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.

IMG_5326

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

 

Day 11 – 21 today, 21 today…..

The last full day of digging as dawned and its all hands to the pump to get to the bottom of the bath house and gather the last ounce of information from all the trenches.

Eileen set to work in the Buckeye tree trench next to the cross passage ‘buttress’ her task was to find out what was happening next to the wall were the soil changed colour.

Eileen cleaning the last of the upper dark soil from the trench

Eileen cleaning the last of the upper dark soil from the trench

Eileen soon popped up to alert us to the answer,  a very large stone in the corner where the ‘buttress’ meets the corridor wall of the north range.

A very happy Eileen

A very happy Eileen

The top of the large stone on the right of the picture, with the 'buttress' wall to the right of the stone

The top of the large stone on the right of the picture, with the ‘buttress’ wall to the right of the stone

Carol was joined by John and Les in the mosaic trench to finish checking if the mosaics were in good condition.

Les enjoying revealing mosaic after a couple of days in the sticky clay Nymphaeum tench

Les enjoying revealing mosaic after a couple of days in the sticky clay Nymphaeum trench

Once again we travel past the bath house trench (more later :-)) up to the Nymphaeum  trench and Peter who has been gallantly digging through the sticky clay to find the  probably roman culvert from the Nymphaeum  spring. It looks like all his hard work has been successful, under the three metal pipes the wall continues and seems to be forming the sides of a stone culvert.

Peter determined to reach the roman culvert

Peter determined to reach the roman culvert

The probable roman stone culvert wall to the right of the pipes

The probable roman stone culvert wall to the right of the pipes

Now back down the steps to the bath house trench, were Fay and Rob are working hard to get to the bottom of the hypocaust pilae (the pillars that the floor sat on, so the hot air could circulate around)  and find what kind of floor is under them.

Rob and Fay working round the pilae to find the floor

Rob and Fay working round the pilae to find the floor

They were joined in the trench by our colleague Claudine, a National Trust archaeologist from Wales.

Claudine happy to be back in a trench digging

Claudine happy to be back in a trench digging

Steve and Max returned to give us a hand back filling. We were not ready to do any, so Claudine who needed to stretch her legs offered to let them dig the bit she was doing. Steve went first and within minutes had found a wonderful object under a piece of flue tile.

A roman Key next to another piece of flue tile

A roman Key next to another piece of flue tile

 

A well deserved find Steve, please don't feel guilty Claudine has forgiven you I am sure :-)

A well deserved find Steve, please don’t feel guilty Claudine has forgiven you I am sure 🙂

So the day ended with a fantastic find and Rob and Fay are poised above the floor. Half a digging day left, so it’s an early night for all.

Day 10 – Wow!

Two full digging days left, another hot day, the press coming and lots of roman specialist visiting to see what we have found. Our wonderful volunteers put their heads down and delivered the goods.

In the sticky clay trench next to the Nymphaeum Les and Peter carried on uncovering the water pipes, the lead one looks very Victorian rather than roman and seems to be diving deeper than the iron ones. No sign of any roman culverts yet.

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Harry swapped place with Carol and carried on finding a rough wall in the trench behind the north bath house. This trench is nearly finished as it has provided some answers to the questions that dictated its position.

Harry happy with is work

Harry happy with is work

Moving past the north bath house trench, saving the best till last 🙂 we find the mosaic trench opened up yesterday. Carol has experience digging the mosaics so was put in charge of revealing a lot more, and checking the wall that joins the cross passage corridor. Jeannette and Mike joined her on the quest and as you can see found the white and red border just like we found in  the opposite  corner a few years ago.

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Its great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike

It’s great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike. Great job Mike

Oh! the next trench behind the buttress under the Buckeye tree again provided a wow!  Kerry and Jackie were tasked with removing the dark layer in this trench, Martin had already removed this at one end and found a cut line, were one side is lighter and more yellow than the other. He found some pottery including part of a mortarium- for grinding ingredients for cooking. This trench had already produced the large roman coin and  now produced a very small roman coin! Kerry did a great job spotting this small minim especially with martin watching!

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

The coin –  dates to the 270s on fist look, we had three roman coin specialist on site today, including one who was a visitor from the Netherlands. It’s so small the picture is a bit blurry and I could not hold the camera still enough.

