For the first time, SVCA held a summer barbecue as a social event. It was held at Hill Farm, Gestingthorpe, on 16th July and was attended by 24 members and guests. Food and drinks were provided by David Orrell and Penny Richardson, generously supplemented by salads and deserts provided by guests.
The weather stayed hot and dry and the venue was the site of Gestinthorpe’s Roman villa.
We were entertained by a toga-clad Dave Dignum and by a light-hearted lecture on Roman history during the life time of the villa from Ashley. Ashley was delighted to announce that this was the first time in 1600 years that a meal had been cooked and enjoyed on this site!
All in all, it was a highly successful evening and this is likely to be a regular feature on the SVCA calendar.
My thanks to Ashley for hosting us and to Penny for help with the organisation
During July, SVCA were invited by the Long Melford Heritage Trust to join them in excavations at the Long Melford football club’s grounds where a geophys survey had come up with interesting results.
The excavation was supervised by Ken Dodd of the Long Melford Heritage Trust. The excavations revealed a cobbled area and a section of rubbed out wall. finds included Roman pottery, bones and some coins – 2 Roman and 1 Iron Age.
Because the robbed out wall came to a dead end (no corner) it was surmised that this was part of a Roman granary which typically had two walls only with the ends left open for ventilation.
Underneath the Roman layer there was a post hole which was evidence of an earlier building; also there were some fine early pottery. As this was thought to make the site of some importance, Ken decided that the evidence discovered so far should be carefully considered before any further work on this site took place.
Our thanks to Ken Dodd and the Long Melford Heritage Trust for inviting us to take part in a very enjoyable (though hot!) dig and we look forward to seeing Ken’s considered report.
On 25th June, SVCA members gathered at Hill Farm, Gestingthorpe , to process finds from the Bulmer Tye survey and the Sudbury East Street test pit events.
As usual, the event involved plenty of tea, coffee, biscuits and good cheer! We weren’t able to complete all the finds processing so an additional event will be arranged shortly now that the Long Melford excavations have been completed. Watch out for announcements!
Our thanks to our patron, Ashley Cooper, for the use of Hill Farmfacilities
In June, SVCA carried out 2 test pits at the rear of cottages in East Street, Sudbury, access organised by SVCA member Lindsay Hoyer Millar. Although the cottages were early Victorian, it was hoped that their location – just to the east of the medieval town – might provide some interesting finds.
As can be seen from these pictures, we got off to a flying start because there were no turfs to be removed and, even better, we were asked not to fill in the pits when we were finished because the owners wanted to turn them into ponds!
One problem we experienced was that the soil was very dry and powdery so that it was very difficult to maintain straight sides to the test pits. Both pits turned up large quantities of finds including pottery (mainly Victorian), bone (there had been a slaughterhouse nearby), glass, some CBM and a George VI ha’penny. There were some early pottery sherds:
We had made a start on processing the finds, when we had to pause as we had the opportunity to join Long Melford Heritage Trust in carrying out excavations of a Roman site there though we should be re-starting in the next few weeks
During our 2021 excavations in Bulmer Tye, we learned about a Second World War army camp on the site that had housed around 250 soldiers; initially we were told that it had been established to house evacuees from Dunkirk though we came to doubt this.
In researching this site, Peter Hart discovered the plans for the camp so we were keen to go in and investigate and to see what survived, how it compared with the plans and to use metal detectors to see what the finds told us about the site.
We really wanted to get into the site early in the year before the spring growth of vegetation made the surveying more difficult; in the event it was mid April before we got permission to access the site.
Over the weekend we managed to do a detailed survey of about a quarter of the blocks and uncovered the main road through the camp. We were surprised by the number of variations from the original plan that we were working from and it was not clear if the plan had been changed or if the site had been re-developed over time.
We would have liked to return for further study but it was not possible to get further access to the site. We have made a start in processing the finds though this has been put on temporary hold to allow SVCA to get involved in other archaeology opportunities – though we will be returning to this shortly
This was an event that was long in the planning but was long delayed because of Covid 19 restrictions. We were able to dig two test pits in gardens in the centre of Bulmer and two on an intriguing mound and ditch feature in Bulmer Tye; at Bulmer Tye, we put one test pit on the top of the mound and one in the surrounding ditch.
As there were fewer members on Sunday, 4th we concentrated on the garden sites in order to return them to their owners in a reasonable state! We had a problem wit heavy rain at the Sunday lunch time which restricted the time we could spend digging additional contexts.
TEST PIT 1
The team starting Test Pit 1 at the Old Vicarage at Bulmer which was over what had been an old access track to an adjoining farm. The team’s progress was slowed by tree roots.
Most of the finds were 19th and 20th century but there was 1 fragment of unglazed pottery which has been provisionally identified as Grimston ware (c1080 -1400), and 2 fragments of unglazed pottery; the larger piece is quite crude and seems to be hand thrown. Unfortunately all the finds, comparatively modern and old, were jumbled together so it is likely that they were deposited there from somewhere else.
