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This is an old revision of CambridgeArchaeologyFieldGroup from 2010-09-17 02:24:43.
Cambridge Archaeology Field Group

CAFG is an amateur group, whose activities relate to archaeology in the Cambridge area.

Mr Ratfords House
To coincide with the CBA's 2010 Festival of Archaeology, the group were invited by the National Trust, to carry out an excavation at their Wimpole Hall property, near Cambridge. CAFG has had a close working relationship with NT stretching back at least ten years. Previous excavations that the group has carried out at Wimpole, have been focused on the former formal gardens to the rear of the property. This year, saw the excavation of features in a paddock adjacent to Wimpole's Home Farm.

During the laying of a telephone cable some months previously, the trench cut through some brickwork in the paddock to the south of Home Farm. No building has stood on this site in recent times but there appears to have been a house at this point, occupied by William Stok, when Hare drew his map in 1638. At that time there was a track leading from the Manor House (roughly where Wimpole Hall now stands) to the junction of what is now the lane to Cobb's Wood Farm. The building sits just to the north of this lane. In the 1790's the buildings of Home Farm were erected and the track went out of use, with the house demolished sometime early in the 19th century. We hoped to establish the position of the house, its state of preservation and if there was any evidence of earlier buildings.

A geophysical survey was undertaken by Rheesearch Archaeology, a local community group. Unfortunately the results were not very helpful, but the long dry period in the months leading up to our start in late July, has meant that there were parch marks in the grass. These outlined clearly the walls of a long building aligned north to south, in the position expected from the structure labelled 'Mr Ratford's House' on the design drawing for the 1794 farm buildings.

Five small trenches were positioned to explore this structure. The result is that we now know there was a house, one room wide and perhaps five rooms long, built sometime late in the 17th century. Short red brick walls supported a timber frame, probably two floors tall. With no great evidence for roof tiles it seems that it was thatched. At the southern end there was a substantial brick gable end probably rising to two floors, abutting the lane. This may well have incorporated an inglenook fireplace on the ground floor. A complex of brick walls to the west may be part of stair, cupboard or garderobe (a latrine, privy or toilet), but further evidence lies outside the trench. On the west side of the house, a late extension had been built using white-yellow bricks. This had a brick floor and probably a timber framed structure, some of which was plastered and painted a light blue colour. The archaeological evidence shows that the house was deliberately levelled and the land turned into a meadow which has never been ploughed since – the brick walls were only 5cm below the surface in places.

Talking to visitors

Gable endBelow the western extension and extending to the west was an area of cobbles, perhaps a yard. Over this had accumulated about 40cm of soil containing much ash and in places oyster and mussel shells. Much of the pottery from this feature appears to be late medieval as does that sealed below the ground floor of Mr Ratford's house. The only feature found that could be medieval was one slot cut into the underlying natural clay. This contained medieval pottery, and was perhaps part of an earlier house.

There is much work to do on the finds, drawings and photographs before we understand all that we have found. Perhaps we will have to go back next year to answer questions arising from this work.

We would be most interested to hear from any other groups who have worked on similar rural vernacular houses of the post medieval period.

Visit the CAFG website: http://www.cambridge-archaeology.org.uk/






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