Our mysterious sunken cellar like feature looks ripe for continuing
investigation whilst the flooded tunnel on dam 7 is ready for
newly repaired but still propped grotto...
observation platform/turning circle awaiting the arrival of our metal
The final agreed order of work was:
Clearing the remains of the cascade (IP2) on dam 1 for photographs
Recording the revetment on the poolside of dam 1
Observing and recording the dismantling of spillway, cascade and retaining walls.
Recording of the pump house (IP16)
Excavation of the grotto (IP17) and immediate surroundings
Back-filling of selected trenches from last year
Examination/excavation of possible observation platform (IP18)
Additional Suggested Options
Assessment of terraced walkways/track ways with some small scale
excavation (1m test pits?) to search for metalling (IP22 onwards
depending on number of sites examined).
Complete the excavation of the sunken feature on dam 3 (IP8) down to floor level to try and really nail what's going on there
Survey plus possible sample excavation of summerhouse (IP20)
Examination of building debris behind the 20th. C. pump house (IP19) up from dam 7, site marked as conduit on estate map 1790s
Clearance of growth around 20th. grave plot and recording of reused 18th. century masonry (IP21)
Here's how it all worked out.
An initial chat with representatives from Birch Brothers established
what needed to be done urgently. Afterwards Janine, David ( for the
volunteers) and Colin ( the contractors ) and I walked up the valley
agreeing priorities and discussing methods. Some time was spent in the
pump house trying to assess the scale of the archaeological work
needed. It was generally agreed that this was a much bigger set of
tasks than envisaged at first and that further talks were needed to
agree on methods and timing. The grotto was considered next with advice
being taken about the safety of the roof. A small trench was marked out
within the grotto to examine the flooring plus further trenches to the
west and north to look at the wider setting. Further up the valley side
the observation platform/ turning circle was considered. The location
of a trench to look at the perimeter was marked out and the possibility
of adding a further trench looked at should the use of a mini-digger
prove possible. It was agreed that a preliminary earthwork survey and a
metal detector survey be done once the volunteers had cleared the
undergrowth and some fallen branches. Further along the same path a set
of stone steps was noted heading towards a slightly sunken area flanked
by possible historic planting. It was agreed that some of the
undergrowth would be cleared and then a decision would be made about
additional survey and possibly excavation. Finally a visit was made to
the twentieth century grave site and the options for clearing and
recording the earlier masonry on the site considered.
In the afternoon the volunteers helped with clearing the lower portions
of the cascade below dam one. This uncovered a section of walling
previously buried below a fallen tree. Work was then transferred
to the revetment wall on the poolside which was due to be removed for
the new spillway. This was cleaned up then recorded with a drawn plan
Remains of the cascade and retaining wall below dam 1 brilliantly cleaned by the team...
who were them moved up to the pool side revetment for further cleaning and here it is ready for planning and photography.
An early start to meet our metal detecting specialist and lead him down
to the valley. Initially the area around the grotto was examined and
signals marked with yellow flags. He then moved on to the possible
observation platform where a team of volunteers cleared the ground. We
had hoped for considerable evidence of either vehicle movements or
clues to the location of built structures or seating. Unfortunately
signals were thin on the ground so no conclusions could be reached.
Later on the strimming crew moved onto the summer house site and
cleared around 8 square metres of dense vegetation whilst leaving in
place the rhododendrons which flanked the site. A small test pit was
then dug through an overburden of roughly 20 cm. of leaf mould derived
mainly from bracken. This revealed a small exposure of what appeared to
be a well laid paved stone surface. As there was no archaeological
features seen within this build up of plant material we propose
tomorrow to clear more of the surface and clean the approaching steps
under archaeological supervision.
At the grotto site a base camp was set up and an initial trench marked
out taking in an area immediately in front of the larger opening and
reaching across the terrace; only0 a little way down the slope. About half
of this was excavated to a depth of around 10cm revealing the front
edge of the brick paving from the inside of the grotto and a surface of
loose brick and stone rubble beyond. This will be examined further
tomorrow. Once the volunteers had finished we began to plan the layout
of the grotto by offsets. We also visited dam 1 and noted that one of
the large stone slabs from the upstream end of the spillway had been
lifted. We’ll pop back and photograph this tomorrow.
