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Archaeology: The Dig                                                  Logo


Here is the on-going record of our day to day progress throughout the summer and autumn of 2016 with the most recent day's digging at the top.

Go down to the bottom of the page for the start of the story
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MONDAY OCTOBER 17th. to FRIDAY OCTOBER 28th.
A very busy couple of weeks which I've decided to run together to tell the story of the final stages of the excavation as well as relating roof top developments. The contractors were charged with starting to dismantle elements of the roofing structure which had meant more scaffolding and the removal of some earlier repairs that had been made. This in turn meant it was important to record the fittings and fixtures on each roof truss before the work began, lots of photography. We also had to mount expeditions up the outside scaffolding to view the insides of a number of seriously rotted timbers.



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Woodwork: truss five showing the painted decoration and the outside of truss three on the south side showing how little sound wood remains




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An even worse example, there's no weight bearing element to this beam at all!                       A selection of the hand forged bolts and fixings removed whilst taking apart earlier repairs.




Back in the trench following a lot of research into the mysteries of iron coffins our hopes were about to be dashed. Once excavation of the fill of grave CRB16/015 began in earnest it became clear that what we had was a series of iron backing plates for the coffin handles which had corroded in such a way as to create the effect of continuous sheets of iron on the inside face of the coffin. That was not the case, furthermore the iron sheets that had dropped down on to skeleton were not from an iron lid but from a pair of deposita, the technical term for decorative and name plates often fixed to the lids of nineteenth century coffins. Oh well, we all learn as we go along. the excavation of the deposita in particular had to be dome with immense care as we suspected, rightly, that traces of an inscription survived. Once the  bones were revealed there were more surprises in store. The bones had two notable peculiarities. First of all the skull had no teeth at all, more than that the sockets had grown over completely, or had eroded away, it's a strange pathology which will need some study. Also the ribs defining the chest cavity occupied a very narrow space, pathology again or very severe corseting? One final surprise, as the skull was lifted a tangled deposit of hair, laces and ribbon with a couple of copper pins was revealed, could these be the remains of a bonnet? An preliminary examination of the pressed iron plate from the abdominal region revealed the letters prompted an initial reading of R*THY and so we named her Dorothy. if we can recover the full name we should be able to link her to the burial register and provide some more biographical detail.Work continued to define, record and remove the remainder of the burials affected by the central square metre which would be taken down to the full depth of the soak away.




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Our 'iron coffin' before excavation and afterwards.



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Detail of the toothless skull...




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... and the possible bonnet she was wearing




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An overall view of the trench prior to the removal of selected burials.




We were particularly pleased to welcome on October 25th. Lisa and Stephen, two representatives from the Courtauld Institute department of wall painting. They were able to examine our doom closely and were able to confirm its great importance as a piece of national significance, despite its poor condition. Lots to be done here now to plan for its future care not to say recording and analysis. back in the finds department, also known as St. Fremund's Chapel, work began to examine. record and then excavate in a little table top operation the possible remains of our bonnet. Delicate work which may take some time.




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Assorted experts examine the doom painting.




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Detail showing surviving patches of hair and the remains of the bonnet lifted as a piece on a large block of clay.




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Verna begins the tricky job of teasing out the fragments in an attempt to understand its construction.





The final stages of digging saw us excavate along the line of the in-coming pipe trench down to the level of the first set of burials. These were not to be disturbed but were recorded to help us understand more about the distribution of burials on site. Another coffin with iron handles and a juvenile burial emerged as did another piece of material, this time with a number of buttons which may represent a purpose made shroud or even the shirt the individual was buried in, more careful excavation and future analysis. After that all remaining burials were carefully covered over and the trench partially back-filled and awaiting the attention of the builders. And that was it the end of an extraordinary piece of work which began back on May 31st and has drawn on the time and talents of local volunteers, well done to all , the digging id done but there is still much to do, finds to wash, fabrics to study, roof beams to record and there is still plenty of architectural analysis to carry out. We'll be busy well into next year.




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The last few burials are cleaned prior to planning and photography.



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Always something turns up at the last minute, the remains of a buttoned shroud or shirt in the ground and after lifting, note the buttons.




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It's all over! 






FRIDAY OCTOBER 14th.
Actually the fine weather has been continuing, we've been pretty lucky so far this autumn. We were very well off for labour so we alternated between a session down in the pit amongst the skeletons with time up under roof recording the wood work, a welcome change no matter which way you were heading.

We've also been in touch this week with the extremely helpful team of curators and conservators at the the Museum of London regarding an iron coffin they conserved from the crypt of St. Brides, Fleet Street. You read all about it here. It will take a few more days before we are clear about the exact form of our two iron coffins but there's no doubt they are creating a bit of a buzz in certain circles.


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Peter and Andries each concentrating on a particular burial and here's what it looks like with them out of the way.



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Work in progress, composite scans of the drawings made of the easternmost roof truss above the nave spot the seven carpenter's marks.



WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 12th.
Once again an amazingly fast turn round from the consistory court and we have our permission to continue to excavate and remove burials by Tuesday afternoon. As we move further on into the autumn the promise of good weather grows increasingly distant. Given that we have some very tricky digging to do out in the churchyard I decided to put up a temporary cover, also known as a gazebo, to permit us to carry on through the next few weeks. The other piece of new infra-structure (thanks to Lee and Ian for this is additional scaffolding planks to create 'bridges' for us to work from. Not especially comfortable but essential in a trench which appears to be wall to wall burials. As we had had a bit of a wet start Peter took on the task of sorting out the infant burial we had lifted in a block of soil from CRA, a combination of careful 'digging' with sieving maximized the amount of bone we were able to recover.



