Voyages to the House of Diversion
Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Science

November 2014 - Wrapping it up for the Winter

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Of course every archaeologist knows about back-filling and if you are lucky someone comes along driving a digger and does it for you, however, we always understood that due to the sensitivity of the site not to mention difficulty of access this would have to be done by hand. I had visions of crisp autumn days with a chill in the air and the smoke of bonfires in the nose and a manly swinging of the spade, honest to goodness toiling in the fields... well almost. What we got were a couple of weeks which were not only wet but actually felt hot! Even so we got on with it, slipping and sliding on the muddy bank and by the end of the second week the long section was pretty well filled in except for a small area at the very top so we could continue to show off our ashlar blocks to visitors.

... and this is what a backfilled trench looks like. the post marks the line of the lower wall.

Along at the Temple of Flora there was more recording to be done and shortly after the bulk of the plans and elevations had been completed a major rain storm bought down several of the more unstable blocks in the wall despite our efforts to shore them up. This was not a complete disaster as it enabled us for the first time to examine and take samples of the mortar holding it all together... or not as the case may be.

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Collapse at the Temple of Flora with a detail of the mortar uncovered.

The following week, drawings to hand, Peter and Mike rebuilt the collapsed portions by cutting back some of the core and resetting the stones in a suitably vertical fashion. We were also able to take a look at the butt join between the two lines of walling. After that further fantastic efforts with lugging heavy buckets of wet clay and rubble around to back fill the area to the level of the lowest courses of faced stones before scattering topsoil around leaving it all ready for replanting the snowdrops.

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One of them really should be called Bob.. and here it all is tided up and ready for planting.

Detail of the butt jointing.

And back to the long section the last pile of earth has disappeared and the earthwork profiles restored.

In fact the falling leaves smother the traces of former excavations quite nicely. Having vacated the terrace slopes attention shifted back down the valley to the rather neglected HANE, the trench on the island within our suggested water parterre. there's something very pleasant after shoveling clay in industrial quantities to return to gentle scraping, unfortunately we'd just got started when rain stopped play at Hanwell.

The trench is there, under all the leaves and this is where we'd got to as the rain began.

Fortunately our last day of digging for the month saw a long awaited return to Enstone and a glorious day after a wet and misty start. People always look politely disbelieving when I say I'm not that bothered about finding things, finding out, that's different but finding stuff generally just means loads of paperwork. However, finds become really satisfying, not to say valuable when they help pin down a particular feature of a site to a particular period and that's what happened in Enstone. We had already suggested that the top terrace wall was built as a free-standing structure some way forward from the cut made to create the terrace. Once the wall was complete the space behind was filled with loose rubble and an interesting collection of rubbish: a fine little clay pipe bowl from the opening decades of the seventeenth century, some salt-glazed stoneware and a selection of coarse red earthenware as it is called. So for the first time we can date the construction of the top wall to anytime around 1626!

Work starts to remove HANA14 B010, these are what voids look like, plus the line of a later inserted water pipe.

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Clay pipe bowl....           Coarse red earthenware....       salt-glazed handle....       all of it thoroughly Jacobean.

And here's the rear of the wall and the rubble packed in behind it, an impossible shot given the angle of the sun.