar floor. A surface for 4th century Romans to walk along and look out through the columns to the inner courtyard.

The surviving mortar floor cut by two shallow post-holes the lower hole contained our sherd of samian.

The surviving mortar floor cut by two shallow post-holes the lower hole contained our sherd of samian.

Our excavation south of the wall demonstrated that this was an area outside the villa building. We dug down a metre and found a drain and layers of gravel and dark soil with clay tiles and pottery forming the make-up levels for the courtyard.

The Roman courtyard layers continuing under the Victorian revetment wall.

The Roman courtyard layers continuing under the Victorian revetment wall.

The excavations demonstrated that the flight of steps and the walls defining the south and west edges of the site were all Victorian or later in date.

We have some things to ponder for next year. At the east end of the old baths, holes started to appear and as we cleaned, a large void opened up over 0.3m deep. Nancy lowered a camera and photographed a cavity with dressed stone. In this part of the site we found our earliest stratified archaeology and the foundation trench of the old baths.

The interesting  area at the east edge of the site where a burnt area was found with a vessel containing a copper alloy residue. To the right of the photo at the edge of the wall is the hole into which.. Nancy lowered her camera.

The interesting area at the east edge of the site where a burnt area was found with a vessel containing a copper alloy residue. To the right of the photo at the edge of the wall is the hole into which.. Nancy lowered her camera.

Next August we will investigate further and hopefully get a better idea of how Chedworth began.

Many thanks to everyone both for their help and enthusiasm over the last couple of weeks.

The final push as the spoil heap dwindles and the archaeology is covered once more. Many thanks everyone.. Yes a JCB would have been good.

The final push as the spoil heap dwindles and the archaeology is covered once more. Many thanks everyone.. Yes a JCB would have been good.

and then there were two

Two is the number of the moment! you are getting two days in one post, we now have two drains and today we had two sets of twins digging with us!

Yesterday brought the second drain, after the first in the oblong room we now have one in the apsidal room as well.

The dark area is the backfilled Richmond trench

The dark area is the backfilled Richmond trench

The excavated drain

The excavated drain

Unlike the first drain this one had been excavated to the bottom by Richmond and was full of broken plant pots and fine early 20th century china.

Martin gets going with the mattock

Martin gets going with the mattock

The result of Martins mattocking

Martin got out the mattock to dig a test hole to see how deep the mixed layer was in the southern half of the excavation. By doing this we can gauge how to dig it, once we know the depth of the layers if it’s a deep layer we can use a mattock or if it’s not very deep we can use the trowel.

Oliver, Harry, Thomas and Tom all digging away

Oliver, Harry, Thomas and Tom all digging away

Today we were joined by two sets of twins, Thomas and Oliver, and Tom and Harry, all budding young archaeologists. We set them to work next to Martins trench and they soon found lots of roman finds. They worked very hard and found roof tiles, bone and lots of tesserae (the small cubes of mosaic). I think the happy smiles in the following pictures tells us they had a very enjoyable and  interesting  time.

Fay helping Thomas and Tom

Fay helping Thomas and Tom

Allan helping Thomas and Tom to excavate a large fragmant of tile

Allan helping Thomas and Tom to excavate a large fragment of tile

                  

Tom with his stone roof tile, at the top is the nail hole

Tom with his stone roof tile, at the top is the nail hole

  

Thomas with the sheep bone he found, the remains of a roman snack

Thomas with the sheep bone he found, the remains of a roman snack

Oliver and Harry with the tray of tesserea they found

Oliver and Harry with the tray of tesserae they found

This afternoon produced a large fragment of red-painted plaster, the largest piece yet, large pieces of pottery,a hob nail from a shoe and a small piece of roman glass. No rest on Bank Holiday Monday for us, but no one minds especially as we have good roman layers to dig 🙂  

Red painted roman wall plaster

Red painted roman wall plaster

Amongst the Romano-British

Trench C and in the distance A. The chalk bedrock in C has been cut for a rubbish pit. The filling contained Iron Age pottery and the jaw bone of a horse.

Trench C and in the distance A. The chalk bedrock in C has been cut for a rubbish pit. The filling contained Iron Age pottery and the jaw bone of a horse.

Trench B down the bottom of the garden was disappointing. It looked like old plough soil and all we got was some bailer twine and a struck flint. Dave moved to trench C in the middle of the garden and I stuck with A closer to the house. By mid morning we were still in the 19th century lots of blue and white pottery. Then Dave showed me a plain black piece of pot. ‘BB?’ he said ‘yes’ but it was mixed with much later stuff. At 11.30 everything changed, we moved from 150 years to 1500 in a few trowel strokes.

Suddenly we left the early 1800s behind and chunks of Romano-British bone and pottery were flicking out of the soil. There were chunks of limestone and flint from demolished buildings, fragments of amphorae, Samian from France and jars and bowl pieces from BB (Black Burnished ware) made locally in Purbeck.

At this stage you wonder what you are above. Perhaps a building. Would it have a mosaic or remains of a wall with painted plaster on. In the end both our trenches came down on rubbish pits. Dave’s was Iron Age, mine was late Roman but these are part of something much bigger and its discovery is a good story.

Pottery from A includes  black Purbeck pottery, orange Samian, a fragment of amphora and food remains include bone from joints of meat and oyster shells.

Pottery from A includes black Purbeck pottery, orange Samian, a fragment of amphora and food remains include bone from joints of meat and oyster shells.