Prof. Horton was on excellent form for BAAS’ visit to the Berkeley Castle excavations in Nelme’s Paddock that are in their seventh season. He started at the bottom end (High Street) of the trench and explained that 30-40cm below the surface is the archaeological horizon. At the bottom of the trench is a market garden. The soil is clay, which is good for preservation of finds and a long sequence of events can be seen in the deposits.
In 1644 there was a Civil War siege, when the Parliamentarians captured the church and demolished a street to defend it. The stables at the Crown Inn were demolished in the 1640s. Standing on St. Michael’s Lane, it can be seen that it is much higher than the current High Street. This area has complicated archaeology.
The remains of a Medieval building was found adjacent to St. Michael’s Lane, with a bread oven set inside it. In this area a lot of Anglo-Saxon metalwork was found. There are literacy references to an Abbot and an Abbess. Monastic objects such as tweezers, belt ends, an aestle and loom weights came from here. Coins of Coenwulf show that there was a huge monastic estate relating to the 759 minster. Also scaettas (Anglo-Saxon coins) were found here and six of them date to 680.
There is also a Roman presence with cart ruts and a late Roman spoon.
At the top area of the trench is a shallow ditch with one sherd of Roman pottery, a Roman brooch, and a hairpin. This is not a Roman surface, but post-sub-Roman, Dark Age surface. Possibly a defensive ditch as protection from Irish raiding pirates.
Large postholes from the Late Roman/Anglo-Saxon period containing pottery suggests a large Anglo-Saxon Hall, such as that found at Kings of Wessex School, Cheddar.
We were treated to wine and refreshments and given the opportunity to see some of the exciting finds from the excavation. A huge thank you to Mark and his digging team of students at Berkeley. It was an excellent evening.