That’s All For Now Folks

This is the final post from your dig Director for the time being, following the conclusion of this Summer’s dig. We look forward to seeing you at the Barn where you will be able to wash all those lovely finds and enjoy a good mardle, as they say in these here parts.

At last we have left the site- hopefully in the same state we found it! What on earth will we do with ourselves for the next few days??
As you’d expect, much of the last two days has been taken up with fitting together loose ends, drying out waterlogged tarpaulins(and finding Rhiane’s lost kneeler under one of them), filling in and doing the final drawings.
Those present will know that I lost marks for inadvertently directing volunteers to the wrong Test pit for filling in (I said fill the ditch trench but I didn’t make clear which ditch!) then getting ratty about it. Manifold apologies to those involved.
I had worried that we had too many TP’s open and not enough people who were available to fill in. However, the gods of the Roman town smiled upon us when our new friend, Darren, appeared to see Mr. Jarrold. Darren has a mechanical digger… We were very pleased to see him!
We were also delighted to present our little friend Isadora- a constant companion and a real help with her sharp eyes and eagerness to help- with a certificate as an Honorary CRP member and one of the last of our CRP tee shirts. Her Mum made a great carrot cake and is duly signed up!
Just before filling in the final TP- which had given us a large Roman pit with pot, CBM and bone- Giles went back to chase down a metal object that Mick Collins had said was embedded in the TP wall.
And here it is- a complete brooch, about 1 in long and with the clasp in place. What a way to end!

I do have more that I want to say- but we’ll leave that for the Clarion…


2015 old hall 034





Backfilling. Piece of cake!!

Backfilling. Easy peasy when you’ve got one of these!!




Wednesday 26th

The latest post from your dig Director Mike

Having expected heavy rain from the outset, we got away with things until lunchtime when it bucketed down. We can’t complain since this afternoon is the only time we’ve lost to rain in ten days which isn’t bad.
I took an executive decision- well, that is after asking Rhiane, Barbara, Giles and various others- to stop work on Saturday rather than Sunday. This is because we have loads of data which now needs processing and considering before we do more. And we will have done over 10 test pits in two weeks, including some that have proved very complicated.
So where are we? Don’t hold me to this but the situation appears to be as follows.
We have charted the position of the triple ditches as they cross Old Hall.
We have planned much of the site and may be clearer about what is post medieval garden levelling and what is older.
We have a video of the property taken from a drone that should help us with 1 and 2.
In the back paddock we have Roman pottery but a pretty modern cobbled surface and a rough wall which appears to be post medieval.
We have looked at the alleged Roman wall at the front of the property and excavated to its foundations. It isn’t Roman but a full survey report is being prepared.
We have a ditch 1 metre down in the old orchard which appears to line up with the triple ditches.
We have another unrelated (and rather smart) Roman ditch on the lawn at the front of the house.
We have at least two more Test pits to finish and comment on.
And, for the next few days, the weather prospects seem to be better…

Western Front Re-enactment Society!!

Extreme archaeology!

We knew it was coming- if you can believe the on/off weather forecasts that we’ve been enduring- but the stair rods started at about midday. Rhiane’s TP were on top of their game and got a gazebo up before the torrent began. Others were slower and found bits missing from the other gazebo (well it hadn’t been used since 2012 so what do you expect?) and others improvised with tarpaulins and golf umbrellas! Whatever, we kept going until 4pm- another tribute to our hardy Volunteers!
The pit against the wall is nearly finished- of which more later- our mystery TP is still a mystery and the TP started by the children is yielding pottery, coins and other small finds.
But we are getting through. Rob and Wendy brought their drone- which means we now have good video of the site from above which we can use to trace old gardens and levels.
I’m hoping that we can say more about the other test pits as things become clearer in 24 hours.


That's the on-site shower taken care of!!

That’s the on-site shower taken care of!!


Nice decorated piece of Samian

Nice decorated piece of Samian

Sunday 23rd August

It looks as though Giles had a fun day with his budding young Archaeologists who will all be adding metal detector to there Christmas list for Santa! Here’s his summary of the day.

We had a really good turn-out for the family trench with over a dozen children and their parents getting stuck in to Test Pit 38 over the course of another sunny day. The trench produced a variety of finds including part of a Victorian ginger beer bottle, late medieval slipware and a fair quantity of abraded Roman pottery sherds. Just below the topsoil my metal detector sweep drew our attention to a post-medieval coin, I did my best to explain to the youngsters that finding a coin in your first test pit was not the norm but they then went swiftly on to find another two themselves! These three copper farthing coins of Charles II were found in a close cluster. The issue date on one is 1673 making it one of the first copper coins struck at the Royal Mint and also one of the first times that Britannia appeared on British coins since the Roman period. This little hoard of coins may be all that remains from a lost coin purse – the owner must have been pretty miserable the day they reached down to buy a round of ale in the local that day.


