Wednesday, 31 July 2013

31 July 2013, Hickleton Hall POW Project Day 8

Despite the good weather for most of yesterday, we had another unfortunate incident with the rain today. It hit us early on and just got heavier.

There was an attempt to get on site and see what we could do. We had planned on cleaning and recording the two bases today, but the rain made everything a mess again. Instead the team heading to the south of the site to lay out more grids for the geophysics survey, but even this was ruined by the steadily falling rain which washed us out.

We are down to our last couple of days on site now, so things will be a little rushed as we get things finished off. Here's hoping for sunshine for the next two days!! Come on Keeley, we're relying on you!


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

30 July 2013, Hickleton Hall POW Project Day 7

There was a great turn out on site today, people seemed to keep popping up whilst we were waiting for Colin and the van. There was: Chris, Alex, Kate, Phil, Jade, Anita, Lauren, Connor, Russell, Vince, Sue, Anne, Sue, Peter, Martin, Shell, Helen, Margaret, Lesley, Robin and Martina! The best turn out yet!

After listening to Colin's relaxation tapes on the way to site, the day began with yesterday's geophysics team heading back to the south of site to crack on with the survey whilst the rest of the team were given a levelling exercise by Phil and Alex.

Everybody got to have a go at reading the level staff and taking the heights at pre-determined points across the concrete base. It takes a while to get used to how to read the staff and the levels, but the volunteers soon sped up!

Then it was time to start reinstating the first base we had uncovered. This boring work unfortunately took the rest of the morning.

But by lunch it looked like we had never been there... It may not look so great, but the field is only used by cattle and we only needed to avoid them slipping on the concrete:

Then Andy called in with his doomsday device, AKA a Total Station Theodolite. He works for Leica and wanted to help by demonstrating how archaeological features can be recorded electronically. We are really glad he did as it saved us a lot of time and will be really helpful in the post-excavation work!

Here, Margaret is using the hand held GPS device to locate points on the concrete bases so that we can tie them into the Ordnance Survey national grid:

Not everything is electronic, however, and we still needed to use our hands. We had discovered the clinker layer for hard standing outside the hut marked as the Transport Officer's quarters on the camp map. These features needed to be recorded, so Russell, Shell and Helen cleaned the area back and got the stones ready for photographs.

As it was only a quick trowel back, it didn't take very long and the area was photographed for the archive.

But the stones also needed to be recorded by hand as well, so the plucky three set about drawing the line of the kerb. It was Shell's first time at drawing, but she soon picked it up!

And a 1:20 scale plan of the kerb stones started to emerge (she only had to use the eraser a couple of times...!):

Meanwhile Jade and Kate cleaned up the various features that were visible in the base, like the wall partitions and the infamous 'sink':

Again, these were all recorded by photograph and now this hut base will be ready to clean and record fully in the morning. This is how the 'sink' looks now:

The grids were being eaten up by the fully professional geophysics team at the south, a lot can be completed in short time when people gain some experience in these things!

Phil took the rest of the team and started work on the third base; the C.S.O. Nissen hut. They cleaned off the edges of the feature so we could define it's extent:

Sue cleared the rest of the concrete path, this will be recorded with the rest of the base later. Interestingly the path stopped only a few meters along its length. There is a possibility that there is another, as yet unseen, path that it joins to; but we will have to wait and see if we get time to investigate this possibility:

Phil also put a small sondage at the side of the structure to try to understand the construction technique clearly. It appears that the bricks were laid on top of a lip of concrete, which was below the modern ground level. Phil intends on putting a couple more of these sondages in to confirm that the lip runs all the way around the building.

The rain hit us at about four just as we were packing up, so that was a  lucky escape! We still have quite a bit more to do, like recording and a little bit more digging, but we are on target to have a better understanding of the site and the features within it!

If you are interested in joining us, please feel free to come along, just let us know you are coming, or you can follow us here on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 29 July 2013

29 July 2013, Hickleton Hall POW Project Day 6

The weekend must have meant recovery time for everyone as we had a good turnout on site; Alex, Chris, Phil, Peter, Martin, Chris, Helen, Anne, Shell, Vince, Robin and Sue.

It looked like rain this morning and by afternoon we weren't disappointed, it chucked it down and we had to abandon ship. However, before the weather hit us we were able to get some good work done.

In the meantime, the cows had used the weekend to show us what they thought of the archaeology...

Today's plan was to continue the geophysical survey of the south of the field, marked in the red circle below and clear off the base marked C.S.O. Nissen, indicated by the blue circle on this wartime map of the site:

Chris took an intrepid team of Martin, Sue, Anne and Peter off to complete more grids of the geophysical survey at the south of the site:

They did a great job and sped through the resistivity survey, just like old pros...

