Stroud Dig, Day 7
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
At this stage in the dig I was beginning to wonder why I had not suggested to Juliet that we have a 1-day break in the middle; 9 days straight without a day off, with more exercise and getting up early than I am used to these days, was beginning to tell, especially on my knees. I keep falling asleep in my armchair when I get home.
We didn't have as many people on site today but we did have a team of experienced regulars and we got started without delay on the same test pits as previously - Nos 1 and 3 by the stream, and 4 and 5 in the middle of the field. This is TP1 below, now down to well over a metre in depth and showing the layer of large white flints at the bottom:
Juliet opted to keep digging in the far right corner as seen here, where the clay was quite damp - probably because it was close to the level of the stream nearby.
Meanwhile in TP3 this was the scene:
In the foreground the earth had been left as a step down, because the pit was also quite deep and there was no sign of any material in the step area. The Romano-British building material is shown here partially covered by a tarpaulin and appeared to be in a curved bank as shown, probably only one layer thick but appeared to have been deliberately laid.
Across at TP4 in the middle of the field the team were still uncovering layers of CBM (ceramic building material) in the extended section as well, down I believe to a depth of nearly 90cm. The edge of the CBM appeared to have a very straight cut.
Next door to TP4 you can see below TP5:
Despite its proximity to TP4, the material in TP5 was totally different - a layer of very large pieces of very thick malmstone (lower green sandstone) that does not occur naturally on site but can be found about 2km away in Weston. In places it was intermixed with orange fragments of CBM.
I had been trying to ring Ron Allen, a geologist who lives in Stroud and who was one of the people who first asked us to investigate Stroud in 2016. By chance he, his wife and his grandson came over because they were out picking blackberries. Juliet asked his opinion on the stones and he confirmed what type they were, that they had been placed there and were not there naturally. During Ron's visit we were treated to a spectacular low-level flypast by a Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, doubtless on their way home to Coningsby after an air show somewhere.
This scene was during our lunch break. Not only was the sun beaming down for a change but Peter Price was with us, looking very snazzy in his straw boater while putting on some suntan lotion.
Later in the afternoon this was what TP5 was looking like after tidying up at a depth of 30cm:
I had to break off from what I had been doing at about 3.30pm because I needed to bring my car into the field and start loading it up with the tables, fencing, tools and so on that we needed for the Archaeology Day we are participating in tomorrow in the garden of the Allen Gallery in Alton. However, Oliver Howe kindly came across despite it being his day off from his Farm Manager job to bring with him some fascinating old maps he had found.
The maps are really interesting to us because they show:
the route of the village's sewage pipe that runs through the field, with the locations of all the buried manhole covers; and
the parts of the Farm that had deep ditching done by the government, apparently during WW2, to drain the fields that had presumably been marshy - including the ditch in which the stream now runs.
Of slight concern is how close the sewage pipe now appears to be to TP 4 & 5! The drainage improvements perhaps also account for the fact that when the original archaeologist, Arthur Moray Williams, excavated the villa in 1906 it was reported in the local papers that he could see where the bridge had presumably been opposite the villa's gateway by the clear gap in the pondweed. This suggests there was much more sitting water next to the villa then than there is today.