The coin - the spiky crown is know as a radiate

The coin – the spiky crown is known as a radiate

Now back to the bath house trench were the guys have been working hard in the hot conditions to get to the bottom of the rubble and plaster, to find if there is a floor from the earlier 2nd century room. Rob found a large iron object which looks like a wall tie of some kind but when lifted it appears to be more interesting but we will have to get it x-rayed to see its original shape.

Rob's iron object

Rob’s iron object

Last but not least ….Fay had been working for a few days digging past a large stone that would not budge and was in the way. She had found a few large building stones already and thought this would be the same. But it soon showed it was out of the ordinary as she removed more of the rubble layer. I think the pictures say it all but just in case here is what every one exclaimed WOW!!

A view from above

A view from above

A side view of the piece of column

A side view of the piece of column

The last full digging day looms and as the law of archaeology proclaims everything is found on the last day…………..

Day 8 and 9 – Plaster, plaster everywhere and some iron and mosaic!

Due to technical difficulties it’s a bumper edition of the blog 🙂 Day 8 turned into a day of recording, with walls and sections to draw in some of the smaller trenches and the other trenches that are still being dug, had a lovely clean up for photos. Not a lot of fresh digging was done and that that was involved more plaster and ‘little cubes of loveliness’ aka tesserae.

Lovely colourful wall plaster

Lovely colourful wall plaster

Day 9 was an early start as some filming was being done for a documentary about the National Trust. We also had a small section of turf to start lifting to see if there was any mosaic under the turf next to the main north range corridor. We started with a couple of turfs being removed to see what depth the hoped for mosaic was at. Hurray it was there, large whitish and smaller white tesserae of the border of the main entrance room. It did not survive across the whole piece we did but hopefully we will have time to check a larger area.

The small area of mosaic next to the fresh hold stones of the north range corridor

The small area of mosaic next to the threshold stones of the north range corridor

In the north bath house trench loose tesserae hindered the digging, we ended the day with three seed trays piled high with them. The painted wall plaster is still being found, but with no time to check each piece we are waiting for our finds cleaners to have the eureka! moment when they clean of the mud and a face or animal stares back.

A lump of mortar with the ghost lines of the tesserae that have fallen off and lie in the hole it came from

A lump of mortar with the ghost lines of the tesserae that have fallen off and lie in the hole it came from

We have had our first metal objects from the bath house trench a couple if T shaped and L shaped nails/brackets, there are also very small fragments of probable knife blades as well.

L shaped iron object 'a very fine example of its type' as we say when not very sure of what it is!

L shaped iron object ‘a very fine example of its type’ as we say when not very sure of what it is!

More metal was found in the Nymphaeum in the form of water pipes, there were three next to each other, two iron ones and a lead one. Sadly all look to be 20th century. But tomorrow the guys in the trench will be digging around and down to find if the original roman culvert is under these pipes.

Harry cleaning the pipes so we can record them

Harry cleaning the pipes so we can record them

Carol has been slogging away often on her own in the trench below the Nymphaeum one, just behind the wall of the bath house. She has been looking for walls and may have a new one to record. Her best find today was part of an iImbrex which is the curved tile that sat on the join between tegula, the large clay tiles of the roof.

Carol happy with her large piece of imbrex

Carol happy with her large piece of imbrex

We had a treat for lunch, Sue the historic en-actor set up her roman kitchen and we were able to sample her roman creations from bread salad to sweet toast and something with the fish sauce they fermented called garum all very tasty 🙂

Sue and her yummy tempations

Sue and her yummy temptations

Tune in tomorrow to see if we finally find the floor in the north bath house ….

 

 

 

 

Day Six – Saturday sunshine and showers

After such a wet day yesterday, we were hoping that the site would dry out so some trenches could be cleaned up and recorded. As the day progressed it became clear that this was not an option for all!

Fay testing the mud to see of its workable, conclusion time for coffee!

Fay testing the mud to see of its workable, conclusion – time for coffee!

Thankfully the north bath house trench was dry enough to work in so all spare hands were moved to this trench and the top two behind the bath house.

