The Chapel Excavations 2008
Following on from the previous blog post, which described the excavations in-and-around the chapel in 2004, today we take a look at the work undertaken in 2008. Apologies for the lack of scaled images and north arrows, most of the photographs are personal shots.
At the beginning of the 2008 season the BRP had no plans to excavate the chapel. However, when one of the castles grounds men found a substantial wall in the flower beds that surround the outer chapel walls, we decided to investigate.
The major part of the work was undertaken along the north wall but additional sections were excavated around the apse and one section along the south wall.
The sandstone wall, to the north of the chapel which sparked the investigation, was found to extend from beneath the medieval chapel foundation. It was a substantial wall, surviving two courses high.
A small triangular space between the front of the wall and the modern tarmac path was excavated to reveal an earlier wall beneath the sandstone. It was constructed from a dark siltstone, irregularly coursed and constructed from blocks of various size and shape.
Two competing themes emerged. Project Director, Graeme Young, believes this to be two phases of the perimeter wall of the Inner Ward. There has also been suggestion that this may represent the potential for an earlier chapel wall, as early Anglo-Saxon chapels are often found on slightly different alignments to later chapel structures. However, the small size of the trench ensured that we could not excavate further to test either hypothesis. Abutting this wall, we also found a disturbed, semi- articulated skeleton, which we could only partially expose due to the size of the trench. It is believed that this body was disturbed during one of the many building phases within the Inner Ward and redeposited near the church.
4m to the west of this area we found evidence of more construction phases in the form of a further masonry wall that pre-dated the construction of the chapel. It was on the same alignment to the previous wall and constructed from squared sandstone blocks, but with a layer of plaster applied to the exposed north side.
In the same area as the plaster rendered wall and extending for 7m in front of the chapel foundation, a very substantial rubble foundation was present. It is thought that this crude foundation formed a platform that led out to the Constable’s Tower, which lies below the Inner Ward, to the north, as a second defensive barrier in the castle entrance route.
Finally on the south side of the chapel, a single section of the flower border at the east end was investigated, opposite the point where the wall seen in Trenches 6 and 7 passed under the chapel foundation. The investigation successfully identified this wall emerging from beneath the chapel, but showed that it had been cut away to form part of the chapel foundation.
In summary, the two seasons of excavation have demonstrated that the 12th century chapel erected in the reign of Henry II appears to be a new building. Furthermore, the various structures unearthed beneath these layers are indicative of a possible Anglo-Saxon building phase, which is supported by the lack of finds from the area.
The work undertaken in-and-around the chapel is currently been written up for publication. The conclusions outlined above are primarily based on this work. We will keep you updated with forthcoming publications for the chapel and other areas of investigation under the umbrella of the BRP in coming months.