17 March 2012

West Bromwich Manor House - Volunteer Training (I)

Today we began our archaeology training weekend at the Manor House in West Bromwich. A plucky group of twelve volunteers were first treated to a morning briefing session. This began with my overview of the site's history and some of the aims of the project; then Kate led us on a 'landscape tour' around the grounds; finally Geoff provided an introduction to the theory and method of archaeological stratigraphy and recording. We then split into three teams to excavate Trenches 1 (me), 3 (Kate) and 4 (Geoff).

Kate's trench (above) initially seemed the most daunting, as it largely consisted of various rubble deposits. However it wasn't long before her team had begun to discover a fascinating range of artefacts, including a wide range of post-medieval pottery and some very nice nineteenth century clay pipe bowls.

Meanwhile, Geoff's team (below) were busy half-sectioning various features and learning the art of stratigraphic recording.

In Trench 1, my team were cutting sections across various features. Some were quite straightforward. The photo below shows the excavation of part of a garden feature - provisionally dated (by a single sherd) to the eighteenth century and therefore likely to have been part of the garden improvements undertaken by Samuel Clark.

The apparent 'ditch' in this trench was more difficult to resolve, and may actually turn out to be an embankment - such is the nature of archaeology, which inevitably requires some serious mattocking.

A heavy rain shower in mid-afternoon caused a temporary halt to proceedings. This enabled me to talk about medieval and post-medieval artefacts, and also meant that we brought forward the 'introduction to archaeological drawing' which had been planned for the next day. Geoff and I set up a datum in the thirteenth century Great Hall... but since this is Sandwell's only Grade I listed building it was necessary to improvise to avoid damage to the fabric. Here we see the 'artefacts' table re-used by the building recording group.

Finally we were able to return briefly to the trenches at the end of the day, and make plans for tomorrow's excavations. Here we all are at the end of the day in Trench 3.

All in all an excellent - although exhausting - day. Many thanks to everyone for their hard work today... hopefully tomorrow we will be able to shed a bit more light on the post-medieval history of the Manor House.

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