The newly discovered steps going up.. to where?
To here, the newly opened test pit with the first sight of the stone flags, base for a summer house?
The area in front of the grotto strung up and the 'topsoil', if that is
what you call a hard dry mixture of dust and rubble, removed.
The day began with a visit to dam 1 to photograph the large stone from
the spillway and the lower part of the cascade cleared on Monday. Back
at the grotto the time before our volunteers arrived was taken up with
completing the ground plan of the grotto. As there were several new
faces time was taken to give a briefing on the key aspects of the
project including health and safety.
One group began on the grotto where we continued clearing the area in
front of the main opening. It became clear that there was a distinct
area of disturbance with traces of burning, potentially a hearth or
fire pit. Other indications of possible extensions to walling also
emerged. Later in the day work was started on the alignment of stones
to the north to establish whether they represented a wall or a pathway.
The sheet piling inserted so that the draw down of the water can begin once construction starts.
The second group began up on the site provisionally named ‘the summer
house ‘. Unfortunately we under estimated the scale of finds that were
to be made and we found we had to undertake considerable reorganization
of resources to cope with what became a collection of 21 pieces of
ironwork, primarily large iron nails and spikes. Work began on clearing
a deposit of leaf mould largely derived from bracken from a series of
stone slabs. One of these proved to be inscribed with rather coarse
lettering which bore traces of a blue pigment. More work needs to be
done on cleaning the stone but it appears to include three sets of
initials ending in the letter K above the line B G. GUARDIAN 1838 ( the
last two digits are uncertain) below that are what may be a couple of
lines of verse. This is obviously an important find and may require a
broadening out of the investigation of this site.
In front of the grotto a distinct patch of dark earth begins to emerge.
The setting for the 'summer house' and hand excavation begins as the density of finds -particularly ironwork- becomes evident.
Plotting of finds underway when suddenly we have lettering and a very careful clean up begins.
After checking in with the contractors we drove up the valley and
completed the removal of the topsoil from the extended area in front of
the grotto. The volunteers finished cleaning this area before turning
their attention to the deposit of charcoal rich loam. A large part of
this was removed to uncover a dense layer of small rubble packed with
mortar which may be construction debris for the grotto. Inside the
grotto a sizable portion of the floor was cleaned showing that there
was a well preserved brick floor flanked by an edging of small rubble
in lime mortar. As this floor level is only a couple of centimetres
down we plan to uncover most of it so as to better understand the
internal layout of the grotto. Work clarifying the line of the
path to the north is almost complete.
Conditions up on the summer house site remain quite challenging with
water breaks being taken every hour. We continued to recover large
quantities of iron work, mainly nails and spikes. The inscription was
covered over for most of the day whilst the trench was extended to the
east. We now appear to have defined the sides of the paved area to east
and west but there are still a number of large slabs disappearing under
the baulk to the north. The decision will have to be made for next week
as to how far we pursue this.
A trench was started on the south west perimeter of the observation
platform/ turning circle. This revealed, down to a depth of about 30
cm, a loose mix of dry silty loam and small angular rubble with
virtually no covering of topsoil. It certainly has the appearance of a
fairly recent leveling operation with no evidence of earlier
structures or deposits.
A major effort to clear and record the remarkably well preserved floor
to the grotto whilst at the same time coming close to completing the
excavation of the area immediately outside which has given us a few
small finds, notably some early glass which may help with dating. I
suspect the path may be an early effort ( 1960s? ) by the Trust to put
in some hard landscaping when first opening for the public. The trench
in front of the scour tunnel to dam 7 was backfilled. Recording of the
trench in the turning circle was completed.
Up at the 'summer house ' the trench was cut back to the currently
defined limits to uncover more slabs and metalwork. There are some
hints of preserved timber which we will have to pay special attention
to next week. We took the decision to recover the slabs with the loose
topsoil/leaf mould generated by the bracken to provide some security
for the site over the weekend. (We tried a plastic tarpaulin but that
generated too much condensation)
Continuing excavation as we climb the steps.