Fay in the dry even the waterproofs are removed

Fay in the dry even the waterproofs are removed

We managed to get some work done between the showers. Lots more plaster is appearing in larger and larger chunks, I think I have underestimated how many boxes we need to transport it for post excavation work when we finish, I may need to hire a large truck!

Day Four – So it begins …..

We are well and truly into the roman layers today, in the cross passage trench Tony found the original roman foundation trenches for the walls. They show up as darker strips of brown/black  soil against the yellowish surface.

The original wall foundation trenches are in front of Tony and to his right

The original wall foundation trenches are in front of Tony at the bottom of the photo just above the wall and to his right

In the bath house trench the painted plaster is appearing in large dumps, when cleaned of it is mainly painted white with some red stripes and some yellow patches. This is the top of a very deep layer of plaster. We hope to find lower down more designs and patterns.

Rob and Tony cleaning down to reveal the plaster

Rob and Tony cleaning down to reveal the plaster

The plaster cleaned and ready to be lifted so we can find more underneath!

The plaster cleaned and ready to be lifted so we can find more underneath!

More from underneath the white with red stripe pieace

More from underneath the white with red stripe piece

The small unassuming trench next to the cross passage trench but over the wall, produced the exciting find of a coin and this time a roman one! Jan and John found a large oyster shell and when they picked it up Jan spotted a green round thing – the coin.

Word spread, and crowds gathered as the coin reveled its Emperor in his full bearded  glory!

Jan with her coin, red peg marks the spot

Jan with her coin, red peg marks the spot

Roger a volunteer and coin expert had a look and gave us this identification –

‘Galerius 305-311AD co-emperor with Diocletian and Maximianus, its minted in London and is a reform ‘Follis’ on the reverse is Genius’

The obverse of coin

The obverse of coin

The reverse of the coin

The reverse of the coin

Rain is forecast for the fifth day so it waterproofs out and an expectation of getting very muddy!

Sewage and the Infirmary at Lacock Abbey

Sorry to have to mention this but there has long been a problem with sewage at Lacock Abbey.

Looking north. Lacock's 2008 south park and monastic church resistivity survey in action . Meg and Tony are standing on the church site which became a Tudor garden beneath Fox Talbot's ornate 19th century windows.These windows were built into the monastic church cloister wall. The T junction of paths in the photo can be seen as blue bands on the resistivity plot (next image). The narrower path leads through a door beneath the smaller window into the cloisters.

Looking north. Lacock’s 2008 south park and monastic church resistivity survey in action . Meg and Tony are standing on the church site which became a Tudor garden beneath Fox Talbot’s ornate 19th century windows.These windows were built into the monastic church cloister wall. The T junction of paths in the photo can be seen as blue bands on the resistivity plot (next image). The narrower path leads through a door beneath the smaller window into the cloisters.

We thought it had been sorted out in 1995 (and there was good archaeological recording then) but the River Avon often floods in winter and at such times the system isn’t up to the job. When the Abbey was built in the 13th century…. it was a lovely setting beside the river but to be honest it’s too low lying. The people who built the village on the higher ground knew that. When Ella Countess of Salisbury came to build her nunnery, the locals may have shaken their heads…good meadow land but don’t you know it’s on a flood plain!

Our resistivity plot is full of detail. Top is north and the blue upper edge of the image is the Abbey with other unsurveyable paths and walls as parallel bands of blue. To orientate you to the last photo, the doorway to the left of Meg leading to the cloisters is the narrow vertical blue line top centre. Below this across the broader blue path is a circular feature,once a 17th century cut at its lower edge by the early 18th century garden wall, a very thin blue line with the Tudor garden paths and boundary wall, now under parkland grass visible further down the plot. The old London Road is the wide feature running from right to left across the bottom of the plot. The sewage pipe route ran along right edge of the plot and curved to run along the bottom edge. It was routed to avoid the detail of the Tudor garden and run along the road but found a Tudor culvert and clipped the corner of the garden wall beside the London Road.

