A very hot start to our 5-day dig on the common in Saffron Walden (Essex) with Saffron Walden Museum and 30 students from County High School and Newport Free Grammar School! With temperatures well into the 30s, it was a relief to have help with the removal of the topsoil from a mechanical digger1. Once the chalk natural had been reached, the two trenches were cleaned by hand (ie by trowel, of course) to see if any trace survived of the castle’s outer bailey ditch, thought to cross the area, which had seemed to be visible on the recent geophysical survey. Everyone worked very hard, and this soon paid off as it became clear that there is indeed a ditch across this part of the common! If it turns out to be contemporary with the castle, it will be a major discovery which will help us understand how this classic medieval new town developed.
The challenge now is to try and find some evidence to date the ditch, which will require further digging! Meanwhile, sieving the spoil heaps is producing a fascinating view of life on the Common over the last few hundred years, with pistol balls, shoe buckles, spectacles, a coin of Charles 1, a beautiful horseshoe shaped diamante hair pin among a range of objects which included a mystery object in the shape of a dragon – rather appropriate on the day the Prince of Wales’ grandchild was being born!
Congratulatinos to all the students who worked so hard. The dig on Saffron Walden Common will continue all week, and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of its All Our Stories programme