An archaeological evaluation of the gardens at Bantock Park, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

NGR: (SO 897980)

by

Christopher K Currie BA (Hons.), MPhil, MIFM, MIFA

CKC Archaeology

Report to Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council

March 1998

Contents

Summary statement

  1. Introduction
  2. Historical background
  3. Strategy
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusions
  7. Recommendations
  8. Archive
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Figures

Figures 1-7

Appendices

Summary statement

Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council has requested an archaeological evaluation to be undertaken in advance of the restoration of the park and gardens at Bantock Park, Wolverhampton, West Midlands. The client has asked C K Currie of CKC Archaeology (Gardens Archaeology Project) to undertake the work to evaluate the archaeological potential of the site.

Archaeological excavations and surveys at Bantock Park proved useful in recovering lost detail of the site not shown in archive documents. Excavations on the site of the greenhouses show that these seem to have supplanted farm buildings. The development of the area for greenhousing seems to have occurred in a number of phases. The earliest greenhouse in this area was erected between 1889 and 1902 against the NE boundary. This was followed by a narrow greenhouse with a heated wall, possibly before 1914. A larger, cruder greenhouse, and the enlarging of the NE greenhouse, seems to have occurred next, both houses using the same brick rubble concrete in their construction. Their cruder nature may represent a response to the needs of food shortage during the Great War (1914-18). The greenhouses were demolished after 1956, but there then followed an unrecorded phase when the site was used for composting. A large compost bin, with associated tarmac and concrete hard standing areas laid out after 1956 had subsequently become forgotten, and partly buried.

In the Dutch Garden, much of the original Edwardian layout seems to have survived beneath a later design. The bedding for stone paths was found, as well as clearly defined plant beds. These confirm, and elaborate on, archive photographs, and will enable an accurate restoration to be achieved. Clues to some of the plants grown in this garden may have been found in environmental samples.

The survey of the Rockery was able to show that the greater part of the structure has survived In situ. Critical examination of the survey and archive materials have led to previous interpretation about its date being questioned. Although, on balance, it was probably made by Bantock between 1919 and 1938, the continuing existence of a boundary near its north edge until after 1938 means that the possibility of it being made after that date needs to be considered.

In the Woodland Garden, resistivity helped locate the position of a pond shown here on early OS maps. This had a crude stone edging, and was of some depth. It seems to have been filled in after 1938, possibly because it was considered a danger to children. It was infilled with clinker, slag, and broken glass.

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An archaeological evaluation of the gardens at Bantock Park, Wolverhampton, West Midlands (SO 897980)

This report has been written based on the format suggested by the Institute of Field Archaeologists' Standard and guidance for archaeological evaluations (Birmingham, 1994). The ordering of information follows the guidelines given in this document, although alterations may have been made to fit in with the particular requirements of the work.

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1.0 Introduction

Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council has requested an archaeological evaluation to be undertaken in advance of the restoration of the park and gardens at Bantock Park, Wolverhampton, West Midlands. The client has asked C K Currie of CKC Archaeology (Gardens Archaeology Project) to undertake the work to evaluate the archaeological potential of the site. The work was carried out between 18th February 1998 and 10th March 1998.

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2.0 Historical and archaeological background

The site lies within a public park in the borough of Wolverhampton, about two miles WSW of the town centre (SO 897980). It is surrounded on all sides by urban housing. The park itself comprises 43 acres, and contains large golf putting greens, and other sports facilities. The site of Bantock House was occupied by Merridale Farm in the 18th century. Between 1811 and 1824 it was converted into a gentleman's residence, and became known as Merridale House. By 1867 it had been sold to Thomas Bantock, a successful local businessman. On his death in 1896 it passed to his son, Albert Bantock. In 1938 his widow donated the house and its park to the Wolverhampton Corporation. In 1948 the house was opened as a museum, and the grounds became a public park (Wolverhampton MBC, no date).

The gardens were of some local note during the Edwardian period as Albert Bantock was a keen horticulturalist. It had a number of interesting period feature, including a sunken Dutch Garden, a rockery, and a woodland garden with a pond. The site is listed on the West Midlands Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) as SMR no. 3968.

The site has suffered the usual ravages inflicted on urban parks. Certain areas, particularly to the rear of the house, have an air of dereliction. This is particularly notable in some of the former outbuildings. Parts of the park have suffered from vandalism. A successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund hopes to remedy these defects, and restore the park and gardens to some of its Edwardian splendour. It is hoped that it will then serve as a good example of the type of garden design typical of more modest gentry houses of its time.

A small archaeological evaluation was undertaken in 1997 in an area of new car parking at the rear of the house. This was carried out by the Birmingham University Field Archaeological Unit (BUFAU). It revealed the remains of a possible 20th-century green house, and some late drainage features. More recently a desktop assessment was undertaken by Lesley Howes to establish the archaeological potential of the site.

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3.0 Strategy

3.1 Research aims

It was proposed to undertake an evaluation to determine the archaeological potential of the site. The main aims of the project were as follows:

3.1.1 To determine the position of certain features within the gardens to enable them to be as accurately restored as is feasible

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3.1.2 To be aware of the potential for identifying the possibility of earlier remains. Although it was not required to excavate these features if found, it would be very useful for SMR purposes to know if earlier (prehistoric, Roman, medieval or early post-medieval) remains exist on the site.

Recommendations deriving from this appraisal were integrated into this report. These include recommendations for further archaeological work.

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3.2. Methodology

3.2.1 General strategy

The evaluation strategy followed that outlined in the brief issued by the client.

A machine was used to remove turf and topsoil from the areas of the proposed trenches in the greenhouse garden, and, possibly, on the site of the pond. Machining continued until either significant archaeological layers, or undisturbed sub-soil was reached. Trenches within the Dutch Garden were hand excavated.

Once significant archaeological layers were encountered, all trenches were hand-excavated personally by C K Currie MIFA and a team of archaeologists that has been together intermittently since 1994. The work took approximately ten working days.

