Open day, a few conclusions

Thanks to all who came to our open day today. We gave tours around the excavations to 150 people, and showed finds, gave conclusions and generally discussed archaeology. It was good to see the Mayor of Hillingdon come along – he almost had time to dig. Thanks to Lesley and the friends for opening up the stables and dovecote, and to Jill and Nick for additional tours and specialist input. If everyone who came today volunteers next year, we could dig everything!


What do I think we have found? Well…we have a land surface cut into in order to build a house recorded in documents as Hopkyttes. This land surface contained finds from c. 1100-1200 AD, so the house must be later than that. The house had a chimney inserted into the end wall, so I’m thinking that the first build was 13th century,  with the chimney added in the 14th.

a portrait of our dumpy level (thanks Jill)
a portrait of our dumpy level (thanks Jill)

I am not yet convinced that Hopkyttes remained when Eastcote House was built in the late 16th century. It looks as though the ground was levelled to make a flat building surface, with around 250 tons of ground dumped downhill of the House. These dumped layers contain finds from the 11th to 16th centuries, and were overlain by a gravel drive leading up from the High Road. At the end of the day, we found a pit, buried by all the made ground. We have some pottery from th fill of the pit: it might be from the Iron Age, but I need an expert to look at it. Oh, and clean it too.

Our last trench this year has archaeological remains of the gardens. Gravel paths, grassed areas and a flowerbed have been identified, with wheel ruts from a lorry visible. That is probably a lorry from the 1965 demolition.

I’m going to post until we have backfilled all our trenches, so keep an eye on yr computer, because it may not be every day.

Here, at the end of all things, is a pit below made up ground
Here, at the end of all things, is a pit below made up ground

What you see is what there is

Another day in paradise on the AOC/ HLF/ Hillingdon council archaeological dig at Eastcote House Gardens. We achieved what we were aiming for today. If you have been reading the blog or digging on site, you will know that we would like to date our medieval remains of the house named as Hopkyttes. We excavated some ground that was associated with the house, and it contained pottery made in or around 1150-1250 AD, so we could put the date of Hopkyttes to the  13th  century. We now think that we can define the front/ back door, one external corner, and the base of a chimney stack that was inserted into the building – maybe in the 15th century. North of the house, we have a large dump of mixed medieval and Tudor period finds, with pieces of broken pottery including cooking pots, storage jars and tableware.  We have a couple of broken knives, tiles from a fireplace, and evidence of residents’ dinners, including oysters, lamb,  mutton and beef. This is from ground either filling a large pit,  or is widespread landscaping when Eastcote House was built at the end of the 16th century. That’s the days when the High Road was the main route; Eastcote now is focussed on the roads around the station, but a few ancient houses still exist here by the River Pinn. Open day tomorrow, and we’re a little bit sad to be stopping digging tomorrow, but happy because there should be more next year, and all our volunteers have been so friendly. So, thanks to all: I’m going to forget some of your names, it’s not deliberate. I think we had over 70 adults and 150 school pupils. Ummm,  Coteford School, Field End School, Chiltern Young Archaeologist Club, home schoolers, Challenge Network…Trevor, Ron, Val, Colin, Christine, Christine, Rosemary, Rosemary, Debbie, Denise, Irene,  Frances, Glenys, Sue and Julie,

Melanie and Jordan, Linda, Jerry, Paul, Ken, Norma, John, Kim, Jess, Nigel, Janet, Jack and Rosie, Kevin, Andy, David,…all the kids who came and dragged their parents.

  Lesley and Keith from the friends, Nick the manager and Alex from the cafe, AOC Nick, Jill, Lucy, Gemma and Matt. And you, for reading this.

Three hard workers
Three hard workers
The last volunteer left..,
The last volunteer left..,

Have they found anything?

And now, the end is near. Sunday is the Open Day, with training on Saturday on research, maps, and desk-based assessments. Matt will be describing how to get the most from historical and archaeological archives.

This time, one

of the most common questions that I am asked is ‘have they found anything?’ To which I start my answer with ‘We have found…’ , until the visitors have heard enough. We have found lots of foundations of old buildings, and lots of finds, from ancient flint tools to bottle tops. And we have a coin! A 1968 10p piece! It’s not legal tender any more. These new ones are small.



Today we got lots of medieval pottery from the ground that is earlier than Hopkyttes; some of it may be 11th or 12th century. A specialist will look at the pottery finds, and provide dating evidence,

In our Eastcote House trench, we have located the end of the cellar. Which was nice.

Grey soil, grey walls
Grey soil, grey walls

and of course, Hopkyttes is still there, we are going to leave it there and cover it over. Thanks to all our volunteers, so glad you’re here.

Hopkyttes again
Hopkyttes again

Hopkyttes…HopsKyttes…Hops Cut?


