18 Jul 2015

Festival Of Archaeology 2015 - Forty Hall - Day 5

garderobe chute

Our penultimate day's digging in Forty Hall threw us an unexpected surprise today, as we continued to uncover the Palace wall that we found yesterday.

We've now extended the trench nearest the lime tree avenue until it just touches the edge of last year's trench. The wall -- a continuation of last year's -- appeared to thicken as we uncovered it in the end of the trench next to last year's garderobe (lavatory) chute, and as we removed the rubble we began to suffer from déjà-vu as we noted a rectangular area of slumped bricks on the wall's south side.

Sure enough, just as last year, we found the slumping was caused by a rectangular void backfilled with palace rubble, which has subsequently settled and allowed the surrounding bricks to tilt inwards -- the void is yet another garderobe chute, right next to the one we found last year.


This second chute is abutted against the wall, and therefore must be later in date, although both appear to be of mid to late Tudor construction. There are several puzzling features of the new chute, including its south and east edges which seem to be built of bricks on-edge, in contrast to the other sides. We will be able to tell more once it is fully excavated tomorrow -- we have just about finished removing a layer of sandy rubble in the top and have come to what we hope is the original fill of the chute -- this is where the critical dating evidence will (hopefully) be, and is what we ran out of time to look at last year.


Meanwhile, our other important job is to determine how far the main wall runs west of the avenue. After the brickwork runs out, we have followed the demolition cut that removed the wall for a few metres, and have extended the west end of the trench to follow it -- finding out where and in what direction the wall turns is critical to interpreting the building.

We had many interesting finds today, including a second piece of painted Venetian vessel glass, the complete handle of a post-medieval red-ware flagon (above), and the complete base of a black-glazed red-ware mug, with a numeral 'X' scored on it (pictured) -- probably a tally mark made by the potter.

Having found two garderobe chutes, we are beginning to wonder if we may have found the palace's 'Privy Jakes' -- the communal household toilet block that many Tudor palaces had -- in which case there may be more chutes to the east of last year's trench as well, all discharging into the ornamental moat feature which ran along the building's south edge.

This would be a significant discovery, and a very important leap forward in understanding the layout of the palace.

We've got one more day to excavate and record the structures, and the weather forecast is not too good for tomorrow -- rain may make digging and drawing difficult.

Hopefully it won't put off visitors, since tomorrow is our main public event. After all, it's not every day you get to see a Tudor Privy Jakes lost for 360 years!


 Previous Story Next Story