12 March 2012

West Bromwich Manor House - Evaluation (I)

Today saw the beginning of our community archaeology project in West Bromwich. The background to this was explained in an earlier post; we have now begun the evaluation phase by excavating four trenches in the grounds of this thirteenth century manorial complex.


The photo above shows the first trench being excavated. Here we have found what seems to be a pit full of ironworking residues. Although this is probably dumped from elsewhere, it is possible that they are the result of smithing (or even, perhaps, early bloomery smelting?) on site. We have also found a mysterious wall that appears to be neither the wall of the moat nor a later garden feature.

Nearer to the house we excavated two further trenches exploring the present moat, and the relationship of the outlying 'cottage' building to the rest of the complex. One of these trenches contains a number of brick walls and floor surfaces that appear to relate to the post-medieval tenement phase. The other - shown below - is so far confirming the suspicion that the present 'moat' is largely a late twentieth century fabrication.


Our fourth trench, at the western side of the site (shown below), investigated earthwork features which may themselves be part of the original moat. We also found another wall here (well, a possible wall - at the moment just a spread of mortar), as well as another ditch. Since none of these features are shown on historic mapping, it is quite likely that they relate to earlier periods of the site's history.


There is still lots more to investigate - but hopefully our understanding of the site will become clearer towards the end of this first week. At the weekend we have our first batch of volunteers coming to help out, and then next week a series of local schools are joining in to try and resolve the mysteries of the West Bromwich Manor House!

Thanks to Peter of K. B. Handley Plant Hire for his excellent efficient work with a JCB today, and course Rachel of the Sandwell Museums team who has worked extremely hard and has been very supportive. Tomorrow we are hoping for a visit from the Express and Star, and further updates will appear here shortly!

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