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Organised by the Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society
Sunday 18th August 2014 until completion

Honeywood excavation 2014 - John Phillips writes:

The Carshalton & District History & Archaeology Society is excavating in the back garden of Honeywood Museum by Carshalton Ponds from 18 August.

The aim is to investigate the origins of the house. We know that the oldest parts of the present building date back to about 1680. The house was built in a very odd position across the outflow from a line of springs which have now been filled over. This suggests that it was constructed to make use of the water. It is not a good site for a water mill and I have long suspected that it was originally a cold bath. In the 17th century cold bathing was a fashionable cure for all sorts of ills and at the time Carshalton was becoming an out of town resort known for horse racing and other sports.

The house stands over a stream which runs under the garden in a culvert. There is some evidence to suggest that the culvert was laid in the south side of a pool which was then filled in. The trench is intended to investigate this the north side of this suspected pool. Was it a cold bath? We will see.

Design for the 2014 excavation - click HERE

Go to final Summary

Report 1 for 18 August 2014

Excavation started today. We have removed the turf and part of the top soil. The only notable find was traces of the ‘knot garden’ which was created in 1990 and removed a good many years ago. Should get more interesting tomorrow.

CAPTION: Work commences.

Report 2 for 19 August 2014

We have made steady progress today. We have removed the remains of the ‘knot garden’ which dated from the 1990s. We have also found the remains of a gravel path with a chalk foundation running east-west across the trench.  It has been partly dug away possibly when the ground was levelled to make the lawn. I suspect that the path dates from the late 18th or early 19th century but I can’t be certain. Hopefully we will find some dating evidence tomorrow. The rest of the trench looks like garden sub-soil. If there are interesting finds they will be underneath.

CAPTION: The trench at the end of work today. The grey ridge is the remains of the path with part of the chalk foundation on the right.



Report 3 for 20 August 2014

A day of rather unexpected developments. We began removing the gravel from the ‘path’ to expose the chalk foundation. We then discovered that the gravel was wider than the chalk especially on the south side. A while later we found that the chalk rested on the gravel so that it was within it and not a foundation at all. It is possible that a gravel path was laid then raised by putting chalk and more gravel on it. If so the break between the two layers of gravel could not be detected although it may become apparent when the chalk is removed. We also found that the gravel sloped down under the soil on the south side and it may do on the north but we have not excavated this yet.  All rather odd and enigmatic but it will probably become clearer as work progresses. We are not much below the base of the top soil and just beginning to excavate the older deposits.

CAPTION: The trench at the end of work today looking west. The gravel is partly excavated exposing some – but not yet all – of the chalk.

Report 4 for 21 August 2014

Yesterday the trench was in a rather enigmatic state and I was hoping it would become clearer as we excavated more. Late this afternoon it did become clearer. The ‘track’ has developed into a wide foundation consisting of alternating layers of chalk and of gravel in orange sandy clay. This construction method is unusual and at the moment it is not clear why this was done. I suspect that the foundation underlay a walk along the north side of a pool. Tomorrow we aim to start excavating the ‘pool’ to see if it is really there. There have been very few finds so we are uncertain of the date of the foundation. It all looks quite promising and I think tomorrow may be interesting.

CAPTION: The chalk foundation partly excavated. A lower layer of chalk has since been uncovered to the right. The site of the suspected pool is to the left.



Report 5 for 22 August 2014

We have spent most of the day excavating the deposits on either side of the foundation. Steady progress but not much in the way of new developments. We appear to have reached the base of the garden soil over most – though not all – of the trench. Tomorrow we will probably start on some of the earlier deposits.

CAPTION: The foundation at end of work today.


Report 6 for 23 August 2014

The garden soil has now been removed from most of the trench and we have seen earlier deposits. We cut a section through the foundation and it looks as if it was constructed in two stages. Both stages were very similar with a chalk foundation and gravel surface. The later foundation was further south partly overlapping the earlier one. There have been very few small finds so dating is difficult – possibly early 18th century but this may change if we get more evidence. Much of the trench bottom is now covered with a green sandy layer which we have just started to excavate.

We have also found a large filled pit in the south west corner of the trench. This seems to have had a sheet of iron on the floor which has largely rusted away. The date of this is clear as the pit fill contains many fairly recent – probably early 20th century finds. The purpose is less clear but the fill is not fully excavated.

We will be working tomorrow but not Bank Holiday Monday as the forecast is for heavy rain.

CAPTION: The section through the track with the two layers on the right


Report 7 for 24 August 2014

We have finished excavating a large pit in the south west corner of the trench. The objects in fill showed that this was fairly modern – late 19th or early 20th century. There seems to have been a metal plate laid at the bottom which has largely rusted away. The iron plate suggests that this was not an ordinary flower bed and I wonder if it was something to do with the ARP Wardens (air raid precautions) who occupies the house in in the Second World War but this is speculation.