The trenches were recorded in plan and by sections at a scale of 1:20. The trenches were excavated stratigraphically, according each context with a separate number. Single-feature planning was undertaken where suitable remains were encountered. All features were recorded by monochrome and colour photography, using appropriate scales.

The trenches were backfilled by the archaeologists before leaving the site at the completion of the fieldwork.

All finds were retained, including bone, with the exception of post-medieval brick and tile and oyster. The latter was discarded on site after having been suitably sampled, unless there was good reason to do otherwise. Any early post-medieval brick and tile was counted and weighed on site before discarding, with suitable samples taken for the archive where this was considered necessary.

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3.2.2 Specific strategy

The following specific requirements were undertaken:

  1. A resistivity survey to identify the extent of the pond and any associated features that once lay in the Woodland Garden. A test trench was dug to test these results.
  2. A watching brief will be carried out on the re-excavation of the pond (one day). This will be reported on later.
  3. A watching brief on trenches to be dug for new hedging in the House Garden (one day). This will be reported on later.
  4. Making a measured survey of the Rockery, indicating in situ materials.
  5. Excavating c. 13 square metres of trenches in the Dutch Garden to determine the position of former paths, beds and other features. This work evaluated the survival of the earlier garden and farm buildings.
  6. A photographic survey of the walls, rockwork, terraces, steps, pond and other structures within the Dutch Garden.
  7. Approximately 35 square metres of trenches were excavated in the Greenhouse Garden to determine the position and plan of the former greenhouses, and to determine if further work will be required before landscaping.
  8. To undertake photographic recording of the surviving walls in the Greenhouse Garden.
  9. To undertake a watching brief on the landscaping of the Greenhouse Garden. This will be reported on later.
  10. Where appropriate sealed deposits were encountered, these were sampled for the survival of plant remains to inform the replanting programme.

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3.2.3 Geophysical survey

An area 40m by 40m was explored over the area of the former pond in the Woodland Garden. This was examined by resistivity. Readings were be taken at 1m intervals, and the results incorporated into research on the application of this method currently being undertaken by Martin Locock MIFA (cf. Currie and Locock 1991, 82-84). Although not required by the brief, the opportunity was taken to undertake a resistivity survey in the Dutch Garden as a prelude to excavation.

The geophysical work was carried out by Stratscan of Worcestershire.

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3.2.4 Environmental Sampling

Funds from a contingency fee were allocated to sampling for environmental evidence for plant remains to act as a guide for future expectations. The environmental sampling was carried out for CKC Archaeology by Elizabeth Pearson of Worcester County Council Archaeology Section.

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3.3 Recording

Recording was undertaken using standardised pro-formas and other materials supplied by CKC Archaeology, based on English Heritage's Central Excavating Service, Site Recording Manual, version 7, London, 1992.

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3.4 Post-excavation strategy

All retained artefacts and ecofacts were cleaned, conserved and packaged according to the requirements of the recipient museum. These were studied by suitably experienced staff, and any information gained from them was incorporated into the final report. The project archive was prepared according to the requirements of the recipient museum and national guidelines. Cataloguing of finds was undertaken on a suitable pro-forma designed for this purpose.

Suitable provision was made for the conservation of any finds so requiring special conditions of treatment and packaging according to the guidelines laid down by the Society of Museum Archaeologists, Towards an Accessible Archaeological Archive (London, 1995), pp. 23-24.

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3.5 Copyright

C K Currie (trading as CKC Archaeology) shall retain full copyright of any commissioned reports or other project documents written by himself or his agents, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 with all rights reserved; excepting that it hereby provides an exclusive licence to the client for the use of such documents by the client in all matters directly relating to the project as described in the project design.

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4.0 Results

4.1 The resistivity survey (for further details, see Appendix 4)

4.1.1 Resistivity survey in the Woodland Garden

An area of 40m by 40m was surveyed in the Woodland Garden to try to locate the site of the pond shown there on early Ordnance Survey maps. The survey showed only a vague outline of the pond. This seemed to suggest that it extended under the present path on the SW side of this area. This survey also suggested that the pond had been infilled with mixed materials. The area of the pond seemed to cover an area 20m N-S by 14m E-W. This seemed to be slightly larger than that shown on old OS maps, where the pond was 16m N-S by 10m E-W.

To the NW of the pond, two further anomalies were observed. These included an area of low resistance that may have been a flower bed, and a discontinuous linear feature. The latter may have been a garden path or drain leading to or from the pond. OS maps of 1889, 1902 and 1919 show a path on this alignment, although this had gone by the 1938 OS 25" map.

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4.1.2 Resistivity survey in the Dutch Garden

A resistivity survey was carried out in the Dutch Garden. The area was restricted mainly to the area of lawn and plant beds in the main part of the garden. Large areas were omitted because of the presence of obstructions, such as a central pond and large trees on the west side of the garden.

This survey proved quite useful in that it seemed to show the cruciform paths emanating from the central area now occupied by the pond. There was also some faint trace of a possible perimeter path, particularly on the south side of the garden. The N-S path appeared to be wider than the E-W path. The existence of the E-W feature, and the perimeter features as paths were clearly confirmed by excavation. The survey also showed generally higher resistance areas on the southern side of the garden. Subsequent excavation showed that there was a higher incidence of debris from the demolition of former farm building in this area. For further details of this survey the reader is referred to Appendix 3.

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4.2 Measured survey of the Rockery

A measured survey of the Rockery was carried out to identify in situ rockwork, and to appraise the general condition of the site.

The survey of the Rockery suggested that this part of the garden has remained largely intact to the present. About 90% of the stonework presently on site was in situ, although it could not be said how much had been removed before recording. It is estimated that this is unlikely to represent more than 5% of the original rockwork.

