Voyages to the House of Diversion
Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Science
July 2018 - The Month Goes Potty
The first two weeks of
the month saw us labouring away for the National Trust under a hot sun
in the eighteenth-century park at Croft Castle, Herefordshire. As
always remarkable discoveries, read more here,
but we were glad to get back to Hanwell particularly as we had several
pots, carefully covered over, to lift and wash. The key issue was
recording the location of individual pieces of pot and we achieved this
by using a rather useful app on the iPad called Arrette SCL
which enables a photo to be used as a scaled background for a plan
which can then be annotated, in our case with numbered sections of pot
which were then bagged according to the same numbering system.Peter was
well set up at the observatory to start on the gentle job of pot
washing. in interestingly it became clear as we lifted the first couple
of urns that they had been made bottomless suggesting perhaps that
either they were never used a planters, as purely ornamental pieces the
water would have to run away, or perhaps more likely plants were
inserted in baskets or tubs and so could easily be removed and changed
as the season advanced.
Sarah starts lifting P2 and here is one of the reference shots of P3.
Ian and Chris co-operate on removing P3 and Ian displays one of the
larger sections with part of the handle and a leaf motif where it
joined the main body of the pot.
Peter's pot washing extravaganza underway.
As we cleared the remaining pots we
were left with the task of lifting the large chunk of stone fountain
basin. What a tremendous moment to turn it over and see the underside
carved with scallop style flutings. This was a serious piece of carving
belonging to what must have been a beautifully made fountain. All we
have to do now is find the rest of it.
The fountain bowl, underside revealed.
The last bit of lifting Sarah and Hannah clean the remaining half of P2 after the upper layers had been removed and bagged.
The scene on Friday before abandoning Hanwell yet again this time for Packwood.
As it happened we decided to finish
at Packwood a little early, partly on account of the blisteringly hot
conditions. Fortunately we were able to meet all our key objectives and
things turned out to be rather simpler than we had expected so it was
with great relief we returned to the comparatively shady cool of
With the pots out of the way it was
time to investigate the silts that had built up against the wall of the
octagon and indeed take a look at the lowest courses of the octagon
itself. One particularly... no exceptionally puzzling feature are the
remains of a bank of clay which seems to encompass the octagon with a
circle (is that tautological?). Another source of worry (sigh) is the
question of what the foundations are sitting on. It appears to be the
same bind of silt we have dug out from around them, is it possible that
the octagon was built up on the base of an existing pool? Still lots to
think about but we were able to transfer labour to what will become the
north west side of the octagon with a start made a exposing and
cleaning the rubble surfaces that spell out the destruction of the
Chris in a corner and Sarah tidying up after the 'great stoneware discovery' - see below
A view looking east along the north side with the curious behaviour of the clay in the moat there for all to see.
Efforts resume along the east extension with the welcome return of the
Stone clan plus friend. Later on Andries and Ian chase rubble.
Sarah gets to clean her pot with Peter's help and here's the great find from this week, they just keep coming.
Actually the fragment of German
salt-glazed stoneware is a puzzle. It was well down into the very clean
silts below our destruction level and it lay there all alone, no trace
of the remainder of what would have been quite a large jug. It seems to
have been burnt at some point and the armorial bearing, probably a
German princeling or aristocratic family or town coat of arms, is
extraordinarily elaborate. It will take some tracking down but it could
be an enormously important piece of evidence.