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Cover, fencing and spoil heaps, essential ingredients for digging in Cropredy churchyard.                                                                                                            Lying down on the job, it's the only way.



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Peter begins a ticklish task.







MONDAY OCTOBER 3rd. to THURSDAY OCTOBER 6th.
I've run the sessions from this week together as essentially it was the same story spread out over four days, namely the careful yet very difficult excavation of multiple human remains encased with a particularly damp and sticky clay. The situation was of course complicated by the density of burials, six so far and counting. Two of the burials are in iron coffins: one fairly thin iron sheet nailed outside of the wooden coffin and the other apparently made of steel plate! Speculation was rife, could these have been victims of some especially feared disease? Lots more research needed. A shroud burial next to our first iron coffin appears to have been of a woman who may have been garlanded before burial, we found a couple of small copper alloy hair pins, one of which had fragments of hair still attached. We are now at the stage however of having reached a bit of a full stop. At least four of the skeletons have to be lifted so the 2 metre deep shaft for the soak away can be completed and so we have to go back to the consistory court for permission.




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It's getting crowded in here, Helen and Andries and Peter start working across the bottom of the trench examining the burials and this was what they were working on.



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At the end of Monday we had examined a 'skull and cross bones' near the south corner which proved to have been thrown in on top of another iron coffin.



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The second iron coffin to the left partially excavated with the central pit marked out, we have to drop about another 25cm here. Peter wonders what it's all about,


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       Detail of the last burial to excavated during the week. the green staining from hair pins suggests that perhaps she was wearing a garland.





FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 29th.
Get this finished by the end of the day I thought. Well the first thing that came up was the truncated pelvis of a burial coming in from the west and apparently, thanks to Peter's careful excavation, with the remains of a coffin lid on top of it. Then it became clear that the truncating had been done to insert some kind of iron box. Further investigation revealed this to contain a skull and therefore the conclusion that we had an iron coffin became inescapable. Ten next to that our third burial this one with two green stains on the skull which may indicate the presence of copper alloy hair pins. I'm guessing at the moment that these are burials from the eighteenth or nineteenth century but one thing was quite clear, we wouldn't be finished by the weekend.



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The first skeletal remains appear.                                                                            All systems go with three burials under excavation.




The other highlight of the day was the opportunity to take Andries and Mark, up on the nave scaffolding to view the timbers, which I had been drawing, and more particularly the doom painting, close up. It's especially interesting but not surprising that the closer one looks the more one sees (examples below).




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Mark is very excited by his identification of (not with ) John the baptist and Lee explains some of the structural issues with the roof.




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Two details: rather copious drops of blood scattered from Christ's pierced hands and a naked woman emerges from her grave bearing a crown!



THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 28th. With the first trench finished we continued cracking on with the soak away trench systematically lowering the levels around 15 cm at a time until we had reached an overall depth of just over a metre and despite odd indications of possible patches of looser soil that could indicate grave cuts we had found very little. The main point of note was that we were recovering fragments of clay pipe stem from very low down indication the ground had been thoroughly dug over in the post-medieval period. So it was that we began the final stage of the excavation and marked out a smaller area just 1 m square which we would carry on down to the full depth of 2m. We'd be finished by the weekend.




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Yes the trench really is wonky... long story.                                               Andries and Geoff get to grips with the final square.






TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 27th.
Tuesday saw the parish outing to Leicester. This was a two part trip. Initially to the headquarters and works of Norman and Underwood to watch our recycled lead being melted and recast and then on to the centre of the city to the Richard III centre and cathedral. There was a connection in that the managing director of Norman and Underwood had been the last person to see Richard's bones as he was responsible for sealing the new lead coffin in which the king's remains were re-interred.

The work being done on the factory floor was hugely impressive. There were three operatives who were continually on the go setting up and casting a huge sheet of lead roughly every 20 minutes. First up the tray of casting sand had to be prepared and carefully leveled before the silver stream of molten lead was pushed along to create a sheet of even thinness which was then rapidly marked out, cut and rolled and set aside to bring back to Cropredy. This was hard physical work and represented a curious mixture of the hi-tech furnace and breathing apparatus with casting methods that date back millennia.



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The freshly cast lead being cut into manageable sized pieces.                                                                  The Cropredy crowd mill around admiring everything that was going on.



FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 23rd.
The scaffolders finished in good time to enable a Friday morning site conference for all of us with an interest in the roof timbers. There as mush poking of timbers and gradually a plan emerged. From an archaeological point of view, apart from promoting minimal intervention where ever possible, the key task will be recording both with photos and drawings the main elements of the roof structure plus its decoration plus the extraordinary efforts to keep it all together over the years.




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Half way up there is a landing which gives you a remarkable view down the nave.




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Here's the view once you have climbed the scaffolding and face east plus a close up of our dragon.



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A study in contrasts: faces from the roof both grave and gay. Who were these people?




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Engineer, architect and contractors begin to assemble a cunning plan to keep the roof on.




THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd.
The scaffolders have moved in and working as only scaffolders can have made remarkable progress, even if the work is accompanied by a medley of Elvis's greatest hits. Away from the fray the last section of trench CRA was completed with a careful examination of the deposits behind the churchyard wall. There can be no doubt that it was built in the nineteenth century, oh well there goes my dream of a medieval church wall, wait a moment, perhaps it was rebuilt, there has to be some explanation for the huge size of some of the reused stones employed in its construction.



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What a transformation, inside the church as the scaffolding goes up whilst outside the last act of CRA16.




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Still they persevere in CRB.



FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 16th.
It was rather sad to see the back-filling completed: three months to remove it, three hours to put it all back in place, more or less, still it was better than doing it all by hand. Meanwhile in CRB the levels continue to drop but any sign of burials, apart from scattered fragments of bone, remain elusive


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Sign of the times: the green pipe is for data!





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Back-filling well underway, so that was what all the bags were for.  And still they persevere on trench CRB.






WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 14th.
Wednesday saw the arrival of the road crew who took some time and trouble to actually locate the services below Red Lion Street. Once they had done that however they worked quickly to make connections and fill it all in. Inside Lee and his team had removed the inside steps up to the north door revealing the face of the wall below the threshold. Not a lot to it but it will repay careful study and recording if we are to understand the differing levels between the floor of the north aisle and the features outside.



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The road crew swing into action...




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... and discover clay, clay and more clay below some gravel, still it had to be checked out.




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Must get a better photo of the wall below the steps, it was all rather gloomy in there with door closed.



TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 13th.
As CRA closes down work continues on CRB. It's time consuming work and many thanks to the team who carefully and patiently reduced the levels in the soak away trench. We must be getting close to the point at which we came upon the highest level of burials in our first trench.




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Contrast in styles: finishing off the last level and in the classic trowelers in a line style to start a new one.




FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9th.
Really the final stages of work on CRA 16, lots of section drawing and a final burst of recording on three overlapping burials which will be covered over and left in situ. Down by the vestry work continued on the second trench, not hugely interesting at present but one particularly interesting find, a copper alloy disk with a raised rim and incised pattern, ideas range from lid to weight to gaming piece, as ever, all a suggestions gratefully received.




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Peter undertakes the final stage of cleaning before we photograph the last three burials to be uncovered.



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CRB16 002/1... suggestions please ( the hole is a shallow indentation not a piercing).




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Meanwhile up on the scaffolding I had a chance to look at some of the beam ends in the nave roof, not a pretty picture.






TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 6th.
In order to accommodate some serious hole drilling we had cleared the area at the west end of the north aisle but it was also time to relocate the entire finds department to St. Fremund's Chapel, special thanks to Sue for helping with this. Out in the graveyard work on the first trench was drawing to a close whilst more of our attention was given over to CRB 16, the soak away trench.





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The move nearly complete, Christine and Sue set to work in St. Fremund's Chapel.




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Chris ponders the mystery of what may be three inter-cutting burials whilst levels continue to drop in the soak away.



FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 2nd.
This was a hugely productive day with our best turn out yet with a total of 16 local and not so local volunteers contributing at different times of the day. This enabled us to get on really well with our second trench CRB16 which will eventually be home to the 'let's keep the vestry dry soak away'. In order to maximize the amount of information recovered from this operation and perhaps more importantly guarantee the safety and comfort of our diggers, we have opened up the pipeline trench to a full metre and  staked out a 2 x 2 metre square on the site of the soak away pit so that it can be stepped down to its full depth of 2 metres.

back in the first trench we lifted three more skeletons but disentangling the burials closest to the north door took more time as we had two skulls immediately next to each other and then traces of a couple more burials appearing underneath them a touch further north. In order to give everyone a bird's eye view of the proceedings we took a few brave volunteers to the top of the newly completed tower to peer down on their colleagues from above.

W also had a crack team at work on the long and careful process of cleaning the bones now lifted. This involves toothbrushes, wooden skewers and ultimately dental probes not to mention the very careful labeling and packing of the remains, thanks to all.



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Isobel and Naomi at work on the complex series of burials close to the north door.                                                  Isobel claims it's a brain but we all know dirt when we see it.



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Geoff and Roger puzzle over the tricky business of lifting bones piece by piece whilst Andries, Mark and Kathryn dig the soak away.




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Manon uses her previous experience as a dental nurse to good effect.




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Coffee and cake mid-morning plus the view from the tower.









WEDNESDAY AUGUST 31st.
I had planned a day over at Farnborough for the Wednesday but following a call from Kathryn asking if there was to be any work at Cropredy for her and her friend Stephi I asked Verna to get them going whilst I sorted out dates and procedures with contractors about to start work on the repair of the main cascade at Farnborough. Once that was done we got organised and as well as cleaning up a trio of graves for photography they also got to grips with some panning and section drawing, enormously helpful in terms of keeping up with the recording.


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All new drawing skills: projecting the grid and measuring from the section line.




TUESDAY AUGUST 30th.
A fairly quiet day with some useful progress made on investigating the last couple of burials before continuing with the lifting and recording, however, we were graced with a party of transatlantic visitors thanks to Peter who not only attended the church service that morning but also set out their chairs and enjoyed the sight of our digging over a picnic lunch.




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Roger works on what will probably be the last burial to examine and a shot from the scaffolding tower set up to reinstate the refurbished rainwater goods.




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FRIDAY AUGUST 26th.
Lifting continued apace thanks to Andrew, Mark and Laurie and cry goes up, 'more plastic bags!' On the previous day I'd been examining the section edge and suggested to mark that we had an as yet unexcavated grave revealed in the cut. After a false start with a few badly jumbled bones this turned out to be the case and later in the day Geoff took over the excavation of what appears to be a burial with significant quantities of organic material associated with it. Slow work to be continued in the following week.



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Geoff gets to grips with quite a sticky fill.                                                                                                 Work in progress over a large area, could this have been an unusually large individual?





