Hornby Castle, North Yorkshire

Excavations at Hornby Castle, North Yorkshire


Hornby Castle, North Yorkshire

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2019

Season 10
Elizabeth 1st Groat
15th century Lincoln ware alembic flask
The 2019 Season was characterised by better than expected weather conditions with fewer days cancelled or disrupted by rain. Work initially centred on the area of the moat and the late 18th Century infilling before progressing to the site of the early 12th Century Great Tower whose substantial foundations were partially exposed during the 2018 Season. Away from the main site a shell midden yielding substantial quantities of oyster and other edible shell fish shells was discovered in close proximity to the early 19th Century canalisation of the Beck and the presumed location of the gatehouse giving access to the moated island. Initially dating evidence was hard to discern but the presence of a number of sherds of primarily 14th Century pottery from the Humber ware kilns amongst the shells recovered suggests the tipping of food preparation waste from inside the moated island.

The first target for investigation was the late 18th Century “pet cemetery” which was identified towards the end of Season 9 within the areas of infilling of the moat. It was discovered to comprise a total of four articulated skeletons of spaniel type dogs carefully laid in wooden containers one on top of another between two phases of the 18th Century infilling datable on pottery and numismatic grounds. Directly to the north within the area of the moat where formal infilling had not taken place in the 18th Century a section of timber base plate from a foot bridge of Later Medieval date was located within an area of moat silt.

Directly adjacent to the line of the moat further examination was undertaken of the substantial stone foundations of what appeared to be a Great Tower to the north. It was identified that the foundations which were 2.8 metres wide and 1.2 metres deep sat within a wide and mortar embankment which had itself been loosely clad in stone to give the resemblance of a stone gabion. This type of foundation structure has been identified at other excavated sites dating to the early 12th Century including Radcot and Middleton Stoney in Oxfordshire and the unpublished excavations at Prudhoe in Northumberland. To the south west of the main foundation was an area of build out into the moat which can be identified as a partially robbed stone abutment for a footbridge as it was physically closely related to the timber structure previously identified within the moat bed. In terms of dating evidence a quantity of early 12th Century pottery was identified however it is suggested that these may well be residual and dislodged during construction from the foundation structure (J Oxley pers comm). It is suggested that the bridge and associated “postern” gate may be part of the early 14th Century refurbishment of the site undertaken by Sir John Neville of Redbourne which included the previously identified elm water pipes.

The majority of work during the Season was directed at identifying the extent of the Great Tower foundations and this required four trench extensions and a requirement for a fifth. It has been securely possible to identify the north as well as the west wall foundations with hints of the eastern wall which unfortunately appears to have been heavily robbed. The south wall lies potentially beneath the northern end of the site spoil heap.

robbed bridge abutment The internal layout of the tower was significantly obscured by quantities of rubble resulting from the Late 15th Century destruction of the site. The rubble included an almost complete sandstone roof tile. A complete dog skull was found mortared in to a section of the internal foundation structure suggesting a further “deposit” similar to the horse’s skull found in Season 3 embedded in a section of foundation. A large part of the interior of the tower appeared to be taken up by a small chamber with a stone slabbed floor with impressively thick internal walls suggesting a cistern or well chamber similar to that within the basement at the Great Tower at Brough (Cumbria). Elsewhere an internal stone corridor with well coursed masonry walls was located leading to a splayed external doorway in the north wall. An iron knife embedded blade down was found in the floor of the corridor suggesting an event in the lead up to the destruction of the building.

The robbed out base of a stone spiral staircase was located in the north wall foundation and a further “extension” to the north wall foundation leading out of the Trench may prove to be a garderobe turret.

Overall the Tower appears to be similar in dimensions and appearance to the surviving early 12th Century Great Tower at Goodrich in Herefordshire which has been identified as a vehicle for the display of the status of the founders of the site(Ashbee 2008). It is hoped to further progress work on understanding the extent and development of the Great Tower during the forthcoming 2020 Season.

