Hammerwich Treasure

Hammerwich Treasure
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Archaeology






Archaeological investigation on Hammerwich Hall Farm.

Hammerwich Hall is described as the residence of George Stanley who called himself Lord of Hammerwich. He lived 1435 to 1508 and was describing himself as the Lord of the manor in the 1480s. The earliest chapel date is 1238. It is logical to believe a high status house existed close to the chapel and chapel field. This is the land which is part of Hammerwich Hall farm.
The earliest mention of a Hall farmhouse is 1645 and was owned by William Heath. Coins found on the fields include those of King John (1199-1216), Edward 1 (1239-1272) and Edward 111(1361-1369). Other articles found nearby include Roman fibulas, broaches and buckles.
A dig was undertaken in March 2012 on the field next to the current farm house. It yielded a piece of Roman mortarium used for grinding or pounding food. It has been suggested it has a Mancetter-Hartshill connection and could be 2nd to 4th century. 








 The above right piece is also believed to be Roman.
As could be this glass neck of a phial of perhaps perfume, that might be from the same period. 



                                                       
This piece of midlands white ware was found and was the first item to be found from the 13th or 14th century and so corresponds with the date of the Medieval Hall. 



A good find was this blackware pot, 
possibly a tyg or cup with several handles, which dates from 1650 to 1700. 


                                                                                              
Also found was some "tudor green" ware of late 15th century and some lead-glazed yellow ware.



A potsherd was found which has been dated by an expert to be late Saxon or very early Medieval. It was the piece that defined the site. Another dating has been given for post-Conquest early medieval.



In the last minutes of the dig a metal detector found the following coin.



 

It is heavily encrusted but it contains 92% silver and could be a denarius or even a Saxon coin. 


A second dig is currently being undertaken that is closer to the farmhouse and therefore possibly closer to the original Hall site.

It is in the "back garden", which was the original front of the farmhouse.

Finds so far, include a piece of roman mortarium and several pieces that have now been identified as early medieval in either the 11th or 12th century. They have some resemblance to potsherds found at Tutbury Castle.



An odd find was an early 19th century broach in the shape of a salamander. It has been pressed out from good quality bronze. A salamander represents the spirit in fire and could be associated with people working with a forge.
The trench is in an area that resistivity data showed a possible building. This depth has not yet been reached, but an old pathway with a sand base has been uncovered and can be seen to the right of the photo.




On day 3 a potsherd was found which is early medieval, possibly 13th cent.
  

Also found was some Midland White Ware with a good green glaze. This is late medieval.

On Day 3 and 4 several potsherds were uncovered that are early. Dating precisely is impossible, but Stephanie Ratkai tells us they are post Conquest pieces from the 11th or 12th century.
These pieces are making this dig extraordinary. 
On Day 5 a dark patch was investigated, but little was found. Sandy lines in the loam soil showed plough marks from a plough that made close furrows. This is suggesting the back garden was once like a field and was ploughed. Metal detection over the back garden has revealed many ferrous points, but nothing of great significance. Once again a variety of pottery was unearthed including a large piece with an iron glaze.
On Day 6 yet another great variety of pottery ranging from early medieval to 19th century was uncovered. It is very strange to see such a mixture of sherds.

Left picture shows Dave, Winston (director of the dig), Grant, Eric, Terry, Wayne, Jack with Yvonne and Jean. Right picture shows the two women investigating a possible post-hole which turned out to be the remains of a piece of wood.


These two pieces are a puzzle, but could well be early medieval.

Day 7 involved digging below the plough-lines and the sand path. Also extending the trench to include another anomaly seen on the resistivity survey.
In the main trench a clear square  which is lighter in colour started to show.
Again a large date range of pottery was uncovered with one piece being very early medieval.




Day 8 was very interesting with a definite feature of a dark rectangular patch appearing. In the overlay on the soil resistivity image can be seen the trench being excavated in green and the feature appearing and shown in pink. Is it the soil mark of something that was above it, or is it showing something that is below? The trench is at last bearing out the resistivity.

One of the oddities noticed is the difference in grit colour on the piece of Roman mortarium found in the first dig and that found in the second dig.
The sherd on the left has grey grit and that on the right has grit with a reddish colour.

Day 9 was spent with Stephanie Ratkai dating the most important sherds from the two digs.
Below is an "early-middle period" Saxon piece of pot. It is very small, but could be significant.

A hole was dug against the Farmhouse to see the depth of stone work.
Although the house stands on large sandstone blocks, it appears not to go deeply into the ground and therefore it does not appear to have been built on top of another earlier foundation. It is now thought the house is around 1820.
This means the adjacent house knocked down in the 1960s was much older and this could have been the home of William Heath in 1645.

Day 10 was spent levelling the trench and trying to understand the features within the soil.
More pieces of this "buff-ware" were found which date from 1350 to 15th cent. They are thick rimmed and the curve could be used to determine the size of the bowl.

Day 11 brought mixed fortunes. The dark features in the soil proved even more puzzling with a large date range of pottery being found within and under the dark patches. A deep pit was dug and this also contained mixed dated sherds.