Meanwhile at the north of the site the rest of the team began clearing off the C.S.O. Nissen base, which we numbered two for our records. This base had previously been cleared, but there wasn't enough time to record it last year, so we thought we could complete this task during this season:

It didn't take long before the base started to look shipshape!

Chris began clearing the area around the entrance to the south...

...And uncovered the concrete path leading into the hut:

Trowels were swapped for brooms as the leaf mould and debris were removed:

The hut was made of a double skin of bricks surrounding a concrete base, the bricks would probably have stood about a meter tall with corrugated iron arches to form the roof placed on top. The double line of bricks can be seen below, along  this metal eyelet; possibly for holding a pot-bellied stove in place:

We also uncovered two seperate lines of postholes which formed a delineation within the structure to create three rooms:

You can just make them out running up the centre of the picture:

Shell got the find of the day award for this ceramic cable holder. It would have been used to hold communications or electricity wire and still had the screw and washer in place!

Then the rain hit us so we had to abandon site, unfortunately typical of the British Summer time weather! We are back tomorrow, to do more cleaning and recording, hopefully the rain will hold off!

If you are interested in joining us, please feel free to come along, just let us know you are coming, or you can follow us here on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

26 July 2013, Hickleton Hall POW Project Day 5

We were greeted with another glorious day on Friday, this is perfect weather for working on a Prisoner of War camp! The team today consited of: Alex, Chris, Phil, Kate, Michael, Mia, Anita, Lauren, Connor, Vince, lee, Helen and Anne. Then later in the afternoon we had a visit from Paul and some of his WEA students.

We were a little behind with the first base so it needed to be recorded in order for us to back fill the trench and make it safe for the farmer's cattle to walk on again! Phil spent the morning teaching the volunteers the art of Archaeological draughtsmanship as he talked them through the aspects of scale drawings:

And then they were let loose on the site! Here, half of the team take measurements of the hut base in order to produce a scale drawing of the structure.

Phil explains how a section is drawn to Helen and Anne:

The drawing stage can be a slow process, but is worthwhile as a hand drawing may show things that could be missed by the camera. It also allows the archaeologists to study the feature in some detail, again, which may help to pick up on things that had previously been missed.

It has to be a patient process, but is certainly helped by the good weather!

Mia, demonstrates her steady planning hand!

And the result of that hard work is sections such as these. The different layers are called contexts, each of which is given an number and then described on a separate context sheet. All this information is then deposited in the Elmet archive, so it can be studied at a later date when we write the post-excavation report.

Meanwhile, on Base Three (as it is now called), Kate demonstrates her skill as a furious Viking by mattocking a sondage on the edge of the structure.

The result of her hard work proved that there was a layer of clinker overlaying the natural geology which seemed to spread out quite far.

This can be seen in the section as a layer. We found more evidence of this later on, but we needed to know what was happening in this area, so this is why we put a small sondage in this place. Archaeology is about testing theories and sometimes the best way to do that is to dig a hole!

As this was going on, Lee continued to work around the edge of the base to expose the limits of the structure and to see if we could understand the construction process. From what he saw it looks like the area had been stripped down to the natural clay geology, then a layer of pebbles spread on the ground and finally the concrete base poured on top. This is the evidence that help us build up a picture of how these huts were constructed and adds to the history of the site.

On the other side of Base Three we had the visiting WEA students working. As mentioned before, there was a layer of clinker which seemed to spread around the edge of the base, so we wanted to see how wide the spread was and if we could make sense of it.

The guys from the WEA cleared the topsoil off the until they came down onto the clinker and followed it where it lay. We did this in a methodical way so that we could record it easier when the time came.

They worked in a line and cleared a large area in a very short time! Their hard work was very much appreciated!

Appreciated not just for the physical work, but for the archaeology as well! About three meters from the base they found this line of stones, with the clinker layer laid up against it. This was obviously some kind of kerb for the clinker and we had a discussion as to what it could be. Some of us thought it could be a small garden laid out by the prisoners in their spare time, some of us thought it could be a road running by the side of the hut:

Then we had a look at the wartime map of the pre-POW army camp which Elmet have acquired and we could see that Base Three is marked as 'Transport Officer' and even more interestingly the line of the road runs exactly where we found the line of stones! On the map below it is the tiny line just were the hut is marked in a red circle. (Base Four is also on the map marked inside the green circle):

The guys from the WEA also turned up some nice artefacts as they were clearing off the topsoil. One, we were unable to identify, it's made out of metal and is about three centimetres long, if anyone knows what it is, please let us know:

Along with this we also discovered two J shaped pegs, which are used for bracing things like corrugated roofs or walls. It is difficult to say precisely if these came from the hut, but there is little other reason that they would be in this area. Also we found a small metal bottle top, possibly aluminium or tin.

So we had a good day on Friday, now we're all itching to get back onto site on Monday to continue the work!

If you are interested in joining us, please feel free to come along, just let us know you are coming, or you can follow us here on Facebook and Twitter.