Revised Excavation Plan

Detailing my archaeological plans, trench by trench, has enabled me to realise just how much work will be involved in order to better understand how the cottage may have functioned:

Newmarket Cottage Trench Plan 2; January 2013.

Newmarket Cottage Trench Plan 2; January 2013. Base plan from East Sussex Record Office.

  1. Find NE corner of garden boundary wall (1x1m trench on corner & extend if required to max 2x2m)
  2. Find S boundary wall junction; including corner of farmyard & garden & possible garden structure (1x1m trench on estimated junction & extend if required to 3x2m)
  3. Find junction of the internal wall between the house, garden and the N boundary wall, including parts of the farmyard on one side and the outside toilet on the other (1x1m trench on estimated junction & extend if required to 3x2m)
  4. Find SW corner of water tank on boundary wall (1x1m trench & extend if required to 2x2m)
  5. Find NW corner of water tank on boundary wall (1x1m trench & extend if required to 2x2m to join up with previous trench – this is an important feature to locate)
  6. Find SW corner of house on boundary wall (1x1m trench & extend if required to 2x2m)
  7. Find NW corner of house on boundary wall (1x1m trench & extend if required to 2x2m)
  8. Find a possible internal house wall line on W side of house; may have been an extension to S of house (1x1m trench increased to 1x3m if required – it would become an extension to the trench to find the SW corner of the house)
  9. Find internal house wall lines on W side of house; between main downstairs rooms (1x1m trench increased to 1x3m if required)
  10. Find internal house features on W side of house; possible pantry and stairway (1x1m trench increased to 1x3m if required – would become an extension to both the previous trench and the one to find the NW corner of the house)
  11. Find front door to house (2x1m trench enlarged to 3x1m if required – may become an extension to the trench to find the NW corner of the house)
  12. Find front garden gate – possibly opposite front door of house (2x1m trench enlarged to 3x1m if required – may also locate NE corner of outside toilet)
  13. Find NE corner of house, including ‘wood-shed’ (2x1m trench enlarged to 3x1m if required – this may become an extension to the trench to find the front door to house)
  14. Find SE corner of ‘wood-shed’ & projection of E side of house, possible back-door and internal house wall (2x2m trench enlarged to 3x3m if required)
  15. Find door in internal house wall (2x1m trench enlarged to 3x1m if required – may become extension of trench to find W end of this internal wall)
  16. Find fireplace (2x1m trench enlarged to 3x1m if required)

If I start at the beginning of March, and manage two trenches per month, then I would have finished an investigation of the internal features of the house by the end of October.

The location of the outside toilet has been disputed, between Lucy and Bob Phipps who lived there as children from 1934–1938. One recalled it as being next to the garden gate, the other as being next to the front door. Old Ordnance Survey maps and Mr Selbach’s plan show a suitable structure next to the front garden gate. Trenches 3, 7 and 11 may be able to confirm its location.

The other big target(s) is the “well(s?)” where both the Lathams’, and the Phipps’ got their water. However, this is shrouded in mystery! Neither family has been able to recall anything about a water-tank. Yet this is clearly marked on the plan found with Mr Selbach’s papers dating 1921. There is a patch of water-loving spearmint growing in a rubble filled depression in the vicinity of this tank. Trenches 4 and 5 are to attempt to determine the nature of this feature. It is always possible that Mr Selbach’s plan was for a proposed water tank that was never actually built, and the spearmint is growing on the site of a well. Bob Phipps recalled a shallow well, outside a window, to the south of the house. However, Anne Latham (who lived there from 1938-1942) recalled the well being outside the kitchen window to the north of the house. It may be that a geophysics survey, or even a dowser, may able to help with the location of an extra 1x1m trench or so.

Personally I am especially interested in locating the fireplace(s). There were two rooms downstairs described in 1868 as a kitchen and a wash-house. The wash-house would probably have been on the north side of the house, and the kitchen to the south, with a single dividing wall between the two. The nineteenth century cooking would have been on an open fire, and the wash-house would almost certainly have had a copper for heating water. This was common in agricultural cottages, especially in one so remote – there would be no neighbours to share laundry facilities with. I have not been able find anyone who clearly remembers the location of the fireplace(s). There were certainly none upstairs in the three bedrooms. Therefore a single central chimney would have been ideal; all three bedrooms would have benefited from any radiant heat; and the flue for the copper could have been on the opposite side of the kitchen/washroom wall from the kitchen fireplace and thus may have shared the same chimney. This is speculation though. Even if someone does have a memory of its location, we know from the outside toilet and the well/water-tank, that this information may not be reliable. Trench 16 has been planned to find its most probable location.