TEST PIT 2
The second test pit in the centre of Bulmer was in Vicar’s Orchard adjacent to the boundary of St Andrew’s Church. They were spared the worst of Sunday’s rain because their hosts, Mr & Mrs Crome, had provided a gazebo to cover the test pit – and who also force fed the digging team with tea and biscuits.
Finds at this est pit were far more varied; as well as usual 19/20th century pot and glass, there were clay pipe stems, bent hand made nails, flint flakes. Three pottery fragments were particularly interesting; from Context 1, there was a fragment of pot rim thought to be medieval sandy ware (c1100-1400) and from Context 3 two fragments of what we think are late Saxon Stamford ware (c850-1150). Again, as at Test Pit 1, the pieces were jumbled together with modern pieces so are likely to have been dropped here from other sources.
This Lidar image of the Bulmer Tye site was obtained by Geoff Lunn and shows the mound surrounded by the ditch. The dark mark on the eastern edge is a deep water filled pit that is probably a separate feature – maybe later clay workings. We were unable to investigate the features to the north as they were heavily overgrown with nettles and vegetation.The whole site is wooded which made test pit digging challenging!
Geoff also obtained another lidar image and OS map of a similar feature – though larger – near Bungay which has been identified as a motte and bailey site
TEST PIT 3
Test pit 3 in the ditch surrounding the mound. It was an early casualty of the need to concentrate on finishing Test Pits 1 & 2. The only find was a fragment of worked wood.
The team managed to dig 4 contexts – quite an achievement in view if all the tree roots. The only finds were 2 fragments of pottery which were found in Context 3; the assumption is that because they were so deep, they were brought to the site along with the material making up the mound. Our preliminary assessment is that they are early medieval Sandy ware (c1100-1400) but accurate dating is crucial in identifying how old the mound is and giving some indication on what the mound is.
The Bulmer Tye site is getting more and more intriguing and the land owners have given us permission to do more work there and we have set a date of the weekend of 16/17th October when much of the nettles and vegetation will have died back. We intend to carry out a survey of the mound and ditch feature (height and diameter of mound, width and depth of ditch etc.) clear a section of the mounds summit to see if there is any evidence of post holes (a long shot in view of the wooded nature of the mound), dig a trench across the ditch and further trenches that are suggested once we have been able to get a clearer look at the features shown on the lidar image of the area to the north of the mound.
This new event proved to be so popular that we split into 2 sessions as we felt that there would be safety issues with too many people. The event was hosted by Ashley Cooper and was led by committee member, Amy Cross.
Amy demonstrating the technique.
By end of session we had an excellent collection of scrapers and blades – though no-one quite managed arrow heads.
Great fun and something we will definately do again and it enabled us all to be better at identifying worked flints when we do excavatios.
Big thank you to Ashley and, particularly, to Amy for leading the group.
On a scorching hot Friday, SVCA members met at the Ridgewell Air Museum near Gt Yeldham. The museum commemorated the American 381st Bomb Group which operated heavy bombers here from 1943 to 1945.
We were met at Ridgewell by SVCA committee member, Sarah Allen, who had arranged the visit. After touring the museum, located in one of the bases nissen huts, we were given a walking tour round the extensive site of the base by Paul Bingley, the museum’s chairman. Paul succeeded in vividly bringing to life what it would have been like for the servicemen stationed here.
For those who would like to know more about the museum, please see rafcamuseum.co.uk.
Our thanks go out to Sarah, for organizing the visit, and to Paul for his informative tour.
The Report on the bones from Old Barn Field arrived shortly before Christmas. Now that the New Year is here, members might like to see the summary I have made about the bones that they have been unearthing.
The analysis was undertaken by Vida Rajkovaca, of Cambridge Archaeological Unit. Vida is familiar with Hill Farm, having previously examined 123 bones discovered on the site, before SVCA’s involvement. Some 54 oyster shells were also recovered in those earlier excavations)
A further 264 bones were subsequently unearthed by the SVCA. To provide the best possible picture of the faunal remains from Old Barn Field, the figures have been amalgamated.
A total of 441 bones, teeth or shells are therefore included. As the following table indicates cattle (or cattle sized) bones were significantly the most numerous:
Cattle or cattle sized bones 256 58.05%
Sheep, goat or sheep sized bones 80 18.14%
Pig 6 1.36%
Horse 8 1.81%
Rabbit 2 0.45%
Non identifiable mammal 35 7.94%
Oyster shells 54 12.24% (*)
(*) All of the oyster shells came from Trench B, amidst finds of Samian ware and Roman tile. Whether they were consumed ‘on site’, or were refuse from the Villa is an interesting question.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
In her report, Vida remarked on the lack of bones from birds or red deer. The paucity of pig bones is also of interest. Of the two rabbit bones, she says that ‘they are presumably of later date, as there is a general belief that rabbits were a Norman introduction’.