The end of the session on Friday cleaning up with stone slabs disappearing under the bank to the north.
...and then it was the weekend of stifling temperatures and World Cup football... except...
The inscribed slab, slightly modified image.
... for the following correspondence:
"In 1838 Croft Castle estate was
being held in trust for the three surviving children of Somerset
Davies' daughter Ann and her husband James Kevill. Ann had died in 1826
and James in 1831. So the two boys (Edward Hammond and William
Trevelyan) and daughter Anne Isabella ( just found there was a
surviving daughter so no dates so far) were in the care of Somerset's
widow Ann and two Guardians ( Rev John Moore Stevens and Langham
Rokeby). I would guess that Ann moved back into Croft but not yet
whether the boys went away for school. Ann lived into her nineties and
present when William came of age and inherited the Davies' estates in
1847 (Edward died in 1844 just before his majority)
In 1838 Edward (the heir) was
about fifteen and William about twelve (no age for sister) so the K
could refer to something all three had set up or was about them. . 1838
was also significant because it was the year Ann and the guardians
successfully petitioned for Edward to add Davies to the Kevill name as
per Somerset's will. They had to petition again in 1847 for William so
the Davies only got added to the heir's name.
The estate appears to have been
managed by trustees and presumably an estate manager. I have not found
any records about what activity was going on in FPV at that time
but from what I have gathered the picturesque had gone out of fashion
and with the expansion of the empire plants were being brought back
from the far east and gardens concentrated on herbaceous borders and
show of flowers. I can imagine the children going to explore FPV
- more suited to boisterous youngsters than neat borders!"
Many thanks for this and yes how interesting/exciting. I must emphasize
that the reading of the date is only provisional but this information
could support a date of 1838 and suggests the initials could be
I.K. (Isabella), E.K. (Edward) and W.K. (William) plus also giving us a
context for 'B.G. Guardian' although I'm not sure what 'B.G.' stands
for. It will be fascinating to unravel the rest of the inscription and
establish a context for this highly unusual find. We have yet to give
the stone its final careful ... very careful clean and then we
have the option for further advanced imaging tasks.
Arriving on site late morning we began by calling in at dam 1 to review
progress with the contractors. The stones on the west side of the
former spillway had been removed by hand revealing a section through
the made up ground beyond the spillway to the west. This uncovered
bands of silty rubble alternating with cleaner sandy spreads. The
section was cleaned and photographed.
After lunch work continued on the grotto. A new area was opened up
below the small bay on the north side. Access was restricted because of
the presence of timber props but an area of around 0.5 m by 0.75m was
examined. Below a large dump of rubble and modern mortar was an area of
compact stone fragments but there was no evidence of paving. A post pit
was excavated which may have been a setting for a prop or possibly
support for a bench. In front of the main grotto a small test pit was
dug into the underlying deposit of clay and rubble so that the sequence
of construction could be examined. Planning of all features associated
with the grotto was completed and detailed photographic record of all
The volunteers were sent up to the 'summer house' site where they did a
marvelous job in difficult conditions of clearing the undergrowth for
an additional metre to the sides and to two metres heading up the slope
revealing some interesting changes in gradient. We also cleared a new
access path to relieve of the need to use the existing stone steps
which are in rather fragile condition.
An extraordinary effort goes into clearing more vegetation 'up top'.
Work began continuing with the recording of the grotto by taking levels
on to all significant layers and structures. Attention was transferred
to the dig down on dam 3 where the upper two trenches were back-filled
and leveled with the assistance of the volunteer team. Everyone then
adjourned to the upper section of the valley where the extension to the
trench on the summer house ( IP20 ) was set out. Work then concentrated
on removing the upper layer of leaf mould from the whole area. Once
this was complete a start was made on excavating the underlying hill
wash, a loose grayish clay. This uncovered the beginnings of two
flanking walls set at a slight angle so as to frame the central slabbed
area. It seems likely that these will meet up with a retaining wall
which will define the northern boundary of the site. More architectural
iron work was recovered but also of significance was the presence of
traces of timber boarding which may represent preserved remnants of a
wooden structure or possibly benching.
