Archaeology in East Oxford

Site Visit – The Bricklayer’s Arms

Off to see a commercial dig at Old Marston – it’s at ‘The Bricklayer’s Arms” a newly taken-over pub which suffered a fire after which the owners decided to cut their losses and sold up to developers.

Thames Valley Archaeological Services took on the job of doing the necessary excavation & Archeox have wangled us an invite to be shown over the site.

Jamie from TVAS gave us the tour and started off with a bit of history: Marston wasn’t mentioned in Domesday but the church was first mentioned in 1122 when in was assigned to the Augustinian Canons of St Frideswide. The village appears to have grown until the 14th century when it suddenly contracted. This was most probably due to the Plague, the “Great Death”, then not much activity until the 17th century.

    He showed us some of the finds, mainly Medieval pottery, with an iron sickle. Some of the pottery had been imported from the continent, so he reckoned the site was fairly high status.

He then showed us around the trenches. They were all dug in the car park of the pub, so they had to first go through the tarmac of the car park, then through a layer of ploughed soil before coming down onto the archaeology.

Jamie in the trench.

The first trench had a cobbled surface (which you can see just to Jamie’s right in the picture above); it looked a bit uneven to be usable in itself, but going down through it might give some ideas; just to right of the picture there was a modern(ish) chimney going through the cobbles so taking that out might give a nice section.

The second trench had some linear features, ditches probably. There were three post-holes – where a four could have been, had been excavated to investigate the ditch. However this could be the remains of a house with the enclosing ditches – it looked to be about the right size.

We then had a general chat about things which lead to metal detecting – Jamie sometimes works in Ireland where it is illegal as all archaeological finds belong to the state. Personally I get hacked-off when people refer to unauthorised metal-detectorists as “Nighthawks” – it seems to me to be romanticizing stealing our heritage from all of us – “Thieving Toe Rags” would be more appropriate.

However, an interesting insight into how most archaeology is done – with few (really dedicated) people, and working to tight deadline; and boy did that clay look horrid! A big thanks to Jamie for taking the time to give us such an informative talk, and just before he went on holiday too.


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