13 Jul 2014
Any doubts we may have had that the wall line we uncovered is indeed the palace ‘loggia’ quickly evaporated today, as, fortunately, did the threat of heavy rain.
At the westernmost point of the wall a sondage to investigate its foundations showed that they were enormous – nearly fifty centimetres of solid rubble and mortar show this to be a very sturdy wall indeed. At the same time, the sondage revealed that the widespread brickearth deposit butting against the wall is not, as we thought yesterday, natural but redeposited – also a significant piece of seventeenth century engineering. There is simply nothing else of this date and scale in the area that the wall could be.
12 Jul 2014
It isn’t often that we lay out a trench on a brand-new and unknown target, and hit the jackpot straight away – but today that appears to be exactly what we have done!
The rubble we began to see yesterday did indeed peel off to reveal wall foundations projecting at right angles from the surviving palace garden wall. Two more trenches and an extension to trench one followed this wall east and west, revealing a dense demolition layer to its north and a short length of wall projecting south from about a third along its revealed length.
The bricks and construction of the revealed walls are consistent with the seventeenth century garden feature we are looking for, as were many of the varied and interesting finds that came out of much of the rubble – including a very well preserved copper alloy buckle (pictured), a 17th/18th century tobacco pipe bowl, many glass and ceramic fragments and a few large animal bones.
We are provisionally speculating that the short stub of wall perpendicular to the main length of wall is the base of an arch or similar feature within the enclosure. If we can prove that this is indeed the feature marked on the 1611 plan (see yesterday’s post) then this will be an important step in understanding the feature’s appearance and function.
Our main job now is to consolidate the dating evidence for the walls. Severe tree root disturbance has made it difficult to be certain about the stratification of some of the finds so far – what we would like to see is a construction cut for the wall with datable and well stratified finds – looking for this will be a job for tomorrow.
Though the weather held for today, tomorrow’s forecast looks more unsettled, so we hope this won’t hinder our so far excellent progress.
11 Jul 2014
A wet morning at Cedars Park didn’t dampen the spirits of EAS diggers as preparations for this year’s Festival of Archaeology began.
This year’s dig at the site of James I’s Theobalds Palace is in search of a largely undocumented garden feature set in the wall of the palace grounds. The feature (pictured) is an apparently large enclosure projecting from the west wall of the palace gardens. Although the feature appears in several early maps, including in some (such as the one pictured) an apsidal end, there are no written descriptions or clues as to the feature’s purpose. It is presumed to represent some sort of grand ornamental feature such as a loggia.
15 Jul 2013
Despite the limitations imposed and the extreme weather, day 3 saw positive archaeological results in both trenches.
In trench 1 this was in the form of a brick built water culvert at the south end of the trench. The culvert was truncated by the Privy Garden wall, giving the impression that it must predate the establishment of the Privy Garden by James I. However, careful analysis of various repairs and elements of rebuilding in this wall, noted and recorded by the team,may yet tell a different story.
The south end of trench 2 revealed more of the a brick built bay feature butted to the original wall and is now thought to be of Georgian origin. The function of the bay remains somewhat obscure although it could have supported a garden seat in the opening beneath which it is situated.
To the north of this bay, a 19thC. Gravel path edged with flint nodules was revealed. Beneath the path, the removal of a thin layer of brick debris revealed another section of brick built water culvert.
13 Jul 2013
Although we managed to open two of the three planned trenches today, extreme heat and humidity has limited the pace of work.
Trench 1, located outside the west edge of the privy garden wall, has been sited to locate the point where two drains previously revealed by Museum of London Archaeologists (assisted by EAS) last year should intersect. The drains appear to connect the privy gardens with a reservoir at the west end of the palace site, and it is hoped that by examining their meeting point at the corner of the gardens, we can find out more about their function and date.