Exciting Find!!

Exciting Find!!

Old Hall Friday

I was able to make my first visit to this summer’s dig and was pleased to see some new faces amongst the regular stalwarts. It was particularly pleasing to see one or two younger members have joined us, thus at a stroke dramatically reducing the average age of a typical CRP digging team.This is particularly important in terms of sustainability as a number of us older lags are sporting a variety of injuries and niggles which can impact on our digging capabilities. To whit some of you may have been wondering why I have not been digging so far  this time. Or then again you might not. In spite of a warning from Chrissy not to do further damage to my creaking limbs whilst visiting the grandchildren overseas, I managed to break a toe hurtling to the bottom of the swimming pool in a vertical jump from the diving board. You may gather from this that I don’t do growing old gracefully! The subsequent limp then set off the problem in my pelvis that surfaces from time to time. This I might add courtesy of a gentleman in the opposing XV during my rugby playing days who mistook my back for the ball. Easy mistake to make!!! Anyway the dodgy back together with a busy time familywise curtailed my availability on this occasion. But I’ll be back, as Arnie once said.

Finally before signing off I’d like to add my appreciation to Barbara and her team for stepping in to the breach in Chrissy’s absence and doing such a great job.

PS I did come across a funny shaped hole on my visit. See pic below.



Does that look a bit more than a metre to you?

I told you those Chinese tape measures were useless!


Who Dunnit?

Foul murder!!

We arrived at Old Hall this morning and, on entering the barn, found ourselves surrounded by feathers. We found a female sparrowhawk sitting malignly on one of the cross beams. Sadly the sound of squawking house martins, so familiar to us, was no longer there.
To add insult to injury, John P, carrying out his duly authorised duties as our survey leader, had a corpse dropped on him! We went off to work and came back at tea break to yet more feathers. The darned thing sat there all day, staring at us and eying us up for a further kill…
If you include TP 32 with the ditch, we now have for pits open. We didn’t work TP 31 today since Adrian was away and we decided that the sequence of yard surfaces was his private hell.
We opened TP 34 the night before. This is just behind the Granary building and has yielded a lot of pottery. We had another yard surface there and are delving below it. The pottery is mostly Roman which either means that the surface is also Roman or- more likely- it’s been dumped from somewhere else. Watch this space. TP 33- just above TP 32 on the lower terrace is on the go and is yielding some pot. Not much to say yet.
Another really good day with plenty of possibilities opening up…


Who Me?

I know this looks suspicious but!

Old Hall – Day Three

It may just look like a mucky hole to you….
In our topsy turvy world of weather, we are bathed in warm sunshine and all is well with the world. We returned to dismantle the gazebo and deal with the soggy buckets of soil that couldn’t be sieved yesterday.
In the TP by the barn, Adrian and company are into their umpteenth yard surface. They keep on coming and we can’t date them because we are not finding anything but old brick and tile- and, as we know, that could have been dumped to make up a surface and doesn’t date our contexts. But the team are happy with their hole.
Elsewhere it’s the day of the ditch. In the TP in the old orchard area- where finds are few but mostly Roman- Rhiane arrived to take the depth down to 1 metre of disappointment. We decided to have a quick tickle in one of the corners- could have been any one- but she dug on the left of the northern pit face. First she came upon the unmistakable grey stuff that we saw last year in other waterlogged pits. Then we saw an unmistakable cut across it that showed we were looking at the edge of a ditch. The ditch runs north west to south east- and is at least 1.5 metres wide, auguring tells us. So have we found the course of the triple ditches as they run across the orchard? If Rhiane had chosen a different corner, we would have missed it. It may be just a waterlogged hole to some- but for us it’s a real find. At the other end of the property, John P has been planning and thinks he can see the course of the ditches running much further to the west than we’d expected. Whatever, this is good stuff- finds poor but feature rich.
And we have opened a third test pit…


One Mucky Hole!

One Mucky Hole!


One for the caption competition!

One for the caption competition!





Summer Dig Season Underway

Welcome to the first post of this season’s dig courtesy of Mike Pinner who is directing the two weeks of test pitting following our return to the grounds of Old Hall.

The ‘digging season’ at Old Hall in Caistor St Edmund is under way again, thanks to the kindness of the Jarrold family. Our first day was a dream with old hands and new recruits bathed in warm sunshine. We opened two test pits and rather thought we’d had a good day.
On our second day I woke up with rain rattling on the window panes. The forecast hadn’t said that- my colleagues tell me that the weatherman abruptly changed his tune at about 10pm the night before!
I live in Lowestoft where the climate is always different to everywhere else (usually a grey ceiling if you’re lucky) but I headed off to the site convinced that I was making a brief visit to send everyone home- if anyone turned up!
Not only was the turnout good- but a gazebo was produced by Barbara and we were able to keep working on one of our two test pits! My amazing colleagues continue to surprise me! We kept going until 2 30 when I was finally able to convince everyone that the soil would no longer pass through the sieves and the water was rising around us! All day it rained- and rained- and rained….