This pit is suggesting the trench will have to be deep in order to reach a base level with similar dated sherds.

Pottery found included this decorated tile. It has been identified as a partly glazed roof tile and could be 13th cent. onwards. It would be from a high-status house or hall.  There was some disagreement as to whether it was a roof or floor tile.
 
A piece of pottery was found which is clearly very early and needs an expert opinion.



Throughout the dig the stems of clay pipes were found with some being late and some being early. One clay-pipe bowl was found and is an early pipe. The smallish bowl, thick stem with a large hole suggest a date of around 1650. If true it places it at the beginning of the Hall farmhouse around 1645.





Day 12 was an open-day with visitors seeing the dig and its discoveries.
A section was taken of what is thought to be a beam-slot (wooden foundation beam under a wall). It is clearly seen on this marked photo.

The beam-slot building could be an occupation site between 9th to 13th cent. It could also have another purpose and therefore be later.
This sherd was found in the sandy area under the beam and therefore could be very important for dating the beam and therefore the house. It is 14th cent. or slightly earlier. Therefore, there is a small probability the building was for people.
     A piece of tall pot was found of Midland white ware with a date of mid 13th to 15th cent. The sherd has a green glaze and a thumb press at the base of the sherd to form a crude spot on the base so that it stands off the ground. This helps in the firing of the pot. The pot might be the base to a balluster jug.
 
This photo of the display table shows the quantity of Midland white ware pieces found, with a few having a green glaze. On the right are the early medieval, darker pot.
  
One of the features of the day was the discovery of many sheep and cow bones.

Day 13 was a general investigation of the floor of the whole trench. A stud was found which has a cut surface.
It is only about 1cm across and contains metal. Later on the clip was unearthed. It is not thought to be very old, but it needs a close examination.

In the afternoon a strap handle to a Midland white ware pot was found. This is the first time such a part has been found in both digs.
The right photo. shows the foot of the handle which attaches to the pot. The left photo shows the characteristic groove in the handle.
Midland white ware seems to be the default pottery, especially at the greatest depths of the trench and its date of mid 13th to 15th cent. fits with an early medieval hall. 

Day 14 produced very little potsherds, but there were a few and many were early medieval. A probable post hole was excavated.The pit kept revealing early pieces as it was dug deeper.

The overall conclusion is there was an early medieval house (13th to early 15th cent.) on the site which was at some time described as a Hall. Either before the Hall or at the same time and in the front was a building which might have been a beam-slot building. The Hall was demolished and a building erected which housed William Heath in 1645. This building was demolished in the 1960s. Alongside a house was built around 1820 and this is now the old farmhouse. There was very likely a gap of 150 to 200 years between the early medieval Hall and the 17th cent. farmhouse. In this time the site was ploughed and farmed. This sequence is explained by the finding of early medieval pottery and then a gap until the 17th cent. when pottery of this date onwards was found. Also the ploughing caused a great mixing of the sherds in the soil. A pit was dug in the 19th cent. and all kinds of soil was used to fill it in. It is possible the pit was dug to remove sand to make a garden path.
The two inexplicables are the finding of one Saxon sherd and several probably Roman pieces and the size and nature of the beam-slot building.


Dig 3 - quest for a Roman settlement
March 16th 2013 was the start for a third trench in the field to see if a Roman occupation of any sort could be established. A trench was laid out according to the orange transect shown on the resistivity survey.
The pink transect might be a possible follow up area.
This trench can be seen on the aerial photo.
On Day 1 the surface turf was stripped off and several sherds were found.
 This photo at the start shows an audience of sheep and the second photo shows how they then ignored us.

  The best find was this piece of Roman Mortarium with grey grits. Strangely, a similar piece was found on the first day of the first dig.
Day 2 was a tidying of the trench and during this work a flint was found, that is most likely to come from a 18th or 17th century flintlock musket. Also some brown mottled ware sherds, of which one was probably the base of a tankard, dated 1720.



At the end of the day the trench appeared as:
This is still the plough soil, but lighter and sandier areas are beginning to appear, especially in the bottom left corner.
Days 3 and 4 were slowing taking the trench down to where sandy plough lines could be seen. The soil was hard and compact. The best find was a 15mm long and 7mm wide sliver of silver.


Also found was this very dark tile or brick. It has been suggested it is natural because of its high quartz content. It does seem to have been exposed to high heat.
On Day 5 more blackware was found. This pottery has been present in all the digs and has been found frequently. This is a piece from a pancheon.
Also seen in every dig has been thin, green glass and two pieces were recovered.
 
Another sliver of silver was found and also a flake of flint.

 
The best find was by using a metal detector and was an Edward 1 (1272-1307) silver penny.

 On Day 6 more charcoal and a vitrified lump that gave an iron response to a metal detector was found. Smaller pieces of blackware were recovered. The sandy plough lines are now very obvious.
Days 7 to 10 were slow with the soil being hard and compact. Little was found, but a flint scraper, a metal button  and the rim of a pot were uncovered.