‘There’s a Breathless Hush’

‘An hour to play and the last man in’

Well, it’s the last day and there is so much to do. A bit of Sir Henry Newbolt or perhaps a some stirring stuff from Henry V…
‘Let he who has no stomach for this fight’ (a little random I know.. but it sets the mood)

Rob and Mike were on site today and they worked to answer the unanswered questions before the time ran out. I made my way round the site finishing the plan and drawing the different layers on the sections, marking on the context numbers that relate to the description forms.

starting to record the site today.

starting to record the site today.

It was dry and a perfect day but rather intense, we snatched drink breaks and had a barely noticeable lunch.

Mike took out the remains of the last fire in the fireplace and revealed the brick hearth with a few fragments of pot. There had been so many fires that the family had needed to replace the worn burnt bricks in the centre of the hearth.

The brick floor of the fireplace. The central section of bricks replaced.

The brick floor of the fireplace. The central section of bricks replaced.

Rob dug the pit that had been cut through the flagstone floor under the WWII rubbish dump. I was hoping for a ring of bolts set in concrete showing that the rubbish masked a gun mounting.. but no, the pit pre-dated this and contained Victorian pottery. The pit cutting revealed a lower flagstone floor.

The cleaned flagstone floor and pit after excavation with earlier floor visible.

The cleaned flagstone floor and pit after excavation with earlier floor visible.

We cut a trench beside the gully at the east end of the site to find earlier dating evidence. We know that the building was abandoned about 1800 but when was it built? We found several phases of building alteration and repair but nothing to give an earlier date.

One last request was to go to the other building. The one that we were too late for, and see what the sea had left behind to date it. Rob cleaned back the cliff and found a row of stones remains of a yard behind the building and the pottery from this was earlier 18th century.

The remains of the other building. Not much left.

The remains of the other building. Not much left.

By this time, the drawings were complete. Time was ticking away. Everyone who came to see us seemed very interested in the site but my replies were rather brief to questions (forgive me). Mike and Rob were much more engaging.

The last task was to give the site a thorough clean. Lots of brushing to make our temporary archaeological home really shine for the final photos. It looked lovely.. and then it was time to pack up the tools and say farewell to Hive Beach. Thank you so much to everyone who helped and came to see us.

The doorway into the flagstone area. note the doorpost holes  and abraded stone where the door gradually eroded a groove into the threshold as it was opened and closed so many times over the years.

The doorway into the flagstone area. note the doorpost holes and abraded stone where the door gradually eroded a groove into the threshold as it was opened and closed so many times over the years.

But… what was it? A fisherman’s house/smallholding that finally had to be abandoned to the sea. We thought that it might just be an outbuilding but it was a good dwelling with white plastered walls with perhaps the workshops and store buildings for the business behind. There was certainly much more here than we imagined and a lot we never saw. We must go to the Dorset History Centre and look through the land tax assessments for Burton Bradstock to see whether we can match this place to a tenement or croft in the late 18th century.

The Hive Beach building. We take away our memories, drawings and photos and leave you to the sea.

The Hive Beach building. We take away our memories, drawings and photos and leave you to the sea.

What will become of it…? We debated today whether to leave the site open and many people would like to have continued to see it.. but in the end we thought it best to backfill the site because it would soon start to decay and look a mess. We’ll use photos and a reconstruction drawing to put on an information board and place it on Fisherman’s Green (apparently that’s what the site’s called). The wall and fireplace of the building will be left exposed until the sea takes it..

Back to the office tomorrow.

Rain, Rain…Rain

Only Kate, Mike and me on site today.

I carried on drawing and Kate and Mike finished off removing the collapsed plaster and rubble above the flagstone floor.

The flagstone floor after Kate and Mike lifted the collapsed plaster. The rain brings the colours out in the section so the different layers of soil stand out.

The flagstone floor after Kate and Mike lifted the collapsed plaster. The rain brings the colours out in the section so the different layers of soil stand out.

Chris came with his class of community archaeologists and said hello. Maisie popped over to give us moral support but it wasn’t a day for too much conversation unless it was in the Hive Beach Cafe with a mug of hot chocolate.

We started with light rain and finished the day with a lot more. We draw using 6H pencils on a plastic film permatrace..which is ‘dimensionally stable’ (doesn’t crinkle when it gets wet) but on a wet day the pencil marks smudge and the mud comes off your hands onto the film. You don’t want to hear about it. Not a good thing when we are running out of time.

In frustration, I mattocked the section to reveal a doorway and a flagstone threshold, cleaned it up and stopped for lunch.

Taking the section line back 0.4m revealed a 2m wide doorway into the flagstone room. The line of the partition wall (probably a timber frame, wattle and daub with white plaster facing) can be seen on the left.

Taking the section line back 0.4m revealed a 2m wide doorway into the flagstone room. The line of the partition wall (probably a timber frame, wattle and daub with white plaster facing) can be seen on the left.

Kate and Mike had lifted the collapsed reed and plaster which had fallen on the flagstones over 200 years ago. Sealed beneath was a fragment of earthenware with a purple glaze.

In the afternoon, I marked up the plan and we took levels to provide relative heights across the site. Writing in pencil on soggy paper as biros are obstinate in water.

We then called it a day, met Sarah at the farm shop and took the landrover up to Hardown Hill. Kate is researching a PhD on burial practice in the 5th-7th century AD and Hardown is special. An Anglo-Saxon group of burial mounds in west Dorset. Well, the only one. The nearest equivalent site is over 30 miles away. Curious.. a boat load of invaders too far?