Elsewhere within the area of the moated island a silver Groat of Queen Elizabeth 1st dating to 1565 was discovered by metal detector. This is interesting as it is the first artefact from anywhere in the wider area that has been found dating to the 16th Century when the site was largely abandoned and the main house “mothballed” due to financial constraints upon the owners. It is doubly interesting because of the Queen’s image on the reverse of the coin having been deliberately defaced. A possible context lies in the Rebellion of the Earls of 1569 where rebel forces are known to have been active in the area and the owner was Constable of the Tower of London and therefore a suitable target.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2018

Season 9
9kg stone cannon ball
carved Nidderdale marble capital
During the 2018 Season work was focussed at two locations, completing the recording of Trench 6 “the kitchen trench” following on from the complete removal of the Post Medieval garden path and its associated drainage along with a section across the moat at the western edge of the site, Trench 9 which proved rather more complicated than anticipated.

The removal of the Post Medieval garden path revealed a series of well preserved timber structures which when planned could be clearly identified as the base of a timber stairway leading to a first floor entrance to the hall directly to the west together with a timber pentice leading between the site of the kitchen and the hall entrance. Within the kitchen itself a further fireplace was identified from which the surrounding stone work had been robbed.

With the removal of the subsidiary drain to the Post Medieval path the foundation of the outer wall of the kitchen could be clearly identified. By its very narrow dimensions it appeared to have supported a timber framed superstructure although it should be noted that documentary references survive to the use of unbaked earth as a walling material at nearby Snape Castle in the Late 15th Century. The most significant discovery in respect of the area of the wall foundation was a 9kg stone cannon ball (fig 1) which may be associated with the destruction of the site in the Late 15th Century and in previous seasons lead to a deposit of arrowheads and other military material from the kitchen floor. Cracking and chipping away of a small area of the rear surface indicates that it had been fired and struck another object.

Found in association with the cannon ball was a section of carved Nidderdale marble capital (fig 2). Stuart Harrison (pers com) identifies the artefact as having come originally from a chapel and to probably date to the Late 12th Century. This raises the intriguing question as to the location of the possible chapel and the putative dating may be associated with Geoffrey Plantagenet third son of King Henry II who became Duke of Brittany through a disputed marriage to the heiress of the previous Duke. A candidate for the site of the possible chapel appeared at the south east corner of the trench where a partial foundation for a further building which had initially been timber framed but which was reconstructed in stone was revealed. A further foundation of a timber structure, possibly a bell framed was noted directly to the west. The area will be comprehensively investigated during a later season.

A new Trench, Trench 9 was opened to the west in an area where little vegetation grows. From the surviving estate plans of 1650 and 1765 it crossed the area of the moat and it is hoped to recover evidence in respect of the infilling of the moat in the Late 18th Century as well as evidence of any moat structures together with the dating of the cutting of the moat. It was assumed that the absence of vegetation was connected with the layout of piggeries in the area during World War II. However, it was soon discovered that the lack of vegetation was due to a substantial stone foundation some 2.6 metres wide lying a short distance below the ground surface.

The presence of sherds of late-11th and early-12th pottery in some quantities within the construction cut for the foundation indicates a Medieval date for the associated building. The foundation was laid in a Trench containing a heavily compacted sandy mortar and was approximately 1.2 metres deep. Within the area of the moat directly to the west several pieces of worked stone including a section of looped window with iron barring was recovered together with a section of roofing lead with lime slurry adhering to the rear side and sections of ashlar masonry cladding.

A series of episodes of infilling of the moat have been identified including surplus plaster and mortar from the renovation works within the main castle and the construction of the presently ruined Banqueting House directly to the south in the mid 18th Century. The episodes could be dated by the presence of ubiquitous Leeds Cream Ware porcelain and were separated by a series of pet burials of spaniel type dogs which had been carefully laid in wooden containers. Directly to the north it was possible to reach the Medieval levels within the moat and traces of a water logged wooden structure were identified which can be identified as part of a base plate of a wooden footbridge of indeterminate but Medieval date.

