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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Pleshey Castle Excavations 1959-1963 (5)

Pleshey Castle Excavations 1959-1963
Archive document ref.:  S/SEC/7/8
Transcription of papers
(Supplement to 1962 Newsletters
Pleshey 1962
Interim report on the excavation.

The 1962 season took place in three weeks of August under the direction of P.A. Rahtz and Major J.J.S. Brinson.  44 volunteers took part, contributing 1062 man hours; special thanks are due for the regular help of John and Elizabeth Sellers, Peter Ling, Malcolm Forbes, John Payne, and Rosamund Bassett, and Mrs. M.H. Rahtz, and for the organisation and hospitality of Major and Mrs. Brinson.

The 20 feet square in the lower platform of the bailey was further excavated. What was thought to be a well-shaft proved to be an earlier excavation - the spoil had been replaced in the hole within a few weeks of being taken out; the natural clay in which the hole was dug was cracked but there was no silt. This is probably an abortive part of the excavations earlier in this century. Examination of the levels around this hole has however been informative; there is an intense occupation level and a gully of 15th century date, and it is clear that the Norman moat edge was some 15-20 ft. further back than it is now.

The chapel which had been excavated to floor level in 1960 was stripped to natural except for the main wall foundation. Below the floors were several layers, representing parts of three earlier structures. The lowest of these in the Norman layer, consisted of two adjacent curving foundations of clay, chalk and flints. They may be part of a tower or series of towers in a clover-leaf plan, built into the rampart as part of the defences of the Upper Bailey. The super-structure was of bricks, clay and timber. It was burnt down and its destruction level spread over a wide area. Contemporary with this was a massive timber foundation trench and a post-hole. Above these Norman structures were found parts of two buildings of the thirteenth century. Of the lower of these were found three rammed clay piers on an E.W. alignment; they may be part of the earliest wooden chapel. Above these were timber slots and post-holes of what is probably the chapel of the mid thirteenth century. It was built later than 1208, certainly, as a coin of 1208-20 was found in the layer below. Its plan is of a building some 35 x 12ft divided into three parts possibly the nave chancel and sanctuary. It was burnt down, and in its destruction level were many pieces of thick daub (with impressions of wooden battens), burnt window-glass and lead, and burnt grain.

Notable finds from the 1962 season include a pottery chimney, a finely carved bone pin, a roman brooch, a silver finger-ring, a silver-gilt fitting, a rushlight holder, and a quern-stone of lava, and some interesting groups of pottery.

It is hoped to uncover the Norman foundations in the 1963 season.

September 1962

(Supplement to 1962 Newsletters)
Hon.  Organiser: Major J.G.S. Brinson
Director: Philip A.Rahtz.
July 27th to August 24th

Further excavations will be carried out at Pleshey in 1963 with the aim of discovering the nature of the curving foundations found below the north-west corner of the chapel at the end of the 1962 season.

This will involve the removal of a number of layers of 13th-16th century date with a total possible depth of 12 feet; as the Society is not in a financial position to employ paid labour a large number of digging helpers will be needed.

The Hon. Organiser would also like to have offers of help from members willing to clean and record finds, to soil tickets and talk to visitors or to make tea and, generally help to keep the dig running in a tidy efficient manner.

It will be of the greatest possible assistance to the organiser if members who intend to help will fill in the slip below and return it to J.E.Sellers Esq, 1 Chignall Road Chelmsford Essex

This is not compulsory and there is no latest date for sending it in; if you prefer, please, write a letter but if you require an answer, please send a stamped addressed envelope.

Members are reminded that this excavation is also intended to provide training of a kind which can only be obtained by attending a summer schools: little training was possible in 1962 as the labour force was barely sufficient to finish the planned excavation in the time available.

Pleshey is 7 miles north of Chelmsford; turn left off A130 half a mile north of Great Waltham church.. Eastern National bus service No. 52 from Chelmsford stops 100 yards from the site.

Camping will be allowed in the bailey. 

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