Field Officers Report for week ending 28th March 2008Posted under: journal >> Reports Tags: basement, cellar, deposits, ditch, drain, horn, horn core, horn core pit, hornworking, layer, medieval, post-medieval, prescot street, roman, soak-away, south tenter street, spoil, victorian, walls, well
The overburden was excavated down from ground level by machine to the level of the remaining walls from the 18th terraced housing that had previously occupied the northern area of the site. Between these walls were large deposits of cellar fill, comprised of building rubble, domestic waste, and soils and aggregate employed as dumped layers to level off the ground surface following the destruction of the terraced housing. The surviving wall of the house on the western extent on Tenter Street was constructed in two phases. The upper layer was red brick, and the lower course was a rough foundation wall comprised of randomly coursed stone and brick material. The remaining walls of the housing showed no signs of secondary use, and were constructed of red brick in a header and setter bond.
The basements were cleaned, taking the cellar fill out to the level of the basement slabs. A record was made of the position and heights of the surviving walls and basement slabs, and then they were broken out. Underlying the basement slabs were large deposits of Post-Medieval soils that had been truncated by two large soak-aways and one small, and a horn core pit constructed from the horn cores of long horn cattle. This is significant because ‘horning’ was once an important industry in the area, centered on Petticoat Lane, c. 700m to the north of the site. ‘Horners’ were skilled craftsmen who worked horn from cattle to create a range of artifacts from drinking vessels to buttons, and from panels in lanterns (when sliced very thinly) to tool handles.
The waste from this procedure, the horn core, was not discarded, and was frequently reused as a lining for round pits with vertical sides dug deep into the ground. The horn cores were inter-woven to offer a degree stability to the structure, and the pit was then used for the disposal of domestic waste. They essentially performed the same function as the soak-aways, with waste material being dumped into them so that the waste water would drain away into the natural gravels below, while the remaining solids were broken down over time by bacterial action.
This provided a sequence corresponding to that revealed in the Prescot Street evaluation in 2006. Here, the basement slabs of the Victorian-era housing sealed earlier cut features such as the horn core pits and soak-aways, which were dug into the Post-Medieval soils. As yet we have not reached the archaeological deposits below these Post-Medieval soils, but it is highly likely that in keeping with the evaluation results, these will be found to seal Medieval and Roman deposits.