Further exploration of the contents of the moat together with the context of the stone foundation will continue in Season 10.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2017

Season 8
springald ammunition

The summer 2017 Season at Hornby was marked by significantly improved weather conditions which meant that a lot could be achieved over the time with work concentrated on the kitchen (Trench 6) and moat bank (Trench 7) trenches. At the same time drainage and clearance works on the 18th Century pleasure ground enabled some investigation to take place of the site of the former vicarage midden which lies adjacent to the Hornby Beck south west of the main Castle and feeds into the network of Lakes to the south east. Erosion from the west bank of the Beck produced an impressive assemblage of pottery and glassware dating from the mid-17th through to the early-19th Century when the Vicarage was relocated and which demonstrates that the cascades within the Beck are at least in their current form early-19th Century and not part of the Capability Brown works from the 18th Century as had previously been assumed.

Work on the kitchen trench concentrated on two specific areas, the recording and removal of the garden path with associated early 19th Century drain which dated originally from the mid 17th Century but which was subject to regular repair up until 1930 when the site was abandoned and then sectioning of the Late Medieval kitchen mortar floor to try find an explanation for the small but significant concentration of elite Pre-Conquest artefacts recovered from the floor surface in previous seasons.

A section 2 by 1 metres in diameter was taken through the kitchen floor and three sherd of pottery of early-14th Century date from the Humber ware kilns were recovered from the floor make up. The floor was some 26cm in depth and below it traces were recovered of another earlier timber framed structure on a different alignment. It had a thick wooden floor and there were traces of what appeared to be aisle posts as well as stave walling. The stave walling and also a section of the flooring have been sampled for Carbon 14 dating which hopefully will take place shortly.

Beneath the Post Medieval garden path an area of rubble from the collapse of the front(east) wall of the Medieval Hall was recovered. Pieces of decorative architectural moulding from a doorway and section of door jamb are of particular note along with military prick spur of 15th Century date.

Within the moat bank trench a complicated area of surviving waterlogged wood was located representing the remains of a variety of food processing related structures. These include the base of a timber screen and traces of a stave walled tank for storage of live fish and crustaceans prior to preparation. The wooden drain to the adjacent stone sink was examined and a cherry stone and a charcoal pencil recovered. The collapsed remains of a kitchen fire place and associated chimney were also recorded as was the deposit of wood ash from the flue which filled the chamber as the building collapsed. In terms of finds an item of particular interest was a bolt from a heavy calibre fixed crossbow or springald (see image) which weighed some 1.5 kg and which relates to the attack on and destruction of the site in the late-15th Century.

Work continues on the kitchen trench and on a new trench to section the moat during the 2018 Season weather permitting.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2016

Season 7
Hornby Castle

Weather conditions during the 2016 season were generally benign which was a relief following the most sustained period of wet weather in recent times. Work concentrated on Trench 6 where further evidence of the Medieval kitchens was recovered and a section of the Post Medieval path was removed. A new trench (Trench 7) was also opened in the hope of locating the moat and recovering evidence of its dimensions, date and infilling although that didn’t quite go according to plan!

The surface of the Post Medieval garden path was carefully cleaned at an early stage to enable it to be recorded and removed to enable examination of the Later Medieval deposits clearly surviving beneath. Evidence of a system of positive drainage involving the use of ceramic pipes which had been repaired in the early 20th Century shortly before the abandonment of the site as a formal garden had previously been recovered. The assumption had been on the basis of documentary evidence, some of it anecdotal that the path was part of the network laid out for the 4th Earl of Holderness by Lancelot “Capability” Brown and his co-collaborator the Rev William Mason in the 1760s. A series of finds from within the path’s surface quickly proved this to be incorrect. A piece of lead pistol shot, the base of a 17th Century Delftware wine jug and a 17th Century bone button were all located in a small section of path surface at the south eastern edge of the Trench. This indicated that the path was in fact one of those depicted in the 1650 estate plan of the “Low Garden” and that it had been incorporated in the later work. A further complication in terms of dating arose when a section of path was subsequently removed again in the southern section of Trench. This revealed a void holding the ceramic drain also containing an early 19th Century stoneware beer bottle and an early Lee and Perrin’s of Worcester glass patent medicine bottle. This all rather suggests the layout of the rose garden which was the final use of the area and the infilling of the moat dated to the early years of the 19th Century and the inheritance of the estate by the 6th Duke of Leeds.

