To start, some views of our venue:
An entrance that’s an amazing mixture of architectural styles, including that wonderful pink Gothick Gatehouse!
The palace itself, seen here in the soft light of morning.
In the centre of the Palace courtyard, a lovely fountain- and just a short way away, a restaurant selling delicious food!
This quaint old ‘bothy’ was our Site Hut, and we were surrounded by soft green lawns and trees in changing leaf.
So what were we archaeologists doing in the middle of this idyllic scene near the Thames? There has been settlement on the site going back a very long way, and we had come to record the archaeology in the Walled Garden, before a new orchard was planted, as once that is in place it could be many years before anyone except maybe the gardeners can dig there again. Which could be a hindrance to future archaeological studies of the Palace. We were a group of volunteers, a lot of us old pals from the TDP, led by a professional team from Pre- Construct Archaeology. Our trenches looked more like test pits, as someone had the bright idea that if we were going to dig holes, we might as well dig them the right size and shape to put the saplings for the orchard in! And that, of course, is why the spacing between the pits or trenches was so regular, as this photograph illustrates:
Finds were mainly in the topsoil and subsoil. In the main, building materials, glass, pottery, occasional metal finds like nails, hinges, and this;
First guess was a spoon, maybe a tie of some horticultural sort, and some one suggested that as it’s a bishops palace, maybe a book clasp.
There were clay pipes, this is a rather nice Tudor one;
and pot sherds from every period from Roman thru Medieval, Tudor 17th/18th Century and Victorian.
Once you got past the subsoil, the finds tended to dry up, but there was some excitement with struck flint; I found this rather nice scraper;
Later on I found some other nice little flaked pieces and a lump of flint the size of a man’s fist (and not a small man) which had lines on one side suggesting working. Handaxe that never was? Did he just get bored? We shall never know.
We did our own surveying for the plans with a theodolite. This was something I’d never done before, took a while to get the hang of it, but at least I now have something else to add to my skillset!
This is my first trench; at the time this picture was taken, we thought there was a feature in it, but this turned out not to be the case. So here is the finished item;
The figures in white are beekeepers.
As the lines of trenches were extended- this is what they looked like towards the end-
the beekeepers had to move the bees around. A trench was opened up in the area where the beehives had been at one point, and I started digging it but didn’t get very far. Next day when I turned up, Alexis who was in charge of the dig, said ” Don’t go near your trench, Jan, it’s full of bees!” I don’t know why but I have the unshakeable conviction that my frustrations of the previous day were because the bees were trying to tell me something, something like,”that’s our patch, leave it alone!”
Still, I ended on a high note, powering my way through a trench in a day, despite some serious opposition from tree roots;
Later they met their end at the hands of Alexis with a saw he borrowed from Lucy the head gardener at the Palace.
A very pleasant time on the whole- sure archaeology DOES get better than this, when you are making ground-breaking discoveries which will change the whole way we look at things, or unearthing a spectacular hoard- but then that doesn’t happen to all of us. Most of us get on with just recording how life was for the ordinary folk and picking up the poignant little objects they left behind, and somehow, that is deeply rewarding.