Roman, Tudor and Georgian site in Sonning Common

2016

This year’s excavations involved excavating three trenches.  We reopened trench 1 which was first dug in 2014.  We extended trench 3 which was first dug in 2015 and we opened a new trench (trench 4) to investigate a geophysics anomaly.

The excavations in trench 4 revealed balls of grey Kimmeridge clay which was used to make water proof floors, puddle ponds and point brick walls. Excavations in the extended trench 3 revealed a garden path which was probably associated with the Georgian garden wall and two phases of construction of a mortared flint wall.  One phase of construction has a floor of assorted tile and rubble covered with domestic rubbish – broken pots, animal bones and clay pipe.

2017

1-21 April
BAS were on site again this year to excavate some trenches to gain a better understanding of the Roman mortared flint wall we have found in 2015 and 2016 and to see if we can get more dating evidence for building R8 which pottery evidence suggests may be Medieval.

An open day for members of BAS and BARG was held on 18th April. A full report on excavations from 2013 to 2017 will be published later in the year. Meanwhile here is a summary of this year’s work.

2019

After Easter, for two weeks, a team from BAS worked at Blounts Court.  Their objective was to find the north east corner of the barn dating to the 16thto 17thcenturies and the end of the Georgian garden wall.  The team dug two trenches which were eventually combined to give us one large trench.  This work revealed at the Georgian wall terminated in a brick pillar which formed part of a gateway (Figure 1).  It also revealed a large mortared flint wall leading towards to the corner of the Blounts Court house.  The north east end of this wall had the base of a brick pillar (Figure 2); the other side of the gateway mentioned above.  This wall had been split by subsidence (see the line running across the feature).   To the left of the split were 3 courses of cut flints.   Our next excavation at Blounts Court will investigate this wall.


Figure 1. The North east end of the Georgian wall, with the brick pillar
Figure 2. The mortared flint wall from the south showing its brick pillar. 
 The line of cut flints are above the ranging pole alongside the split

2022

In the 3 weeks from 25th April 2022 to 13th May 2022, a team of 14 BAS members excavated 4 trenches at Blounts Court.  We were working to understand a large wall (F5) with a south face of very fine cut flints.

Starting from the present-day archaeology, our labours revealed:

  1. Part of the 20th century garden with an electric cable used to power the fountain in a garden pond and an electricity supply cable used to supply the nearby Blounts Court Farm.  Installing this cable destroyed some relevant archaeology.
  2. A Victorian gateway leading to a garden to the south.  A cut was made in wall F5 to accommodate the turn of the gate as the wall was being built.
  3. A 15th century wall F5, 0.9m to 1.1m wide and c. 28m long, with a very fine knapped flint south face.  The flints were cut off-site and, as the wall was being built, chipped to provide a closely interlocking wall facing. The wall had foundations of mortared flint lumps at circa 49.1m AOD (Above Ordnance Datum) which suggest it was built as a single activity. Georgina Stonor, the archivist of the family living at Stonor Park, suggested that the wall was built by Elizabeth Stonor in 1462 and suggested that the invoices for the work were probably in the Stonor archives at the National Archives, Kew.
  4. Evidence of a building F6: the wall F5 formed the south wall of this building.  The evidence suggested it was probably a medieval chapel with a tiled floor laid on a sandy mortar with flints. We were unable to find evidence of its other walls.
  5. Evidence of a layer of chalk lumps which pre-dates wall F5 and may be the foundations of a wall or path.
  6. Part of the Roman? wall which has found on the site in 2015.
  7. A sink hole: this caused wall F5 to fracture and building F6 to be abandoned.
Blounts Court: the BAS visit: discussing the evidence in trench 12 (photograph by Richard Miller)
Blounts Court: south face of wall F5
Blounts Court trench 8 (photograph by Richard Miller)

2023 Post Excavation

Over the last months I have been working to record the excavations we carried out at Blounts Court from 2014 to 2019 in the Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB). So far, I have recorded the evidence collected from 9 trenches: 171 context records and 468 bulk find records. I am now working to interpret this evidence by producing a matrix (printed size some 1m wide and 0.5m high) showing the phases of use of the site and contexts and hence finds which provide the supporting evidence. 

The phases of use and features found on the site are: 

  1. A Roman wall dating from circa AD 125
    • The construction trench used to build the wall
    • Evidence that there may have been some land clearance and wood burning before the Roman wall was built
  2. A medieval wall with a fine flint facing on the south side dating from the 1480s
    • This aligns to the south wall of Blounts Court House, which has a roof joist dendrochronology date of 1430 and hence gives us insights into the land use at that time
  3. 16th -17th century work including:
    • A timber barn some 30m x 12m with a low chalk block wall supporting a timber superstructure and a chalk floor 
    • Evidence that it was built on the site of an earlier garden
    • An adjacent building
  4. Georgian work which included:
    • The demolition of the 16th-17th century barn and the probable removal of the superstructure of the barn to the grounds of Blounts Court Farm where it remains today
    • A Georgian flint and brick wall
    • Evidence of a construction trench used to build the wall and finds of the food eaten by the workmen and their pipe smoking 
    • A path and maybe garden on the east side of the Georgian wall 
    • Plantings on the west (house) side of the Georgian wall
  5. Early Victorian work in the form of:
    • A gateway leading through to the east side of the Georgian wall. This suggests that part of the medieval wall was demolished at this time
  6. Post 1870 work when the Georgian wall, the Victorian gateway and the remaining section of the medieval wall were demolished and the grounds we see today were first laid out 

for more information contact Andrew Hutt