In terms of the evidence for the Medieval kitchens the stone base of a furnace or hot plate for frying food was recovered along with the stone base of a fire place for roasting beneath a section of the Post Medieval drain. Directly beyond and to the south east was a stone surround with water bubbling to the surface within it and a timber post suggesting the location of an outlet to the Medieval water pipe network beneath. The small finds once again reflected the earlier kitchen use with a mix of food bone and pottery largely from the Humberware kilns of 14th and 15th Century date with also another iron kitchen knife blade. Military material was however also once again present with several military arrow heads from the floor surface including one which had clearly been fired and become distorted and most significant of all was the iron stirrup from a crossbow. Trench 7 was laid out based upon a carefully off set measurement from the churchyard wall based upon the location of the moat on the 1765 plan drawn up to assist Brown and the Rev Mason in their improvement work. It was hope to recover important evidence of the dating and dimensions of the moat and the process of its infilling. It quickly became clear that that was not to be and that the location of the moat on the 1765 plan was in fact quite inaccurate.

At an early stage an unusual dense scatter of metalwork of Medieval date was located including a knife blade, a spade shoe and the remains of an iron bound chest including handles, hinges and lock. At the south west corner a substantial sub-circular stone foundation was located set in a grey ashy deposit. This was initially thought to be Post Medieval but it was soon discovered to be associated with a floor surface and a rubble deposit yielding pottery of 14th/15th Century date. Two small timber stakes were found in the entrance and evidence of deer bone protruding through the surface from the context below. Directly to the north of the foundation evidence was found of a timber boarded floor which yielded further pottery of 14th/15th Century date and further metal artefacts including the moulded metal handle of a drinking jug lid, a barrel padlock, a gilt bronze strap end made in the London area and a large iron key. Directly to the north east a section of lead window kame was located together with a large sherd of green window glass of Medieval date, directly beyond was the voussoir of a window of Medieval date (see image insert). Also located in the same area was the base of large rectangular stone column filled with a high quality sandy mortar which it is assumed had been sunk into the moat bank in order to lessen any structural instability and the structure slipping into the moat.

To the south east and closer to the boundary of the Trench with the adjacent kitchen trench a large well mortared saucer shaped stone foundation approximately 30cm in diameter was located with a further stone foundation with a timber lined drain directly to its south east. This was interpreted as the base of a sink. Directly along the boundary with the kitchen trench a series of stone buttresses, possibly associated with the outer kitchen wall was located. The sub-circular stone foundation at the north western end of the Trench was identified as an outlet for the water system laid within the floor and identified elsewhere to the south, possibly associated with the adjacent stone sink.

The structure in Trench 7 has been interpreted as a private chamber beyond the kitchen similar to those identified at locations such as Gainsborough Old Hall and Haddon Hall that would have been occupied by a higher status servant. It would also directly overlook the south aisle of St Mary’s Church and its south aisle constructed for Sir John Conyers the Elder, at close quarters. It was approximately 1.5 metres higher than the kitchen in terms of floor levels and sunk into the moat bank. The grey ashy deposit together with substantial deposits of residual 12th Century pottery including Stamford ware and imported Northern French fabrics and the skeletal remains of a large red deer suggest that the moat bank was built up with domestic refuse before being sealed. It is hoped to section the moat bank during a future season to test this hypothesis and to identify the early ground surface. Post excavation work identified a further deposit of water abraded pottery of 13th Century date from the Brandsby and Humberware kilns suggesting a phase of moat cleaning work possibly associated with the construction of the chamber cut into the moat bank in the early 14th Century.

