Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Return to Three Locks

A second season of excavation has started at the Three Locks Pumping Station, on the Grand Union Canal north of Leighton Buzzard - right on the far north-eastern corner of Buckinghamshire. 

 In 2017 the AAG undertook a 'rescue' dig at the request of the Canal and River Trust because an old canal workshop building beside the canal was scheduled to have a concrete slab poured, to seal off its packed earth and brick floor. What was underneath? Might we find foundations of an earlier pumping house?

Instead we found the footings for twin 20ft boilers, each of which would have been 6ft in diameter. These would have generated high-pressure steam to drive a beam engine to pump water from below the three locks back up to the top. This came as a surprise to the Trust, and the concrete slab failed to appear.

So in March 2018 an AAG team returned for a 'Phase 2', attempting to locate the engine house, which must have been close to both the boiler house and the pump well. After four days and with a trench 4ft deep through layers of spoil we had to admit defeat. Either we were in the wrong place or the engine-house floor was deeper still. But we did identify the base of the boiler-house chimney and the course of its flues from the boilers.

Archaeology or gardening?

Nettles gone, but now there's another problem: bricks!
On Monday 21 May AAG members started work on 'Phase 3', a full excavation of the footings for at least one of the massive boilers. And the day started with a little gardening... Even nettles can tell you something about the archaeology, because they thrive in acidic soil, which in the former Three Locks boiler house is the result of 200 years of industrial history.


... And at the end of the day the spoil heaps from our 2017 excavations were revealed. Now we only have to move those piles of bricks before we can start digging. Watch this space...

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Apologies for the 11-month gap...

Our apologies to readers of the Active Archaeology Group blog for the 11-m0nth gap since the last posting. Since July 2016 our members have been so busy digging, surveying and investigating that we haven't had time to write about what we've been doing.

Within the next week, however, there will be a new summary of activities... so please do continue to watch this space. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Unrepeatable chance to visit medieval village site - next Thursday 14 July

Next Thursday (14 July) the excavations of part of the medieval village of Stone will be open for visitors. This is an unrepeatable opportunity because the site is for housing development, so will be in all likelihood destroyed once the builders move in.

The village of Stone, which is west of Aylesbury on the A418 road towards Oxford, dates from before the Norman Conquest of 1066. The archaeologists have found tenement plots near the church, including a possible smithy and a kiln or oven.

The site will be open for visitors on Thursday 14 July between 10am and 3pm. If you can get along there it will be worth the visit. (Those of us who visited a similar site at Aston Clinton two years ago will be aware that this is now built over and the newly-built houses there are for sale!)

Here is the flyer from Archaeological Solutions with details of how to find the site:



Friday, 10 June 2016

Geophysical survey at Hogshaw now complete

The geophyscial surveyors returned to the former Knights Hospitallers' site at Hogshaw last Sunday, 5 June. 

With magnetometry equipment and ground-penetrating radar we surveyed the area where two metre-side masonry walls had been identified in the 2003 watching brief and a section of the field bordering on what is probably a formal garden noted in our 2015 survey.

The results of Sunday's work have not yet been analysed but we're hoping they will offer clues to the position of the one-time parish church of St John the Baptist, which fell into dereliction 300 years ago.

The survey was led by Kris Lockyear of University College London. He will be coming to speak to a BAS Active Archaeology Group meeting in the Autumn about the new work being done at St Albans on Roman Verulamium. Watch this space for details of the meeting.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Measuring distances suddenly becomes easier...

The AAG survey team tested our new distance-measuring device at Buckland on Sunday - and found it a great time-saver.

This  is a 'Disto', a combination of a movie camera and a low-powered laser beam. Use the camera to focus the laser on a target, and it tells you the distance - to the nearest single centimetre! 

Our photo shows the Disto on the right and target on the left.

On Sunday the team needed to find the exact position of an earthwork in woodland, by measuring the distance to two separate points on the boundary fences and using triangulation. One distance was about 350 metres, the other 200 metres. With the Disto this took about an hour to measure accurately. With old-fashioned tape measures it would have taken more than twice that time.

So now we have no need for tape measures. What a pity we've all spent the past year learning how to use them...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Hogshaw exhibition opens at Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury

The group's Exhibition on the deserted village and Knights Hospitallers' former manor at Hogshaw opened on Saturday 7 May at the Bucks County Museum in Church Street, Aylesbury.

On display are objects found on the site, an account of the 700-year history of the former village and manor as revealed by our research, and results of our earthworks and geophysical surveys made during 2015.

The exhibition will run until the end of July.


RIGHT: Our picture shows part of the Hogshaw display. The pots are examples found elsewhere in the county but which would have been in use in Hogshaw.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Trowels in the ground at Hobbs Hill

On 17 April, under the supervising and experienced eye of Yvonne Edwards of Chess Valley Archaeology and History Society, a team of willing AAG diggers put three trenches across the earthwork at Hobbs Hill and investigated the possible saw pit to the south of the earthwork.  

All four excavations fought their way through the tree-root and leaf-mould layer, progressively recording the layers and finds. One trench has uncovered bottles and metal fragments, probably left by a 19th-century forestry worker, and another trench has reached the underlying chalk.
 
Much more remains to be discovered. Watch this space...