Two of the cattle bones, she reveals, bear marks indicating that joints of beef were immersed in salt brine – to be cured. (For the technically minded, they were ‘scapula with trimming of the origin of spina – which ensured that the salt brine penetrates into the beef joint’).
‘The large proportion of cattle sized ‘shafts’, Vida continues, suggest that they ‘must have been split for marrow removal, a type of butchery previously noted on other Roman sites… Ribs,’ she observes, ‘appear to have been chopped to fit pot sizes’.
Another important finding was the presence of a young or juvenile horse. (One of the horse bones Vida analysed was under 15 months of age).
From the first batch of 123 ‘pre-SVCA’ bones, 9 were recorded with butchery marks.
Unfortunately Vida has not yet seen the pig’s skull discovered in Trench F which was inadvertently left at Hill Farm. Hopefully it can be taken to her after the Lockdown. Like the oyster shells however, it is included in this Interim Summary.
BONES DISCOVERED BY THE SVCA – TRENCH B AND B/C
Cow, or cow sized bones 30
Sheep.goat, or sheep sized bones 28
Non identifiable mammal 5
BONES DISCOVERED BY THE SVCA – TRENCH C
(This trench runs at a right angle to Trench B, and has suggestions of a cobbled path)
Sheep/goat or sheep sized bones 2
Non identifiable mammal 5
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH D
A small trench on the ‘Bulmer side’ of Trench B, containing a degraded up-turned bowl and burnt material (From the Interim Report by Corinne Cox)
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH E
(A small trench revealing a ditch and much burnt material. Situated between Trench B and Trench D)
Cow and cow sized 8
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH F
(At right angles from Trench B and directly opposite Trench C. Trench F provided the exciting discovery of a complete boar’s skull. In her Interim Report, Corinne speculated that the latter may have been a totem, placed on a post, as a post hole was found beside it.)
Cow or Cow sized 15
Sheep sized 2
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH G26
(The intriguing ‘banana shaped’ditch. It is here that bones were discovered together with pottery, surrounded by flint stones.)
Cow and Cow sized 89
Sheep/goat and Sheep sized 26
Non identifiable mammal 24
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH H24
(The final trench we opened, about 4 metres from G26. It is almost certainly a continuation of G26)
Cattle sized 3
Sheep sized 1
SVCA members undertook a very great deal of patient archaeology to recover the bones and teeth!
Hopefully, it will be possible – after the Lockdown – to see exactly which bones and teeth belong to each species and location.
In the meantime, we have a glimpse of our Bulmer predecessors some 2000 years ago. Their meadows were grazed by cattle and sheep, with much smaller numbers of pigs.
On the evidence from Old Barn Field, their meat diet consisted principally of beef, mutton or lamb. The oysters, whose shells were deposited in Trench B, may – or may not – have been eaten by them. The paucity of pig bones is intriguing and it will be interesting to see if this is reflected on other archaeological site in the area.
The 264 bones recovered by the SVCA, including the pigs skull, which Vida has not yet seen, together with the 256 which she examined in 2020 and the seven she looked at in 2018 .
Assessment of Faunal Remains from Hill Farm, 2nd Batch, (Old Barn Field, 1995-2011) by Vida Rajkovaca, 2016
Assessment of Faunal remains from Hill Farm (Belchamp Brook and Old Barn Field), by Vida Rajkovaca, 2018
Assessment of Faunal remains from BUL/OBF, 2020, by Vida Rajkovaca
Interim Report…Excavations Undertaken by SVCA volunteers at Old Barn Field, Bulmer, Essex, 2016-2018, by Corinne Cox
Over the last few years, many of you have devotedly washed, weighed, sorted and recorded finds from Old Barn Field, Bulmer, at our “Finds Processing Sessions”.
I thought that everybody might like to know, that yesterday (2nd November) Catherine Collins came to Hill Farm. After casting a final “professional eye” over the 240 bags of pottery and 36 bags of bone that have been unearthed, she packaged them and took them to Cambridge, where specialists will begin the process of analysing them.
All being well, all the other finds (such as Lithics, tile, soil samples and metal finds, etc.), will be similarly despatched after the Lockdown.
The picture above shows all of the pottery laid out in the Classroom, in its respective trenches, slots or feature numbers, prior to Catherine’s arrival. To have recorded everything so well is a real achievement for a voluntary group. Well Done and Thank you to everyone!!
Catherine, working through the final bags of bone.
Coincidentally it was almost eight years to the day since Catherine first came to the farm (for the Field Walk at Goldingham Hall in November 2012). She sends her Very Best Wishes to all who know her.
I hope everyone will keep well – and safe – in the coming months.