Mercian Archaeological Services CIC is very pleased to announce that the report for the Discover King John’s Palace Plough Soil Test Pitting Project is now available to download from their publications page: http://mercian-as.co.uk/publications.html
You can also download the report directly at http://www.mercian-as.co.uk/reports/dkjp_report_2017.pdf , if you prefer (the report is 449 pages long so may take some time to download).
The Discover King John’s Palace Test Pitting Project was the archaeological component of the ITV Peoples Millions, Big Lottery Funded ‘Discover King John’s Palace‘ project run by the Sherwood Forest Trust in conjunction with Mercian.
Quick summary of the report and project:
Following the methodology (approved by Historic England- previously English Heritage), the project excavated 387 test pits into the plough soil in the north western part of Castlefield, in an area of investigation of approximately 10,600 square metres.
Close to 30,000 objects with a combined weight of almost 300 kilograms relating to human activity within the area of investigation were recovered, counted, weighed and catalogued.
The test pits were 0.5 x 0.5m and 0.25m deep, being excavated entirely in plough soil. No sub-plough soil deposits were excavated or even exposed.
More than 1,500 people (including visitors to the open days, and school visits involving around 500 local school children), visited the site, throughout the project, and engaged with and learned about the important history of their local area.
126 individuals took part in the excavations and many others were involved in the post excavation finds processing.
The King’s Houses was a royal possession that was home to a 12th century hunting lodge set within a designed landscape; the buildings were added to and expanded in the 13th and 14th centuries to make a palatial complex possibly comparable (at least in terms of the documented buildings) to sites like Clarendon in Wiltshire.
This project was designed to investigate the possible northwestern portion of the boundary of the complex.
The test pitting proved extremely effective. It revealed information about the likely extent of part of the built environment of the King’s Houses and environs, and produced evidence that can be used to enhance future geophysical or archaeological investigation of the site, but also began to reveal evidence that is of wider significance for the archaeology of the local area and region (see report for details).
The distribution of stone and metalwork appears to suggest a more rectilinear-shaped enclosure that would make the layout of the site more comparable with, for example, Clarendon Palace. This is fundamentally different to recent published depictions of the outline of the site, and marks a significant step forward in the understanding of the site layout. This also ties in well with the evidence from Mercian’s recent geophysical surveys.
This theory would mean that the boundary to the southwestern side of the gatehouse, did not follow the line of the road as others have previously suggested, but instead extended up into the current field towards the southwest (see report).
Significantly, the investigation revealed evidence likely to derive from Saxon period occupation.
Early – Middle and late Saxon pottery was found in sufficient quantity and diversity to suggest probable occupationrather than short term activity. Such evidence is scarce in Nottinghamshire and previously almost unknown in the Sherwood Forest area.
Also significantly, the investigations have allowed the identification of a previously unidentified pottery type that appears to shed light on the possible origins of the Brackenfield pottery industry. This industry, which was a major supplier of pottery to west Nottinghamshire, and is poorly understood and dated.
The investigations also appear to suggest that an area shown as an enclosure on the 1630s map may be of much greater antiquity than the King’s Houses. This area appears to have seen the earliest activity on the site, with quantities of Saxon and Saxo-Norman pottery concentrated in this area. It remained in use throughout the medieval period and appears to have continued in use after occupation of the King’s Houses ceased.
The finds appear to suggest this plot was occupied perhaps until the end of the first quarter of the 18th century. As such, it is possible that this plot represents a part of the original settlement of Clipstone. It may have remained in occupation as such during the period of the King’s Houses, and remained in occupation into the post medieval period, finally being abandoned in the early 18th century.
Further information was also gained regarding the Roman activity on the site. This had previously been considered to be mainly of the second century and appeared to show little Romanisation. The present work revealed a wider range of dating and forms. It is proposed that the Roman activity on the site spans at least the 2nd to 4th century and may represent activities undertaken by Romanised people away from their houses and food preparation area. It may derive from the Roman equivalent of a packed lunch taken out into the fields!
Full details of the finds and the interpretation can be seen in the report.