Welcome to the Urban Archaeology blog. Chiz Harward provides a range of archaeological services including desk-based assessments, evaluations, excavations, watching briefs and post-excavation services, training and development work, and archaeological illustration. 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.

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

But not everything we're finding under the pews is that old...this cigarette card fell through a crack in the floorboards in the early twentieth century.

Cigarette cards stiffened packets of cigarettes and from the late 19th century sets of themed cards were printed, with albums produced for card collectors. No. 42 in a series of 50 cards on 'Celebrated Gateways' this card by John Player and Sons dates from 1909. 

Was a worshipper desperate for a cigarette, were children engaging in illicit card swaps during prayers, or did reading about St Laurence's Gate, Drogheda relieve a particularly boring sermon? We will never know! 
Another cigarette card, was squarely aimed at children.

This Barratt & Co card from 1955 is from a pack of 'Mickey's Sweet Cigarettes' featuring Tinker Bell from Disney's Peter Pan, number 32 of a series of 35. You'd have to 'smoke' a lot of sweet cigarettes to get the full set...
But not everything we've been finding under the pews at Holy Trinity Minchinhampton has been cigarette related…there's also evidence of a more wholesome nature like this milk bottle top from the mid twentieth century. We'll try and trace the date of this specific design but it is probably from the early 1950's. Milk in glass bottles with cardboard tops was the norm by the 1920's and 1930's, whilst the cardboard tops were replaced by aluminium foil from the 1950's.

A cardboard milk bottle top, probably 1950s

The cardboard bottle top has a perforated flap to push a straw through, tops were produced in a wide variety of designs by different companies and the used tops were used by children to play games, latterly re-emerging as 'Pogs' in the early 1990s. 
Although these objects may not seem to be 'archaeological', they do give us an insight into past behaviours and activities within the church in exactly the same way as excavated coins, pottery and other artefacts. They make us want to know more, about the objects -how old are they, what were they for, who made them- and the people that used, and ultimately lost them.