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  • David Quick

Dig Day 2 - Looking in new areas

One of the best things for me about this Dig in Alton is the number of new members it has attracted - probably about 30 so far. So at the morning briefing at 09.30 today there was a mix of new faces and familiar ones, but a big turn-out. We did the usual health and safety items and covered what we had done yesterday for those that had not been here. We also managed to reunite two £5 notes that Carl had found with the rightful owner!


At the end of the brief Juliet divided those present into teams - first to separate those like me who were there to talk to the public, help children and process finds from those who were there to dig; and then to allocate dig teams across the various test pits. Today Juliet wanted to continue to expand some of the test pits in the Gardens that had been started yesterday and then also commence two new test pits in the eastern lawn at Barton End where we had previously seen interesting geophys results.


Davy's team near the fountain were to extend the test pit containing foundations:

Davy supervising and recording the test pit nearest the fountain.

Davy's team preparing to continue to clear back the test pit containing foundations.

We suspect that the foundations seen are those of the British Restaurant that we understand was a wooden hut in the Gardens between about 1941 and 1946. We have no external photos of this building, just internal ones from the archives of the Alton Herald:

Photo of interior of 'British Restaurant' hut from Alton Herald archives.

I think the foundations we see probably once had railway sleepers laid on them, onto which the hut was then constructed. Meanwhile Carol (seen here during tea break) and her dig team measured out with Carl's help the alignment of the known high-voltage buried cable through the gardens - so we ensure we avoid it!

Tea break

When this was done they then marked out the area where trenches had been dug in 1988, where those working at the time had found what appeared to be Romano-British building foundations. Juliet had decided that our next test pit was to be immediately adjacent to those foundations to see if we could find a continuation of them. Digging these is likely to take some time, because the 1988 trench drawings suggest that the features were found at depths between 1.0 and 1.2 metres - and we have to dig down in 10cm layers at a time and record each carefully.


Next I walked over to Barton End.

Starting work at the eastern lawn.

Here I found that the two teams had measured in their test pits to hopefully find the interesting features that had shown up on our resistivity geophysics plots.

Starting two test pits at Barton End.

When I called back later I found that one of the teams had not only found their first (but tiny) fragment of Alice Holt pottery but were also uncovering what appears to be an interesting animal bone.

Starting to make finds at Barton End.

So far the second team at Barton End is not having such luck - but it is very early days yet.

Working on the second test pit at Barton End.

Back in the Gardens I found myself getting quite hoarse from all the visitors passing by who were keen to hear and see what we were doing. Meanwhile Juliet explained the recording process for finds from the test pits, which is slightly different from what we do with finds from trenches at Colemore.

Juliet showing the finds helpers how to record test pit finds.

The finds to date range from modern coins and pieces of bottle glass to flints, clay pipes, nails and bits of tile. A bit of a mixed bag but what we expect from layers just below the turf.

Weighing, measuring and recording the finds after cleaning them.

At 3.00pm Keith, Carl and Juliet went off to visit one of the residents in Lenten Street who has asked us to explore his back garden where he has seen parch marks in his lawn. Carl tells me that the lawn is big enough for us to be able to do a geophysics scan, so I think that is on the cards for tomorrow. As I finished talking to another group of visitors I then looked at my watch and realised that it was already 4.40pm so we started packing everything away again and crammed it into the garage storeroom in the groundsmen's compound. Once everything was stowed I walked home and had a badly-needed cup of tea. Another very enjoyable and successful day!

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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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