THURSDAY AUGUST 25th.
A day of challenges, not least associated withe the scaffolding crew who were juggling with planks and poles or whatever it is that they do, not quite overhead but near enough to warrant hard hats then it started raining. Peter had set up his skeletal cleaning station outside but had to transfer into the north aisle later on as it grew wetter. Meanwhile Sue and Christine had been operating a very efficient skeleton bagging, washing and storage operation - very impressive.



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Peter attempts to disengage the infant skull whilst Helen is cleaning the two skeletons next in line to have their photos taken. Peter then starts his on table top excavation...



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... before moving indoors because of the rain                                                      ...Mark toughs it out at the far end                                                                    .. and Sue cleans long bones




TUESDAY AUGUST 23rd.
Verna joined us for the first round of detailed photography of our assorted burials and once this task was complete the go ahead was given to start lifting those burials which lay on the route of the pipe line. Initially one of the highest burials, an adult with a badly crushed skull was lifted first then Peter got down to the sensitive task of lifting the remains of the infant burial. The first task was to cut around the skull area so it could be lifted in a black, a delicate task which was postponed until Thursday.




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CRA16/043/S1 captured prior to removal.





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Mark finishes off the second burial in the extension whilst Peter lifts the first skeleton.




MONDAY AUGUST 22nd.
Unfortunately we had a call out on Saturday evening from some good neighbours who had noticed a group of young people down in the trench and after an attempt at educating them in the error of their ways had asked them to leave. By the time we arrived there was nobody around but I was concerned that there could be a further incursion so I spent an hour or so wrestling with scaffolding planks and shifting nearly a tonne of pea gravel to weight them down.So it was on Monday morning the process had to be reversed and the trench cleared. At first the damage didn't seem to be too bad, the skeletons had been swathed in damp newspaper and thick plastic, but there were clearly a few post-mortem fractures that were not our responsibility. So the start of the week was primarily cleaning for photographs plus an excursion down at the extension to the north end of the trench where two new graves had been identified. What made these different was that they were clearly coffined burials as evidenced by the regularity of the cut and the presence of large numbers of small iron coffin nails.




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Monday morning and a load of planks and gravel to shift.                                                     Fortunately the burials are fairly intact.




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Sue and Mark tackle two new graves by the north gate which were amply supplied with coffin nails.




FRIDAY AUGUST 19th.
It was wet so we retreated into the church for the day to process some of the finds. This involves careful washing, drying and re bagging then storing the bits and pieces we have come up with then there is a further stage when we return to each context and begin the detailed recording and analysis of the material. Helen and I managed to do 001 Turf and Topsoil and most of  002 Subsoil during the course of the day.



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Finds recording and analysis department.                                                                                            Finds washing and packing department.




THURSDAY AUGUST 18th.
Just when the final stages of excavating our nine existing burials approached a final check revealed one more lying in the way of the pipework plus it was time to return to the far end of the trench to complete the section against the north wall of the churchyard. Then another big cover up as bad weather was forecast for the weekend ahead.



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Chris begins the onerous task of planning the first three burials whilst Andries is just    checking....


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... and comes up with one more burial to take us to a nice round 10. Meanwhile Mark and Laurie may be on to something at the other end of the trench.



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And here's some recording using a couple of apps on the iPad: Form Maker by Isoperia and Gill Hunt's Skelly Pad.




WEDNESDAY AUGUST 17th.
From day to day progress appears quite slow but then the careful excavation of human remains is a painstaking process of digging which goes hand in hand with the equally painstaking business of recording.




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Doing the recording means going back over work done already and ensuring that you have covered everything and really understand it whilst in addition the final cleaning of skeletons requires a steady hand.




TUESDAY AUGUST 16th.
Monday was all about clearing up so on Tuesday we were able to resume where we had left off last week with further excavation of the nine exposed burials. It all takes time especially as working conditions became more and more cramped




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Helen has nearly finished the one skeleton we are likely to lift entirely whilst Andrew delves into  the pelvic area of our most recently revealed burial.



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Over the weekend we opened the tower to festival goers to admire the view at 5 a trip and made nearly 1,000 towards the project.




FRIDAY AUGUST 5th.

Our last day before the Fairport* shut down
and plenty to do. (*We have a huge music festival in the village with 20,000 people plus in the vicinity many of who drink in the Red Lion and spill over into the churchyard, it's all very festive and friendly and feels vaguely medieval) . Peter examined another crushed skull burial and then whilst cutting down to the final depth required by the pipework found another but on a slightly different alignment. We have assumed from stratigraphic evidence that all these burials are medieval but it wasn't until today when Helen recovered some medieval pottery from the fill of one of the graves that we got our first shred of evidence. I wanted to be able to complete a basic record for all of our identified graves with decent photographic coverage just in case. Then it was the big clean up and cover over.



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One grave cleaned another waits to the right of the bucket.   Peter B. and Helen co-operated on the double burial, the individual  on the left is probably an adolescent.



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Everyone is busy getting as much done as we can before the shut down.




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And here we are, covered over for the break.





THURSDAY AUGUST 4th.

A day when for the first time we could really get going on the excavation of all our graves, now numbering nine. Peter S. did some sterling work on cleaning up the burial associated with our only intact skull so far whilst Andries demonstrated great delicacy of touch excavating the bones of child burial, an individual who was probably 5 or 6 at the time of death. Next to this Mark tackled what appears to be a pile of skulls, we are suggesting that this represents redeposited charnel and we have at least one intact skull which is tossed in face down.




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Andries completes the final widening of the trench whilst Peter clears the ground ready to excavate the skull and associated bones.



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To the left our child burial and to the right our pile of skulls.  In the afternoon we were digging five separate burials and Sue and Martin worked on washing bones.



