As part of the Fen Edge Family Festival (FEFF), FEAG helped undertake a small evaluation in the front garden of 344 High Street, Cottenham. This garden overlooks the green so it provided an ideal location for a small investigation that was near to the main loci of activity, but not on the green itself.
344 High Street is also known as Manor Farm House. This comes from the site having been the location of one of the Medieval Manors of Cottenham; Harlestones Manor. The house that is currently on the site was largely constructed in 1866, as the date picked out in different coloured bricks on the side of the house attains.
The trench was located in the hope of getting evidence to answer several questions.
• Is there any evidence of the medieval manor house? We have almost no evidence for what buildings were on this site prior to 1866, or what they might have looked like.
• There is a building/structure shown cutting across the front garden on the 1840s Tithe Map? Could we find any evidence of this or is it an error in the map production?
• Was the current house built on the foundations of the old? Based upon historic map data the current house appears to be located in almost exactly the same location. To look at this, a small section of the foundations were exposed.
• The FEFF 2007 trench found several pieces of medieval pottery. Could we find any more?
Over the course of the weekend a core team assisted by a number of volunteers from the FEAG members came along to lend a hand digging, sieving and talking the passing audience through what was going on. We opened up a 1m wide trench from the location of the 2007 FEFF test pit across the garden to the current external wall of 344 High Street.
All of the material from the trench was sieved, resulting in a lot of smaller pieces of pottery being found.
It wasn’t really the driest of weekends to say the least, but it was good fun.
There was no conclusive evidence of any structure within the trench from any period. There was also no evidence that the current house was constructed upon the foundations of the previous house.
However, we did discover something that we weren’t expecting; a very nice little ditch (Context ). At its widest it was 1.4m wide and 0.46m deep. From the pottery we could date the ditch to 13th/14th Century.
Within the fill of the ditch there were a variety of finds of the type that you might find in a medieval ditch that is close to a settlement, namely pottery and animal bone.
There was only a very small amount of animal bone, but it included a cat maxilla, the end of a fibula from a piglet and the canine tooth of a small dog.
The absence of obvious food waste such as sheep or cattle bones is interesting, as you would expect to have found some of these.
The pottery found in the ditch was taken to a training course run by Jigsaw (http://www.jigsawcambs.org/) in arch 2014, for examination by their specialist. Most of the pottery was fairly local coming from Sandy, Huntingdon, Bourn, Essex, etc. The majority of the pieces were from jars, cooking pots and jugs. The date range give was fairly broad; this maybe partly due to the undiagnostic nature of the majority of the pieces. They range from Early
Medieval all the way through to 1650, the median date being somewhere about 1300. One piece of pottery was identified as not being Medieval, but instead likely to be Roman in date, which was unexpected. This will be looked at by a Roman specialist from Jigsaw later this month. It is likely to be residual and not related in date to ditch in which it was found.
As well as the medieval ditch, there was one find that was found whilst we were backfilling the trench at the end of the weekend. Now it may not be the most archaeological impressive but for me (I grew up in the house!) it really topped off a lovely weekend’s digging. It was a Legoman, with appropriate medieval helmet, that I had been given when I was 7 as part of a petrol station set for swimming my first length. A find with a perfect provenance!
Thankyou to all those that came along to lend a hand in whatever form it took. Jonathan Moller