Some parts of the Rockery were heavily overgrown. This was not conducive to accurate survey. The area worst affected is shown on figure 7. This was in the southern corner of the site. Here ground ivy and other undergrowth make it difficult to see the stones. The survey was only extended here as far as it was possible to measure stonework without recourse to clearing the undergrowth. This was not attempted as damage may have been done to in situ plant remains. A point of note here is that it is possible that the ground ivy that exists here, and in other parts of the Rockery, may have been deliberately planted as part of the decoration of this feature. The proliferation of the present cover may reflect neglect of the original management intentions rather than the invasion of an unwanted weed plant. However, because of this undergrowth, it appears that little damage has been done to this part of the Rockery, the vegetation acting as a deterrent to vandals. As far as can be determined, most of the stonework here remained in situ.

For the rest of the site, the main areas of stone displacement seem to be along the edges of the two paths cutting across the area. This is particularly noticeable at the junction of the two paths. It is estimated that about 80% of the displaced stones are to be found here. It was noted that where the longest path climbs westwards towards the Dutch Garden, two large bushes have grown over it, obscuring the alignment. It is still possible to see the approximate alignment of this path beyond these obstructions. Where the path meets the Dutch Garden boundary, there is no sign of steps leading down into that garden. Ground ivy obscures the remains here. It is possible that once this is removed, traces of steps might be observed.

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4.3 Photographic survey of the structural remains in the Dutch Garden and on the site of the Greenhouses

A photographic survey was carried out on the structural features in the Dutch Garden, and on the site of the Greenhouses. This, together with observations made during this work, identified certain chronological sequences in the various structures. A list of the photographs taken during this survey is given in Appendix 2.

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4.4 Excavations on the site of the Greenhouses

Four trenches, numbered trenches 1-4, were excavated to try to identify the basic plans of these structures, to determine their survival, and that of any features that may be associated with them.

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4.4.1 Trench 1

This was a trench 12.3m by 1m set out on an E-W alignment to cross the conjectured site of two parallel greenhouses shown on the 1919 OS 25" plan. The trench was stripped back by machine in the first instance, and then hand cleaned.

Beneath the turf was a shallow topsoil (context 01). This was very dirty (Munsell colour 10YR 3/1), and contained much modern debris, including plastic and tin cans. It was generally only 0.1m deep before coming down on to a brown sand subsoil (02; 7.5YR 6/4). This was relatively clean, suggesting an earlier soil stripping exercise had taken place on the site, removing any intermediatory archaeological layers. Cut into this subsoil were a number of structural features, mostly of fairly recent origin. These are described working from the east end of the trench westwards.

The first structure encountered was about 0.65m from the east end of the trench. This was a brick foundation, comprising two lines of bricks, with a hollowed area in between that contained a large cast iron pipe (03). The east line of bricks was set headers outwards (0.22m wide). The west line was laid stretchers outwards (0.09m wide). The gap between containing the iron pipe was 0.25m wide, the diameter of the pipe being 0.1m. No construction cut was noticed. The bricks seemed to be of a red type.

About 2m further west another red brick foundation (04; 0.46m wide) was encountered. This was much damaged, as if previously scraped by a machine. This damage was not done by the present machining, and was clearly older damage. The east side of the wall was laid headers outwards. To the west of this were two parallel lines of bricks laid stretchers outwards. On the east side of the wall a narrow construction cut (05) was noticed. This was barely 10mm wide and contained a mortar fill.

No construction cut was seen on the west side as another foundation butted right up against 04. This was two courses wide, both being headers out (context 06; 0.43m wide). This foundation was made of yellowish bricks, and appeared to be of later date than wall 05. No construction cut was observed for this feature.

Only 0.63m to the west of 06 was a further foundation. This was made of brick rubble in concrete mortar. It was shallow, being only about 0.1m deep, and 0.62m wide (07). There was no sign of a construction cut, suggesting that the concrete had been poured directly into the original cut, completely filling it.

A similar concrete foundation (08) was found a further 3.76m to the west. The dimensions were almost identical to 07. Beyond this were two modern ceramic water/waste pipes (contexts 09 and 10).

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4.4.2 Trench 2

This was an area about 6m E-W and 4m N-S that had the turf and surface topsoil cleared by machine. About 0.1m below the present ground surface, the remains of a large brick structure with a concrete floor were found. It was not possible to find out much more about this structure without removing this floor. This was not in the brief, nor was the equipment available. It was therefore decided to record the structures as found, without removing in situ structural remains.

The concrete floor (context 15) was made of brick rubble set in a concrete mortar. It was similar to the make-up of the concrete foundations found in trench 1 (contexts 07/08). For the most part within the area recorded it appeared to be delimited by two brick foundations (contexts 17 & 19). These were partly covered by the concrete surface.

Context 17 comprised a red brick foundation on the west side of the concrete surface. Those bricks projecting beyond the concrete seemed to be stretchers outwards. The foundation was cut into a loamy sand subsoil (context 19; 7.5YR 5/2), although no construction cut was seen. The foundation did not butt right up against the standing brick wall forming the north edge of this recorded area. Instead it seemed to stop 0.3m short of the wall. Elsewhere along this line, the brickwork of the north side of the buried structure seemed to abut a two-stepped plinth (foundation) to the standing wall. This edge was not clearly seen, only two bricks being visible at the west end, the rest being covered by concrete. At the south end of the visible part of foundation 17, a lump of modern concrete overlay both the wall and the concrete surface (15).

Foundation 17 ran along a NW-SE alignment for 1.4m in a southerly direction before turning through a 30 degree angle to the SE. This made it parallel to a standing wall on the north side of the site. The evidence suggested that foundation 17 marked the outer wall of the greenhouse that formerly stood here. On the NE side of the concrete was another brick foundation (context 18). Two lines of bricks were observed here projecting from under the concrete. The lowest course was laid headers outwards, with a second line overlying it stretchers outwards. It is possible that there had been an outermost line of stretchers bonded to this upper course, but these had been removed during the demolition. This suggested the wall had been built in English Bond or English Garden Bond. Between foundation 18 and the NE standing wall was a gap 1.95m wide filled with a loamy sand soil (context 16; 7.5YR 5/3).

