Top of The World

Hello and goodbye. our fourth season of archaeology at Eastcote has finished, and thanks to all who worked on the site over the last four years and during the first evaluation trenches in 2012.

We had an Open Day yesterday, and I counted  around 120 people that came on tours around the archaeology, plus countless others peaking to our skeleton staff of excavators, and looking at the finds table.

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Visitors abound

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On our last day we found pieces of a wall tile from c.1700, with an image of a milk maid. I think that our piece is a better image than the one Andy found on line.

Thanks of course to AOC staff who helped over the excavations: Kate, Kylie, Maggie and Lee, this year, Charlie last year, Nick the year before, Andy in 2014,and Chris in 2012. Special thanks to Jill for educating the school groups.

Thanks to Alex and Pete in the Cafe, the friends of EHG generally, Hillingdon Council and the HLF, and Nick P , the manager of Eastcote House Gardens.

Now, I do not have the attendees list with me, but special thanks to every volunteer who helped. Not in any particular order, but Val and Colin come first because they have attended almost every day of the dig overall. It kind of reads like a song! Sorry if I forgot you.

Val, Colin, Rosemary, Trevor, Sue, Sue, Sue.

Anthony and Rosemary, David, David, Dave.

Kevin and Jack, Kevin, Paul and Ken.

Christine, Christine, Christine, Debbie, Denise and Joss,

Charmian, Stuart, Gerry and Jack, Norman, Sarah,

Stuart, Glenys, Ann, Louise, Liz, Norma, Linda and Irene, Moira

David and Melanie, Eve, Mark, Jane and Janet, Sarah, Nuala and Catriana, Simon, Andy, Andy, Louise.

Smrooti, Rita, Brenda, Geoffrina, Steven and Steve, Chris, Richard.

Nigel, Nick, Cathy, Felix and Laura, Frances, Jane again, Richard, Sidney and Jess.

and of course, Ron.

Thanks to the schools to: Coteford Junior, Warrener and Field End, to Chiltern Young Archaeologist Club

As I may have said before, all these moments will be lost, like tears in the rain.

 

Walking on Sunshine

It was the last day of digging and, after yesterday, when we discovered a large pit filled with brick rubble, it was all hands to the pit to determine what it was and why it was.

So typical of the last days of an excavation, the pit was full of finds, and everyone wanted to have a go. Great excitement , as everyone finished tea-break early, and put their heads back into the pit.

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So all very busy, but do our volunteers look happy?

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Behind this happy group are a couple of volunteers excavating a layer of topsoil that was buried by or contemporary with our stone building. In just one hour they filled a finds tray with medieval pottery.

Tomorrow will be our last day, largely an Open Day, from 10am to 2pm or until the last group want to hear about our findings, so probably somewhat later.

Therefore, we had a little nibble of cake and cup of tea at the end of work today. I think everyone can deserve the title of ‘Ace of Spades’. Thanks all.

Les

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Always the Sun

So very very hot!

The weather office promised us rain and even one of the volunteers had an app that said it was raining in Eastcote. IT DID NOT RAIN!

However, we got some water and the classes from Coteford School did a good job of cleaning masonry from the porch, it looks lovely. However, since we had a hose and some water, we were able to damp down some of the soils, which made it a bit easier to excavate.

The building in the meadow is coming on well, we damped that down, and the pebble surface looks a lot better when damp, instead of grey. We also spotted a slot for a wall partition: a beam slot, and have thus proved part of the internal layout of the building. Part had a pebble floor, another part a beaten earth floor.

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The shallow beam slot for a partition, in the building in the meadow. It does not show up very well.

Thanks to our volunteers for sticking at the dig, despite the heat and exhaustion. Just when we thought we had resolved the mysteries of the ancient, Rosemary found a soft spot of soil, and when she removed the soil, a circular area of tiles set on edge. I’m not sure why yet. It is too small to be a hearth, perhaps it is an unusual pad for a post. It may be associated with another, excavated by Colin.

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Tiles set on edge

Only two digging days to go until our Open Day, from 10am until 2pm on Sunday 9th July at Eastcote House Gardens. See you there.

