Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ampthill Park

I had another wander across to the archaeological dig this afternoon. Things are slowly progressing, and it’s certainly fascinating, though I think the site is posing as many questions as answers for those trying to interpret the evidence being uncovered, as is often the way with these kinds of things!

This is the trench nearest the West Car Park. There is a line of rubble at the northern end: a dump following the dismantling of the palace? Or part of a roadway to it? The lumps behind the gentleman’s left shoulder are clods of clay from the Vale: a foundation for some building? Looking at this photo, you will see another trench to the north of this one and in a line with Katherine's Cross....

...this is the trench that I spent a morning digging in a week ago. It’s now basically completed. There’s a ditch running through it – and you can just see the hearth at the bottom where something was burned…rubbish of some kind? There is a small clinker pit in the far left-hand corner which we discovered last week. It contained slag and bits of iron. Does it date to the First World War era?

There certainly seems to be a lot of activity in this pit, which may very well date back to that time. Notice the grey soil in the top right-hand corner of the pit. This consists of a lot of ash…evidence of smelting during the First World War? Then, there have been a lot of Tudor-period roof-tiles found which are piled up on the edge…and some Tudor brickwork of some kind on the floor…but does the structure date from that time, or is it re-constituted stone? There’s also a lot of white chalk around, which may have been used as a sub-layer to a floor.

The most easterly trench is fascinating. A few bits of Tudor green-glaze pottery have been found here. The darker soil running down the centre indicates what may have been the site of a kitchen range which was begun…laid out with timbers to the design….but never completed. But the activity ‘puddled’ the soil which has caused it to retain its moisture, leading to a line of greener grass that continues right down to the western side of the memorial.

I may not have got all the facts right here, so take them with a pinch of salt, but it’s obviously complicated because of the discovery of a lot of relatively recent, though interesting, activity. And there’s a lot of debate going on by those in the know as to what, exactly, the axis of the Tudor palace is, for which we have the stylised plans! Whatever happens in the next few days as the dig draws to a close, it looks like the site invites further investigation in the future - let's hope it's not the far-distant future!

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