Topsoil stripping was being undertaken for other contractors whilst the excavations were being undertaken. This enabled observation to be made beyond the official scope of the brief. Outside the officially recorded area, it was noticed that the concrete floor (15) often extended beyond the limits of what were thought to be the former greenhouse. Also there was considerable evidence for a tarmac and concrete hard standing area over much of the southern part of the area designated as 'The Greenhouses'. This seemed to be associated with a breeze-block structure built over part of the site of the former greenhouse on the NE side of the site. On removal of the soil around it, this was revealed to be a compost 'bin', with the hard standing areas being for access to it, and for turning motorised machinery.

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4.4.3 Trench 3

Trench 3 was a 2m by 1m extension to trench 1 to explore the survival of foundations 04 and 06 further. On removing the shallow topsoil, these foundations were revealed about 0.1m below the ground surface at the time of excavation. This trench revealed that red brick foundation (04) extended a further 0.68m south of trench 1 before turning N-E through a right-angle. Yellow brick foundation (06) continued on its original alignment south of trench 1 for a further 1.38m. However, less than 0.1m south of trench 1 this feature changed from being a double line of bricks (headers outwards) to a single line. There was evidence to suggest that demolition had truncated the remains of this wall, which was in a fragmentary state.

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4.4.4 Trench 4

This was an irregularly shaped trench of about two square metres that was dug to explore the continuation of wall foundation 03 found in trench 1. A brick wall foundation (11) was found between 0.2m and 0.3m below the surface. Oddly this was in a yellow brick unlike that seen in 03 in trench 1. It seemed to comprise two lines of bricks laid headers outwards on the east side, and stretchers outwards on the west. A covering of hard mortar covered all but the last five bricks, obscuring any detail, but it seemed that the wall had been built with a deliberate end.

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4.5 Excavations in the Dutch Garden

Three trenches, numbered trenches 5-7, were excavated within the Dutch Garden to try to determine the survival of earlier garden plans, and that of any earlier farm buildings.

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4.5.1 Trench 5

This was a trench 10m by 1m, and set on a N-S alignment. It was designed to try to pick up the suspected northern perimeter path, plus a central path system that may have existed before the present pond was put in. What appeared to be part of an earlier garden design was picked up within 0.2m of the present surface. The features found are described working from north to south.

Less than 0.1m below the turf a red sand surface (context 21; 10R 4/6) was found. This layer was aligned E-W as a linear surface, and was 0.8m wide. It was less than 10mm thick, and overlay a compact layer of gravel stones. The gravel layer was about 50mm thick (context 40; 5YR 5/4), and, in turn, overlay a brown sandy subsoil (context 41; 7.5YR 5/3). The brown subsoil, and the extreme edge of the layer 21, was cut by a feature, cut 39.

This cut was parallel with the edge of context 21, but on its south side it followed the curving line of another compacted layer, 25. The maximum width of the cut was 4.62m. It was cut much deeper along its outer edges. Here it was 0.16m deep, rising up in the centre of the cut to 0.09m, a difference of about 70mm. The fill was a dark sandy loam (contexts 22 & 24; both 7.5YR 3/2).

At the south edge of cut 39 was a compacted surface of gravel stones (25; 5YR 5/4). This was overlain by occasional thin lenses of red sand, similar to that found in context 21. Surface 25 formed a curving edge along the eastern edge of the trench, turning into two parallel edges that were aligned E-W. This had the appearance of a straight path emanating from a curving path. The maximum width of the straight path was 1.4m. Running off-centre, and cutting into the surface was an iron pipe (26) of about 50mm diameter. On the south side of surface 25 was a cut (42).

This cut was similar to cut 39. It had been cut slightly deeper along the edges of surface 25 (0.18m), rising up towards its presumed centre with a depth of 0.11m. As with cut 39, it contained a dark loamy sand fill (context 27; 7.5YR 3/2). The trench was not excavated to its full width. The subsoil below this cut was much more mixed than that on the north side of surface 25.

This subsoil contained lenses of a number of different materials. On the north side of the more mixed soils was a gravel lens (context 28; 7.5YR 3/2). Generally the soil (context 29) below the cut was of brown (7.5YR 5/8) and light grey (7.5YR 5/3) sandy soils, intermixed amongst one another. These soils contained odd small lenses of mortar and the occasional brick fragment. Soils at similar levels elsewhere in the garden were relatively clean. There were signs of features cut into this soil. These included a squarish cut (30) about 0.2m wide, and a possible linear cut (33) near the southern edge of the trench.

Environmental samples were taken from plant beds (contexts 24 & 27) to try to recover plant remains to see if this activity would be useful as a guide for future planting. This met with some provisional success. The results are given in appendix 3.

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4.5.2 Trench 6

This was an L-shaped trench cut to pick up the equivalent of surfaces 21 and 25 on the east edge of the garden. It was only necessary to remove the turf, and scrap back the topsoil to reveal a red sand surface over much of the trench (34). Dark loamy soil of adjoining plant beds (36, 37, & 38) was found to the north and south of the red sand. On the far north side of the trench an iron pipe (35) similar to that found in trench 1 clipped the north edge of the red sand surface.

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4.5.3 Trench 7

Trench 7 was a small sondage, 0.3m by 0.7m, to test if a red sand surface existed on the far south side of the garden. The turf was removed, together with topsoil, to a depth of 0.11m. The red sand surface was located (context 44; 10R 4/6). The north edge of the surface was also recorded within this sondage.

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4.6 Excavations in the Woodland Garden

A small trench 3.5m by 0.5m, numbered trench 8, was excavated in the Woodland Garden. This was dug to test the results of the resistivity survey carried out in this area to locate a former pond.

Topsoil (context 45; 10YR 3/1) was about 0.2m deep, and gave way to a layer of clinker and slag over most of the southern part of the site. This gave only a thin covering to some crude structural elements (contexts 46, 47 & 48), before forming a much deeper layer, mixed with large slag blocks and much broken glass (context 49; 10YR 3/1).

