Welcome to the first blog update from the 2021 Castle Hill field school. Project director Mathew Morris reports:
We have now been digging for six days, the 1st year archaeology students have finished their first week, we have welcomed 26 young archaeologists from the Leicestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club to site for a day’s digging and a small group of volunteers have been excavating over the weekend. This means the archaeology in our main area, where we have the southern half of the Knight Hospitallers’ ‘manor house’ is really starting to take shape.
The week has been spent removing the last remnants of topsoil and an underlying clay subsoil (which may be weathered clay daub from the walls) to expose the demolition layer covering the building. This is a horizon of broken roof slates, granite rubble and decayed sandstone left behind after the building was demolished. Currently we believe this took place in the late 15th century around the time when the site passed from the Hospitallers to King Edward IV.
Beneath the rubble, wall lines are starting to emerge as straight lines of stone amidst the chaos of the rubble. The walls are thin and only one or two courses high and are more likely low stone plinths for a building which would have been predominately timber framed with a slate roof. Around the building is a gravelled yard area with other walls which may be further buildings or boundaries. This will become clearer (we hope) as the excavation goes on.
In our other trenches, work progresses digging slots across the outer bank and ditch of the main manorial enclosure and the eastern bank and ditch which may be part of Edward IV’s deer park or a bank and ditch marking a drove road heading north between arable fields to the village of Thurcaston. These ditches are large clay filled features and digging in the hot, dry weather is slow work so we will take a closer look at these in a later blog.
Returning to our main trench. Apart from two culverts crossing the area, there is very little evidence of damage from the late 19th/early 20th-century sewage farm which covered the field. Finds from the soil overlying the demolition layer have represented a good range of domestic pottery, both kitchen and table wares including jars, pots, bowls and glazed jugs which all appear to date to the 13th and 14th centuries. Some animal bone has also been recovered, as well as a wide range of roof slates, iron hearth slag (further evidence than a blacksmith was operating nearby in the medieval period) and iron nails.
Tune in to our next weekly blog to keep up to date with the project, or follow our daily progress on our Facebook page.