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By the end of the day a remarkable sight, three beautifully dug adjacent burials, with thanks to Peter S.




WEDNESDAY AUGUST 3rd.

Time to complete the widening of the trench, hard work and it took up much of the day.



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I can't work scrunched up like this... so we widen the trench and are ready to go on the three southern most burials.




TUESDAY AUGUST 2nd.

Monday was for us a day off but astonishingly by the end of the day we had received a reply from the chancellor of the Oxford Diocese with an updated faculty permitting the removal and scientific study of the bones with provision for subsequent burial within a year's time. So on Tuesday we began the full excavation of the burials. This is an extraordinarily meticulous process and everyone set to with a will. Two further possible burials were located and it became clear by the end of the day that to maximize the data we could recover from these bones we would need to extend the 60 cm trench to its full width of one metre. It was Sarah's last day but such was her dedication that she insisted on spending the morning digging before heading off to catch the Eurostar for Brussels.


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Sarah tackles the first of the two adjacent burials while Andries takes over in the afternoon.



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An action packed trench: Brenda's odd collection of bones turned out to be just that whilst down the far end we seem to have run out of burials entirely.



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Newly discovered a heavily crushed skull, the bone is paper thin so this could be a juvenile burial.  For light relief Chris and Andy tour the nearly complete tower roof




FRIDAY JULY 29th.

The weather was looking a little unsettled so we erected some temporary shelters over our diggers. We had established the fact that a report would be needed for the consistory court of the Oxford Diocese in order to get permission to proceed with any further with work on the burials. This meant establishing as best we could how many intact burials there were and cleaning them to the point where an assessment could be made and some photographs taken.




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Diggers under cover (actually in the end it didn't rain).                                                                                 The last of the gravestones to be moved is wrapped up ready.




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Finds washing in full swing and a fine skull appears to give us burial number five,



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The mid-section of trench with three burials discovered.   




THURSDAY JULY 28th.


We took a little time out to pop up to the top of the tower and see how the plumbers were getting on with the new roof, down on the ground work slowed a little as we contemplated the implications of the burials we had unearthed.



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The lead work on the tower roof starts to go down.



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Sarah and Andries go head to head over the two skulls which appear to be lying cheek to cheek!



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Now that human remains have appeared in the trench we have to take particular care to cover them over at the end of the working day.




WEDNESDAY JULY 27th.

We began the day confidently enough with lots of section drawing underway (Thanks Sarah) and the careful dismantling of the drain. Knowing of the depth we needed to attain in our narrowed trench we pressed on with pickaxe and mattock,
spade and shovel... and then, close to the bend in our trench, remains of two skulls, lying practically cheek to cheek, whilst being unearthed almost simultaneously at the other end of the trench some leg bones make an appearance and all of a d sudden we have to reassess our notions of just how shallow some of these burials could be.



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Sarah sets to to draw sections and here is a photo of the east end of the trench alongside the north aisle wall that Sarah began on




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Spade work gives way to trowel work as the two skulls appear.



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Plus leg bones elsewhere. Meanwhile entirely unaffected by all this Ian crafts a new oak backing for the clock face.




TUESDAY JULY 26th.
Today was the first day when we really got cracking on the some serious dirt shifting for the new water supply. Lee came and gave us some guidance on appropriate levels and we set to with picks and mattocks, spades and shovels and mad remarkably good progress. there was some excitement when Peter B. came across some skull fragments which hinted at an intact burial but it was not to be. Meanwhile cast adrift a on the B site Kathryn and friend  looked for a discovered the line of the former boiler house wall which we had all been told about.


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Verna and Chris debate the finer points of trench digging whilst Sarah confirms we have excavated the last foundation course below the steps.




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Sarah wields a pickaxe like a pro whilst excellent progress is made down the other end of the trench too.




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Kathryn and friend begin the search for the legendary boiler house wall.




FRIDAY JULY 22nd.
The oppressive weather eased a little towards the end of the week and we began removing the cobbles and other elements of foundation and drain to try and get to the bottom of what the church was built on. It had been agreed at the progress meeting earlier in the week that we would attempt to complete the main part of the dig, and have it back-filled before the Fairport Festival... gulp! So a final clean up and a long hard look was called for before we sub-divided the trench to give us a final cut 60 cm wide.


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Peter starts to disappear down a hole, seen any white rabbits ?  Andries and Sarah take out the next spit of trench.



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Interesting features of the foundation type are revealed.



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The finds department pressing on.




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Sarah bakes in the hot sun as she tries to get an angle of the other set of foundations.




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... and finally, before finishing for the weekend, the view from on high.





TUESDAY JULY 19th.
And Kathryn returned the following week with Naomi who is another Farnborough/Hanwell 'old timer', sorry that makes her sound ancient. The s day was stiflingly hot and those who were sheltered by the church;'s shadow got on well, however, we had to engineer a temporary cover for the poor souls out in the mid-day sun. After a lot of hard work by Mike especially the final steps were removed and we had a chance to explore below the lowest, apart from discovering a shallowly buried BT data cable we also came across foundations for an earlier churchyard wall which will give us lots to think about.


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Chris digs as Sarah draws, all nicely in the shade whilst Naomi and Kathryn take their own shade with them.



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Early foundations for the churchyard wall.





FRIDAY JULY 15th.
A digger returns! Kathryn who is a veteran of Farnborough and Hanwell excavations turned up with a friend for a day's work. The lid came of the drain by the north aisle wall and Sarah began to carefully clean it out and bag up samples for future study as she went.


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Two in a trench... could be a name for a TV series? Later on Alicia explores the joys of finds washing.