Only a couple of days left on the dig, before our open day. Volunteer Ron brought us a copy of Eileen Bowlt’s book today, and that has most of the history of the site, as far as is known. Much of the synthesis of the results of past research suggests that the medieval cottage called Hopkyttes on site was not demolished, but was enlarged by occupants over the centuries. I am yet to be convinced, so when we are done, we shall overlay our plans of the foundations with the RCHME survey of 1936, and see what corresponds. One of our early phase foundations has a shape that is typical of a chimney, but this seems inserted into a flint wall. That is fine; as I understand it, proper fireplaces and chimneystacks did not become common until the later medieval period, so we would expect to see such an insertion. Again, if the 1936 shows a fireplace in this exact location, I think this would prove the continued presence of the medieval cottage into Eastcote House, although much hidden.

We have been excavating an archaeological layer associated with the construction of Eastcote House, to get some good dating evidence for the eastern end. Nothing tightly dated yet, but no porcelain, so that piece is probably before 1780-ish.

Our trench north of the house, with all the rubble continues to yield archaeological treasures: window glass, 12th-15th century pottery, pale blue glazed hearth bricks, food items, and household finds. if you want to see our best finds, we will be having a table display at the Open Day on Sunday. Saturday being a popular day for visitors we will also be having some finds on view on Saturday. I think we are due some beavers on Saturday. Let’s hope they don’t nibble the trees…also on Saturday, our AOC colleague Matt will be doing a training session on research, archives, old maps, that sort of thing. all are welcome to join in!

Thanks to our volunteers, its great having a dozen every day. we have lost three of our mainstays to holiday today, but we have gained three others, so that is good.

And now what could Hopkyttes actually mean? We have one principal piece of knowledge: the area was called Well Green in the medieval period, and the site borders the High Road, now quite sparsely populated with buildings, but it seems that there were cottages along the High Road, only one of which was Hopkyttes, others may have stood on land within what is now the gardens of Eastcote House. Oh, and locals will know that the Pinn floods in periods of high rainfall, so perhaps the cottages would be located above a certain high water mark.

Sorry, wandering off at a tangent.

So, there are two word elements, ‘Hop’ and ‘Kyttes’. Hop could have a couple of meanings: to leap/ cross, or the beer ingredient, Hops. Actually, the 1494 document names the site as HopsKyttes. So at the moment I’m thinking hops as in beer.

Kyttes is a bit more open to interpretation. Kit or kite? The young of badgers, rabbits and cats are kittens or kits. A kite is a bird. I was reading a medieval recipe that included the instruction to kytte the vegetables into small pieces (cut). Is this cut as in harvest (hops?), cut as in a valley – apparently Welsh dialect of going up the cut for going up the valley. is it someones name? someone suggested that it is a word for a sheep….right now we don’t know.

Can we have a time machine please?


another perfect day

We had it all today: sunshine, showers, volunteers, youngsters, medieval finds, ?Saxon? finds, ?Roman? finds, a further extent of our Hopkyttes remains, and a journey home enlivened by the fun of  a strike on London Underground. So I haven’t got the right cable to download and attach a picture today. I can add them in tomorrow.

Our Hopkyttes trench has revealed the maximum extent of a medieval building, as far as can be excavated, given the effects of Eastcote House cellars, and limited by mature trees/ shrubs which we are not going to remove. I suspect that the holly bush may be a bit prickly to go near anyway. The remaining foundations describe quite an irregular shape in plan, but we will look at our books on medieval houses, and see how what we have found fits with the local secular style. Of course, if Hopkyttes never went away, but was just enlarged, with the gradual demolition of all internal walls, that could explain the odd arrangement of foundations, and their loss.

There is a reference I’ve seen, regarding the use of a timber from Eastcote House in the great barn at Ruislip, which was thought, in 1965, to predate 1510. I’m hoping volunteer Ron will bring in a copy of Eileen Bowlt’s The Goodliest Place in Middlesex tomorrow for us to pore over, for additional clues regarding the site of Hopkyttes. Or, Ms. Bowlt will arrive and amaze us with her knowledge.

Our trench nearby to the house continues to amaze and surprise, and now we surmise one of several possibilities to what is going on. We have a large spread of brick, tile and stone in the trench, associated with Tudor, Medieval, and possibly Saxon pottery. there is also old window glass, and a piece of pottery that looks Roman. This is where our finds specialists will prove their worth (hi Lucy). Saxon pottery sherds can look very similar to prehistoric ones, so we need to confirm their date. What could this indicate? 1) possibly the remains of Hopkyttes scattered before Eastcote House was built, 2) a dump of material used to infill an enormous pit, or 3), historic layers from the site used as made ground to terrace the site, enhancing the slope down to the River Pinn, and resulting in a general mix of stratigraphy. we will find out tomorrow and Friday.

Best find of the day was a Nuremberg jetton (an accounting token), found by Rosemary in this trench, within dumped or infilled ground. I’m not sure of the date, but it is probably sometime around the 16th century. It was near the top of one of our features.

Remember, it’s Open Day on Sunday. We will do tours round the dig as regularly as numbers of visitors require. I lost count last year! Something like 240 people on the actual tours, plus others just popping in to look at the finds.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

What does this signify?
What does this signify?

Hello everyone!

