For the past few days I have been on site volunteering for Tees Archaeology on one of their annual excavations at Preston Park Hall & Museum, near Stockton-on-Tees. The excavation is continuing until a week Friday, so it is only a short two week run.
The excavation is hoping to uncover the original boundary lines, ditches and the partition distances of the heated greenhouses of the Preston Hall Kitchen Garden dating from 1857. This information will then be passed on to those who are redesigning the kitchen garden ahead of renovation next year.
Preston hall was built between AD 1820-1825 by David Burton Fowler, and during the latter part of the 19th century ownership passed to Sir Robert Ropner. Initially the Hall faced South across the River Tees but was later re-fronted to face the North side, possibly due to encroaching views from the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
At the site I am the finds processor; so I’m helping to clean the artefacts from the numerous trenches, mark and bag them for future study. Its good to be back out in the open, and at the heart of a dig again after a long absence of nearly 3 years from taking an active part in an excavation.
The material and artefacts themselves are typical of what you would normally find on such a site- clay ceramic pipes, ceramic building material, butchered animal remains, the odd marble, slag waste and numerous brick & slate tiles. There are also numerous willow pottery fragments being found. Interestingly the diggers have uncovered an articulated sheep skeleton, with other possible animals underneath near the centre of the garden. So far the diggers have also uncovered two medieval pottery fragments.
There are a number of events still to come in 2011 from Tees Archaeology so if you are in the area or interested please don’t hesitate to come along and join in. In this day and age it is important that we support our local archaeological units throughout a time of harsh cuts that threaten our shared heritage.