Unfortunately, this area affords no shade for most of the day, and with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees, the heavy digging work in this trench had to be abandoned for the day early in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, in trench 2 by the doorway and window set in the garden wall (pictured yesterday), we found by close inspection of the standing brickwork that the large gap we had thought was simply a collapsed section of wall is in fact (at least in part) another window like opening. The trench subsequently revealed a bay-like projection at the base of this gap (pictured), and poses a number of questions about this section of the wall.
We hope an early start tomorrow will help us to get more work done before the worst of the forecast heat hits, and to answer some of the questions posed today.
12 Jul 2013
Things got off to a bit of a shaky start today, on the first day of the EAS summer digs at Cedars Park, Broxbourne.
This year will be the first time that we have worked inside the Scheduled Ancient Monument on the site of Theobalds Palace, and we have been asked by Broxbourne council to open three trenches to investigate the history of a sixteenth century perimeter wall, enclosing what was part of the palace privy gardens.
Part of the Heritage Lottery funded work being carried out in the park involves the (long overdue) repair and reconstruction of elements of this wall, which has suffered badly from exposure to the elements and vandalism in recent years (pictured).
Unfortunately, this work has affected two of the three areas we had been asked to investigate, and has made them inaccessible to us and the public.
We have laid out one trench today, and we hope to gain access to lay out a second tomorrow, but the restricted access to the site and working time lost today will have an adverse affect on the quality and quantity of useful information we can get from the site this weekend.
23 May 2013
At Cedars Park, Cheshunt, contractor’s excavations to find routes for new services have exposed an extensive complex of built features. Centred on the west end of the former car park, to the north of the old cafe building, the area is crowded with a variety of built features.
Initial interpretation is complicated, but it seems that the area contains at least one palace wall. Others are built from recycled palace materials and include large sections of stone window mullion as well as other substantial stone elements. Some of these form the core of walls faced with apparently 18th century brick cladding. Others are probably of 18th century origin whist still more, with shallow frogged bricks are plainly from the mid 19th century.
11 Aug 2012
Fifteen sherds of Delftware from the same vessel constituted Small Find 2 from our July 2012 Festival of British Archaeology dig at the site of Theobalds Palace, Cedars Park Cheshunt.
At the beginning of August these sherds were taken to the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) at Mortimer Wheeler House for identification and dating.
The sherds have now returned and are said to represent part of a charger or large dish, being a Lambeth product from between 1710 and 1730.
This indicates that the wall encountered in trench 2, from the base of which the Delft sherds were recovered, was demolished in the post-palace period, when this area was remodelled as Theobalds Square, a development of gentleman’s houses completed around 1760.
Following detailed record drawing and photography, the Delftware will become part of the project archive and be deposited with the Lowewood Museum at Hoddesdon, Herts.
27 Jul 2012
The area adjacent to the Victorian orangery excavated by MOLA and EAS, has now been made structurally safe and the floor excavated by MOLA.
An intact brick built under floor heating system has been unexpectedly revealed. The “drain” excavated by EAS in the main orangery was in fact part of this system.
15 Jul 2012
We had a much more productive day today, with fine weather and a large number of visitors, who we were able to show some interesting archaeology and several splendid finds, including several large fragments of a delftware charger or bowl beautifully hand decorated with birds and flowers. It has been provisionally dated to the 18th century, but will be cleaned and drawn and properly identified during post-excavation work.
Unfortunately, what with the bad weather yesterday, we did not have time today to reveal the drain (yesterday’s putative structure turned out to be just loose rubble), but may have identified the cut in which it was built. We did have time to do more work on the palace perimeter wall which has called into question our earlier interpretation that it was an early phase palace wall. The carved stone that we discovered yesterday was in fact part of the wall foundation, and when lifted was found to be part of a window mullion – a dividing column in a large ornate window. This is almost certainly from the palace and must therefore have been recycled when the wall was built, meaning the wall must date to a much later or even post-palace phase.