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The drain being cleaned... the drain cleaned, well half way at least.




THURSDAY JULY 14th.
There is a second trench on site, of course, from the vestry to a new soak away so all its damp problems will be cured. It had been rather neglected up to this point so we made some determined progress on it finding large quantities of rubble where we had expected to see an old boiler room. the trench immediately next to the north aisle wall continued to give up its secrets and we were left with an impressive collection of cobbles, foundations and drains.



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The team bend their minds towards CRB16.




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Sarah finishes the last little bit of cleaning to reveal the full complexity of this little corner whilst down by the steps... more drain.




WEDNESDAY JULY 6th.
As the recording process came to an end it was time to remove the gravestones to a place of comparative safety so pallets were set up underneath the nearby conifer and after a lot of humping and hauling the stones began to arrive at the new stone store. That morning Lee and his crew had set up some temporary scaffolding to remove the old rainwater goods so I had a chance to go up and get some semi-aerial views of the dig so far. Finds washing and the dismantling of the steps proceeded apace.


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Bird's eye views.




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Mark and Irene wash whilst Mike and Andries dig.




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The stones start to arrive at the stone store.





TUESDAY JULY 5th.
There was still a lot of recording to do on the gravestones and Verna systematically continued to work her way along photographing them all. We widened the section next to the steps and Andries pulled out the first convincing bits of medieval pottery we had come across. other wise it was the normal routine of scraping and scraping with a bit of brushing only broken by the arrival of a delightful group of year pupils from Cropredy School who came along to find out what all the excitement was about.




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Andries mattocks with enthusiasm and comes up with medieval pottery.




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Verna considers her next picture whilst Mark and Chris think rubble.  Karen finds the best position for finds washing.




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Verna introduces the year 2s to dragons painted on the roof.


SATURDAY JULY 3rd.
Although it was not an official digging day I spent most of Saturday catching up with record keeping, particularly recording the gravestones. As new departure for Polyolbion Archaeology we have being doing mainly by entering data directly onto a pro forma on the iPad and the exporting the data onto an Excel spreadsheet. Sue lester has been doing an amazing job on researching the families whose stones have appeared and shortly there will be a separate section of the project web-site devoted solely to this information.I had taken advice from Lee our site foreman on the best way to move some of our better stones under cover and he suggested using super strong cling film to wrap them to a board ready for lifting, thanks to Karen for assisting with this.




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CRA16/st002 all wrapped up and ready to go.



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A screen shot of some of the data we are accumulating about the stones.




FRIDAY JULY 1st.
A full day's digging with no interruptions from the rain. Peter devoted a lot of time to cleaning up the complex bit of archaeology immediately alongside the north aisle wall. the combination of foundations, cobbled surface and drain will take quite some understanding but by the end of the day we had it all photographed and now someone has to draw it all. Meanwhile Mike began the ticklish job of dismantling the steps and seeing what exactly was resting on what. in the mid-zone more careful planing away of surfaces searching for earlier paths and cuts for graves.




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Peter begins the big clean up.                                                                                                         Mike takes out the steps.   





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More brown silty earth to shift.                                                                       After the big clean up, view looking west.




The scaffolding tower also went up so the contractors could start to remove the old rainwater goods from 1873, much of it now sadly corroded and damaged. It did however give us a chance to get up close to some of the wonderful; faces on the corbel table and photograph them for the record. i spent most of my time carrying on with the lengthy process of recording gravestones that we have uncovered. A couple of points struck me forcibly, as I emailed to Julian Munby, the diocesan archaeology adviser the next day:

"A couple of the stones have had elements of sculpture carefully removed by chiseling then out before burial, specifically a rosette, some unknown motif and a kind of Corinthian capitol (See photo below), we're struggling to establish a context for this, collected for some purpose we assume. The second point of interest is that some of earliest stones were painted, I'm no great expert but the painting of gravestones for outside use is not something I've heard of before. In the example illustrated the  shield shaped panel for the inscription was white, the area below the shield red and a blue line  outlined the whole thing - really very colourful (see other photo below). have you come across this before? If it is an unusual feature it may be worth the project taking specialist advice on the pigments and what have you. The long term aim is to keep the better preserved stones on show in the church so any further thoughts would be most welcome."




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The scaffold tower goes up, very civilized compared to some I've known and here's a close up of a charming little... devil?



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One of the key painted stones from 1663, three years after the Restoration.                                                     A beautiful stone  but elements were removed before it was reused.




THURSDAY JUNE 30th.
Unfortunately I could only be on hand for a half an hour or so as I had another job down Eynsham way, however, Verna and Peter between them kept things rolling along. Turf was stripped from the new trench in Peter's usual meticulous fashion and Verna made good progress with the equally meticulous task of making an accurate photographic record of the gravestones. We even had a Brazilian student join us for the day! we also continued to clear the brown silty earth deposit from the south end of the path and Roger found some useful dating material including some slipware and a fine clay pipe bowl.



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Verna uses her step up stool to get the best angle.                                                                                                      Now that's how to stack spoil!


WEDNESDAY JUNE 22nd.

A surprisingly wet day given the weather forecast, we even sent Sue home to get out of the rain. Peter however persevered and despite the drips got on and cleaned up the area around and alongside the drain uncovered yesterday. It turned into quite a little epic of cobble polishing as he uncovered what appears to be the remains of a cobbled path or yard next to the north aisle. It remains a touch messy and will do so until things dry out a little then we can give it a final clean and brush over. Very exciting, these are medieval cobbles. Less exciting was my day, I finished the plan of the steps that Helen had started yesterday and following a chat with Lee and Bryan laid out the site of the new drain and soak away designed to keep the vestry dry.