Too early yet to comment on the two test pits we’ve opened- but we do have lots of work planned so long as the weather behaves!
Chrissy- who is sorely missed- won’t mind if I mention how well things are going in her absence. She knows that I worried greatly about how we would manage without her. Her P45 is in the post…








Whiteford Hall Farm – TP 26

Monday 13th April

The day started somewhat inauspiciously when we spent quarter of an hour or so searching for the Test Pit markers and failed miserably. Following re-measuring and setting out afresh we promptly found one of the markers when we de-turfed. Annoyingly it was only 50mm from one of our new markers. We surmised that perhaps when the area was mown the original pins and discs were driven into the ground and out of sight.

Digging commenced and the first 100mm was relatively easy to trowel. With a change of colour coming through we created a new context and very quickly hit compacted stone. We decided that this looked very much like a surface, possibly of a farmyard at the rear of the old farmhouse that was demolished in the 1960’s. it was therefore drawn before we pressed on downwards. The material was impossible to trowel so the mattock was brought in to use. It was hard going even using the mattock owing to the quantity of stone/flint present. With finds of any significance virtually non-existent a decision was taken to half section the test pit given that a sondage in one corner indicated that this context was circa 40cm thick.

Whilst the metal detectorists turned up several interesting items elsewhere in the rear garden our only find of note is shown in the second photo below.


Answers on a postcard to.....

Answers on a postcard to….. 


Nice find from TP26 - Mesolithic blade/bladelet?

Nice find from TP26 – Mesolithic blade/bladelet?

Wednesday 8th April

Wymer Field- Final thoughts from our Project Director Mike

First, the name. There is nothing in the annals of the village to call the field Wymer Field; we’ve named it because Janie Wymer owns it and seemed very pleased when we told her!

The field borders Old Hall at the north east and was geophysiced by Dave Bescoby and our team last year- which informed our placing of test pits. The much talked of triple ditch runs across the south eastern corner of the field. The field is used for horse grazing at present but the 1838 tithe map shows it as divided into strips for gardening and small holding. A visitor to our dig remembered it being sown with potatoes in the not too distant past.

It was five years ago that Dave B quipped that you should never dig on the basis of geophysics- and so it was. We dug four pits last year and a further 5 this year. As seems usual with the work we do in the area, we were rich in finds but poor in structures.
Originally I thought that there was a good chance that we might find an industrial area just outside of the ditch where the kind of people lived who wouldn’t be wanted in a nice town- but whose products the inhabitants would be eager to purchase! I’d thought that we would be into a land of post holes and temporary dwellings rather than flint walls. We found neither.
What we did find was pottery, metalwork and coinage that appears to date from Roman, through Saxon and on to medieval times, and coming to and end with Victorian white ware. If there had been any small scale occupation, I think that farming over the centuries had obliterated it- and the pottery was all abraded- a posh word for knocked about by the plough. We only have an enigmatic structure of clay or flint found last year- some kind of oven or kiln perhaps- which has yet to be dated. A beaten chalk floor and a rough cobbled area that we discovered would appear to be part of the cottage complex which existed on the Stoke Road edge of the field, was there in 1838 but had disappeared by 1882. Some of our members are doing more research into the cottages and we hope to be clearer on that in due course.

At the start of our seven days on the field, the weather was cold, windy and miserable. By the last day we were in shirt sleeves. Whatever is or isn’t found, it’s always a pleasure to work with our team; they are endlessly optimistic and we are all learning together which is good to see. And they all get on together’- heard from the sieving team ‘if you say you’ve found a roman coin again I’ll slap you’. (!!) I can’t stress strongly enough what a pleasure it is to see people grow in confidence- the enthusiasm was there already- and to watch our youngest recruit grow over the period from a rank amateur without a pointed trowel to someone who had a real grip on the techniques of digging and the processes we go through.

My sincere thanks to everyone who took part for their support and involvement. Thanks too for the support from the Caistor Hall Hotel for their ‘snug’ where we could find refuge from the wind while eating excellent packed lunches prepared by them.

Our thanks and gratitude to Janie Wymer and Bill Gould for allowing access to the field.

And finally,thanks to the people of the village who visited us regularly and kept us going with their interest and enthusiasm.


A quick word about the future- the Jarrolds have again invited us to work at Old Hall in the last week of August. More later- but put it in your diary!

One final thanks from your Blogger on behalf of everyone

To Mike from all of the volunteers who have been working on the Test Pitting element of the Project for all his hard work, encouragement and support.