Voyages to the House of Diversion
Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Science
July/August 2019 - After the Digger
The first two weeks of July saw
Sarah and I in the wilds of Herefordshire completing out third season
at Croft Castle's Fishpool Valley for the National Trust excavating a
remarkably well preserved conduit house and recording an eighteenth
century and later pumping mechanism situated, not surprisingly, in the
The Trust volunteers plus Sarah excavate the conduit
Plenty of complex machinery to keep us occupied in the pump house
Whilst we were
away the contractors moved in on Hanwell to create better access to the
lower part of the garden along the newly named Via Archaeologica. In
addition some of the existing spoil was spread about a bit and some
topsoil and silting removed.
The digger and the dumper leveling spoil heaps and a view along the new super highway.
Back after a lengthy break Chris and Sarah tidy up the south trench
ready for photography and drawing before moving on to the slowly drying
out western section.
Peter follows up a metal detector signal and finds something big, not
sure what yet so we cover it over pending the excavation of a larger
On the hottest day of the year so far Chris excavates a pot buried in
cake mix and on the day after I dig all morning to tidy up section
A marvelously intact seventeenth century wine bottle recovered by Christopher from the north trench.
As we moved towards the end of July rather unpredictable weather meant
occasional storms with accompanying down pours which kept the lower
parts of some trenches slightly soggy. So it was that our efforts were
directed towards digging out the remaining largish area along the
south west side of our polygonal enclosure.
Flooded out again...
... so up top Peter, Ian and Toby cut a section edge. The next day Toby
and Chris continue defining the line of the wall whilst some nameless
hero digs out the rest of the area to be excavated.
Sarah, who had done sterling service earlier this summer, disappeared
south in search of a holiday leaving me to recover her trowel known
formally as Henriette, Trowelborn, First of Her Name, Worm Slayer,
Trench Queen and Mother of Finds. Henriette was cleaned oiled and
polished so that she could receive tribute from all those passing
by.... what, doesn't everyone look after their trowel this way?
The trowel that launched a thousand ships... or maybe I'm getting mixed up with something else....
Anyway the second week in August
saw us continuing to crack on although a lot of this was continuing to
shift dirt in large quantities, ton after ton, although there was some
digging too. We are getting closer to our sea of rubble otherwise known
as 009. We also worked on removing the last of the rubble from the
western area although even with pumping it continued to be
exceptionally sticky. One plus was the discovery of the larger part of
a very elegant seventeenth century tin-glazed earthenware plate, a
really nice find.
Toby and Chris stir the pudding mix whilst Peter tackles the last root.
... and here's the plate, rather lovely.
As the end of
August approached serious progress had been made in lowering the levels
of the accumulated silts bringing us within striking distance of the
linking section of wall and the associated field of rubble and other
debris. Amongst this we were able to excavate the large metallic object
first flagged up by Peter S and his metal detector. It turned out to be
a lead cone which provoked loads of speculation but no clear idea what
it is, yet. A minute fragment of a bone comb was well spotted and
a first time volunteer, Meg, all the way up from Devon, managed to find
herself working on not one, not two but three garden urns all dumped
Ian, Chris and Toby get down to some serious archaeology, digging with trowels and all in a line like it ought to be
... and two fine finds: a lead thingamajig and a tiny tiny piece of bone comb
Ian and Meg sort out a final patch of fallen rubble and in the process uncover pots galore.
Everything then shut down for the last week in August,we had been
scheduled to take a family holiday in France that week but
unfortunately such was the back log of reports and what have you that
had to be written up for commercial clients that the holiday was
cancelled and I spent an intense ten days in the office just writing
and drawing... phew. And here they are:
Once the writing was over it was good to get back to the trenches, we
had a new volunteer, Adam and he and I with help from Peter P. made a
determined effort to remove pretty well all the remaining over burden
by spade and shovel before taking up out trowels to start rubble
hunting which is what we did right up to the end of the month. As the
rubble became increasingly well defined so did a shed load of
associated finds as we made it to our 26th. garden pot plus loads of
other intriguing material.
Digging away the last of the silt sometimes with spades and sometimes with trowels.
Adam contemplates a sea of pots... are there two or are there three?
A GALLERY OF FINDS
The largest chunk of wall plaster found to
A thin copper tube, possibly a quill from an ornamental fountain.
A fine glass bottle of
The largest piece of window glass to date, equally fine.