The final photographic efforts on the grotto recording elevations and detailing.
The second main focus for the day was the clearance of undergrowth from
around the grave site on the summit of the adjacent hill. Centred on
the grave of James Croft, the eleventh baronet, two concentric roughly
positioned stone rectangles were cleared along with the surrounding
area. This showed that two separate sets of moulded stones had been
used in a fairly rough and ready fashion to create these 'enclosures'.
It seems likely that these stones represent two different stages of a
stepped plinth which had been dismantled for reuse. The fact that the
layout has been positioned with a degree of carelessness suggests that
no great effort has been put into this construction and therefore that
these heavy stones have not been brought from far away. Other stones
positioned as part of the layout include two blocks of old red
sandstone and a remarkable moulded block which appears to be the base
of a Gothic screen with attached column. The quality of the stonework
and the level of preservation indicate that this may be a nineteenth
century piece. Once the area was cleared preparations were made to
start planning the complex.
An initial visit was made to dam 1 and an area on the south side of the
spillway where a large tree root had been removed was examined. Some
additional details of the existing walling were noted and photographed.
Planning was started on both the summerhouse (IP20) using a planning
frame, and the grave site (IP21) by offsets. Once the volunteers arrived
one person was sent to help with the planning at the grave site whilst
the rest made a start on removing the remainder of the overburden from
the north side of the paved area. This resulted in the discovery of
further architectural iron work including a large hinge socket. Most
remarkable however was the exposure of the end wall which not only
proved to be apsidal but was also capped for almost its full perimeter
by heavily decayed timberwork
On the grave site further stone cleaning was done, particular attention
was paid to the rough dressing on the inner faces of some of the
moulded blocks again suggesting their location within an enclosed
Before the volunteers arrived recording was finished at the grotto and
context records completed for the ‘summer house ‘ afterwards
planning was continued both here and on the grave site. The volunteers
helped complete the final stages of excavation on the ‘summer
house ‘ and then began the big clean up for photography. This was a
challenging task especially after the early morning rain but
brilliantly carried out by the volunteers. Having thought about the
layout of this site it seems to me that a better appellation for the
site would be an arbor. I envisage an over arching framework of curved
timber members to create a shell like cover above the paved area.
In the afternoon both sites were photographed in detail. At the grave
site each stone was numbered and photographed individually. At the same
time a group of volunteers completed the back filling on dam 7 and then
moved on to clear some undergrowth in the area indicated on the late
eighteenth-century estate map as being the location of a ‘conduit’.
Extensive spreads of building debris were uncovered.
The last bit of excavation round the edges of the
Down in the jungle nobody goes except those searching for the conduit.
After taking down the gazebo at ‘base camp’ we paid a final visit to
the contractors on dam 1 to examine the area cleared below the cascade
where the substrate of loose rubble was recorded. This was the final
visit as part of the current watching brief. A portion of the retaining
wall to the pool has yet to be removed but is unlikely to provide any
new information. We also had a brief conversation with the contractor
working on the repairs to the pump house.
The last of dam 1, the area of the cascade is covered over.
The remainder of the morning was given over to recording . The stone by
stone planning of the grave site was completed and measured profiles of
the key mouldings drawn. Similarly on the ‘summer house’ planning of
the paved surface was finished and a profile of the walling and timber
work drawn. There was insufficient time to plan in detail the steps so
these were recorded with a series of scaled vertical and oblique
photos. Finally a comprehensive set of photos were taken of the
building debris revealed by yesterday’s clearance of undergrowth from
the site of the conduit.
The volunteers got on with back-filling the trenches next to the grotto
whilst leaving the paved interior clear. We had discussed options for
covering and protecting the ‘summer house ‘ site until such time as
decisions can be made regarding its future and we left them as they
started to work this out.