A busy day finishing things off. The excavation was almost over. Polly took the last of the rubble infill out of the south west corner trench and found a dark soily layer immediately above the lime ash basement floor. This had more personal things in it such as a tobacco pipe bowl and a couple of pieces of tea cup, white with a red line pattern. Then the site was polished for photos. Levels were taken across the site and the the finds were sorted and assembled in large labelled plastic boxes.
The sun came out and the lion made an entrance by popular demand and a small crowd gathered around it. We ran out of National Trust Archaeology badges and I rushed around drawing and Anthony helped out. Doug and Michael cleaned trench E, it was photographed planned then backfilled. The other trenches will be left for the next few weeks for visitors to see.
So what did we discover from the last 5 days about a building demolished almost 100 years ago. We delved beneath a blank gravel area with a palm tree at its centre defined by low stone walls… and found that there was no surviving decorated floor. It had been well and truly smashed and imploded into the heating basement below.
The stone foundations of the conservatory had then been capped and cemented, with a decorative urn on the south-west corner to make it more of a garden feature.
The clues to the conservatory lay in its sea of rubble and although we recorded the locations of special finds and marked them on the plan, it was a jumble, and objects had been spread around and did not relate closely to their resting place.
There was far more brick and far less ironwork than we had expected and we concluded that materials had been salvaged and the metalwork may have been sent for the WWI war effort. However, the rusting flowers and leaves we found, some with traces of paint, give us a clue to the decoration. Lots of glass, lots of coloured square and triangular ceramic tiles. Some strange bright orange/pink and mauve lumps of material, a few lead cames for fitting round decorative glass, bronze strips for holding sheets of glass in place. Carved edging stones and curved mortar that perhaps held heating pipes in place. Shaped column bases, sheets of render and cement and some moulded fragments of decorative plaster and a couple of pieces of stone tracery. Long strands of wire, perhaps for training plants and of course the lion fragments and our special lion.
A thin brick or stone wall ran 0.4m within and parallel to the main walls and these contained rubble and soil and occasionally stone and brick pads presumably supports for decorative plant containers. Our trench from the centre ‘palm tree’ bed 5m out into the gravel picked up the ring wall which supported the iron columns that rose to support the dome.
At the end of the day we cleared up what the low brick walls were. These short narrow walls were built up from the basement floor. They had been levelled with slate and half bricks to achieve a particular height. The two in the south west trench had shaped curving mortar surviving on top of the brick and from this we concluded that they were for carrying the heated water pipes from the boiler beneath the decorated floor to provide heat to the ‘hot house of desire’.
The finds are stored at the house and will be sorted by material to enable appropriate conservation.
Thanks to everyone who got involved.