21 Jul 2023
2023 Summer Dig - Day 12
Excavation began to wind down today, on day 12 of our two-week dig on the site of Elsyng Tudor palace in the grounds of Forty Hall.
Most of the day was taken up by recording trench sections and the elevations of the various walls we've discovered this year, including the stretch of wall in Trench 4 that runs south from the octagonal turret and is reinforced by octagonal column bases.
A small area by this wall, at the south end of Trench 4 is still under excavation, to more closely study the wall's foundations and related stratigraphy, but the rest of the trench has now been fully recorded and a small part of it was backfilled this afternoon.
Excavation was completed in Trench 1 and it was fully recorded this afternoon. The brickwork uncovered in Trench 1 is quite disorganized and seems to be a fairly isolated patch not obviously connected to a building or boundary wall, although it could possibly be connected to the boundary wall in Trench 4, evidence supporting or refuting this is impossible to see due to the chaos caused by the invasive tree roots over the brickwork's north and west sides.
Damage caused by these roots has also added to the disorderly appearance of the brickwork, but we currently think the bricks are the remnant of a revetment between the corner of the artificial mound upon which the walls in trenches 4 and 7 are located, and the moat, the cut of which we think we may have just about identified at the edge of Trench 1.
We continued digging by the truncated wall in Trench 7, and confirmed that the deposit on its eastern side represents the original external ground surface, while the mortar rich rubble deposit on its east side is filling what was the interior of the building.
Excavation down the wall's west face has so far revealed at least 8 courses of bricks, and disclosed a second, lower context of rubble with much less mortar but we have still not found the bottom of the context and are now only centimetres from our maximum safe digging depth.
At the other, west, end of T7 we had noticed a concentration of much coarser rubble, and late this afternoon this was removed to reveal the remains of what looks like a very substantial octagonal brick pillar base.
This last minute discovery seems to add weight to the theory that this side of the wall in Trench 7 is a palace cellar, which, in line with other Tudor palaces, could have had octagonal pillars supporting a fan-vaulted ceiling.
As elsewhere in the trench, we are right on the limit of safe depth at this point and so may not be able to reveal much more of this feature, at least this year.
Tomorrow is effectively our last day of practical excavation, and as there is not much more work to do in either Trench 4 or 7, backfilling may even begin tomorrow. Still, we have already got several prime follow-up targets for next year's dig, which looks guaranteed to be as productive as this one.