Voyages to the House of Diversion 
Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Science

June 2018 - A Very Polygonal Month


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We devoted the last two days of May to giving the whole site a very thorough clean prior to the visit by delegates to the Rewley House conference on 'Wonders and Marvels: Water, the Intellect and Science in the Seventeenth-Century British Garden'. Everything was looking spick and span then on Thursday night the heaven's opened and the worst downpour in living memory afflicted north Oxfordshire... with predictable consequences for the trenches.


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Water lies alongside the driveway.                                                                                                   The second sluice fails to hold the water back



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The pool in the sunken garden had filled up nicely.                                                                              Water fills the ditch on the western side of the water parterre.



June
Significantly the water level returns to something approaching its original position.



As it turned out Saturday was a lovely day and the waters had receded to a limited extent, We bussed up around 70 delegates from the garden history conference who after an introductory chat from Rowena split into two groups to take it in turns walking round the archaeology and enjoying the pop-up museum, tea and home made biscuits and further tour from Rowena and Christopher of the more recent additions to the garden. Many, many thanks for their hospitality and to Verna, Peter, Matt and Cat for helping out on the day. All that and everyone safely back to Oxford for a 6.30 dinner.



June
The crowds press forward eagerly to hear Rowena on the early history of the Copes... the only photo I have of the Rewley House Outing.



Once the excitement of the great visitation was over we began work once again leaving the lower portions of the site to dry out we extended our digging to the east to carry on following the line of the wall. This ultimately lead to the discovery of a corner which clearly marls out the central island of the water parterre as being polygonal. We will have to confirm whether the form is hexagonal or octagonal but fitting it onto the earthwork plan it is hard to make a regular octagon work given we know the minimum length of at least one side but a square with the corners taken off, still an octagon, is workable. Take a look here at some preliminary thoughts about polygons in gardens and prepare to carry on digging.




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Chris and Hannah find some dry ground the work from and as the week progresses we uncover more and more of the perimeter wall until...




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we reach a corner and its looking like a hexagon... or maybe an octagon....



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... except  a hexagon fits the earthwork profile rather more neatly.... unless we make our octagon a square with chamfered corners.





June
... and an added bonus, Peter has kindly agreed to take the finds in hand, what a relief.




As we started the tackle the removal of the spread of destruction rubble in the moat to the north we began to come across increasing amounts of decorated terra-cotta garden ware culminating in the extraordinary find of what appears to be a complete urn, complete although far from intact. These are likely to become a major consideration as we excavate this material over the next few weeks.




June    
Deeply scored decorative garden ware close to the centre of the north side of the octagon, part of P5 as it turned out.




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Close to the west end of the north side a plainer pot almost complete but with some remaining under the section edge, later to be numbered as P1.




June
As an escape from digging up pots we marked out our potential octagon on the ground with stripy poles and red tape - it is good for something.




June
A view looking south east of the complete northern side of the octagon.




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Now it gets really exciting, Helen helps clearing the rubble to begin to reveal the ditch silts below then this a handle and part of the body of a vessel with foliate decoration, subsequently labeled P3.




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And before we could draw breath next to it what appears to be a complete pot, later known as P2, could it have painted decoration?  Put to bed for the weekend.




The next week pots continued to crop up as we shifted the destruction rubble....




June
So here is P3... complete but not intact.




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... and Rowena and Christopher get to grips with urn numbered P4, here it is in the course of excavation.




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So, three urns in a row, P2,3 and 4, there has to be a joke there and a photo of how to move a very heavy stone out of a very deep trench. It's called an inclined plane, what a great invention.





The third week of June  saw some solid digging underway thanks to Chris, Hannah and Helen plus Peter continuing to mastermind the finds department. We were certainly going to need him as our total number of pots continued to climb with an additional plain pot (P6) and another decorated urn, although to a different pattern to the earlier ones (P5). As removal of the destruction rubble moved into the north west corner we were able to lift what was evidently a beautifully cut coping stone and reposition it on the corner from which it had been thrown down. Finally, and perhaps most exciting of all, a rather uninteresting lump of dull grey stone when excavated just went on and on and turned into a large segment of what must have been a shallow stone bowl with a hint of a central hole bored through it, almost certainly the basin for a small fountain! As the number of pots grew I started to do some initial research into garden pots of the period.



June
Helen and Hannah co-operate on the tricky business of cleaning an urn (P4), it seems larger than the previous two.




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The beginnings of two further pots, plain old P6 and more elaborate P5 - see above for two other pieces.




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The great coping stone as excavated and at the risk of being accused of anastylosis (look it up, I had to) lifted back into place although in truth it probably stood a metre or more above its current resting place.




June
A section of stone fountain bowl? You can see part of the small hole towards the top right hand corner.