Seventieth Dig Day – Sunday 29th December 2013

Ice on car windscreen in Woodingdean

Ice on car windscreen in Woodingdean.

We are now into overtime. The first frosty start of the dig.

Interesting to note, whilst the puddles on the way to the dig site were covered in ice, those on the dig site itself were not – an indication of how sheltered the cottage must have been.

Panorama from S bank of dew pond on Newmarket Hill, looking E to W

Panorama from S bank of dew pond on Newmarket Hill, looking E to W; click to enlarge.

Fortunately for us, the day remained beautiful and sunny, though the long term forecast is for more rain. Cloudy (wet) weather acts as a warm blanket which prevents heat loss at night so less danger from frost, but for the laser scan, dry weather is definitely required. I am therefore keeping a very close eye on long term forecasts.

Looking NW at junction between N & S rooms of cottage

Looking NW at junction between N & S rooms of cottage.

The image above shows the original floor level of the inside of the cottage. It was proposed that to better understand the construction of the cottage I should consider using the original units of measurement used by the builders. Therefore, to record the extent that military ordnance and the later bulldozer formed the observed cut through the wall and floor remains, I choose to use brick courses as a relative unit of measurement. The mortared flints were also laid in courses level with the bricks on either side, at least within the cottage. Each course of flints was delineated by double struck lines in the mortar, making these courses easy to observe.

Collage of photos looking N at remains of internal dividing cottage wall

Collage of photos looking N at remains of internal dividing cottage wall; click to enlarge.

The image above consists of a series photos of the internal dividing wall of the cottage. Careful observation revealed that the bulldozer cut was at an angle roughly parallel with the surrounding ground surface, and that its eastern side was five bricks courses below the original floor level. Furthermore, the eastern cut face of the outside wall at this point was about six courses above the original ground level. Thus, when the cottage was built, its western end may have been cut into the chalk bedrock, whilst its western end was raised well above the original ground surface by back-filled chalk rubble, about ten courses above the eastern ground level (approximately three feet in height).

Looking N at W side of cottage with bricks to indicate approx height of floor level

Looking N at W side of cottage with bricks to indicate approx height of floor level.

Recording/surveying the south-west corner of the cottage’s extension showed it was five brick courses lower than the surviving floor level further north. Military ordnance and/or the later bulldozer clearly cut very deep into its foundations here, which helps explain why the extension’s east end has been completely lost.

Looking SW at E side of cottage

Looking SW at E side of cottage.

Looking S at trench E of chimney base

Looking S at trench E of chimney base.

The east side of the trench down beside the base of the chimney was further excavated, down through a deep layer of demolition rubble and into one of the cottage’s many middens, which had a distinctly musty smell.

Finds were particularly numerous, and included:

  • The forearm of a small bisque doll;
  • A leg of a small plastic (PVC) doll;
  • Part of a bisque doll’s body with a limb or head socket and part of a name ending ‘ein’;
  • Part of gape vine decorated ceramic wall tile

    Part of gape vine decorated ceramic wall tile

    Reverse of gape vine decorated ceramic wall tile

    Reverse of gape vine decorated ceramic wall tile

    Part of a badly damaged glazed ceramic wall tile with a nice grape vine decoration;

  • Finds tray containing a metal ammunition box(?) handle attachment

    Finds tray containing a metal ammunition box(?) handle attachment.

    The above finds tray contains a long bone with a spiral fractured end indicative of deliberate breakage while fresh to extract the marrow; one of many lengths of shaped iron to take two copper alloy buckles through which carrying straps may be attached – whilst they had no holes to fix them onto a wooden box, thin metal tape with plenty of holes and small tacks often still attached (of a type not found elsewhere) where found in close association, all found within this one area directly at the base of the demolition rubble between the outside of the laundry ‘copper’ and the chimney base, associated with an area of partial burning – probably they were to carry WW2 ammunition boxes; also a metal lid – one of many also found in this area – similar to the lid of the cardboard tube holding a whiskey bottle, but with a housing for a strap (though absent on this one for they were not firmly attached since a tightened strap would hold it), thus suggesting a canister to hold cylindrical objects in need of special protection such as mortars – the fittings would have been the only part to survive if the boxes were of wood and the if the tubes were of card – it should be noted I have not as yet found any proof for my suppositions;

  • Looking SE at base of fireplace

    Looking SE at base of fireplace, showing sheet of metal embedded in side of trench

    Looking S at trench next to base of fireplace, pulling up edge of sheet of metal embedded in side of trench to see underneath

    Looking S at trench next to base of fireplace, pulling up edge of sheet of metal embedded in side of trench to see underneath

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney, found under sheet of metal

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near chimney base

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near chimney base

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney

    Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney

    The best find of all – hiding under a large folded sheet of thin metal (similar to that of signs) – was the upper part of a decorated cast iron fireback embedded in a section of masonry – more evidence for a fireplace designed for use with coal;

  • Finds tray at end of day from midden at base of chimney

    Finds tray at end of day from midden at base of chimney

    Other finds from this midden deposit included a large number of lumps of coal; lots of rusty nails; part of a very large handle possibly belonging to our large wash jug recently found nearby with clean lines indicating an art deco date to the jug – perhaps 1920’s – 30’s; a range of ceramics;

  • PVC(?) leg of small doll

    PVC(?) leg of small doll

    The small plastic (PVC?, post 1926?) leg of a doll, identical to one found earlier.

Meanwhile I am busy preparing for a talk about the dig on Friday 10th January. It is at the Woodingdean Holy Cross Church Hall, at 7-30pm. Twelve historical objects and key dig finds will be used to illustrate the story of what we have discovered of the origins of Newmarket Farm, and the lives of those who lived there.

Whilst we wait for a window in the weather guaranteed to be dry for the 3d laser scan, there are still plenty of opportunities to dig. We would love you to join us – either for a site visit, or to help us dig – no experience required! We meet at the car park near the junction of Bexhill Road and Falmer Road, just north of Woodingdean.

*Please note* in future we will only be digging Sundays, from 10am – 3:30pm. Fridays will be dedicated to re-surveying the site. If the weather is too bad to dig we are still happy to give a quick tour for anyone interested. Please don’t hesitate to email me for further info: scienceinthegreen@yahoo.co.uk

Happy New Year!

David

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One thought on “Seventieth Dig Day – Sunday 29th December 2013

  1. Pingback: Welcome to Newmarket Hill – a South Down Blog! | Newmarket Hill

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