The precise location of the moat was identified approximately a metre to the north of Trench 7 when a sondage cut to 0.5 metres below the present ground surface rapidly filled with water.

It is hoped in the next season to be able to continue with the process of removing the Post Medieval garden path and recording the associated drainage network prior to recording and removing the Medieval rubble deposit associated with the Hall beneath. It is also hoped to extend Trench 7 to define the extent of the moat bank chamber and to locate the fire place which, the material recovered so far indicates is present.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2015

Hornby Castle
Season 6

Work at Hornby during the 2015 Season has concentrated on Trench 6 which has in many ways illustrated the history of the excavated site in miniature. The Trench lies at the north eastern edge of the excavated area directly to the south of the site boundary with St Mary’s Church an parallel with the earlier Trench 4 which previously yielded the collapsed remains of a two storey hall block.

At the beginning of the Season further rubble from the collapsed Hall was located in the south western corner and right at the end of the Season the substantial foundation of the eastern wall of the Hall was located. However the front wall of the Hall was also largely overlain by a 1.2 metre wide gravel path associated with the Late 18th Century landscaping of the site by Capability Brown and the Rev William Mason. The path itself contained the remains of a system of positive drainage with a brick lined channel centrally placed within its course and a network of pipes leading off to the north east. A significant quantity of late 18th and early 19th Century material associated with the pleasure ground was recovered in a clearly defined zone to either side of the path. This included a gilded livery uniform button and a series of commemorative clay pipe bowls including one depicting Britannia as mermaid to celebrate the Victory of Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Along the eastern side of the Trench and below the level of the 18th Century pleasure garden a clearly defined rammed clay platform was encountered yielding a significant quantity of sherds of early 17th Century pottery and also some glass ware. More significantly traces, were also encountered of a series of ephemeral post holes and some military artefacts including lead musket shot and a badly corroded iron cannon ball. It is suggested that this may be connected with an attempt by Sir Conyers-Darcy during the Civil War to fortify the site against local Parliamentarian forces. The platform was unfortunately disrupted by the drainage works associated with the later pleasure garden so it has not as yet proved possible to gauge its full extent and more readily identify its function.

At the north eastern edge of the Trench and partially underlying the later drainage works and clay platform were the clearly defined foundations of what transpired to be a kitchen of Later Medieval date associated with the Hall of the Pleasaunce directly to the west. A mortar floor overlying a layer of blue puddled clay was located. The puddled clay continued to line the wall foundation of the kitchen directly to the north and is believed to be a rudimentary form of damp proofing. Overlying the mortar floor the clearly defined remains of two pastry (see image insert) and one bread oven were located along with traces of a larger tiled fireplace used for roasting. Evidence of the use of the building at the time of its destruction in the form of a significant deposit of food bone was quickly identified. Intriguingly evidence of the destruction event itself was found in the form of a dense concentration of military arrow heads mostly from the floor but with one embedded in the rear wall of the bread oven into which it had been fired!

The south eastern wall of the kitchen was partially truncated by the drainage network associated with the path way and this lead to possibly the most interesting and significant find of the Season! In amongst a deposit of residual 12th Century imported pottery from Northern France was discovered a small bone object which was initially thought to be a gaming piece. However, the York Archaeological Trust has identified it as a tuning peg from a harp and experts in early music at Cambridge University have identified it as Pre-Conquest. This together with the previous discovery of imported pottery from Northern Germany from the late 10th/early 11th Century raises the intriguing possibility of elite occupation of the site in the Pre Conquest period. It is hoped to explore the site of the kitchen and its relationship with the adjacent hall in the forthcoming 2016 Season.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2014

Season 5
Hornby Castle

After one or two difficulties early in the Season the weather conditions on site proved perfect right through until completion in early November.

