whittlewoodproject

Summer Fieldwork 2002

 

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What follows is a brief report on the archaeological fieldwork carried out by the Whittlewood Project during a six-week period from 24th June - 4 August 2002. As Private Eye's Going Live column so admirably demonstrates, prompt reporting of events does not necessarily lead to either the accurate reporting of facts or their correct interpretation. We may be in danger of falling into the same trap here, but we can be certain, at least, of being factually correct. However, since this is written in advance of the completion of finds processing, let alone the analysis of the artefactual assemblage, any assessment of the importance of our discoveries must wait to be reported later.

Traditionally, reports tend to finish with the acknowledgements. Here we should like to begin by thanking all those who helped with this season -- the garden owners who so kindly allowed us to invade their space; the supervisors and diggers without whose energy and enthusiasm none of this work could have been carried out; and the locals and those further abroad who came to our rescue to provide essential equipment. 

The garden owners:

Akeley: the Bentleys; the Hockleys; the Hills;Deborah Thomas; the Bennetts; the Clarkes; the Taylors; the Foxes;Brian and Mary

Leckhampstead; Anthony White; the Williams; Mark Stead; the Woodhouses; the Sharpes; the Verriers; the Smiths (x 2); the Newnhams; the Websters; the Taylors; the Arans; the Rileys; the Bidgoods; Barbara Maddison; the Rogers; the Cashs, Miss Lydden; the Windebanks; the Penns, the Western-Kayes; the Burrows; and the Wilders.

Whittlebury: the Biggars; the Littlewoods; theClarksons; the Peaces; the Bandys; the Hulatts; the Frenchs; the Tillyers; the Parsons; Pat and Alan; the Heaphys; and the Lynchs.

The diggers and supervisors: 

Adeline, Jess Ashton; Julie Bates; Keith Bolton; Ray Bradfield; William Brown; Chris Callow; Brian Cann; Mandy Debelin; Chris Dyer; Emily Foster; Kevin Fromings; Robert Goff; Dawn Hadley; Chris Hayward; Peter Howe; Tony Hulatt; David Jackson; Oliver Jessop; Sandy Kidd; Ed King; Audrey Larrivé; Anne Lea; Jayne Meikle; Colin Merrony; Gerry Mico; Peter Miller; James Mollison; Mark Page; Stuart Parsons; Ben Pears; Leonie Pett; Jemma Picken; Lyn Robinson; Donna Rogers; Helen Rose; Hilary Sanders; Naomi Sykes; Mike Thompson; Matt and Zorana Tompkins; Sarah Watkin; Alexandra Wall; Tom Wells; Leigh Wilkinson; Becky Wragg

Worthing Archaeological Society for the loan of excavation equipment; Stan Bennett for the loan of a tamper; and of course Bernard Fox for, amongst other things too numerous to list, beer on tap, an endless supply of sausages and the dreaded trampoline.

The fieldwork:

Three villages were targeted for sampling by test pitting: Akeley where previously 24 test pits (TPs) had been excavated; Whittlebury, 18 previous TPs; and Leckhampstead, where no fieldwork had been undertaken.  The final tally now stands at Akeley 44, Whittlebury 42 and Leckhampstead 51. 

Provisional on-site analysis of the pottery found in the new TPs at Akeley and Whittlebury suggests that results will strengthen the hypothetical models of village development proposed last year.  Additional elements of each village can now be added to the maps, for instance the very real possibility of the burh location at Whittlebury in the vicinity of the church and at Akeley a more concentrated, but short-lived occupation axis along the Leckhampstead Road, south of the modern village centre.

At Leckhampstead, 'ribbon' development akin to that found at Akeley can now be seen in three locations.  To the south (Barretts End to Weatherhead Farm) evidence points to a double row fronting both sides of the modern track.  At Middle End, by contrast, TPs demonstrated that no development had taken place to the north of the current road opposite a large concentration of pottery found through fieldwalking.  At Church End again, on the north side of the road there is evidence for short-lived occupation extending well beyond the current extent of the village.  In all three instances, therefore, we can demonstrate that the late medieval settlement zones were far more extensive than the modern (and indeed late nineteenth century maps) suggest.  More work needs to be undertaken to establish the chronology of these developments.  Are they contemporary or sequential? 

In addition to TPs, geophysical survey was undertaken in parallel with earthwork survey at Weatherhead Farm, Barretts End and Church End.  Village earthworks, including possible house platforms and rickyards together with a fishpond and associated ditch system were all mapped for the first time.  Geophysical survey suggests buried features associated with the above ground archaeology, but these two surveys remain to be brought together.

Two anecdotal experiences demonstrate the haphazard nature of test pitting.  First, the articulated remains of a large medieval dog were encountered within one test pit.  Buried under a later floor, the dog had been skinned before deposition.  The test needed to be extended by only 100mm for the whole skeleton to be recovered.  A metre either side and the dog would not have been found.  Secondly, another TP was sunk 1.5m through a mix of medieval and predominately modern brick and tile.  In excavation an ominous dull thud could be heard.  It was only at 1.5m below ground level that a cut became visible marking the side of a well, over which the TP had been perfectly sited.  Excavation was terminated since the diggers were removing a cap which appeared to overlie a void of unknown depth (hence the thud).  I suppose by the law of averages that it would happen once during the lifetime of the project.  We hope to avoid wells in the future unless provision has been made. 

Nevertheless, despite the hit or miss nature of TPs, it is clear as our sample sizes increase that the overall picture of the origins and development of these neighbouring but very different settlements begins to become more coherent.  It is interesting to learn how many other medieval projects are using this method to get under the very places where people have lived for centuries.