The Heat, the Dust and the Flies

Just to say thanks to all who persisted in today’s heat, it was monstrously hot, but we will miss it if it rains.

And the dust too, the site is so  dry that when we do manage to get the soil excavated, there is a lot of dust.

And the flies? Flying Ant day.

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The Site Even Looks Hot

We have revealed a hole in the ground that is filled with rubble. We are not sure yet whether the rubble has fallen in, pushed in, laid in, or how it got there. Parts do look burned, suggesting that we may have found an oven or similar heated area…maybe the base of a forge; there is clinker and slag among the rubble. Only time will tell, and we are running out of time! There are three digging days left until Open Day on Sunday.

We have processed most of our finds, and are enjoying seeing the spread of dating evidence from the 13th century to the 19th century as only archaeologists can. Our finds team wash and lay out the finds to dry, and this hot weather is good for drying them, before sorting by type and bagging up for examination by our specialists, so we can find out when and where the finds were made, specifically the pottery and what lies under the corrosion on our iron objects.

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Finds Drying In the Sun

 

 

Great Work, Team!

Thanks to all our volunteers, we have done most of the heavy digging and mass excavation, and are now looking forward to more delicate investigation and cleaning, with most of our historic foundations revealed. The western flint wall is the best preserved, with a northern turn surrounding a cobbled pebble surface. On the far side of this room is a curious area of collapsed red brick/ burnt clay lumps, and this may indicate the industrial zone of the building.

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The foundations have been revealed, surviving to various levels

The south wall has been heavily damaged by plough, and thanks to a visitor today, we know that here mother was stationed as  a landgirl during the war, for agricultural work. This would tie in nicely with the ploughing evidence that we have, with all the overlying soils turned over and some of the finds mixed. Some joining pieces of pottery have been spread across different layers of soil.

We are getting closer to understanding the building, and may have some postholes remaining that mark the location of doorways, and it must have been either an agricultural building or a blacksmiths, since we have yet another horseshoe (thank you Frances).

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A horseshoe. Each part of the red and white stick is ten centimetres (4″) long

Each day brings more finds and more details of the building, and now we are generally beneath the impact of the plough, so should get nice secure dating material. One of our favourite finds is a stoneware jar with a uniformed man smoking on one side and a hunter being pursued by a fox on the other. It is incomplete and in pieces, but we get overexcited when we can match pottery sherds to build a bigger picture.

One of our volunteers spent her day off making us a cake.

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Which was nice, both in flavour and friendship

Out Here We Are

Thank you to all the volunteers who came over the weekend; good weather, although Sunday was a bit warm. Fewer people came than the first weekend; either we are wearing the volunteers out, or they had other, more important things to do than work hard at shifting soil and rocks…

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Our Volunteers work so very hard

We have managed to clear a lot of fallen roof tiles from our building remains in the meadow, and have exposed large pieces of flint which are, I suspect, the southern wall of our (possible) blacksmiths. It is a bit irregular, but there is plough damage, so I think that the wall foundation has been torn through and turned over, in order to break up the ground, maybe as late as the 1930s, or perhaps, repeatedly. I also wonder weather the meadow may have been ploughed in the war in order to Dig For Britain. Even our sturdiest foundation has scars from a plough.

Our finds cleaning team has been busy, washing and sorting the things that we find, things that historical folk left behind. Visitors see that we collect a lot of broken pottery and building materials, but when you can view all the groups of finds, we have a dozen pieces of medieval pottery,  2 dozen Tudor date pieces, double that of 17th-18th century fragments, and many many pieces of porcelain and china: generally, the more modern sherds have broken up into smaller fragments.

No confirmation of the location of a forge or similar, but there is a hole in the floor that appears to be full of rubble. This will be emptied through the week.

As always, anyone is welcome to come along and join in the dig until the 8th July: the 9th of July is our Open Day, when we will be showing our finds and explaining our results in the trenches.

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You too can do this.

 

 

Welcome to the Yacs

Not a spelling error but the Chiltern Young Archaeologists Club.