However, if the bulldozer driver was a little too active in this part of the house, there may be no evidence left of the fireplace. ‘Trench‘ 17 has therefore been planned for a systematic exploration (a partial excavation) of the large mound of demolition rubble to look for any chimney pots. This would be a very large target – about 28 metres long, several metres wide and a metre or two deep. It contains some very large pieces of masonry. The strategy would be to clear the demolition mound of its vegetation, and to strip it of some of the smaller debris, to search for identifiable chimney fragments. This could be a winter project.

Based on this first year of digging, a possible second year’s programme may be considered. This would involve excavating down through undisturbed archaeology. Possibilities include:

  • A possible rubbish dump in the SE corner of the garden
  • Waterlogged sediments, possibly 2 metres down, in the bottom of the ‘water-tank’
  • Construction details of the house (original and possible later phases)
  • A ‘railway’ that was recorded in a 1925 document (tracked wagons across farmyard?)
  • Farmyard surface(s)
  • Stable
  • Cattle ‘hovel’
  • Barn, including its 20thc extension, and its water-tank
  • Access tracks and paths (to Kingston in 19thc, to Balsdean, Woodingdean and Falmer in 20thc, also access to the field to the S of the farmyard)
  • Water-pipe from the well in Newmarket Bottom – which had a pumping engine – which possibly fed the water tank in the back garden, and/or the water-tank in the barn – this might be located by geophysics and not necessarily dug, except for those parts of it within the Newmarket Farm Dig site (Mr Selbach planned to have a large water tank up on the top of Newmarket Hill, which was to be filled from the well down in Newmarket Bottom, and which was to supply water to an housing estate on the SW side of Newmarket Hill – which he was prevented from building)
  • Possibility of a pipe to fill the water-tank with rainwater from the Newmarket Cottage roof, both before and/or after the Newmarket Bottom well pump which may have been in operation from just 1921-1925.

The last two excavation targets may possibly be revealed during this year’s programme of work to the south of the house. If something is found, it would be recorded, but it would not be followed down into undisturbed archaeology – at least not until a formal project plan review point was reached.

Rainwater guttering should certainly be looked for in the bulldozed mound of rubble.

My finds policy has yet to be planned – this will have to wait for another post – I need to get some expert advice on this.

Lots of Good News!

Another hurdle has been cleared! Smiths Gore, who manage Brighton & Hove City Council’s farmland portfolio (including Castle Hill Nature Reserve), have obtained formal permission for me to go ahead with my excavation project.

There is now only one more permission to be obtained – namely that of being able to dig on a nature reserve of European significance. Luckily the reserve manager, Malcolm Emery, is dealing with this on my behalf. Because the site used to be a residence and farmyard, it is an area of high fertility (lots of poo and pee!), and therefore has become colonised by nettles and brambles. In the early 1950’s the area was bulldozed to make the site safe. This has very much reduced the biodiversity and ecological significance of this small corner of the reserve. Therefore further digging should not threaten the nature reserve’s conservation status in any way.

I have also started receiving offers of help from volunteers interested in being involved in an archaeological dig. This is excellent news! I need to decide on a fixed day once a month for volunteer days to be able to happen – sometime in March.

I was on site yesterday and it was good to see it again – without its earlier blanket of snow! I didn’t take any photos, but I did clean up a few fragments of wall that are visible – so it is now easier to show visitors the approximate ground plan.

The next clearance day may possibly be next Thursday – though this hasn’t been confirmed yet – it depends on the forecast, and whether Malcolm Emery has any higher priority jobs that need doing.

Yesterday was a very good day!

Marking Boundaries

I wasn’t sure until recently the best way to mark out the Archaeological site boundary.

  • I know from experience that light weight string gets caught up in brambles and that it easily gets tangled, it can trip people up and can easily get accidentally cut.
  • Heavier duty rope would be better, but would be expensive, and heavy to carry.
  • Hazard warning tape is another possibility, but it draws too much attention to itself – I would only want to use it when there is a real need to keep people out of an area – which in this case I do not.

I knew that surveyors on Time Team used a spray paint but I wasn’t sure how permanent it was, or toxic – I would be using it on a nature reserve. However, a little Googling on the Internet and I found a spray paint called SylvaMark. This has been approved for use by English Nature (Natural England‘s predecessor) on their own reserves, and after reading the blurb, it looks exactly what I want. I chose a blue colour since it was less fluorescent than the others and a type that only lasts a couple of weeks or more. It should arrive by the end of the week. I just hope the weather stays dry enough for me to be able use it before the next site clearance day.