02/07/11

Medieval Metal Working in The Bayle

A further test pit has been dug in a garden in the Bayle. Learning from the experiences with the test pitting carried out in March, it was decided to dig a larger trench of 2m x 2m, which would enable the excavation to be taken to a greater depth. Over twenty three days in May, volunteers including Anne, Thierry & Thomas Biot, Anne Charlier, Colleen Harrison, Michael Keating, Iain Neilson, and Barry Wright, supervised by Andrew Richardson and Andy Linklater of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Richard Cross, archaeological officer at Canterbury City Council, reached medieval levels uncovering two hearths or furnaces with one containing significant quantities of solidified run-off molten lead.

These furnaces formed part of a sequence of clay floors, each heavily burnt or scorched, undoubtedly indicating the presence of prolonged industrial metal working activity extending possibly for over 150 years from the late 13th century to the 15th century and perhaps servicing the nearby priory, the local population and the fishing fleet. Around the furnaces, the remains of the remains of a stone wall, probable beam slots, a doorway and room divisions were also discovered, all forming part of a medieval building. Overlying the furnaces and beneath them were fragments of fourteenth century pottery.

 Above the furnaces there were a succession of well defined layers, which contained varying quantities of peg-tile, animal bone, clay pipe fragments and bowls. All these deposits are likely to be the result of the movement of the soil for the construction in the late eighteenth century.  Interesting finds included an early 8th century Saxon coin and a Royal Artillery tunic button, dating from 1790-1802 with three cannons on a combed background surmounted by three cannonballs, found respectively by Anne Biot and Barry Wright. 

On the whole the test pit provided further information that will prove useful in the other planned excavations in the area and indicated that almost certainly across the whole of the Bayle there may be remains of much of the medieval settlement. But it also showed how complex the archaeology is and how it compares to the villa site in terms of the amount of time and effort that is needed.

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