Hardown Hill finding rare Anglo-Saxon barrows in West Dorset under the heather and gorse

Hardown Hill finding rare Anglo-Saxon barrows in West Dorset under the heather and gorse

The heather and gorse will be cut before the site is surveyed. We found the earthworks and marked the area with posts. Got even more wet and went home. Last day tomorrow.

What a diference a day makes!

Day eight, sand blasted and frayed lips! My last day on site as I pass the baton on to Martin to finish all the drawing and pondering about the site 🙂

The day started with a welcome to new volunteers Alison and Vaughn and the return of Fay. Rob hoped his plants in his garden would survive without watering, as he decided to stay another day. We sectioned off an area we were going to leave unexcavated and concentrated on digging the layers down to the, hopefully, flagged floor along the back of the wall and down the sides.

The start of the day

The start of the day

Lots of differen phases of walls at the east end of the site

Lots of different phases of walls at the east end of the site

As the day went on there was an amazing transformation as new levels of floors and small rooms appeared, not many finds, apart from a few small pieces of pottery on the very top of the floor.

Excaliber!  sadly just a large door hinge

Excalibur! sadly just a large door hinge

I managed to do a bit of digging and found Excalibur!  well it’s  probably a large hinge, I have done a long stint on site and I may have got carried away!

As the remains of the plaster and reed partition is lifted we can hope for a few sealed finds underneath, there is always hope!

So much to work out and so little time!

East end of the site with different levels of floor and small partitioned rooms

East end of the site with different levels of floor and small partitioned rooms

West end of the site, with half the floor cleaned off and the fallen plaster and reed wall covering the rest. Some of the plaster is still in place.

West end of the site, with half the floor cleaned off and the fallen plaster and reed wall covering the rest. Some of the plaster is still in place.

The recording and scale drawing gathers pace 🙂

Scale drawing of the uncovered walls

Scale drawing of the uncovered walls

Walls, walls, walls!

Day seven, sunny and lots of buckets and spades and not just on the dig! We have spent the day digging out the sandy soil and revealing the walls and the paved area. We left the WWII area for now as we need to get more information about the building.

Walls on the east side

Walls on the east side

The paved area carries on

The paved area carries on

The back of a reed and plaster stud wall sat on top of the paving

The back of a reed and plaster stud wall sat on top of the paving

End of the day

End of the day

Crazy paving

Day six on the beach, sunny and hot, the start of the Bank holiday weekend and half term. The holiday makers were out on the beach, lots of ice creams and wind breaks.

Veiw across the site, everyone hard at work in the sunshine

View across the site, everyone hard at work in the sunshine

Masiey with her yummy cake, it did not last long.

Maisy with her yummy cake, it did not last   long.

Meanwhile on the dig we welcomed Maisy and Kate to the dig team, Maisy had baked us a cake! very yummy 🙂

masiey with a handle from a WWII mug

maisy with a handle from a WWII mug

The WWII rubbish pit carried on producing more bottles, brushes and rusty iron, Maisy found part of a badge, the letters RA in bronze.

A Brylcream bottle, brushes and a Brilliantine bottle.

A Brylcream bottle, brushes and probably a Brilliantine bottle.

The remains of the 18th century building expanded, with boundary walls appearing and best of all, what we hoped for, a well paved area behind the back wall. There also seems to be another building in the ‘yard’, it may even be part of a lean-to, we need to reveal more to get the whole picture. Rob found a large fragment of salt glazed stoneware pottery right on top of the ‘yard’ stones, so good dating when we research it a bit more.

Boundary wall appearing in the section

Boundary wall appearing in the section

The paved 'yard' at the back of the building

The paved ‘yard’ at the back of the building

What a load of rubbish!

Day five on the windy Dorset coast, with sand in our eyes, hair and ears the National Trust working holiday group reach their last day. The group have worked very hard to get as much excavated as possible, I cannot thank them enough.

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Again the girls and the boys worked at opposite ends of the site, the boys in the late 18th century and the girls in the 1940s!

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The rubbish pit produced mugs, plates, bottles, tin cans and a toothbrush! The plate gave us a good date 1943 written on the base and we had two fancy art deco type Brylcream jars, I think we are starting to build a good picture of the guys who dug the hole seventy years ago!

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Susie found a hoard of bottles and an enamel water flask.

Alison found the mugs, and Kathleen a drinks bottle.

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At three o clock the rain came but so did the chocolate cake 🙂 everyone left with warm glows and full tummies 🙂

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Hail smiling morn…

Day four and we are all still digging! A cold day for May, with showers and hail, so we did a lot of cleaning up our loose and running for shelter. Even with this yo-yo day we have managed to dig out a lot more of the site. A bright point in the day came when we added up our afternoon tea fund, it’s now ÂŁ2.31! so we ordered the chocolate cake for tomorrow 🙂

Today it was the boys in the west versus the girls in the east, the boys clearing rubble, the girls in what we thought was rubble and finds free sandy loam.

Wall colapse rubble clearing

Wall collapse rubble clearing

Girls in the east, digging sandy loam

Girls in the east, digging sandy loam

Millie and Kathleen finished the room clearing and then tackled the fireplace, as you can see in the picture the remains of the last fire was still in the grate!

Fireplace before cleaning

Fireplace before cleaning

Millie and Kathleen - a job well done!

Millie and Kathleen – a job well done!

Now back to the sandy loam the girls were digging, first they came across more ironwork and then we had confirmation that we had a World War II dump when four spent (thankfully!) machine gun shells popped out!

spent shells

spent shells