Following our Phase One excavation earlier in the year we recently carried out further archaeological work, this time inside the tower. After cleaning, photographing and planning the two floors of the pele tower we dug 3 test pits under the supervision of archaeologist Philippa Hunter, Archaeological Research Services Ltd.
Having completed the excavations all 3 test pits were backfilled and the flooring relaid. If you were to visit you would have no idea where we dug (provided you don’t look too closely)!
Test Pit One - Ground Floor
We lifted a 2 x 1 metre area which contained 3 different surfaces – concrete, brick and flagstones. Beneath the concrete we found some modern items including plastic and, intriguingly, the bones of a dead bird on one of which was a ring. Details of what was written on the ring were sent to the British Trust for Ornithology and it turned out that the bird was a fulmar that had been ringed on the Farne Islands in August 1986. So we have firm (or dare I say concrete) evidence that the concrete floor was laid after 1986! The bricks we lifted were probably 18th century which ties in with the building of the adjacent Mansion House in about 1750. A few centimetres beneath the bricks and flagstones we found a well-preserved flagstone floor, almost certainly the original tower floor from the 14th or 15th century which you can see in the image below.
Test Pit Two - First Floor
A similar sized test pit was dug next to the top of the stairs, the main purpose of which was to dig down to the top of the barrel vault below so that a structural engineer could inspect a large crack in the vault. Before excavation could begin, however, Acrow props were installed by local contractor MIMARC Construction Ltd to make sure the vault didn’t collapse! We soon encountered the beautifully constructed stone vault which you can see in the image below and, I’m pleased to say, the engineer was satisfied that the crack wasn’t too serious and could be repaired.
Test Pit Three - First Floor
Our third test pit was dug in an area of undisturbed flagstones which we think formed part of the medieval floor. By lifting and then excavating beneath this floor we hoped to find some dating evidence such as pottery which would give us a date for the floor and the construction of the tower itself. In this we were successful. We found some pieces of medieval green glazed pottery which will be looked at by a pottery specialist. We await the date with baited breath as we have no documentary evidence for when the tower was actually built. We also found the Victorian clay pipe shown below while cleaning the floor.