The implications of this year’s work will of course be thoroughly worked out in post-excavation and will be published in an EAS report in due course. A summary of our findings will eventually be published in the society news bulletin.
14 Jul 2012
Things got off to a very damp start today; persistent rain made digging conditions difficult and drawing and surveying at times impossible.
We have opened a second trench just to the north of trench 1, opened yesterday which now seems unlikely to contain the drain - in any case the tree roots have made work in this trench impractical. Trench 2 has also produced signs of demolition rubble likely linked to the demolished palace perimeter wall, including an interesting carved block of stone which we will lift and study more closely tomorrow.
Unfortunately, trench 2 also failed to show signs of a drain cut until the eleventh hour today, when an extension at its north end revealed tantalizing signs of a brick structure heading in the right direction. Tomorrow we will properly excavate this area, although there are hints that it may have already been disturbed in the nineteenth century which may make dating the original drain construction very difficult.
13 Jul 2012
This year’s big dig at Cedars Park got underway today, as we marked out and de-turfed the trench ready for tomorrow and the start of the Festival of British Archaeology.
This year we are hoping to find out more about the substantial vaulted brick drain that we discovered last year and did not have time to date accurately. We suspect the drain was built in the seventeenth century as part of Theobald’s Palace but exactly what building(s) it served and where it runs to is at the moment a mystery.
03 Jul 2012
Some excavation and cleaning has continued ahead of a visit by the MOLA staff photographer.
There are already implications in the archaeological features revealed, for the design of the new cafe envisaged for this location within the scheduled ancient monument.
A meeting with English Heritage later in the week will determine how this part of the project is to proceed and what further archaeological evaluation may be necessary.
26 Jun 2012
Museum of London Archaeology monitoring associated with the Heritage Lottery funded works at Cedars park has moved on to the derelict Victorian orangery. Here, floor levels are being reduced to accommodate a new floor slab for this area which is to become the new cafe for the park.
Already, the digger has unearthed significant archaeology and Enfield Archaeological Society have been privileged to be assisting in excavating, defining and cleaning what has come to light within this part of the scheduled monument.
19 Jun 2012
Monday 28th May 2012 saw the beginning of a monitoring project by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) at Cedars Park Cheshunt: The site of Theobalds Palace.
The work to be monitored was the machine stripping of an approach road linking Theobalds Lane with a new public car park on the west of the site. By the end of the day, word was circulating that the JCB had already uncovered brick built structures, pottery and animal bone.
The following day, further examination confirmed these and further features across the 10x45M site. It was soon apparent that the unexpected volume and complexity of archaeological features would fully occupy the two-man MOLA team and would likely require more than the allotted two weeks to properly excavate and record the site.
08 Jun 2012
Excavations investigated four areas along a partly surviving and partly buried landscape feature, also known from map evidence. The feature was speculated to be a water supply course linked to ornamental canals in the 17thC gardens of Theobalds Palace. However, it was established that it was in fact a late 18th/early 19thC ornamental water filled channel, probably partly re-cut as a gravel quarry boundary in the 20thC.
16 May 2012
Limited excavation 7.3m north of the remains of a Georgian structure partly excavated in 2009 failed to identify the remaining plan of that building, but suggested that it may have fronted a road (possibly a remnant of the approach road to Theobalds Palace) and had been partly demolished with a two phase walled yard replacing the demolished section in the 19th century.
16 May 2012
Excavation aimed at locating walls possibly delineating an outer court of Theobalds Palace marked on a map of 1611, failed to find evidence of them but did locate a possible gully edged palace phase surface and arched brick drain heavily repaired in the early 19th century. Extensive truncation, dumbing and redeposition related to the 19th century repairs and possibly earlier Georgian activity, could have removed the walls and made interpretation difficult, but the surface may have been renewed in the second half of the seventeenth century, incorporated in the Georgian Theobalds Square and later been partly followed by a nineteenth century path or ride.