Excavation at Kingsbury Barn

In September [2011] we undertook a small excavation at Kingsbury Barn. A single trench extended 16 metres away from the South West elevation (i.e. porch side) and was a ‘rescue’ dig, ahead of hedge planting which will complete landscaping on that side of the building.

19th and 20th century maps indicated a yard on this side of the Barn which the porch gave on to. After penetrating very recent levels, two yard surfaces were encountered, the first of re-laid chalk with gravel metaling and below that an earth surface with flint cobbling. An early, inconvenient find was the side of a brick and concrete ramp which had served grain silos at the back of the barn in the last century. This narrowed more than a half of the trench length and a mass of concrete totally blocked a section. (These have been left for the Singer’s garden contractor to deal with!).

The maps predicted that the trench should cross an end-wall of what appeared to be a cart shed and obligingly the base of a wall was found in the right place, cut by the ramp wall. In addition, a post hole, complete with substantial below-ground remains of the post, was found on what was shown as an open side of the shed.

Progressing down below the lower yard surface, there was much build-up by depositions of soils and rubble. We en- countered a cut which corresponded with what is shown on the St Michael’s parish map of 1840 as a precursor to the cart shed. Discussion with Steve Russell, of Gorhambury Estate, suggested that the preceding group of buildings was probably a cow yard. After yet another surface of very large flints, close-set and packed with chalk, we reached undisturbed natural, consisting of almost pure sand. This was at a depth of 1.2m (4ft).

It was clear from this dig and earlier test-pits that the whole yard is made ground to a considerable depth. For what reason is not apparent yet. Both inside and immediately outside, the ground level is some half a metre above that on which the Barn was built. Further away, as described, it is more than twice that.

Considering the location, the number of residual Roman finds was very small. The only find of note otherwise consisted of fragments of a glass bottle with parts of the makers name on. After some detective work this was found to be Henry Ricketts of Bristol, an important figure in 19th century advances in bottle-making. We have Brian Moody, a past SAHAAS secretary, to thank for locating this information.

There were a few fragments of almost certainly Roman mortar and wall plaster in the lowest levels, but these were just parts of the mass of levelling-up material and not in situ.

Our team had some tough digging, compensated for by a Listed site hut of un-paralleled grandeur and mod cons not normally expected on excavations, provided by the Singers. And the weather was good to us.

[Extract from Newsletter 182, November 2011]