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Alton Big Dig

East Hampshire's community archaeology group with 160 volunteer members working under professional archaeologist supervision, exploring sites at Alton, Colemore and Stroud near Petersfield.

Email: altonbigdig@gmail.com

East Hampshire Community Archaeology

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  • David Quick

Day 3 - Hot enough to show new parch marks

I was not on site most of today because of looking after my 2-year old grandson but turned up for morning brief and then twice during the day to see how things were going and to take some photos.


There were two things that struck me as very interesting. The first was that one of the residents of Barton End had a collection of historic documents about this interesting old house that he kindly allowed me to photograph. The second was that the owner of what appears to be a largely Victorian house in Lenten Street very kindly allowed us to explore his back garden yesterday, with the result that today it was agreed that the lawn was big enough to merit a geophysics scan. At morning brief Juliet and Carl selected a small 'dream team' of members experienced in doing geophys in areas with obstacles, because it saves a great deal of time if those operating the machines know how to cope with 'partials' and 'dummy logs' on our RM85 resistivity machine when working around such obstacles. This is one of Carl's photos showing the team hard at work.

I'm told by Juliet that our team also saw several parch marks in this lawn, again suggesting buried features, and the alignment of these was apparently both parallel to and at right angles to Lenten Street. I look forward to seeing the scan results once Carl has processed them. I believe Carl's team did both resistivity and magnetometry scans covering an area 20m x 20m..


I called in a couple of times at Barton End and saw steady progress being made, as seen here.

Juliet, our Archaeological Director, tells me that the team are finding small items as they dig down 10cm at a time. When I looked in their finds trays I saw finds such as stems of clay pipes.


Back in the Public Gardens I saw Carl using the magnetometer to try to check the position of the buried high-voltage cable, because we never absolutely trust the accuracy of maps provided for us by the utility companies.

Carl holding the magnetometer before checking the cable location.

In the Public Gardens I saw the team of volunteers who are talking to the public and organising the children's activities doing an amazing job of chatting knowledgeably about the project and showing visitors around, despite the fact that some of them are very new to our group. We seem to have attracted a great deal of interest today, perhaps because it was market day in town. While there I met three fellow members of Alton Camera Club all keen to take photos.


Next to Davy's test pit, close to the fountain, it is interesting that the very dry weather of the last few days is again bringing out very clearly the parch marks we saw at this time last year, that kicked off this whole project. Davy's team has been continuing to excavate the foundations of what we presume was the wartime 'British Restaurant', because Juliet wants to know the spacing and depth of these foundations. Juliet tells me that this test pit has produced finds including the bone handle of a knife, pieces of coal, some green plaster and lots of fragments of pottery and glass of various dates, mostly 19th/20th Century.

Continuing work on the foundations.

It was very hot and dusty work today and the team working on the new test pits in the Public Gardens, started yesterday near where Roman features were found in 1988, sensibly opted to work under the cover of a gazebo as seen here.

Juliet says that they have uncovered a couple of possible Roman finds despite the fact that the pit is not very deep yet, as well as pieces of clay pipes and various Victorian and 20th Century objects including pieces of lime mortar, brick fragments and pottery sherds.


The forecast for the next two days looks reasonable but I'm keeping fingers crossed because the Met Office are predicting that all may change on Friday with the chance of wind and showers.

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