16 Jul 2023
2023 Summer Dig - Day 8
We had another great day digging in the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall today, at the halfway point of our two-week dig looking for evidence of the inner gatehouse of the Tudor palace of Elsyng.
Today was our public open day, and fortunately the weather stayed mostly fine and the occasional rain showers were brief and light.
We were very pleased to welcome a steady stream of visitors throughout the day, and equally pleased to be able to show them a fine display of Tudor brickwork, as well as a nice selection of interesting finds fresh from the trenches.
We did have a little difficulty explaining some of our newly uncovered wall remains, since we don't fully understand them ourselves at the moment, especially the wall segment at the east end of Trench 1.
Having opened a further east extension to the trench we found that the brick line seems to end alongside a large tree root, and does not obviously continue east and almost certainly not north.
Preliminary digging in front of the wall did reveal a concentration of rubble with mortar, perhaps suggesting the wall may have turned south, but the tree roots have caused so much disruption to the wall it is still difficult to be certain.
Our next move may be to trace the wall line west in the hope that it is less disturbed in that direction, and may give a clue to the wall's purpose, since it is not obviously part of a building.
Meanwhile, recording of the major walls, turrets and pillar bases in Trench 4 continued, and some small preview slots were cut next to the walls to find out more about their foundations and how deep the structures survive.
A preview slot by the multi-angular turret found evidence of quite substantial foundations, whereas a similar slot in front of the offset course of the skinny wall came down onto a layer of flat laying bricks which appear to be set in-situ. If this is the case, this may be evidence of an earlier structure, perhaps underlying the wall and columns.
There's a fair bit more work to do in this area of Trench 4, including an extension at its southern end to fully uncover the second and larger of the two octagonal column bases.
For the past few days work has been gradually progressing in Trench 3, on the east side of the site in the lime tree avenue, where we have been looking for evidence of the moat cut and where it should potentially meet the end of the range of buildings that define the north side of the outer palace's courtyard.
Yesterday we thought we had at least found the moat cut and today we confirmed that although there is still no sign of the building range that shouldn't be at all far away.
All the hard work of digging out the upper layers were rewarded today, as we began to remove the fill of the cut, which as we found last year is rich in finds.
As well as a varied selection of large pottery fragments, animal bones including the remains of a small dog, window lead and even a section of window mullion, we found several pieces of the ubiquitous Bartmann jug - a type of stoneware made in Germany famously featuring the face of a bearded man (the "bartmann"), which always raise a smile with our diggers and especially today, with members of the public.
Perhaps the star find of the day though, if not the dig so far, was a number of tiny delicate fragments of a coloured glass bangle, probably a Venetian import, with a very fine twisted rope moulding all around.
Tomorrow we're taking a day off to rest tired mattocking muscles and catch up on finds processing and paperwork and then we'll be back from Tuesday till the conclusion of the dig next Sunday.
This year's dig has already been a great success and promises to get better before the week is out.