Our resistivity plot is full of detail. Top is north and the blue upper edge of the image is the Abbey with other unsurveyable paths and walls as parallel bands of blue. To orientate you to the last photo, the doorway to the left of Meg leading to the cloisters is the narrow vertical blue line top centre. Below this across the broader blue path is a circular feature,once a 17th century fountain cut at its lower edge by the early 18th century garden wall, shown as a very thin blue line with the Tudor garden paths and boundary wall, now under parkland grass visible further down the plot. The old London Road is the wide feature running from right to left across the bottom of the plot. The sewage pipe route ran along the bottom edge skirting the parkland tree(which is the small blue hole in the lower left of the plot) and then curved round to the right to run along the edge of the plot . The trench was routed to avoid the detail of the Tudor garden.

One of the wonderful things about Lacock is that so much of the medieval structure survives. William Sharrington, who got the Abbey after the 1530s Dissolution, didn’t need the great monastic church so he knocked it down but he kept the cloisters and incorporated much of the dining room, dormitory, chapter house etc. in his new grand home.

The start of the pipeline on the east side of the Abbey where the old sewage works were. A medieval carved stone marking the point were the infirmary wall and drain were found.

The start of the pipeline on the east side of the Abbey where the old sewage works were. A medieval carved stone marking the point were the infirmary wall and drain were found.

The infirmary’s gone though. There’s just a passage from the cloisters into the east park with its name on. This was where the sick and the elderly nuns were cared for somewhere near the site of the modern sewage works.

So, in linking the Abbey sewage plant on its east side, to the village on the west, the new trench had to cross the park and follow the east and south sides of the Abbey. This was a minefield of archaeology ..and one does ones best to avoid cutting through it.. but the trench was bound to hit something.

We knew about the infirmary on the east and William Sharrington’s Tudor garden on the south. Both areas had been surveyed using geophysics and using this and all other available evidence Nathan plotted the route. Closer to the Abbey to avoid the Infirmary and swinging further south to skirt the garden.

It was bound to hit something, Lacock’s archaeologists Jane and Tony watched the work as it progressed and halted the excavation when necessary to record everything that came to light.

Lacock from the south west the trench skirting the parkland tree, the corner of the Tudor garden was just clipped by the trench before the pipeline continued round to the east skirting the 18th century bastion wall which separates Abbey and Park.

Lacock from the south west the trench skirting the parkland tree, the corner of the Tudor garden was just clipped by the trench before the pipeline continued round to the east skirting the 18th century bastion wall which separates Abbey and Park.

I visited before backfilling. Holes in the ground…if they can’t be avoided, are great opportunities to see and touch the story of a place and Lacock’s story is a fine one. A morning walk along the trench from the village and then to the south. Quiet along the line of the old London Road and then cutting behind a parkland tree the trench curved towards the east and clipped the very edge of the SE corner of outer Tudor garden courtyard. Nicely built, it gave reality to the ornate plan we had revealed by resisitivity in 2008. Just beyond this, the digger had clipped the lid of a deep 16th century culvert heading south from the Abbey. I turned the corner marked by the stone wall of the early 18th century garden bastion and followed the trench along the east side.

The corner of the Tudor garden exposed on the south side of the Abbey a couple of weeks ago.

The corner of the Tudor garden exposed on the south side of the Abbey a couple of weeks ago.

There were Jane and Tony in the distance, most of the trench had exposed debris… waste picked over and discarded, that Sharrington had spread out across the park and garden during his great alteration from a religious institution to a grand country home.

Tony showed me the infirmary wall, a wide, fine ashlar stone structure. Here there was much medieval pottery, oyster shells and bones from meals that had once been eaten by the monastic community. One metal object was decorated with curving lines inlaid with silver, perhaps a pendant but Jane is looking for comparisons.

A copper alloy decorated 'pendant' found close to the Abbey Infirmary.

A copper alloy decorated ‘pendant’ found close to the Abbey Infirmary.

Beside the wall, there was another stone structure. To lay the pipe, the top stones had to be moved but there was enough space to send a camera down. It was a beautifully made drain… presumably nobody had glimpsed its interior for 700 years.

Photo along the the 13th century monastic drain revealed beside the infirmary. The last person to see this was probably the medieval builder.

Photo along the the 13th century monastic drain revealed beside the infirmary. The last person to see this was probably the medieval builder.

I went on to the Lacock meeting. I was late.. looking down holes Martin they said. Take the opportunity, I encouraged them, it’s a great hole.