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The start of the day...   making progress...   the end of the day,  looking the other way.



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The next trench, I think we'll call it CRB 16, why not?



Peter also took a look at the silver coin and suggested it may be a silver shilling of James I. Here are some close up views should anyone else like to follow up on this one.


And follow up there was not only from Pater but also Chris Leslie, however, the definitive account is probably that from Jonathan Mann, former hammered coin specialist at Spinks who comments:
Thanks for sending the link. Very interesting! I saw that someone had identified it as a James I shilling and I would have to agree (though it could be a sixpence depending on diameter and weight). Looking at the king's armour and the title this piece emanates from the earliest part of James' reign; the First Coinage of 1603-04. Luckily we can still see IACO and SCO which are both definitive parts of the coins dating and attribution. In full it would have read IACOBVS D G ANG SCO FRA  ET HIB REX. During the Second Coinage of 1604-19 the Scottish title was amalgamated with the English title so you no longer see SCO on James' coins. This secures the dating to the earlier coinage. There is one catch. Normally you would expect to see a mark of value (VI of XII) behind the bust. This is either completely worn away (unlikely as this is part of the least worn area of the coin) or was not present on the coin in the first place. There was an issue struck at London for use in Ireland with the Irish harp surmounted by a crown on the reverse of the coin (not pictured so I can't gauge it) which omitted the mark of value on the obverse so it's possibly part of this Irish issue.

What you can obviously gauge from the coin is that it had been in circulation for a long time before being lost or deposited. Just as a bit of fun, and an interesting thought; even Elizabethan coins turn up in civil war hoards so it's entirely feasible that this coin would have been circulating as currency during the civil war and could possibly have been lost during a churchyard skirmish during the Battle of Cropredy Bridge! Unfortunately we have no way of knowing.




Coin

Coin     Coin



TUESDAY JUNE 21st.

A reasonably sunny day at last. the morning saw some more cleaning on the long section left by the removal of the gravestone path, some interesting deposits and once nice find (see below). We spent some time on our favourite gravestone jigsaw and Chris and Mike make great progress on reducing levels next to the wall of the north aisle ands around 40 cm down a feature. After lunch Chris and Roger explored it further and it turned into a very convincing drain. As there is no evidence of a cut and its down at a level with the foundations this may date from the 14th. or 15th centuries when work was carried out on the aisle. Meanwhile Helen made a start on drawing the steps, the final bit of recording before they too have to come out.



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Helen cleans back disappearing into the distance whilst Sue ponders a missing piece.




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Chris and Mike follow foundations.




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A copper alloy dress fastening of some kind?                                                  Roger clears up around the end of the drain.                                           Helen has almost left the dig as she draws the steps.



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... and up on the roof the old aluminium starts to come off and the lead workers ponder its replacement... it's a long way down!








SUNDAY JUNE 19th.

A small but select band turned out to dig on Sunday afternoon and we spent time planing off a few more millimetres of sub-soil from along the line of the path. Quite a useful collection of finds from this deposit 002 but nothing much later than the eighteenth century appearing. However, the find of the day was what appeared at first to be a bit of foil or milk bottle top turned out on closer examination to be a silver coin, my initial thought was possibly an Elizabethan threepenny bit. Horribly worn and not worth anything today but it must have represented quite a loss to whoever dropped it on their way to or from church.



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Andries moments after making his big find.



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Assorted bits a pieces from below the path.                                                                                           Our second coin (the first was a 1958 half crown).



FRIDAY JUNE 17th.


Just a few more stones to lift, unfortunately these proved to be some of the most badly damaged specimens and so took up a lot of our time and effort. We were delighted to welcome a wandering group of young school children to see the sites and Verna gave them a guided tour. Once the stones were out we began the job of cleaning back over the whole area to see what lay beneath, initial thinking, based on the date range of the stones and the pottery fragments discovered below them is that the path was probably laid late in the eighteenth century. One particularly poignant inscription was on one of the last stones to be lifted dating from 1664:
1664
HERE
IS INTERED Ye BODY OF
HANNAH Ye ONELY DAU
GHTER OF JOHN & HEST
ER STRATTON GRAND
CHILD TO NEHEMIAH
AND JONE MANSELL WHO
DEPARTED THIS LIFE MAR
THE 11th 1664

 For to prevent my youth's
approaching crimes nature
my nurse laid me to sleepe
 betimes.


A sorry thought which seems to derive from a well known monument in Richmond Church, Yorkshire to one Timothy Hutton, son of Archbishop Hutton of York, who died in 1629.




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Verna thrills our visitors with tales of digging, the stones are nearly all up.                                                                Andy and Mark clean Hannah's stone with its sad little verse.



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Andries cleans up the last stone to be lifted (the big one is staying put).                                                       Peter completes the elevation drawing of the wall flanking the steps.




THURSDAY JUNE 16th.


A busy and varied day, We extended the trench in towards the north west buttress of the north aisle in order to accommodate a revised line for the pipework and indoors examined a potential dirt floor underneath the later timber floor. This had to come up to prepare for the relocation of the medieval font. However, the main attraction was out on the path. Following the completion of the drawn plan and Verna's photographic record it was time to lift the stones and what a harvest of riches it proved to be. There were several headstones which were substantially intact and came up looking almost pristine then there were those which had broken apart in the soil but even here with the exception of one very badly broken stone we were able to recover the fragments and piece together the inscriptions. We'll publish these in full shortly.


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Peter digging himself into a corner and exploring under the floor of the north aisle.