Trench 4: The first task proved to be the removal of the remaining overburden from the rubble of the collapsed Medieval building identified during Season 4. Early on traces of the early 17th Century garden use of the site were located in the form of sherds of Staffordshire slip ware and German stone wares popular in that period. Significant quantities of primarily 14/15th Century pottery and domestic artefacts including gaming pieces, a bronze jetton and a ceremonial sword or falchion were discovered amongst the rubble. It was noted that the domestic artefacts were concentrated at the eastern side of the trench whereas there was a clear concentration of military material at the north western edge of the trench including additional arrowheads and pieces of stone gun shot. Further evidence of the destruction of the building was identified in the form of charred timber and heavily oxidised pieces of stone walling. Evidence was also found of good survival of timber structures including sections of timber flooring and further timber columns. Further sections of the timber water pipe previously located in trench 2 were also found. The rubble was then very carefully plotted in two stages and removed. Beneath the rubble several areas of a red/orange waxy substance were located, which have been carefully removed for further analysis. Preliminary results suggest some kind of lamp oil. Beneath the rubble a large piece of shrapnel from a stone cannon ball of Medieval date was found along with a large quantity of broken pottery of 14/15th Century date. There were also further domestic artefacts such as a stone spindle whorl and further pieces of food bone and sections of encaustic tile flooring. The main discoveries were a residual deposit of earlier Medieval pottery from the 12th Century and a sherd from an imported wine jug dating from the early 11th Century also a series of large timber structures were also preserved including a length of paired timber posts approximately 15cm high and a collapsed timber structure that appears to be a buffet or cupboard. These have now been sealed with a membrane pending detailed conservation.

Trench 5: Towards the end of the season and following completion of work for the time being in trench 4 a further trench was opened between that trench and trench 2 to explore the extent to which the two buildings were connected. Initially material connected with the 18th Century garden use was identified including part of a pet grave marker, however, after only 30cm or so Medieval rubble again began to be encountered and the north wall of the building previously identified in trench 2 had been located before closure at the end of the Season. The new Season (No 6) begins on 28th March 2015 and it is hoped to further explore the Medieval structures identified in Trench 5 and also to extend Trench 4 to the east in the direction of the collapse of the Later Medieval Building and in the area of the highest concentration of domestic material.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2013

Hornby Castle
Season 4

The season started well in terms of the weather and much of the lost ground caused by ground water flooding during Season 3 was swiftly made up.

Trench 3: We were able at an early stage to trace an 18th Century re-cutting of the earlier drain running through the south east corner of the trench. This was associated with a deposit of residual Andenne ware pottery dating from the early 12th Century along with a small deposit of much earlier, Pre-Conquest York ware. Through the centre of the trench we were able to trace the robbed mortar core of the wall previously identified in Trench 2 with a large number of timber stake holes contained within suggesting some kind of timber framed superstructure. To the north west of the wall we located a timber base possibly associated with some fixed timber item of furniture. At the northern end of the trench we were able to locate a mortar floor datable by pottery to the early 14th Century and a series of walls. One running east west was datable by pottery to the 14th Century, another running north south and bonded into it, bridged over a section of the Medieval ceramic drainage pipe. A third wall at the north west corner was cut by the pipe and passed beneath the mortar floor , a single sherd of early Brandsby ware from within it construction cut dates this to the 12th Century. This clearly suggests two buildings one superimposed upon the other and we hope to explore this further in Season 5.

Trench 4: was initially unproductive in terms of features with the exception of a section of Late 18th Century gravel path in the north west corner. However, we came across a dense rubble deposit which was initially thought to be evidence of tipping. We soon though identified panels of ashlar masonry with mortar still adhering along with fragments of structural metalwork including a cast lead ventilator cover. Beneath the rubble we were at the same time able to trace a series of timber columns approx 45 cm running parallel from the east towards the centre of the trench. Towards the centre of the trench we came across a different character of masonry involving larger stone blocks suggesting a tower with a linear timber feature separating the two. In terms of finds the “tower” has produced significant quantities of vessel glass of Medieval date along with a section of floor with a joist below which has simply collapsed inwards. We have some substantially sized sections of pottery which have clearly been broken by having masonry fall on top of them, two still containing food bones and a number containing residues of liquid. We also have several sherds of encaustic floor tile. The pottery indicates a date of abandonment of the building to sometime towards the end of the 15th Century. The nature of the deposit together with the presence of military artefacts such as an arrowhead, a cross bow bolt and stone gunshot suggest some form of deliberate destruction. This we hope to explore further in Season 5.

