7.30pm Wednesday 15 February 2017
About 70 people attended the meeting, which was introduced by Jonathon Hopkinson.
Leon Bracelin has been working on the archaeology of Ludlow for several years and has been involved in a number of projects, one of the latest being the foundations of the mediaeval drawbridge at the site of a gatehouse in the town walls and he is involved in a number of projects as part of his PhD research.
Leon gave us a general introduction describing the role of archaeology and the archaeological process. Many disciplines may be involved e.g. geology, geophysics, anthropology, historical documentation etc to understand what has happened in the past. Generally the final stage in the process is field excavation. The stratigraphic concept is important i.e. oldest at the bottom; most recent at the top.
Archaeologists examine & interpret through the artefacts that they discover the culture at some period in the past. This ‘material culture’ may include buildings, personal items, tools, discarded rubbish etc. It is then important to set local findings into a wider regional/landscape context.
The speaker is a custodian at Ludlow castle and described some of its interesting features. It was built in 1082 – 92 as a Norman military stronghold close to the English/Welsh border and was important in the subsequent development of the town. He noted that the pathway to the NW of the castle was a giant midden, likely to contain many artefacts from the 11th century to the present. However, he thought it would be difficult/impossible to carry out detailed excavations of this, because of its position and the regular operation of castle visits by the public.
He went on to describe the ‘Ludlow Artefacts and Test Pit Study’. There are many listed buildings in Ludlow ( over 400 it turns out) so the research focus to date has been on architectural studies. Archaeology has been limited so he considered there was a knowledge gap. A first step in closing this is through a test pit surveys. The first test pit has been made in a back garden near the bottom of Corve St., selected for its proximity to a significant part of the old town.
The pit was 1x1m2 square and 1.2m deep. Finds were collected over at 10cm depth intervals, separated into pottery, bone or glass and bagged. They were then cleaned and identified where possible and dated in the Ludlow Museum. On completion the test pit was filled in. The target was to recover pieces of ceramic or pottery. These items are durable and to the expert identifiable and a date range can be given. Pottery form, decoration and glazing from the Neolithic, Bronze, Roman, mediaeval, Victorian ages are quite distinctive. Fragments of clay pipes from the 17th – 19th centuries have local characteristics and can also be dated fairly precisely. There were many ceramic pottery and other finds in the test pit from a Neolithic scraper [base of trench] through mediaeval pottery to a Nazi coin. The finds appeared to be mixed, probably because soil from different locations had been brought into the area, and turned over. This is work in progress, with other test pits planned.
The speaker then described the area at the bottom of Corve St., close to the test pit, and currently the site of St Leonards Press. Excavations in 1984 – 86 had revealed a large Carmelite monastic building, also shown in some old maps. There are several fragments of stone carvings, possibly 12th C, presumably from this building, which have been incorporated in existing buildings in the area.
Leon completed his talk by briefly describing his survey of the cellar below the Wheatsheaf public house. The building is on the line of the town wall and adjacent to one of the old town gateways. Its cellar would have been part of the town ditch surrounding the walls and would have been water- filled. He has identified the foundation of the old drawbridge, and the remains of the mechanism.
Following questions from the audience , some of whom welcomed the idea of hearing about work in progress as the project continues the meeting closed.