Local schoolchildren visit the dig
Image by Ejvind Mogensen

 Previous excavations

The 3 previous excavations since the early nineties have unlocked some of the secrets of this ancient site.

Along the western edge of the site a linear feature, interpreted  as a ‘hollow-way’ was identified, extending  N-S. Limited excavation  in 1994 revealed that the primary phase of the feature consisted of a shallow ditch, which, when partially back-filled, had been re-purposed as a route-way. Deposits of stone had been deliberately packed into the surface of the partially-filled ditch to combat subsidence (Halpin).Halpin further suggests that regular cleaning or repair of the route-way took place.

Two shards of glazed medieval pottery and a shard of medieval cooking ware were recovered from the upper fills of the ditch. This ‘hollow-way’ structure has been confirmed as the earliest feature in the area, but since no diagnostic finds were made in the primary layer, the exact date remains unknown (Eogan and O’Brien,2007).

East of the Cell, possible building foundations, and agricultural furrows were detected.

On the western side, remains of several shallow ditch features were found. These could be interpreted as building foundations.

Mount discovered  a large oval pit, with associated post-holes.

Halpin unearthed a heavily-truncated sub-circular enclosure 40m in diameter – interpreted as a ring-fort structure.

Eogan and O’Brien discovered a truncated corn-drying kiln, and a number of prehistoric features, including some ‘Beaker’-style ceramic.

Present excavation

The trench was positioned over a geophysical anomaly N of the Cell, interpreted as a possible enclosure feature (Leigh, 2016). The excavation revealed that the enclosure consisted of a back-filled broad V-shaped ditch, over which had been constructed a gravel-rich surface. The gravel-rich clay would seem to have been deliberately laid as a prepared gravel-rich surface – similar to the ‘hollow-way’.

This feature is considered to surround the church site of St. Crispin’s Cell.

It is suggested that this was a route-way, similar in structure to the ‘hollow-way’. However, the ‘hollow-way’ would seem to have experienced a volume of wheeled traffic, which resulted in the development of rutting. No such indication was recorded here. The absence of rutting marks, and lack of evidence of continual repair, may suggest that this was not a heavily-utilised route-way. The slightly more pronounced sheer slope on the southern face may be indicative of a defensible, if not deliberately defensive, aspect to its design.

Iron nail artefacts were recovered from the base of the excavation area which would suggest contemporarity with the ‘hollow-way’ in-fill. The evidence may suggest that elements of a relict medieval field system may survive, surrounding the church site itself. A sample of animal bone may allow comparative dating of this feature for the first time. Nine possibly medieval ceramic shards were recovered. The plough-soil layer presented the largest variety of artefacts, along with a substantial amount of flint inclusions. Of particular interest are two copper alloy objects.

The first is a possible medieval copper-alloy stick-pin. This may represent activity immediately prior to the Anglo-Norman settlement of the area.

The second significant find is a heavily-corroded coin. Given that the Rathdown Hoard of Elizabethan coins was located in the vicinity, the possibility that the coin may be of a similar date should not be discounted.

Read the full report here.


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