Pleshey Castle Excavations 1959-1963
Archive document ref.: S/SEC/7/8
Transcription of papers
MEMORANDA TO ESSEX ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY ON THE EXCAVATIONS AT PLESHEY CASTLE.
The appended interim reports describe the results of the 1959 season and of the training incidental to it. These have been written for the CBA and other interested bodies. A full report on the dig is in preparation: this will be complete in most respects and not merely an interim note. It will be described as a report on the first season's work at Pleshey, and as agreed, it will be published as a separate paper of 5,000 copies: the wide distribution and sale of these should make the work known and lay a firm foundation for future seasons. It is hoped that enough of the 5,000 will be sold to cover the greater part of the cost of printing, and should be priced accordingly.
The 1959 season was successful insofar as the aims of the excavation were achieved, and some degree of training was done with no great loss of archaeological information. Several volunteers show promise, and we hope that they will continue to come in future seasons and become more and more able to be given responsibility for sections of work.
The organisation of the dig want smoothly, thanks to the untiring efforts of Major and Mrs. Brinson. There were a few "teething" troubles in respect of the sheds, but this was an inevitable result of their being obtained at little or no cost. Arrangements for visitors were good, and they were well satisfied with the attention they were given for the price of their admission. Tools were in plentiful supply, and we did not run short of them even when our attendance of volunteers was at its maximum. Tea was supplied to all workers every afternoon. Morale and interest were high throughout, partly because of the excellent weather.
With greater publicity, we may expect a higher attendance next year, and with the same financial backing as we had in 1959, it should be possible to work on a larger scale. We propose an area excavation of the large building encountered in 1959, which will be the focus of public and volunteer interest; but it would be useful if we could undertake additionally some exploratory cuttings in other parts of the site, to pave the way for future area excavation. There are four areas of potential interest: THE MOTTE, which should be left until our financial footing is very sound, as it will be difficult to dig; THE MAIN PART OF THE UPPER BAILEY, where we may well do some large area excavation in the future on the big buildings which can be traced there; THE NORMAN BRIDGE ABUTMENT and "WELL", and THE LOWER BAILEY. One of the last two would be most suitable for our immediate objective and either would throw light on the Norman history of the site. Trial cuttings on the abutment area could be done with Mr. Tufnell's permission, but the Lower Bailey is in different ownership. If a separate excavation were undertaken it would have to be under the control of a paid assistant supervisor: I could not undertake the direction of both sites and train as well. A suitable person could be obtained for e reasonable sum of perhaps ten pounds per week, (this is considerably less than MOW- rates for assistants, which averages eighty pounds for the first month). We should have at least three workmen for heavy work as before- the 1959 dig could not have been completed without their help.
The principal recommendation is in respect of sheds. The ones supplied in 1959 were not very satisfactory; this did not cause much concern in the dry season of 1959, but they would not have been very satisfactory if the weather had been bad. Sheds for a dig of this scale should be large with adequate windows and with wooden floors, as normally supplied on Ministry excavations. They should be strong enough to keep dry and firm in any weather conditions, to safeguard records, finds and equipment. Either good sheds of this type should be hired or they should be bought. If future excavations at Pleshey (or any others of the Society) are contemplated, they would be a sound investment, and it is possible that Mr. Tufnell would allow them to remain on the site. If we are to take our training responsibilities seriously, there should be one large enough to accommodate all helpers for the purposes of indoor lectures and demonstrations, something in the size of a Nissen hut. There should be room in this for a small library, drawing space for instruction in pottery drawing, tables for the re-construction of pottery, etc., and chairs, etc., for lectures. Without such a building on the site we can never claim to be running a training school such as those organised under the auspices of University extra-mural departments; and the provision of such amenities would increase the chance of further or continuing grants for this purpose. Additionally there should be two smaller huts of good quality, one for the director and one for finds, and a shed of lesser quality for workman and volunteers' shelter. I hope these matters will be given consideration in planning the 1960 season. It will depend largely on how much money is available; it might be better to sacrifice paid labour if there is insufficient for good sheds, or to concentrate on one site without an assistant.
Signed P.A.RAHTZ. November, 1959