Work has continued on the east side of the trench where we a cutting a section through the deposits. Things seems to be becoming clearer. We are mainly excavating fill  consisting of soil, gravel, sand and clay producing a very patchy deposit which has been hard to understand. A series of paths were across fill – all running westwards away from the house. The earliest we have so far seen (we have not fully excavated the sequence) was narrow and made of densely packed gravel with a very hard smooth surface. It was followed by a by a wider path with a chalk foundation and a gravel surface and then by another similar path on the same alignment but set somewhat further south overlapping the earlier one. There is no sign of soil of dirt build up between them and it looks as if they were all created in quick succession. Very odd.

We have found some pottery, clay tobacco pipes and other bits and pieces which are beginning to give us a better idea of the date. In archaeological dating it is the most recent objects in a deposit which matter. We have got two items which are particularly significant. One is a clay pipe bowl of about 1700-40 which was found in a soil deposit in or below the fill. The other is a piece of white salt-glazed stoneware which was found in sand near the top of the fill. This type of pottery was made in Staffordshire (around Stoke on Trent) from about 1720 and was very popular in the mid-18th century. Our piece could belong to the beginning of the date range but it is much more later when the pottery had become common. This suggests that the filling episode took place towards the middle of the 18th century perhaps in the 1730s or 40s. This is just before the first documentary evidence for the history of the building which starts in the 1740s.

The big remaining question is what was filled in?

Report 8 for 25 August 2014

No work today due to the weather

Report 9 for 26 August 2014

No work today due to the weather

Report 10 for 27 August 2014

Not a very interesting day. We have continued to excavate in the section on the east side of the trench without finding anything very noteworthy. A nice clay tobacco pipe bowl of about 1690-1710 will help with the dating. Pipes of this type are fairly common at Honeywood and are roughly contemporary with the construction of the earliest parts of the house.

We have found more pieces of white oolitic limestone – probably Portland stone from Dorset. They appear to be mason’s chips. This was an expensive building stone and would not have been used in Honeywood in the 18th century. It is soil which was brought to the site to raise the level of the garden. The chips make me wonder if it came from Carshalton House or Carshalton Park House. Portland stone was used on both sites and on a very large scale at the former. This is speculation but worth further thought.

Report 11 for 28 August 2014

No work today - resumes tomorrow

Report 12 for 29 August 2014

The section on the east side of the trench is now largely excavated to the top of the gravel. There are clearly patterns in the gravel but we are so close to the water table that we can’t excavate them so work has now stopped. Will be back filling tomorrow and over the next few days I will have a think about what we have found and not found.

Report 13 for 30 August 2014

We did a small amount of extra digging today and several remaining recording jobs. The only find of significance was the remains of a robbed out foundation which was exposed in the bottom of the big pit in the southwest corner of the trench. I think the structure ids likely to have been fairly recent – most likely 19th century. The trench is now partly backfilled and I am going to have a think about what we have found. I will post something in a few days.

CAPTION: Bottom of the big pit showing traces of the robbed out wall around a square area of clay.


Summary of the 2014 excavation at Honeywood

One of the odd things about Honeywood is that the ground floor of the house is lower than the back garden. The excavation suggests that the garden has been raised and that house respects the earlier ground level.

The earliest chalk chequer parts of the house probably date on stylistic grounds to the end of the seventeenth century – perhaps about 1680-90.

The lowest layer in the excavation was gravel which we did not excavate. It could be natural it could be an early dumping episode.

The gravel was covered with soil which contained several clay pipes dating from around the time the house was built. This may have been the original garden but if so it must have been close to the water table and wet.

There was then a major dumping episode which may have raised the garden to about its present level. The dating evidence for this comes from very few finds. I can be confident that it happened after 1720 but how much after is much less certain – perhaps in the 1730s or 40s. This is around the time that the documentary history of the house starts. The first known owner – George Otway – appears in the rate books in 1749. He probably did some building work as the date is inscribed on one of the north gables. He may have been responsible for raising the level of the garden but at the moment I can’t be certain.

The dumping included three successive tracks each partly covering the other. They seem to have been laid in fairly quick succession as the ground level was raised.

The material used in the dumping is odd. It contained a lot of small orange gravel which must have been sorted and sieved. It is the kind of material used to make garden paths. There was also many chips of oolitic limestone – probably Portland stone. It looks like mason’s waste. Portland stone was (and is) expensive and would not have been used in a building like Honeywood. It seems likely that the material came as waste from the re-landscaping one of the major houses in the village. Carshalton House or Carshalton Park are the obvious candidates. Carshalton House is the most likely as its grounds are only a few yards away on the other side of West Street. This opens an interesting line of enquiry.
should improve the dating. I also want to check the heights of the layers with the deposits in previous excavations and other features. It’s a jigsaw waiting to be put together.

We also found the base of a building. This may be the structure shown on a mid-19th century map which covered the rectangular pond in the corner of the garden.

There is a great deal of post excavation work to do. The cataloguing of the finds

John Phillips

Unless otherwise stated, the text of the Reports on this page is Copyright © 2014 Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society

Images are Copyright © 2014 Friends of Honeywood Museum, John Phillips and Elizabeth Price

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