The structural elements seemed to comprise a crudely made wall (context 46) facing the north edge of a large hollow (cut 51). This was about 0.3m wide, and made of roughly fashioned sandstone lumps. To the immediate south was a more random deposit of large lumps of sandstone and slag (context 47). This was up to 0.7m wide, and seemed to have a crudely made 'wall' of sandstone blocks on its north side (context 48). The later was about 0.2m wide, and had been seemingly part dismantled and pushed southwards into the large hollow (cut 51). Beyond the structural elements a fill of clinker and broken glass continued to a depth of at least 1.1m. There were many voids between large blocks of slag that had been deposited in this layer. This led to the sections of the trench becoming unstable. At a depth of 1.1m the east facing section partly collapsed. This led the excavator to consider further work to be dangerous. Excavation was stopped at this level, but probing suggested the fill continued for a least a farther 0.2m.

Excavation to the north of structure 46 conclusively showed that this was the north edge of cut 51. North of this was a mixed loamy sand (context 50; 7.5YR 4/3) typical of the Bantock Park area.

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5.0 Discussion

5.1 The Greenhouses

The use of this area for greenhouses was a late development. The earliest greenhouse was on the site of the Rockery. This is shown on the 1889 OS map, but is not on Steen & Blackett's map of 1871. By the 1902 OS map a small greenhouse is shown in the area of the greenhouses for the first time. This is against the NE wall. By the time of the 1919 OS map there are three greenhouses present, and the site can be said to have fully developed. These three greenhouses are still shown on the 1956 OS map. The two most westerly greenhouses were still shown on the 1996 OS map, although this is clearly showing out-of-date information. From this it can be stated that the greenhouses came into being between 1902 and 1919, and were demolished after 1956.

The excavations revealed much information, both to confirm the map evidence, and to documented unrecorded activity in this area, both before and after the greenhouses were erected. In some cases the archaeology could not exactly confirm the map evidence, but where anomalies occurred it was thought probable that more recent disturbances had removed the evidence. Soil stripping by other contractors also helped to demonstrate major disturbance in parts of this area. This included a large linear trench, cutting roughly E-W across the site to contain a cable for a security camera. This was approximately along the line of southern end of the two most westerly greenhouses as shown on the 1919 Ordnance Survey 25" map. South of this cable trench, there was much disturbance, including the laying of a tarmac and concrete hard standing. Much of this had become covered over by grass. Archaeology in this area was either removed or covered in concrete.

Trench 1 seemed to suggest the walls of the two westerly greenhouses had been found. However, when attempts were made to locate their extent to the south, it was found that there had been much disturbance in this area, preventing an exact layout from being found. However, from trench 1, certain provisional statements might be put forward.

It was thought that the red brick wall (04) in this trench, that turned through a right-angle some metres short of where the ends of the greenhouses were expected, was the remains of an earlier farm building. This may be the short building shown on this site on the 1889 OS 25" map. It does not appear to exist on any earlier maps, so it might be suggested it was put up between 1871 and 1889. It was either removed or incorporated into the later greenhouses between 1902 and 1919.

If this is correct, it would seem that the narrower, easterly greenhouse here was delimited by walls 03 and 06. This gave it a width of 1.95m, or six feet. The easterly wall (03) seems to have been a heated wall, on the strength of the large iron pipe found within the wall. Why this did not extend into trench 4, where what is thought to be the terminal of this wall was found, is not known. It is not known why the wall seemed to diminish to a single brick width in the latter trench. Subsequent disturbance may explain these anomalies. It is of interest to note that a sketch map of the gardens in the house archives made by Winifred Seel, Bantock's niece (Bantock House Archives, dated 15-9-1980) shows a 'middle' greenhouse as used for peaches. These plants would have benefited much from a heated wall.

Where this wall was found in trench 4, it would seem a deliberate terminal had been constructed. There was no sign of the wall turning to form a southern end wall of the greenhouse. The evidence suggests that such a wall may never have existed. The possible explanation is that the southern end of the greenhouse was ended merely in glass panes fitted into the ends of the long east and west walls.

The more westerly greenhouse appears to have been a cruder construction. Both outer walls seemed to be set on concrete foundations. This suggests a timber frame to this greenhouse. The full width was 3.75m, confirming map evidence that it was a larger house than that to the east. The different construction suggests that it was not put up at the same time as the more easterly greenhouse. Although there is no evidence to confirm this, it is suggested that the narrower greenhouse was put up first. This was after 1902, but before 1919. The earlier and better construction might suggest nearer to 1902. The cruder greenhouse was possibly later, and may have been a rapid response to increased needs during food shortages in the First World War (1914-18).

The most easterly greenhouse of all was found in trench 2. This was about 4.5m wide, extending possibly the full length of the NE boundary of the 'greenhouse' area. Observations during the contractors' soil stripping suggested that the concrete floor within it extended outside as well in parts. This was possibly to allow a hard standing area outside the greenhouse to place pots etc. The concrete of the floor within the house is similar to that of the foundations of the most westerly greenhouse. Whether this was a later addition, or that it suggests this house was contemporary with the westerly greenhouse is not known. However, maps show that there was a smaller greenhouse here in 1902, and that this had been much enlarged by 1919. If the floor is original, it suggests that the enlarging of this house may have also been a response to war in 1914.

The dirt area within the house is exactly six feet wide, suggesting it was deliberately included as part of the original layout. It probably existed as a plant bed within the house, with a floor to the west for the gardeners to work on, and to stand potted plants. Such arrangements sometimes exist to allow vines to be grown. However, the width is greater that needed for this, and it is unlikely that vines would have been a priority if the house was built as a response to war. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that Winifred Seel's sketch map of the gardens shows the most easterly greenhouse as used for 'vines' (Bantock House Archives).

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5.2 The Dutch Garden

The Dutch Garden appears to have still been occupied by the farmyard on the 1889 OS map. By 1902 this appears to have changed, and the Dutch Garden seems to have come into being. Until after 1938 it had a southern boundary marked on OS maps. This may have been a solid feature such as a wall hiding the greenhouse to the south, and giving the garden some seclusion.

