Site Data from a Watching Brief and Buildings Recording at Oxford Magdalen College Winter Common Room, March to December 2019

Oxford Archaeology (South), 2022. https://doi.org/10.5284/1093531. How to cite using this DOI

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Oxford Archaeology (South) (2022) Site Data from a Watching Brief and Buildings Recording at Oxford Magdalen College Winter Common Room, March to December 2019 [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1093531

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Digital Object Identifiers

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are persistent identifiers which can be used to consistently and accurately reference digital objects and/or content. The DOIs provide a way for the ADS resources to be cited in a similar fashion to traditional scholarly materials. More information on DOIs at the ADS can be found on our help page.

Citing this DOI

The updated Crossref DOI Display guidelines recommend that DOIs should be displayed in the following format:

https://doi.org/10.5284/1093531
Sample Citation for this DOI

Oxford Archaeology (South) (2022) Site Data from a Watching Brief and Buildings Recording at Oxford Magdalen College Winter Common Room, March to December 2019 [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1093531

Introduction

Shot of the west side of Chaplains III
Shot of the west side of Chaplains III

This collection comprises images, CAD, spreadsheets, site records and reports from a Watching Brief and Buildings Recording at Oxford Magdalen College Winter Common Room. This work was undertaken by Oxford Archaeology March to December 2019.

The Site Investigation works comprised the excavation of three Trial Pits (each measuring between 0.60 - 0.70m wide by 1.2m long, and excavated to 1.5m b.g.l) located within the northern part of the Maintenance Yard. A single 10m deep borehole (for dynamic probing and window sampling) was placed at the eastern end of Trial Pit 3. The trial pits were positioned to give good coverage over the footprint of the proposed Kitchen and Servery to reveal information on the nature of the ground in the area, and the nature, form and depth of existing foundations to the extant buildings that bound the area to East, West and North. The length of the trial pits has been extended to increase the probability of revealing in-situ archaeological remains beyond the construction cuts for these buildings. All the information gained will be used to inform the final foundation design, which currently includes a limited number of piles and relatively shallow ground-beams.

The second phase of the archaeological watching brief initially focused upon excavations for a new kitchen drain, but also observed ground reductions within the northern part of the Maintenance Yard, the northern ground floor area of the Chaplains III East Range, and within rooms and corridors on the ground floor in the south-east corner of the southern range of the Great Quad.

Modern overburden was removed by hand or a small mechanical excavator to formation levels for the various foundations and the new kitchen drain. All archaeological remains that were encountered were excavated/examined and recorded stratigraphically in accordance with the WSI. Spoil was monitored to recover artefacts.

Oxford Archaeology also undertook historic building recording at Magdalen College, Oxford in relation to the Winter Common Room Project. The recording focused on the areas being directly impacted by the development works and was undertaken in a phased programme. It included initial outline recording prior to the development and further recording during the works to cover features which had been exposed. It was also supported by historical research based on historic maps, previous studies and the principal secondary sources. The evidence from the trial pits strongly suggests that the truncation from the construction of the Maintenance Department in the late 20th century has removed all significant archaeology within the northern area of the Yard to a horizontal depth of between 0.63- 0.68m b.g.l or 56.95 - 57.06m OD.

Below this level construction horizons consisting of building debris and ground-raising deposits associated with the building ranges on the north side (15th century) and west side (17th century) of Maintenance Yard survived, although they appear relatively homogenous in nature and of some, but limited significance.

The second phase of the works identified the unremarkable remains of disparate lengths of limestone foundations immediately beneath the existing floors, as well as the uppermost courses of the foundations to extant walls. None of the structures encountered are likely to be related to the putative infirmary building of the medieval Hospital of St John, as previous archaeological works had identified these at levels between 56.00m and 56.60m OD, whilst these more recent discoveries were at higher levels between 56.92m and 57.51m OD.

The internal remains probably relate to previous structural divisions within the southern range of the Great Quad and the Chaplains III East Range. Their undiagnostic construction combined with the lack of any associated datable artefactual evidence (no associated floor or occupation deposits were encountered), prevents a more accurate date estimate than late-15th century - 20th century. However, the RCHME phased college plan of 1939 would suggest those in the south range of the Great Quad (labelled 'Senior Common Rooms') probably pre-date the illustrated 18th century partitioning. Those in the Chaplains III East Range probably relate to the illustrated later 19th or 20th century partitioning. The foundations to the extant outer walls date to the 15th century in the case of the former, and the 17th century for the latter.

During the building survey, the main recording work in the Great Quadrangle focused on the Old Bursary area where the removal of modern elements exposed structural features of historic interest. The original floor joists substantially survive above the Old Bursary together with a north-to-south partition which divided the main room from a pair of smaller rooms to the west. The plaster has been lost from the partition but four of the main studs survive together with much of the head rail and part of the sole plate.

Dendrochronological analysis shows that both the floor and the partition were constructed with trees felled in 1474 and this corresponds with the date when construction works are known to have started in this range. The foundation stone of the chapel in the western part of the range is known to have been laid in May 1474 and thus we can be confident that these structural elements in the Old Bursary were original. They also appear to confirm that the entire south range of the Great Quadrangle was constructed in a single phase.

The work in the Old Bursary also exposed another partially surviving partition on the north side of the main room and dendrochronology has shown that this was constructed with timber from trees felled in 1583. This partition incorporates a doorway and it retained historic plaster, including a daub which is likely to be primary. The doorway would have provided access to a small room serving the bursary.

The works have also exposed features of some interest in the Chaplains III range which is believed to have been constructed in the early 17th century. This range has been much altered in the 20th century with the replacement of the original staircase in 1911, the insertion of some structural steelwork in the 1960s and extensive refacing of external stonework.

However, although very little primary internal fabric survives the investigation identified apparent evidence of a substantial phase of alterations probably from before 1850. Tall joists and a number of stud partitions at first floor were exposed, the character of which appeared to suggest a mid 19th century date or earlier. Other evidence appears to confirm that they pre-date the 1911 work.

The creation of a new doorway at the north end of Chaplains III showed that this part of the wall incorporated a series of reused moulded stones, set backwards with the flat side facing outwards. These stones were suggestive of a post-medieval date.


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