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

October 2018 -The Rising Tide


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With the major diversions of other summer digging out of the way, almost, it was good to be able to set aside the whole month to focus exclusively, almost, on Hanwell. However, Monday October saw a lightening return to Packwood house and a remarkable discovery not irrelevant to our Hanwell studies.  This was a set of timbers pulled out of the lake silts by the contractor and deposited in the shallow end of the lake for me to examine. I suspect that these are the remains of a timber pipe and sluice mechanism that once ran under the dam presumably on the location where a later sluice was inserted, recorded by us back in August. I am slightly familiar with this form of construction as I helped excavate a similar example at Bordesley Abbey back in the 1980s... phew.



Now that's what I call a trench, the timbers were recovered from close to where the digger is parked.




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The timber collection with a detail of the top end with drain hole, the paired hollows are interesting could they be stops for a propping mechanism to open the sluice or can they have something to do with the flow of water?




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All wrapped up to be kept damp until further notice.




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The example excavated under the mill pond bank at Bordesley Abbey (c) Reading University







Once settled back in at Hanwell we were confronted with a severely soggy trench slowly filling up with percolating ground water, we must be nearly half a metre below the level of the nearby stream.To overcome this on the first afternoon I dug a deep sump through largely undifferentiated silts in the north west corner of the trench and found a rope to attach a bucket to for bailing out. It takes about 20 minutes at the start of each day since you asked. We hope to have a mechanical solution to this problem shortly. the main task once things had been sponged dry was to plan and then lift the various pieces of fairly fragile glassware we had identified as well as excavate and list the slightly scattered bones of the cat. These removed we were free to concentrate on cleaning the remaining big pots ready for planning and eventually lifting. hand in hand with this was the continuing campaign to remove turf and topsoil from the new eastern section of moat where we anticipated keenly the discovery, amongst other things of the remains of the access bridge.




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At the start of the week it was all slightly submerged so in went the sump and here is the water draining away, temporarily.




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Once drained the surface was still very damp to much of it had to be accessed by balancing on planks.




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Out come the first piece of fine glassware, an extraordinarily thin walled case bottle, Peter sets to on the trench side to wash and then box it up.




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The neck and upper part of a fine flask possibly once containing a spirit such as genever, the early form of gin plus the foot of a goblet... for drinking it out of?



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Here it is partially cleaned with a small  medallion possibly impressed with a monogram.




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.. and the slightly disarticulated bones of our cat.




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Everyone hard at work with Chris displaying an unexpected halo.  Ian was cleaning pot 10 with suitably impressive results...




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.. before moving on to pot 11, Chris is extracting the remains of another small badly broken but fine case bottle.




After a slightly damp weekend it was time to bail out again but after half an hour hauling on a wet rope with a heavy bucket my back began to protest so the sensible course was forced upon us, look for a mechanical solution. Christopher and I started to explore options for the repair/hire/loan/purchase of a suitable pump (more to follow). What this meant was that in order to keep our heads above water we had to transfer our attention to the higher ground of the octagonal island itself. This involved a rather tedious scraping of all the exposed surfaces to remove months of moss and algae. Slightly more rewarding was the opportunity to finish stripping the turf and topsoil from the new area to the east and giving the top of the north west wall a good clean so it was ready for photographing and planning. The other focus was the very centre of the island where logic and precedent suggests there was a large fountain presumably carried on a massive foundation. No trace yet but still looking. One bright spot was the discovery of a George III silver sixpence of 1817 at the interface between the topsoil and the subsoil. Nice but not hugely informative. And meanwhile the waters keep on rising.




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The waters rising.                                                                                                                                     Work starts up top.




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Peter and Chris ( not that Peter, not that Chris ) start cleaning the wall and Helen finished it off followed by me and the leaf blower.




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All looking very tidy until the next shower of autumn leaves.     A coin and the find spot as the search for the central fountain continues.