24 Aug 2021
Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 2
Not a great deal to report on the second day of our hunt for the inner gatehouse of Elsyng Palace (see yesterday's post for the background and objectives of this year's work).
We finished removing the topsoil and subsoil from trench two to reveal a stony context consisting mostly of fairly dense pebbles mixed with varying amounts of demolition rubble. This kind of context is ubiquitous across the site of the former Tudor palace, and typically derives from the landscaping of the site immediately following its demolition in the mid seventeenth century.
After recording and photographing this layer we began to remove it, finding its composition varying quite a bit along the length of the ten metre trench - in some places the brick and roof tile inclusions are quite large and in others much smaller, and one stretch of the context was characterised by a significant quantity of large animal bones including an almost complete horse scapula (shoulder blade).
We haven't quite finished removing this context yet, partly due to the difficulty of working amongst so many tree roots, but it looks as if we may be coming down onto a layer of much more concentrated rubble, which is hopefully a good sign for finding our gatehouse.
Perhaps another promising sign from this context was what at first glance looks like an unassuming brick fragment, but on closer inspection turned out to be a part of a glazed floor tile, with the remains of two carefully chamfered edges and a small surviving patch of yellow glaze. Although glazed floor tiles did typically have a bevel or chamfer to key them into a mortar bed (such as we found not far away in 2016), the angle of the cut on this tile is unusually steep, so there is a chance it may be part of some other architectural feature such as a fireplace mantel. In either case, this would have originated from a relatively high-status room, so we're hoping this means we're on the right track.
Trench one, meanwhile, made good progress although this consisted mostly of re-locating the cut and fill of the abortive 2019 trench with which it is (almost perfectly) co-located (this year's trench is about 50% larger).
Before abandoning the trench in 2019 under unrelenting rain we placed two tarpaulins to mark the limit of excavation, and we revealed and removed the largest of these today. We also excavated some of the enlarged area of the trench, though we still have some way to go before we would expect to be deep enough to see signs of the brick conduit this trench is aimed at.