The archaeology indicated that the original design may have survived, more or less, intact below the present layout. The position of the paths matches that shown in photographs in the Bantock House archives. There are some small anomalies. The perfect symmetry of the design is spoilt by the terrace steps. These force the eastern external path to dogleg around the protrusion they cause. This was clearly shown by the archaeology. Although the steps may have been inserted later, causing a modification of earlier symmetry, no evidence to support this was found.

The geophysics survey suggested that the N-S cross path may be wider than the E-W path. This was not known at the time of the excavation, and so this hypothesis was not tested.

Another problem was that historic photographs show the paths as comprising stone paving (Bantock House Archives). The archaeology recovered a gravel path with a thin sand surface over the top. This might suggest an early path of gravel that was overlain by stone. The thin red sand layer might be suggested as bedding for the stonework laid over the gravel. Although this is possible, there is no reason why both the gravel and the sand could not have been laid as a bedding for the stone path. There is little chance of resolving this unless undiscovered photographs are found. At present, one can only accept that the paths were of stone at one stage, and that the remains found constitute a bedding for them.

It was notable how the subsoil below the plant beds became increasing mixed towards the south. This is probably because a farm building had existed on the southern side of the garden until between 1889 and 1902, when it was demolished. The relatively clean subsoil elsewhere suggests that earlier archaeological layers may have been removed in making the sunken garden. The excavation of the perimeter path on the north side of the garden (context 21), suggests that the subsoil below it may have been virtually undisturbed previously.

Environmental samples from the plant beds recovered remains of plants that might give provisional clues to the planting, and management of Bantock's garden. The results should be treated with some caution, as the sampled contexts were not sealed, and could be contaminated by modern plant seeds. The seeds recovered contained a number of plants from a wetland habitat, as well as some species that could have been grown in the garden. The wetland species may have been introduced with soils taken from a wetland environment that were added to the plant beds as fertiliser to improve the soils. Pond silts are particularly rich fertiliser, being a form of natural 'compost'. It is possible that a pond in the Woodland Garden, or elsewhere in the park, had been cleaned out, and the recovered silts used to enrich plant beds. Evidence of this practice was recovered by sampling the plunging pits in the Orangery at Tatton Park, Cheshire, where it is thought that pond silts were used as enhancement (Currie 1992). However, it is possible that some of these seeds came from the pond currently existing in the Dutch Garden.

Plants were recovered that may have been grown in the garden. These included Viola (violet), Veronica sp. (speedwell), and Humulus lupulus (hop). Although the latter was probably imported in soil from elsewhere in the park, or brought in by birds, it is possible the other two species were grown in the Dutch Garden itself in Bantock's time. The caution about modern contamination should also be borne in mind as species of Viola (pansy) are still grown in the garden today. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the hop seed came from a modern source, suggesting that, at least, some of the seed is historic.

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5.3 The Rockery

It is probably not fully appreciated that the original rockery extends beyond the present fence line, forming the south boundary of the Dutch Garden. This appears to have been a late development, as indeed was the Rockery as a whole. The 1919 OS 25" map shows a greenhouse on the site of the Rockery, with what appears to be a solid boundary dividing the Dutch Garden from the later Rockery. This may have been part of the wall that still survives in the east corner of the Rockery. On the 1938 OS 25" map this boundary still existed, but the greenhouse had gone. It was not until the 1956 OS 25" map that the boundary line on the site of the wall had gone. From this it is possible that the present set up was not created until after the grounds had been handed over to the local council.

The survey of the Rockery also identified another anomaly that can not be easily explained. There appears to have been a path leading from the House Garden, through the Rockery to the Dutch Garden. This enters the Dutch Garden near its west end. No sign of steps leading down into the Dutch Garden was seen, although it has been conjectured that they may have once existed. This point of entry is not symmetrical with the design of the Dutch Garden as revealed by excavation. Both its position, and the indication of a boundary existing across this entrance until after 1938, causes a number of problems of interpretation.

This puts a question mark over the date of the Rockery. It seems unlikely to have existed before 1919. The greenhouse on its site was not removed until between 1919 and 1938. As the boundary between the Rockery and the Dutch Garden was not apparently removed until after 1938, it begs the question that the rockery may not have been created until after this date. There is further support for this from Winifred Seel's description of the gardens. This provides a sketch plan of the garden in Bantock's time, and fails to show the Rockery. Ms. Seel admits that her memory is not exact on a number of occasions (Bantock House Archives), and so omission may be down to forgetfulness. Nonetheless, this is the only documented eyewitness account of the garden in any detail, and its testament bears consideration.

Even if the Rockery did exist in Bantock's time, its form may have been altered. The path leading into the Dutch Garden from the rockery appears, on the surface, to post-date 1938. One problem with this, however, is that if the Rockery was a municipal addition, why does the path lead into the Dutch Garden? Access to the Dutch Garden is currently restricted by a wire fence preventing entry via the Rockery. Was this restriction always the case, or was unrestricted access allowed in the early days of municipal ownership, only to be revised later? It is possible that only an archaeological trench across the line of the pre-1938 boundary will solve this problem.

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5.4 The Woodland Garden

The work in this area concentrated on the pond and any features associated with it, such as drains. The pond first appears on the 'Health of Towns' map of 1852. It takes on its developed oval shape by the time of the 1889 OS map. By the 1902 OS map it appears with a double boundary around its perimeter. It might be suggested that it had been given a stone or concrete surround. By the OS map of 1956, the pond has gone, having been last shown on the 1938 OS map.

The resistivity survey showed only a vague outline of the pond. This seemed to suggest that it extended under the present path on the SW side of this area. This survey also suggested that the pond had been infilled with mixed materials, including possible building rubble.

This was partly confirmed by the excavation results, although the infill was of a more specific type. Trench 8 found what appeared to be the edge of the pond. This appeared to have a stone edge, made of two crudely made dry (built without mortar) sandstone walls with a slag/sandstone rubble infill between. The overall thickness of this structure was about 1.2m, which ties in with the apparent stone edge shown on Ordnance Survey maps. The pond itself had been backfilled by pushing the stone wall into the pond hollow with large quantities of clinker and broken glass. The latter seemed to have come from the destruction of a greenhouse or similar structure. There was a moderate quantity of broken flowerpot, and some other ceramics, mixed in with the glass to reinforce this idea. The loose nature of the fill made the trench sections very unstable, so it was not possible to excavate beyond 1.1m. Probing suggested that the pond bottom was at least 0.2m beyond this, suggesting that the pond had been of some depth close to the edge. It was probably the potential danger to children that decided the authorities to infill the pond soon after taking over the property.

