26 Aug 2021
Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 4
Another good day of digging today on the fourth day of our search for the inner gatehouse and associated features of the Tudor palace of Elsyng, albeit mixed with some moderate head-scratching.
We picked up the hunt for the water conduit where we left off yesterday, by fully excavating the 50cm wide southerly extension to trench one, and were slightly disappointed if not surprised to find no sign of the conduit running in that direction.
Falling back towards first principles we therefore laid out and began to excavate a more substantial extension to trench one to the west, to re-locate the previously excavated area of the conduit and find out whether it makes an abrupt course change or termination.
Although we haven't yet re-located the conduit itself we did re-locate part of the barn wall, the corner of which comes within centimetres of the conduit, so we can't be very far off. (The first picture of this post shows the barn wall and 'drain'/conduit together).
Most of our efforts tomorrow morning will probably be focused on fully excavating this extension and if necessary extending it again until we can pin down where exactly the conduit runs.
Meanwhile in trench two, there are as yet no signs of a gatehouse or indeed any other in-situ structure though there are tantalising signs of substantial and high status buildings not far away at both ends of the ten metre trench.
At the west end of the trench we excavated another 50cm strip of the rubble deposit, and although it isn't very thick, there still seem to be signs it is thickening and running deeper at the north side of the trench.
The rubble is an interesting mix of mostly brick of varying sizes, and variations in the surviving (broadly dateable) mortar fragments show that the rubble probably derives from more than one structure (or perhaps a multi-phased building).
Where that building is, is still not obvious, and may require an extension of this trench to the north and east, but work on this will probably have to wait until the problems of trench one have been resolved.
Similarly, at the other end of the trench we excavated yesterday's rubbly deposit which at times revealed some very large chunks of mortared roof tiles. Again not in-situ but indicative of the demolition of a substantial structure not far away. Roof tiles were used by Tudor builders in a wide range of applications including hearths, furnaces, brick arches and levelling of uneven walls to name a few. It is possible the rubble is filling a very shallow cut, but as yesterday, progress is being slowed by the extensive network of tree roots in this area and there remains a few metres of this context to finish removing tomorrow.
There's been a steady trickle of finds, ranging from a very small and delicate fragment of a glass vessel, to fairly modest pottery fragments of various sorts, and again in trench two quite a lot of substantial animal bones including several vertibrae from a large animal such as an ox or horse, which may even articulate.
The most impressive pottery find of the dig so far was the almost complete base of a Frechen Bartmann jug (see day 1 for part of the famous face), which while not terribly rare at least helps to keep our diggers' spirits up while they manoeuvre amongst the tree roots!
** STOP PRESS **
Studying pictures of the conduit and barn from 2018 we've managed to identify the same three bricks that were revealed today in trench one - they are not the barn wall but the edge of a brick surface that lay between the barn and the drain. The extension to trench one is therefore laid out in exactly the right spot, right on the end of where we last saw the conduit, so we are set up perfectly to reveal the top of it tomorrow and find out exactly where it goes!