April 2014 Community Dig Results

The excavation in April 2014 was based on the results of a geophysical survey carried out by Sophie Hawke and colleagues from Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society.

A feature of interest was the alignment of stone or masonry parallel to the wall forming the eastern boundary of Rick Field. This wall is visible on an early 18th century map and is clearly part of the layout of Barton Farm.

(Click image for a larger version)

(Click image for a larger version)

We chose Rick Field partly because it’s not beautifully manicured and little used, so we thought our chances of getting permission were good, and its location not far from a Medieval farm might yield something. We did notice when planning the trenches a slight bank running parallel to the wall, presumed to be the surface manifestation of the geophysics. So two trenches were placed across the alignment. This bank can in fact be seen either side of the wall.

(Click image for a larger version)

The excavation showed a complex sequence for the bank, but of special interest was the observation that the wall was later than the bank, the latter clearly cut by the wall foundation trench. Two wall foundations were found, one clearly replacing the other when at some period the bank was widened and the original wall levelled.

(Click image for a larger version)

Looking back at the geophysics, a twin track of masonry can be seen , presumably representing the stony bank and the foundations, these latter too close to show as separate entities.

My interpretation is that this is a defensive feature. It has all the characteristics of a site defended by a bank, which has at some period has been strengthened. If we include the part of the bank east of the wall, the feature is substantial, some 10 metres wide.

I have compared this with the Saxon defences of Cricklade, see below.

Cricklade (Click image for a larger version)

We are left with a number of questions:

1 –what date is the feature?

There were a few small very eroded sherds from the bank material, and they could be Anglo-Saxon or prehistoric.. I distrust these as dating evidence as I think they are derived from pre-existing stratigraphy, possibly an Iron Age settlement on the river terrace. An unworn sherd of early Medieval date c 1100-1200 AD was found on the top of the earlier foundation, so it looks as if the site was a still active in the early Middle Ages. In the stony bank were two pieces of masonry, each chopped from an original larger item, one from a voussoir, the other from a column drum. So we have to imagine a well-designed building in use for a few centuries, knocked down, some of the material prepared for re-use in perhaps a floor, this then demolished. The liklehood is that the masonry came from a Roman building, and may subsequently have been re-used in a Saxon structure, then incorporated into the bank in the late Saxon period.

2 – what is being defended?

It is generally assumed that the Saxon town is on the other bank. One possibility suggested by Martyn Whittock is that this is the site of the ‘royal vill’ where the royal court on its travels met from time to time.

3 –what is its extent and where is the defensive ditch that should go with it?

Re the ditch, look again at the geophysics and there a hint of a ditch some 10m forward of the bank material towards the tithe barn. As to extent, I am interested in the location of Pound Lane which served Barton Farm but is oddly offset from it. Maybe it had to respect a a boundary, perhaps the northern arm of the enclosure. Material is piled high against Pound Lane’s boundary wall…

(Click image for a larger version)

The August dig – trenches planned, subject to permissions:

1 – across the possible ditch in Rick Field

2 –possibly across another curving ditch type feature showing white on the geophysics near the NE corner of the field. This llokas if it is overlain by the bank material and could be a prehistoric enclosure.

4 – possibly closer to the tithe barn in the western half of the field, digging through the spoil from the carpark excavation.

5 – in Victory Field across the other half of the bank.

6 – In Victory Field adjacent to Pound Lane, near the gate away from the 1919 excavation of the field to make a pitch.

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