The curving nature of the pond wall was confirmed by the excavation. The soil in the area was sandy. This would suggest that the pond had either been excavated to a depth at which clay was found, or the bottom was artificially lined with clay.

The geophysical survey found two other anomalies of interest to the NW of the pond site. These were interpreted as a linear feature, such as a path, and a possible flower bed. There is no cartographic evidence for the latter, although a path is clearly shown on the line of the linear anomaly in 1889, 1902 and 1919. It had gone by the date of 1938 OS 25" map.

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6.0 Conclusions

Archaeological excavations and surveys at Bantock Park proved useful in recovering lost detail of the site not shown in archive documents. Excavation on the site of the greenhouses shows that these seem to have supplanted farm buildings. The development of the area for greenhousing seems to have occurred in a number of phases. The earliest greenhouse in this area was erected between 1889 and 1902 against the NE boundary. This was followed by a narrow greenhouse with a heated wall, possibly before 1914. A larger, cruder greenhouse, and the enlarging of the NE greenhouse, seems to have occurred next, both houses using the same brick rubble concrete in their construction. Their cruder nature may represent a response to the needs of food shortage during the Great War (1914-18). The greenhouses were demolished after 1956, but there then followed an unrecorded phase when the site was used for composting. A large compost bin, with associated tarmac and concrete hard standing areas laid out after 1956 had subsequently become forgotten, and partly buried.

In the Dutch Garden, much of the original Edwardian layout seems to have survived beneath a later design. The bedding for stone paths was found, as well as clearly defined plant beds. These confirm, and elaborate on, archive photographs, and will enable an accurate restoration to be achieved. Clues to some of the plants grown in this garden may have been found in environmental samples.

The survey of the Rockery was able to show that the greater part of the structure has survived In situ. Critical examination of the survey and archive materials have led to previous interpretation about its date being questioned. Although, on balance, it was probably made by Bantock between 1919 and 1938, the continuing existence of a boundary near its north edge until after 1938 means that the possibility of it being made after that date needs to be considered.

In the Woodland Garden, resistivity helped locate the position of a pond shown here on early OS maps. This had a crude stone edging, and was of some depth. It seems to have been filled in after 1938, possibly because it was considered a danger to children. It was infilled with clinker, slag, and broken glass.

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7.0 Recommendations

Archaeological excavations and surveys have demonstrated their worth at Bantock, and there is scope for further useful work if it is required. As there were no great surprises, it is possible restoration can continue with only the occasional need to resort to further archaeology for clarification of individual points. Nevertheless, one fairly serious problem has arisen, and this is the status of the Rockery. The problem here is the continued showing of a boundary across its southern edge on maps up to 1938. It is suggested that this is clarified to see if its form and existence could be consistent with the Rockery having been made by Bantock.

Other lesser problems that may need to be tested for include the need to find out if the N-S path in the Dutch Garden was really wider than the E-W path, as suggested by the geophysical survey. Another point highlighted by the geophysics that the client may wish to test for is the linear anomaly in the Woodland Garden, thought to be on the line of a path that existed there in the Bantock era.

Environmental sampling of the former plant beds in the Dutch Garden gave some provisional success. The client might like to consider further sampling to see if more plant remains associated with Bantock's era can be recovered. Any further work of this nature should recognise the need to minimise possible modern contamination by a selective sampling strategy.

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8.0 Archive

The archive for this work has been deposited with Wolverhampton Museum Services. Copies of the report were lodged with the client, the West Midlands Sites and Monuments Record (SMR), and the National Monuments Record (NMR) at Swindon, Wiltshire.

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9.0 Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks are given to all those involved with this project. Sue Whitehouse and Charles Jackson-Houlston provided the author with background information on the site, and provided plans, specifications and other materials necessary to carry out the work. Sue Whitehouse provided photocopies of archival information. Hilary White provided the brief, SMR information, and gave useful advice on the archaeology of the area. Kate Howe, Project Manager, and the staff at Bantock House and Park provided additional information, and gave access to the site. Granville Hughes, the Park Superintendent and his staff, are thanked for their co-operation, and for providing equipment and storage space for tools during the excavations.

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10.0 References

10.1 Original sources

Map 'Health of Towns', 1852

Steen & Blackett's map of 1871

Ordnance Survey 25" plans (dated 1889, 1902, 1919, 1938, 1956, 1996)

Letter and sketch plans about Bantock by Winifred Seel, dated 15-9-1980 (in Bantock Park Archives, see entry below)

Bantock Park Archives: photocopied archives bound into single volume for WMBC Conservation Officer, Sue Whitehouse (contains all known historic maps, photographs and letters from eyewitnesses about the site)

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10.2 Secondary sources

W H Andrews, J L Allen, & A St John Holt, Health and safety in field archaeology (Southampton, 1991)

Central Excavating Service, Site Recording Manual, version 7, London, 1992

C K Currie, Report on sealed soils from the Orangery at Tatton Park, Cheshire, unpublished report to the National Trust (West Mercia Region), 1992

C K Currie & M Locock, 'An analysis of the archaeological techniques undertaken during the first year's excavations at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, 1989-90', Garden History 19.1, 77-99

Institute of Field Archaeologists, Standard and guidance for archaeological field evaluations, Birmingham, 1994

J Owen (ed.), Towards an accessible archaeological archive, Society of Museum Archaeologists, London, 1995

Wolverhampton MBC, Historic buildings of Wolverhampton. Bantock House, WMBC leaflet, Wolverhampton, no date

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Appendix 1: description of excavated contexts