A dozen members of the Chiltern YAC joined the excavations today, and they all excavated features in our garden trench. We offered them training, explaining about how to excavate one soil from another, finds washing and illustration. one of the best finds from today was a small porcelain doll/s bust: we assume that the rest of the doll would have been cloth, although she may have had porcelain arms and legs.

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Doll’s bust, not broken

We had fun in our other trench in the meadow. We cannot find the southern wall of our flint-founded building, but we did have a large expanse of roof tile which, I suspect, slid off the rafters and fell outside the building. so, by removing the tile, we should have found the contemporary land surface and remains of the southern wall. We found the old land surface, but the wall is yet to appear. Unless and this is brain wave time: their is no masonry southern wall. This is not fantasy, if their were a series of doors and doorposts, there would be no southern wall, just postholes. Watch this space, or, that space there at Eastcote in person.

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These volunteers keep on working, removing the fallen roof. Which is nice.

Higher Up and Further In

The end of our first week, and the volunteers have excavated enough to know that we don’t know what we have found beyond informed guesses and supposition. Usually, when archaeologists cannot interpret their findings, we say it must be ‘ritual’.

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Volunteers ALWAYS work hard. I hope nobody overdoes it…

Not today though; we are edging towards the farmstead-cum-industrial theme, with Val finding a ploughshare and possibly part of the coulter associated with it. Colin found an odd-shaped piece of ceramic building material that looks like a mould for casting metal, so our building could now be interpreted as a farm building, but the presence of slag and other burnt debris still suggests a forge or smithy on site. We could have a dual -function building, or even two buildings.

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There is always something unusual on site. why oh why is there a massive piece of flint in the middle of the floor?

We Do It

When digging on a site, we trowel and we brush, we mattock at the ground and we shovel up the soil, and it can seem like not much progress is made until we stand up and look at what we have done. Or stand back and consider what everyone else has done.

Every day so far brings at least 20 volunteers, and that is an enormous contribution to the work that we need to do to reveal and understand the archaeology, with some of the remains just 10cm (4 inches) below the grass of the meadow at Eastcote House Gardens.

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We are all so very busy in the meadow

Our main find is a building with low flint walls and a cobbled floor, probably rectangular in plan, which seems to have had a timber frame with boards on the outside walls and a tiled roof.  We keep finding 19th century finds near the floor, so are beginning to wonder whether this building that is built in a medieval or 16th century style, stood until the 1800s, perhaps as a ruin.

What we have not been able to prove is the function of the building: what went on inside? No conclusions yet, but I think we can rule out a church, a cottage or a boathouse. We have pieces of possible horse harnesses and horseshoes, so perhaps it is a stable. Although, we have coal, clinker and slag, so may be a blacksmith’s?

We welcomed two classes from Coteford School today. For some of the pupils, this was their third visit, and it is super that the same volunteers come back, and remember what to do. The pupils worked in our Garden Archaeology trench, and we got everything ready before they arrived.

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The trench is prepared for pupils. They are not invisible, they just haven’t arrived yet.

Onwards and Upwards

Another day at the dig brings us further parts of our stone-walled building, and parts of the building made of brick and mortar, perhaps indicating an addition or modification during its use. The exact date of the building is still unknown: the foundations suggest a timber framed building but among the layers of soil covering it are finds from after 1700, so maybe this stood into the 18th century, or was at least visible as a ruin.

We have a dedicated finds washing team, who are gaining on us, washing the finds slightly faster than we are finding them. Whatever the weather, the finds team can work, because they have a shelter. We have fragments of glass, flowerpot, porcelain, clay tobacco pipe and building materials. We also have broken fittings from a horse harness,  a horseshoe, and several pieces of medieval pottery. Some of our flint finds may have been struck in the prehistoric period.

 

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Our finds team are working

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Our volunteers are hard at work, using trowels and mattocks

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This is the first candidate of the year for a caption competition, featuring Kate, Christine and Chris. No prizes, just a bit of fun.

Roll on Thursday, and we may find out what our building is: a cottage? a blacksmith’s?a workshop> a stable? Hopefully, excavation and time will tell.

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