Following a very successful 2017, we were excited to begin work on the first of our larger excavations in May 2018, finally moving our investigations into the Mill Field and the core of the shrunken medieval village at Thornton le Street.
We opened a series of trenches, aiming to answer questions about a number of different parts of the site. From the start of the project, we have wanted to investigate the causeway through the middle of the village remains. It has been claimed that the causeway was the line of a Roman road, though other more recent research has suggested other routes in the vicinity of the village. We opened a large trench that excavated through the causeway in the hope of providing a definitive answer. After a lot of very hard digging by a dedicated team of volunteers, we were able to piece together the sequence of the causeway, showing that it was associated with the medieval and post-medieval occupation on the site, and no trace of a Roman road surface could be found.
A small trench was opened over the entrance to a large and ambiguous enclosure on the west side of the road. Our initial survey of the site had raised a question about whether it was related to the medieval village or was perhaps something later.
Although only measuring a few square metres in area, the trench revealed the highest concentration of medieval pottery discovered so far on the site. Along with a spread of metal-working (smithing) waste from close to the causeway, we are starting to build up a picture of the kinds of activity that people were doing in the village, and also constantly refining the dates of occupation of the settlement.
We also returned to the moated site at Moat Farm a few km to the south of the village. Our test-pitting last year gave some tantalising fragments of medieval pottery, and so this year we opened a larger trench over the moat itself. It revealed a depth of waterlogged silt and, most importantly, ‘rubbish’ thrown into the ditch by the people who lived and worked at the site in the medieval period: fragments of pottery, substantial amounts of animal bone and also evidence of metalworking. After specialist analysis, we hope these finds will be able to give us a lot more detail about what kind of site the moat protected and what was going on there.
Perhaps the greatest success so far has been in the wide variety of volunteers who have freely given their time and energy to make the project so enjoyable and informative for all of us involved. We have had great support from the local community as well as people coming from some distance away, even visitors from overseas! Also, we have been lucky enough to have five separate groups of pupils from local primary schools come and dig test pits near the village church, searching for medieval remains at a previously unexplored locale.