Context numberTrench numberDescription
01T/1loamy sand layer, 10YR 3/1
02T/1sand layer, 7.5YR 6/4
03T/1brick foundation
04T/1red brick foundation
05T/1linear cut
06T/1yellow brick foundation
07T/1concrete foundation
08T/1concrete foundation
09T/1ceramic pipe
10T/1ceramic pipe
11T/4brick foundation
12T/4sandy loam layer, 10YR 3/1
13T/4loamy sand layer, 7.5YR 5/3
14T/2sandy loam layer, 10YR 3/1
15T/2concrete rubble surface
16T/2loamy sand layer, 7.5YR 5/3
17T/2red brick foundation
18T/2red brick foundation
19T/2loamy sand layer, 7.5YR 5/2
20T/5sandy loam layer, 10YR 3/1
21T/5red sand surface, 10R 4/6
22T/5sandy loam fill of cut 39, 7.5YR 3/2
23T/5loamy sand layer, 7.5YR 5/4
24T/5sandy loam fill of cut 39, 7.5YR 3/2
25T/5compacted gravel surface, 5YR 5/4
26T/5iron pipe
27T/5sandy loam fill of cut 42, 7.5YR 3/2
28T/5gravel lens in sandy loam matrix, 7.5YR 3/2
29T/5mixed redeposited sands, mainly 7.5YR 5/8 & 7.5YR 5/3
30T/5squarish cut
31T/5sand fill of cut 30, 10YR 4/1
32T/5sandy loam fill of cut 33, 10YR 3/3
33T/5linear? cut
34T/6red sand surface, 10R 4/6
35T/6iron pipe
36T/6sandy loam layer, 7.5YR 3/2
37T/6sandy loam layer, 7.5YR 3/2
38T/6sandy loam layer, 7.5YR 3/2
39T/5large cut forming shape of plant bed
40T/5compacted gravel layer, 5YR 5/4
41T/5loamy sand layer, 7.5YR 5/3
42T/5large cut forming shape of plant bed
43T/7sandy loam layer, 10YR 3/1
44T/7red sand surface, 10R 4/6
45T/8sandy loam layer, 10YR 3/1
46T/8drystone structure
47T/8stone and slag rubble infill
48T/8drystone structure
49T/8clinker and glass infill, 10YR 3/1
50T/8sand layer, 7.5YR 4/3
51T/8cut forming hollow of pond

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Appendix 2: list of photographs taken

Photographs listed here were taken in both monochrome and colour.

Film Bant/1 (structural survey of Greenhouse area and Dutch Garden) Date: 18-2-98

  1. Greenhouse Garden, east wall, southern section by Rockery from west
  2. ditto
  3. Greenhouse Garden, north wall, eastern section from south
  4. ditto
  5. Greenhouse Garden, east wall, north section from west
  6. ditto
  7. Greenhouse Garden, north wall, western section from south
  8. ditto
  9. Rockery, from south
  10. ditto
  11. Rockery, from south-east
  12. ditto
  13. Rockery, from west
  14. ditto
  15. Dutch Garden, wall in SE corner from SE
  16. ditto
  17. Dutch Garden, showing pond from the terrace, from SE
  18. ditto
  19. Dutch Garden, terrace, south corner, showing stone bench from west
  20. ditto
  21. Dutch Garden, terrace steps from west
  22. ditto
  23. Dutch Garden, full extent of terrace with house behind from west
  24. ditto
  25. Dutch Garden, west wall, south end from NE
  26. ditto
  27. Dutch Garden, west wall, north end from SE
  28. ditto
  29. Dutch Garden, north side of garden from SW
  30. ditto
  31. Dutch Garden, south boundary of garden from north
  32. ditto
  33. Dutch Garden, urns on terrace steps from west
  34. ditto
  35. Dutch Garden, terrace taken along its length from south
  36. ditto

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Film Bant/2 (excavation of Greenhouse area and Dutch Garden) Date: 26/27-2-98 (Greenhouse area, nos. 1-20, 41-42), 27-2-98 (Dutch Garden, nos. 21-40)

  1. Trench 1, hollow wall 03 from west
  2. ditto
  3. Trench 1, butting walls 04/06, plus concrete foundation 07 from west
  4. ditto
  5. Trench 1, concrete foundation 08 from west
  6. ditto
  7. Trench 1, north facing section of part of trench deliberately overdug to show natural from north
  8. ditto
  9. Trench 1, overall from west
  10. ditto
  11. Trench 1, working shot showing archaeologist at work from east
  12. ditto
  13. Trench 2, overall from south showing greenhouse floor
  14. ditto
  15. Trench 2, overall from west showing greenhouse floor
  16. ditto
  17. Trench 3, showing continuation of walls 04/06 from south
  18. ditto
  19. Trench 4, showing wall 11 from SE
  20. ditto
  21. Trench 5, showing paths 21 and 25 before extension from south
  22. ditto
  23. Trench 5, path 21 from east
  24. ditto
  25. Trench 5, path 25 and pipe 26 before extension from SW
  26. ditto
  27. Trench 5, overall showing southern extension to reveal full width of path 25 from south
  28. ditto
  29. Trench 5, path 25 full width from west
  30. ditto
  31. Trench 5, cuts 30 & 33 unexcavated from east
  32. ditto
  33. Trench 6, completed showing extent of paths from west
  34. ditto
  35. Trench 5, cut 39 excavated from west
  36. ditto
  37. Trench 5, cut 42 excavated from SW
  38. ditto
  39. Trench 7, showing path surface from E
  40. ditto
  41. Greenhouse garden, contractors' clearance revealing compost bin from west
  42. ditto

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Film Bant/3 (excavation of pond in Woodland Garden) Date: 9/3/98

  1. Trench 8, completed showing retaining wall of pond from south
  2. ditto
  3. ditto
  4. Trench 8, completed showing retaining wall of pond from north
  5. ditto
  6. ditto
  7. Trench 8, close up of retaining wall of pond, also showing partly collapsed section from east
  8. ditto

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Appendix 3: Assessment of environmental remains

Appendix 4: Resistivity survey report

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