Clearly, time flies when you’re having fun,  and today, we couldn’t believe that it was time to stop. Our trench with the building remains in is getting bigger, whist we uncover more walls of what is probably the medieval Hopkyttes. The foundations are looking irregular in plan, and Colin (thanks for the concept) has suggested that Hopkyttes refers to several properties. I hope time will tell.

In our second trench, our feature next to the gravel surface contains quite a few household finds, but the more we dig, the more medieval pot we have. We are also uncovering some rather intriguing rubble. Let’s see what hapoens. Four days left before the open day, all welcome, with family and friends.

It’s getting better all the time

Our second Sunday, and time to assume all followers have read the other posts, so I’ll just dive in there. We are confident that we have the remains of the medieval property called Hopkyttes. We think it lies under the east wing of Eastcote House,  and was a building with a doorway in the north wall,  and possibly a window in the west. I think that at least half of the foundations were cut away when the cellars of Eastcote House were built.

These cellars were excavated into clay, and the upcast clay dumped over the former landscape, including a gravel drive off the High Road. This route is visible in one trench.

We have also washed and assessed our first week’s finds, and we will need some specialist input to identify some pottery which is of either Saxon or Bronze Age date. We also need some flint looked at, three flints may be tools; a broken axe, a scraper and a fishing spearhead. If these are genuine prehistoric articles, then we have to acceotthat there was prehistoric occupation of the site. Now all we need are post holes from a roundhouse.

We are having Monday off, then back on Tuesday. Let’s hope for at least 10 volunteers each day.

Here is  a picture of Nick, Debbie, Trevor and me on site. If anyone can post up a suitable caption, feel free.

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summertime…and the living is archaeology

We had a super Saturday today. Lots of finds, lots of visitors,  and Lucy conducted a training day on post excavation and finds. We had so many visitors that were fascinated by what we are excavating, that some promised to come back tomorrow. One really good thing was last night’s storm. The lightning was amazing,  the thunder constant,  and the rain softened up some of the ground just right. Our foundations look good, clean and fresh after the rain.

Foundations, archaeologists, what more could we want?
Foundations, archaeologists, what more could we want?
Rosemary is hiding, but I can see her hat.
Rosemary is hiding, but I can see her hat.

All our trenches continue. One appears to have tarden features and gravel paths, with planting pits. The school groups have been concentrating on that one.

Our second trench: still a bit of a mystery, but I’m going with a gravel surface, with a large shallow pit next to it. The fill probably dates to the 16th century, there is a good bit of rubble, but nothing big.

We also continue with our trench with the foundations. As we dig, we should uncover more remains. We have a week left before the open day on the 12th July. Put that date in your diary. It’s the Wimbledon men’s final, but you could always visit beforehand,  see some archaeology, and have a cup of tea, then another one.

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

It’s the end of the first week,  and I thought I would review the finds that the volunteers have excavated. When we excavate, we use numbers to identify different archaeological layers, and then the finds can provide a date for each event.

The objects that we find are broken or disused things that were lost or thrown away. These are pieces of pottery,  glass,  tobacco pipe, iron, building material,  and dietary remains such as bone and shellfish. Our training sessions tomorrow are all about finds and post-excavation analysis.

Once the finds are clean, we can give an accurate date of manufacture, when they are first seen, and are muddy fragments, we are more approximate. The pottery spans 2,000 years, if I’m right: 2 Roman pieces, 1 Saxon, 4 medieval, 20 Tudor, 20 18th century and 20 Victorian pieces.

We have lots of window glass from Eastcote House,  a lot of broken 18th century wine bottles, and some window glass that may be Tudor in date.

There are virtually no clay tobacco pipes from the dig, perhaps the residents did not smoke,

The iron finds comprise nails, lumps, hinges, and one coat hook.

The building material is mostly roof tile, brick from the 16th century to now, and occasional stone.

Now for some pictures of finds. I’m waiting for tomorrow, waiting for the sun. Again!

Mostly 18th century glass
Mostly 18th century glass
These may be 16th century (not the newspaper)
These may be 16th century (not the newspaper)


Onwards, downward we go, and we are at that point when the more we dig, the less sense it makes. We revealed some foundations last year that we think are the remains of a known medieval house at Eastcote called Hopkyttes.  Yesterday, an area of flint rubble looked lke the corner of a building, with walls continuing in two directions. Digging today now suggests that one of the areas may be external, which makes what we thought was inside is actually the outside. Of course, maybe one of the walls is an internal division.  At the moment, it’s all open to interpretation.

So, if our new thinking is correct, our second trench this year may show further parts of Hopkyttes, lying on the ground towards the River Pinn. An area of gravel could therefore be a forecourt,  the ground next to it possibly the result of a removed building, levelled off afterwards.


Gravel surface on the left
Gravel surface on the left

We have had six classes from Coteford Junior School over the last two days. Thanks to all the staff and pupils who joined in. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves; we had rain and hot sun. perhaps some of these pupils will become archaeologists!

Waiting for tomorrow!