The Hanwell Park Project


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Well I think it's fair to say that we lost last month's 'race against time'. The idea was to get as much survey work done as possible before the undergrowth grows impenetrable or worse we risk trampling all over rare plants as they make their way springwards. What we actually got was a bitterly cold month and this extended into the start of April. On the plus side we had a further influx of supporters and able assistance from the members of the Feldon Archaeology Society who have really started to make a difference to rates of progress. Initially work was continued to clear undergrowth from the island and weed out more of the surviving walling. This progressed fairly well until we discovered that a pair of Canada Geese had decided to nest there and were starting to lay. The situation was complicated by the fact that I had been storing the tools in Sir Anthony's Bath covered over with plastic sheeting. The geese were there to stay and it must be said by now guarding their territory quite aggressively, we needed to use the tools so I had to slip over and sneak them away whilst the geese were otherwise occupied - more exciting stuff.

The tools are safely removed, the geese are on patrol and the outer face of the wall is emerging from the undergrowth.

As we now had a moratorium on island based works for a month or so we we had to transfer our attentions to the outfall channel on the north-east corner of the Lake. Further efforts were made to to clear and clean the stone work of the feature we had labeled the sluice and Peter then took charge of  the stone by stone elevation drawing and planning at a scale of 1 to 10. Simultaneously we opened up the first of our test pits in the area. These metre square mini-trenches are designed to evaluate archaeological potential and facilitate planning when larger scale excavations are contemplated, Interestingly, significantly even, our hole, roughly 8 metres north of the sluice, produced... well nothing really. I'm sure you can all see how important this finding is. I am of course refraining from further comment until I've worked out exactly what it means.

April         April
Drawing the sluice                                                                                                           Starting Test Pit 1

And here's what it looked like: topsoil. sub-soil and the soil below the sub-soil...
and here it is drawn up, exciting eh?


One particular treat was the chance on Saturday April 6th. to join Chris M. our expedition photographer, on a trip up the narrow gorge that marks the eastern limit of Mesopotamia. The course of the stream has already been mapped but I had noticed a large collection of twentieth-century bottles and jars distributed along its length and it occurred to me that a comparatively easy way to record all of them would be to photograph the stream bed with a series of overlapping images that could then be stitched together to create a composite view of its entire length. I'm still working on this! A much easier option, at least for me, was to watch Chris setting up his camera with a sophisticated range of add-ons to his tripod which enabled him to take panoramic views without the spherical distortion that was evident in our last attempt.

April         April
Chris does interesting things with a tripod.

Panorama of the Second Fishpond looking west from last February, taking advantage of the camera's in-built stitching facility (CM)

From April, view from south through west to north, much less distortion on any individual vertical segment but the picture is still a little misleading as it 'folds' the image in from the sides towards the middle.
This looks like a corner but is, in fact, a view along a straight side (CM).

The channels and sluice on the north-east corner of the Lake, view looking from west through north to east (CM).

Mesopotamia, view looking from west through north to east (CM).

Once the decision had been made to leave the island to the birds and focus on the area round the sluice things really got moving and by the end of the day on the 17th. thanks to four volunteers from the Feldon Archaeology Society we had three areas open. To the left of the path looking towards the Lake work on HANBa revealed a flight of rather rustic looking stone steps, east of the sluice HANBb we began to uncover a tumbled rubble fill in what we are currently interpreting as a possible wheel pit or tail race for the mill and in the metre wide trench which extends to the north, HANBc, there were possible traces of a building adjacent to the channel.

Wednesday April 17th. Steps are emerging to the left whilst Peter and Mike are near to completing the stone by stone elevation drawing of the walling

April                   April
Here are the steps at a later stage, they contain architectural fragments so one assumes they are eighteenth century or later and as the sun shines the gazebo goes up (Photos by Peter Spackman).

Thanks to David Freke and Liz Newman I was also introduced to the extraordinary collection of scratch dials on the south wall of the church. A Saturday morning visit from committee members of the Oxfordshire Gardens Trust was a high point with plenty of informed queries and comments and not a bad lunch in the Moon and Sixpence afterwards.

Thanks to some of the Cropredy volunteers the last full week of the month saw us finishing off the survey of the earthworks on what I am now calling 'The Great East Terrace'.... well why not? It was good to get this done as you could practically see the nettles growing. We also went back to take another look at the masonry feature christened 'The Temple of Flora', probably a half-hexagonal projecting 'bastion' on the terrace. It seemed to be looking a little less stable than last time I saw it so Peter and Mike did an excellent job of very, very, very carefully clearing the area around so we could take some photos for the record just in case it decides to collapse.

The temple of Flora, view from the east

Back at the lake side dig things went from strength to strength, now the gazebo is installed we have all the comforts of home, well almost, and we have pretty well shifted the remaining turf and topsoil from the whole area. This was extended to examine possible building remains to the north of the channel, more on this to come. Something else we're looking forward to is sifting through a spread of twentieth-century debris that Susan uncovered on the west slope of the channel.

The last of the topsoil vanishes.                                                                       Lunch under cover.                                                                                      Susan's rubbish.

And just to prove that we are not totally focused on dirt here are a selection of photos of the current crop of spring flowers which have erupted around us...


We also managed to squeeze in just before the end of the month the first of what will become a huge collection of profiles of the various banks, channels and terraces that litter the site. Thanks to Geoff and Chris for these.



Find of the Month

Up to now finds from the early modern period or before have been worryingly thin on the ground. I've seen more seventeenth-century slipware digging in my back garden. Now during the rush to survey the terracing east of the castle we really cracked on, it had turned quite warm during the second day and when Geoff, one of our volunteers, sat on the bank above the path for a breather he sat on this! That's one way to make a find but perhaps not to be recommended in all cases. It's a fairly hefty (88g) chunk of pottery from a large vessel, diameter around 20 cm. and finished on the inside only with a thick speckled and streaked mid-brown manganese glaze. One would describe it, because of its rather irregular form, as hand built although there is evidence of some turning. The sides bulge out slightly towards the base which had a raised centre. This all suggests something like a tall jug or vase like form which could happily fit into the sixteenth or seventeenth century but as it was unstratified it doesn't make much difference, oh well.