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Chapel of St Laurence, Bradford-On-Avon, UK

Chapel of St Laurence, Bradford-On-Avon, UK

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Archaeological assessment report on the Chapel of St Laurence, Bradford-on-Avon
Archaeological assessment report on the Chapel of St Laurence, Bradford-on-Avon

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Published by: Fuzzy_Wood_Person on May 13, 2013
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Chapel of St Laurence, Bradford on Avon. Excavation record, Sept. 2000 andnotes on subsequent work Originally prepared Aug. 2001 by David A. Hinton, Department of Archaeology,University of Southampton, augmented June 2009
These notes are intended to be read together with 6 files of site drawings and photographs. The report on the excavation is in
 Archaeological Journal 
, vol. 166(Hinton 2009), and further discussion is in a paper currently in proof (Hinton 2010).There is also a web-site that has colour images and general background prepared bytwo M.Sc. students, Graham Prowse and Anton Tait, currentlywww.soton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/projects/st_laurence_chapel.htmlThe excavation in Sept. 2000 was sponsored by the Trustees of the Chapel of StLaurence to celebrate the millennium of the donation of Bradford to ShaftesburyAbbey. It was undertaken to clarify whether there had been a chamber below thesouth porticus, which was demolished either in the Middle Ages, or at the time whenthe chapel was turned into a school, and a house for the school-master built on thesouth side. Masonry now below ground level had been observed by the architect J. T.Irvine in the 1870s (Taylor 1972), but he had not made a detailed record.Reinvestigation was recommended in the last full investigation of the building (Taylor 1973).As it was not intended that there should be any removal of ground layers that were notthe result of nineteenth-century backfilling of the area south of the chapel’s nave,single-context recording was not done, and there are no context record sheets of thenormal sort. I took notes at times during the work, relying on photographs andelevation drawings. What follows sets out those notes in more coherent order, withininverted commas, and also draws slightly more on my memory than it ought to do.Some other work was done at and near the chapel in 2004 and 2005. The observationsmade then are also reported.
Excavation 2000
 Excavation Calendar Sept. 2000
The full Southampton team was six students and myself. Two of the students wereexperienced excavators, and all the others had done at least three weeks fieldwork ondepartmental projects. Work ran from Monday Sept. 11 to Friday Sept. 22, 2000; theintention was to work every day, but a national petrol crisis prevented us fromtravelling on Thursday 14
, and we had to use the train on the 15
; time was also lostto bad weather, and to travelling over from Southampton, but excavation had beencompleted by Sept. 20, when Tom Cromwell from English Heritage took survey photographs; these are not in the archive, as they duplicate those copied for it.The agreement with the Trustees of the Chapel was that we should remove about ametre of the earth back from the nave. Because it was found that the buttresses
survived below ground level, and that there was therefore no subsidence risk, permission was given to go down to the level of the cellar floor.Towards the end of the work, it was agreed to create a scaffold ramp up to the southdoor, leaving the south wall visible (archive photo ‘Bradford 2000 scaffold bridge’).We backfilled the trenches to either side of the buttresses, scarping down to leave thetops of the buttresses visible, and putting a layer of small stones up against the wallfaces. The scaffolding was put in, but proved expensive and unsightly. Consequentlywe were asked to fill in between the buttresses, which we did over a week-end, putting a layer of terram (?) between the wall and the fill. We left the top as a roughly paved surface, level with the buttress tops. Subsequently, the Trustees decided torestore to the original appearance, and this was done at some time in the winter.
The nave’s wall faces were drawn on A4 planning film. Colour slides were taken byDAH; all those worth saving have been scanned and are in three files.
An area was deturfed from a point 1m west of the west buttress and one metre east of the east buttress, extending 3m to the south. The first discovery was that the buttresseserected in the 1880s had not been reduced in thickness in 1933, as some recordssuggested, but only reduced in length. The foundations of the buttresses had not beengrubbed out, but were found a few centimetres below the turf. Consequently the work divided into three areas.a.
West of the west buttress (File labelled ‘west of the west buttress’ containsdrawings and photographs)Below a thin layer of turf was a mixed rubbly yellow layer, with some larger stones init. At about half a metre, some stones in a line were found, but no footing trench etc.was found to suggest a feature – even a drain. It was photographed and removedwithout further record. At about 0.80 m down the wall face, a very hard and unevensurface of yellow cement was found, extending back the whole 3m. As there was noreason to hack it out, and to do so might have damaged the wall face, this was not pursued. The only finds were fragments of brick and the like. (Subsequently, a recordabout regrouting in 1933 was found in the NMR archive, and what was seen in thisarea is fully consistent with work done at that time, and backfilled.)nave south wall, west side of west buttress‘Long plinth stone just above ground level, disguised by mortar, but seemingly twohorizontal stones. Then two shorter plinth stones, running under pilaster, bothseemingly ‘Saxon’ though hard ‘concrete’ mortar below them. These were both of similar thickness to the upper long stone.’ [These notes reflect concern over the extentof rebuilding of the Saxon fabric and its disturbance when the buttress was inserted.]
‘Below the plinth, the rubble footings have been repointed with a hard white slick,which is also on the buttress.’ [‘Slick’ = hard grey cement, which had been used downto the bottom of the excavation.]These foundations were set back some 20 mm under the plinth, coming forward alittle lower down to be flush with it. They are a good example of ‘random rubble’.Excavation stopped because of the cement across the trench – see above.Cement had been pushed between the south wall and the buttress, obscuring the join.‘Some of the rubble clearly continues eastwards behind the buttress stones. If therewere a crypt wall, its scar is not visibly reused by the buttress. If it exists, it must beone/two cm eastwards (as the rubble extends).’west face of west buttressImmediately below the visible dressed stones of the buttress are squared and coursed but undressed stones. The face was vertical, in the limited part seen. To the south, thesecond course contained longer, apparently sawn, blocks. The undressed stones mayhave been reused from the school-master’s house; the 1870s photographs suggest thatits side walls were undressed rubble, its south front of big blocks. The long stonesmust have been brought in in the 1880s. ‘”Concrete” mortar’ was noted at the time,and the photographs show that this means the same grey cement as on the south wall;the joints must have been refilled in 1933, when the footings were exposed.Archive file ‘west of the west buttress’ photos:1-2, south wall, with lowest plinth stone, visible at ground level, at the top3, trench, buttress to right4-5 angle of nave south wall and west buttress b.
Between the buttresses (File labelled ‘between buttresses’ contains drawings and photographs)This area was filled with loose rubble and mortar, with some large stones, manysquared. No differences were observed in the texture of the fill during excavation.Several stones had plastered surfaces. Only one was recognisably Anglo-Saxon,mainly because it had a slot in it (below) and was clearly from one of the courses inthe original east wall (photo 27). It was the only one recognisable as Anglo-Saxonfrom its geology, size and colour. (This stone was deliberately placed on top of theeast buttress at backfilling, but its fate when the area was subsequently returfed is notknown). Some of the stones turned out to be broken seventeenth-century gravestones.The plastered stones may have come from the school-master’s house, but there is nodirect evidence. Other finds were a few glass fragments, clay pipe-stems etc.When it was decided to excavate lower than originally planned, the north face of thetrench was roughly sloped to try to prevent slippage, though this was always likely tohappen. It was not safe to explore more than about half a metre of a hard white/black surface at the bottom, assumed to be the cellar floor or a surface for flagstones to belaid on. At the east end, part of this surface did not run up to the east and north walls.My notes record only ‘Below the problem in the right corner is a rubble and mortar foundation. This appears to be Saxon, but much disturbed (the ?cellar floor in this

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