If you are interested in getting involved in our fieldwork programme at Hornby then please contact Society Fieldwork Officer Erik Matthews email: rubyna.matthews@btinternet.com

Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2012

Season 3
Hornby Castle

at Hornby Castle, North Yorkshire which ran from March through to November 2012 was once again most successful, though a little disrupted at times by the weather principally in September. Work focussed on trench 3 lying directly north of trench 2 to the south west of the church, and where the remains of a substantial Late Medieval stone building used for elite entertainment was uncovered in Season 2(2011).

Little Post Medieval activity was uncovered in trench 3, what there was consisted of a series of timber stake holes associated with Victorian period gardening activity and a formalised arrangement of Red Ware flower planters dating from the establishment of the formal rose garden in the early 19th Century.

It became clear quite quickly that we were looking at the remains of a substantial structure with a series of mortar and stone floors with a roof supported on substantial timber columns. Traces of red pigment were indeed found in conjunction with the remains of one column. The structure was arranged at right angles to that located in trench 2 and whilst a higher standard of cleanliness appears to have prevailed than in the chambers revealed in trench 2 the same finds assemblage suggesting an elite entertainment use was soon apparent. Of particular note have been quantities of both vessel and window glass dating from the 14th and 15th Centuries.

At an early stage a significant residual deposit of Andenne ware pottery imported from North East France in the early 12th Century became apparent and shortly before work on trench 3 was suspended due to flooding the foundation of a stone apsidal building on a different alignment to the Later Medieval structure was revealed beneath its floor.

Work on trench 3, and a new trench 4 with the intention of locating an external wall to the building will recommence on 23rd/24th March 2013 with Season 4.
Hornby Castle Fieldwork 2011

Season 2

The fieldwork at Hornby Castle in Season 2 (2011) proved both interesting and challenging. Trench 1 was partially backfilled leaving the remains of the stone revetted raised bed for possible future display. Attention in the meantime focussed on a new trench some 20 metres to the north closer to the location of the medieval church (St Mary’s). The location was chosen as it showed evidence of a significant degree of dieback in terms of the surrounding vegetation and quantities of late medieval pottery was being found on the ground surface.

Initially the remains of an 18th century gravel path associated with Capability Brown’s landscaping work for the 4th Earl of Holderness was discovered and the remains of an embossed glass jar of late 18th/early 19th century date were found ground into the surface. At the north eastern edge of trench 2, a robbed stone wall 1.5 metres wide was uncovered. It was initially thought that this was either a boundary wall or the external wall of a building; however, the remains of a series of floor surfaces of mortar and timber construction were located to either side. Associated with these features was a dense scatter of pottery of 14th and 15th century date together with food bones, metal work and some glass ware. The nature of the artefacts suggests some kind of entertainment use.

A tree was removed from the north eastern edge of the trench and evidence of a series of floor surfaces of medieval date along with contemporary small finds were found within its root bole. Meanwhile at the western edge of the trench a timber pipe carrying fresh piped water in to the site was located at the same time as a ceramic pipe also of medieval date was found running parallel and eventually beneath the wall. A deposit of cess caused by leakage indicates that this was a drain. A later linkage from the piped water system to use the overflow to flush the drain was also located.

Taken together the evidence suggests a structure of some sophistication associated with the 14th and 15th century owners of the site; the Nevilles and later the Conyers. Such structures known as “Pleasaunces” are associated with elite entertainment normally in connection with the inner social circle of the King. Season 3 will investigate this area further.

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