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The lifting begins with Sue recovering pieces of the first stone we lifted, a foot stone with three sets of initials.




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The first headstone with some beautiful carving, oddly the capital on the right had been chiseled away, was this to facilitate mounting it somewhere or the cations of an odd collector?




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Nearing the end of the day, more inscribed stones appear.



THURSDAY JUNE 9th.

Whilst there was no digging on Thursday the on-going dismantling of the font's plinth reveled a charming message from the last set of builders who worked on it on April 6th. 1914. Sue immediately got on to the internet to research these three characters and came up with some fascinating information which we will compile into a brief article shortly... oh and the scaffolding started to go up.



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A message from 102 years ago is revealed and here it is.




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The scaffolding arises.


WEDNESDAY JUNE 8th

After a slightly later start another day's digging in what I have to say were rather hot and humid conditions. We shifted a lot of coarse gravel which was not really deep enough to constitute a French drain but the deposit was nicely dated by snippings of aluminium which must have been discarded when the north aisle was reroofed in aluminium in the 1970s. We came across increasing quantities of very this window glass one of which had been inscribed with a diamond ring with the letters -liam, presumably the last part of the name William. Down by the gate we continued trying to understand the construction sequence involving the steps ans walling but plenty to do here before it becomes really clear. the planning of the gravestone path was completed and then we moved to photograph each stone in situ.



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Mark and Martin cut into the bank behind the churchyard wall.  Verna gets to grip with the photography whilst Peter and Mike get out of the way.




In the church Lee and his team set out dismantling and moving the old font with an impressive piece of lifting gear, exciting stuff but there was more to come....




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The gantry in place, the font attached... and off she goes!


TUESDAY JUNE 7th.

A big day as the contractors, Norman and Underwood, arrive on site today. We have half a dozen volunteers turn up and at coffee break we meet with the site manager and foreman over drinks and talk mainly health and safety. As far as they archaeology is concerned the day begins with house keeping: stone sweeping, edge trimming and grass cutting before we get to grips with the final removal of topsoil from each end of our trench the carefully exploring the next layer down. Sue and Mike got to grips with some recording whilst Helen and I shared the job of drawing the gravestones forming the line of the path. Against the church wall an extensive spread of very coarse gravel which we had assumed was the possible fill of a French drain turned out not to be very deep at all and our thoughts turned to a possible pathway. Particularly interesting from a dating point of view was the fact that the deposit included some thin curls of aluminium, obviously snipped off during the fitting of the aluminium roof at some time in the recent past. All in all we made pretty good progress even if the day did become increasingly close and humid


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More topsoil to shift as the line of the trench approaches the north wall.                                                 Helen gets to grips with drawing the individual slabs whilst work proceeds against the churchyard wall.








SATURDAY MAY 21st.

The Written Scheme of Investigation is complete, the pre-contract meeting has been held, permission to start has been obtained, the work can begin...



Trench Location
Thanks to Bryan Martin, Architect for permission to use his plan showing the line of the service trench.




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Before the work starts: looking south towards the north door and looking north towards Red Lion Street.




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The gate in the churchyard wall looking south, prior to the removal of the ivy.




It was with some pride and much relief that after nearly two years of form-filling (thanks Verna and Bryan) the first real blow in our massive project was struck by a hardy band of local and not so local volunteers who turned out on a rather damp Saturday morning to cut the first sod as it were. We had the route mapped out for the services trench ( see above and below) and had already determined that the path from the north door was stone flagged within a matter of minutes it also became clear that, as we suspected the path was at least partially composed of reused gravestones. Whilst these were being carefully cleaned off we also had a team working to free the steps and gate into Red Lion Street from accumulated ivy and other weeds. The steps will have to come out before being re-instated a touch further back from the gate itself to allow for an inspection chamber so we will need to make a full record of their current condition before their removal.




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Thanks to Bryan Martin, Architect for permission to use his section drawing showing the depth of the service trench.



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The work starts, view looking north along the line of the path, and progress is made quite quickly, view looking west just outside the north door.




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We're really cracking on now, jack (down from Peterborough for the day) shows just how much fun can be had polishing gravestones in the rain.



With many hands making light work and despite the intermittent drizzle we made really great progress throughout the morning. After lunch we were able to make a start on the essential recording with two teams in action, one devoted to drawing a profile of the steps and pathway using an optical level and other starting to plan the stones using a method known as off-setting using a couple of tape measures and base line. There was more digging to do too as we stripped off the turf and topsoil from an extended area west of the steps in order to investigate the construction and dating of the remarkable churchyard wall and marked out the last few metres of the  services trench as it bends to the west towards the eventual hole in the wall where we will break through to insert the pipework.




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The levelers at work to record the slightly uneven surface of the path and the planners make sure the edges of each stone are clearly defined before drawing them.



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Definitely wetter after lunch, Peter examines a find before Martin bags it and at the end of the day a good place to stop: path fully revealed and all turf and topsoil removed.




So an extremely productive day and huge thanks to the team that turned out to set the archaeological ball rolling. Lots to think about not least the issue of lifting and recording the gravestones that make up the path. Some are probably foot stones but others are obviously quite well made decorative headstones. We examined one example and discovered that the buried face had decayed quite badly and come away from the main body of the stone. We'll have to work extremely carefully if we are to record the surviving inscriptions in detail. On the subject or recording we are also pioneering on this project increased levels of digital recording in the sense that all record sheets are held on and filled in on an iPad, hopefully this will speed up the whole process and make the final writing up a tad easier. We shared odd bits of health and safety advice as people rolled up during the day but for anyone who missed it below is the official health and safety briefing - you know it makes sense.




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