Chewton Mendip Excavation

The Excavation

The Chewton Excavation is open to group members and invited guests. We do have a placement each dig for a student either wishing to, or already studying archaeology. Several past students have done their degree excavation placements with us.

For a readable account of the excavations from the beginning go to Our Publications page and click on 'The Story So Far'. For those who enjoys more formal detailed reports, take a look at the Interim and Summary Reports.

Spring 2021

Still in partial lockdown and under the Rule of Six outdoors, we managed a small-scale excavation, this time trying to locate the southern extent of Building C which we discovered two years ago. This lay to the south of the main Building B, and was separated by a cobble surface transected by a gulley.

Unfortunately we didn't find it! However, we did find a continuation of the gulley which ran alongside the west wall of Building C, albeit not very well preserved. Now we think Building C was much smaller than first thought. Another mini dig perhaps?

Trench 29. No sign of a west wall but the remains of the gulley are seen on running top to bottom on the left of the photo.

Saying farewell to Sarah Porteus who has been a key member of the digging group since 2012. This was her last dig with us.

We wish her well in her new life in Yorkshire. She will be greatly missed!

Autumn 2020

We've been on site doing a small-scale dig to try and find out more about the building we discovered last year; part of the large complex we've been investigating for the past 9 years. Limited to a maximum 6 people and socially distancing, this dig has worked better than expected. Most days we had 3-4 people, just a manageable number.

We located more of the building, finding that it is at least 11 metres long by 9 metres wide. We uncovered part of the east wall and a 3 sq metre area of internal flooring. Very few finds and only 3 sherds of medieval pottery. Not a lot to go on and really rather a boring trench!

The internal floor with east wall in distance

Summer 2019

Back on site again and continuing to try and find out about the newly discovered very large medieval building to the south of the 35m long main building that we've been digging over the past 7 years.

We've opened up two trenches: one a continuation of trench 25 (as 25B) designed to track the gulley that we found in the spring and to see how it relates to main building. This trench will also be a chance to try and locate the SW corner of the phase 1 building which lies underneath the 35m long complex, but on a different alignment and partly under the cobble. We hope to catch a bit of it by removing part of the cobble but it will be 1m below if it's there at all.

The other trench (27) is to define the north wall of our newly discovered building and to look for evidence of its relationship to the main complex, dating evidence, medieval pottery to add to our Chewton Medieval pottery fabric series and so on.

Left: Trench 27 . Newly discovered building. Main north gable wall of 1.18m width with NE corner intact and south return of narrower width just showing.

Right: Trench 25B. The cobble passageway between the main complex to the left and the newly discovered building (top R). The sondage in the foreground hopes to uncover traces of the first phase building's SW corner.

Left: A rather splendid horseshoe from trench 27 of a Type 2 (J.Clark) photographed by Brian Irwin. This is the best preserved horseshoe in our collection and it dates to the early Norman period.

Spring 2019

What was supposed to be a small-scale mopping-up dig has turned into a rather larger trench after we found what we believe is yet another building. What we think we have is the west wall of a building at right-angles to the main building, with a drip gulley. This took the rain from the roof and curved round the NW corner and then capped, crossed a cobbled passageway where we believe it joined the outer face of the south wall at a threshold. Here it was ducted away to the east and around the end of the large building. That's the theory anyway. We shall attempt to prove it in August.

Looking north with gulley curving to NE outside a wall 85cm wide with threshold showing as paved slab area. The big building we've been digging for the last 7 years lies to the immediate N of our trench.

A small trench in a dip near the churchyard wall, which we thought disappointing, surprised us right at the end. At the bottom we found a blue lias floor. It was not in-situ bedrock. Given that we think we have a new building in the vicinity it is looking like this is an internal floor.

Summer 2018

We dug two trenches this summer. The first was in a field outside what we believe to be the Minster Precinct boundary. We were hoping to locate an outside ditch, which can be a feature of such boundaries. No such luck. We found that the field had been a site of a quarry and that any evidence of a ditch had long been dug away. The HER did suggest that this was the case, but we had to check it out. We did think that the wall sat on a bank but that was not the case, so we backfilled and moved on.

The second trench was in the dig field. We put a trench across the middle section of the big wall uncovered in 2015 and 2016. We needed to establish a date for its construction and how it related to the black soils of Saxon artisan activities. Not only did we establish for definite that all the courses of the wall postdated the black soils, but we also found further evidence of the first phase of the building at over a metre's depth. Although ephemeral we did pick up a cut and the lowest courses of a wall on the same alignment as that of the slumped wall from 2016 (see below) and the remains of an internal floor surface. A very good dig indeed.

Photos show the east end of the trench. The first shows the orangey subsoil which had a cut in it which alerted us to the course of the 1st phase wall. The subsoil on the right was in fact redeposited when the trench cut was made for the big wall on the left.

The second photo shows the wall courses exposed once the redeposited subsoil and the black soil beneath was removed. A complicated trench.

Lastly, the backfill team. It was all neatly filled in on Sunday morning (3rd Sept) after an explanation of what we had found was given by Pip and Kay. Coffee break included customary cake of course!

Further Information

Further information about the excavations over the past 10 years can be found in our Publications (see Publication page). For a general account see 'The Story So Far'. For detailed Reports of each excavation see Reports for individual years since the start in 2011.