Welcome to the Urban Archaeology blog. Freelance archaeologist Chiz Harward provides a range of on and offsite services to the archaeological profession, including running and working on excavations, post-excavation services, training and development work, and illustration work. This weblog will carry news of projects as and when they happen as well as wider thoughts on archaeological issues, especially recording, stratigraphy and training.

100 Minories dendrochronological dating

Oak revetment at 100 Minories, the revetment has been dated by dendrochronology to between 1567-75, and very likely is that mentioned by Stow in 1569
News in from the #100Minories post-excavation programme where dendrochronological (tree ring) samples on a revetment within the London City Ditch have returned dates that closely match known documentary sources. The dendro dates strongly suggest that the oak plank revetment is that described by antiquarian John Stow as being built in 1569 when a new ‘sewer’ and ‘wharf of timber from the head of the Postern [Gate] into the town ditch’ was built. 

Holy Trinity Church, Minchinhampton, a major Re-ordering project

Ecclesiastical and monastic archaeology is one of Urban Archaeology's core areas of expertise. Each year we carry out many projects at churches under Faculty -the church equivalent of planning permission. These can range from a one day watching brief on a new water pipe-trench in a parish church, to long term programmes of excavation and building recording at Gloucester Cathedral.
Holy Trinity church, with its distinctive truncated spire, sits above the small Cotswold town of Minchinhampton

Whether it is a one day watching brief or a two year recording program, every project receives our full focus and benefits from many years of experience excavating in and around churches of all sizes. We ensure that the potential archaeological risks and impacts are understood by the Parochial Church Council (PCC), architect and contractors, and wherever possible are minimised or designed around. 

Delays and cost over-runs often result from a lack of understanding of legal and Faculty requirements, especially regarding human remains, and of the failure to integrate archaeological work with that of other contractors. We can't ensure that a project won't have unexpected archaeological costs, but we can help project teams create a design and methodology that minimises the archaeological impact, whilst making sure that archaeological work on site is done in an efficient and professional way.

Holy Trinity Church, Minchinhampton

One current major project is the 're-ordering' of the parish church of Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire. Urban Archaeology has been working with the Parochial Church Council (PCC) and architect Antony Feltham-King at  St Ann's Gate Architects for over a year to help prepare for the re-ordering, and we are now working on site with specialist conservation building contractor Nick Miles.
Removing rubble and dust from beneath the pews, the spoil is all checked for archaeological remains such as architectural fragments, pottery, bone and small artefacts

Holy Trinity Minchinhamptom: beneath the pews

We are currently busy at Holy Trinity Church Minchinhampton where we are carrying out archaeological recording during a major refurbishment. The church is originally medieval, but the nave, aisles and chancel were completely rebuilt in 1842.The project includes taking up most of the floor to install under-floor heating, and although an evaluation showed the  Victorians stripped out most of the medieval strata, it is a rare opportunity to try and enhance our understanding of the development and appearance of the church.

The first task was recording the Victorian pews and choir stalls, which have now been removed revealing a layer of rubble and dust under the pews dumped by the Victorian builders. This rubble included fragments of the medieval church like this wonderful masons' setting out design, shavings from the installation or alteration of the pews, fragments of sculptural plaster, and worked architectural fragments that will help reconstruct the appearance of the pre-Victorian church.

Once the pews were removed the rubble layer was exposed and could be sifted through and removed
Wooden shavings from constructing or altering the pews

A mason's setting out slab from Gloucestershire

We've just started work at Holy Trinity Church in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire. This medieval parish church is undergoing a major reordering and Urban Archaeology have been acting as the project's archaeological consultants and are carrying out a detailed archaeological watching brief during the works. We're going to be posting a lot more on the project as it progresses, but for the moment here's one of our first findings from beneath the pews….
The limestone slab with inscribed design

Not another negative watching brief....

Excavating the gas main diversion at the Thatched Barn

A recent project for Keevill Heritage proved that where archaeological watching briefs are concerned, you can't assume that you won't find something of archaeological value just because you are in late Victorian levels, and that you never know when something rather special may turn up. The work involved a watching brief on a gas main diversion around the mid 19th century Thatched Barn at Christ Church College, Oxford, and the trench was expected to mostly cut through Victorian dumps which had been used to raise the ground level above the meadows and winter flooding.

Happy new year from Urban Archaeology

Happy new year!

2016 was a very busy year for Urban Archaeology, with lots of new projects and a very varied workload which included survey and recording work on Gloucester Cathedral's 15th century Lady Chapel, post-excavation and development work on LP-Archaeology's 100 Minories site and their ARK post-excavation systems, and finishing the analysis and publication text and drawings for the medieval farm buildings excavated at Horse and Groom Inn.
Masons' marks from Gloucester Cathedral Lady Chapel
Excavation work included working on a wonderfully preserved Roman iron smelting site near Ross on Wye -urban stratigraphy in a very rural setting- and a final bit of excavation at 100 Minories where there was excellent survival of the medieval and post-medieval sequence. Smaller scale work has included evaluations and watching briefs and several projects on Gloucestershire churches
Ornate medieval fan tracery, possibly from a vaulted canopy tomb. From a watching brief in Oxford
2016 also saw the publication of two MOLA monographs that I co-authored: the Roman volume of the Plantation Place excavations, including the post-Boudiccan Roman fort, and the Upper Walbrook Roman Cemetery of Roman London. Both books have been in the pipeline a long while, and it is great to see them out and getting excellent reviews. I also had a paper published on archaeological training in the Historic Environment: Policy and Practice Journal, and an article with Nigel Jeffries on post-medieval Spitalfields in Current Archaeology.
Current Archaeology 310 - now on sale!
Spitalfields Market: Secrets of one of Britain's biggest digs
2017 should see the publication of the medieval Spitalfields volume, and then all my MOLA backlog will be out. We are also hoping that the Horse and Groom excavations will be out in this year's Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.
The early months of 2017 look like they will be full of fascinating projects, with more work on the Gloucester Lady Chapel and several other church projects, some interesting watching briefs lined up, a good bit of finds illustration work to do, and the 100 Minories post-excavation work will restart shortly. There'll be posts on this blog and the Urban Archaeology Facebook page as and when I find time to update it!

So thank you to everyone who has followed us over the last year, I hope you have found all the posts interesting, and I'd like to wish you all a peaceful 2017,

Chiz Harward
Urban Archaeology