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Local History







Monday 11th July to Sunday 17th July 2011


The site of the dig in Oaks Park
Picture courtesy of © Richard Fitch
See more of Richard's fine pictures

Download the Design for the dig by clicking HERE
NOTE! This is a 1.3Mb
PDF File

Download a history of The Oaks by clicking HERE
PDF File

Day ONE Report

This excavation aims to find the remains of a cock fighting pit which the 12th Earl of Derby built into the floor of one of  the two ground floor rooms in the east wing of the house. The Earl, who is now known chiefly for horse racing was, in his lifetime better known for cock fighting, a sport which was then popular but has long since been banned for its cruelty. The pit is said to had seats which folded out from the floor and also an ‘escape tunnel’ which was perhaps a drain. There are more details about the excavation in the Design pdf file which you can download from the link above.

We started excavating trenches A and B today in (see PLAN). These cover part of the more likely of the two rooms. We have removed the turf and top soil and have reached a layer of rubble probably left when this part of the house was demolished in 1959-60. We plan to excavate this layer tomorrow and things will hopefully get more interesting. We have not done any work on trench C which is on the site of the second room. We won’t open this until we have a good idea of the likely results from A and B.

Day ONE pictures
Carl Brown from the Friends of Oaks Park barrows with aplomb Derek from CADHAS takes a few moments to join
The Friends of
Honeywood Museum
On your marks..... ..... get set!
John and Mike, well satisfied John makes a start A low-down greeting
from Steve
Not that sort of cock-pit!
An old dinosaur for John
- no comment!
On the turf
- just like Lord Derby
Jane swings the shovel Shiny buckets and spades
Sue and Jane get down to it Surveying the progress
during Day 1
A welcome cuppa! Where's the start button!


Day TWO Report

We have spent the day clearing a layer of soil chalk and rubble from trench A. This seems to have been deposited in 1959/60 when this part of the house was demolished. This job is now almost complete and tomorrow we will work on the underlying layer of rubble. We are, therefore, still awaiting significant developments.

Day TWO pictures
A trickle of visitors on
a chilly and windy day
Carl stands on buckets to hold down the roof John improvises a
lunch-time wind break
Madam Bucket
Mike entertains Canadian visitors Pat and Mike are not
getting any warmer
Pat finds 'stuff' to clean Steve and Jane find it
hard going


Day THREE Report

Work today has concentrated on trench A where we have uncovered short sections of the west and south walls of the house. We already knew that the house had been demolished to below the original floor level and that we would be looking at the space below the floor. We have found a brick pillar near the west wall which probably once supported the floor joists. The original earth under floor also survives around it. A little to the east of this (further into the wing) the under floor earth has been cut away. It is not yet clear when this was done or why. It may be connected with the demolition of the cockpit but this is far from certain. The area to the east – the most likely site of the cockpit – is still covered with rubble. We plan to excavate this tomorrow and hopefully things will become clearer.

The area by the foundation of the south wall is also problematic. The area inside the wall is loose rubble to a much greater depth that expected. This could suggest that there was a cellar but this idea is not consistent with the remains by the west wall. We are hoping that tomorrows work will also clarify this.

We have found a number of pieces of plaster from Robert Adam’s original decoration of the room at the end of the 18th century. One is a piece of the cornice where the wall joins the ceiling. Another piece from an as yet undetermined position still has the original gold leaf on it. (See today’s photos).

We have done a little more work on trench B but without any significant finds.

Day THREE pictures

A buzz of expectancy A cautious approach as
some of the interesting features emerge
A glint of gold plaster A high degree of concentration
A very chilly start Another touch of
gold colour
Are these floor supports? Going down
Hear no evil, etc! Hoodie and Hattie Jane holds the
find of the day
John Ede, Sue and Derek
focus on the doorway
More emerges
on the west side
More visitors today Not enough
to count as treasure
Robert Adam
plaster cornice c.1790
Sue springs
into sudden action
The foundations are just a few centimetres
from the chalk outline
The spoil heap grows! This Adam brick
has a fine frog
To find out more about
The Friends
of Honeywood Museum
To join
The Friends
of Honeywood Museum
Two shovels
- a blur of action!
    Val and Pat's trays
begin to fill


Day FOUR Report

We continued work on trench A and have removed the 20th century rubble from the suspected site of the cockpit. We found the base of another brick pillar which appears to have supported the floor. This was in the area of the suspected cockpit so it looks like we are in the wrong place. We have therefore started work on trench C which is on the site of the other east wing ground floor room. Work here has not gone far so there are no significant results yet.

Trench B was designed to look for a drain running from a cockpit in trench A. As the cockpit site has now been ruled out there is no point in continuing with trench B so work has stopped.

The location of the pit now depends on trench C.

If the weather on Saturday 16th July is as bad as is being forecast work on the site will be suspended until Sunday.

Day FOUR pictures
A break in the shade A feature that causes
a re-think
A mint 1903 farthing An interested visitor is thrilled to find Val's poetry book
Derek, Rosemary and Sue turn their attention to the east trench Goin' fishing! Harry grows steadily Jane, Roger and Steve
ponder the variations
of the primary site
John and Mike write-up
the context record
Mike and Paul oblige
a Mayoral enquiry
More a plumb than aplomb Shut down Tom and Dick:
full ahead Harry
Steve holds a piece of fine quality 18th century clay pipe The re-think causes change to the site layout Time to measure Val and Pat are amused


Day FIVE Report

Work as continued in trench C where there have been some nice finds including two pieces of painted wall plaster and a Georgian sash window handle. We have still not reached the bottom of the demolition rubble so we have not got any further information on the cockpit.

We have been recording in trench A and have found that the pillar nearest the south wall goes deeper into the under floor soil than we thought. We are wondering if we are missing something here and have decided to carry out some further excavation.

Trench B, which was abandoned yesterday, is now nearly backfilled.

After Saturday's wash-out the dig will recommence on Sunday from 10am, and continue for so long as the weather is clement!

Day FIVE pictures
Even more striding proves necessary From information to catering at a stroke Good Progress in Harry I'm with Roger!
John and Mike explain a trench to Tom Brake MP John explodes into action Packing up, but we still continue to get enquiries Purposeful striding is in order
Ready... steady... TROWEL! Scallop motif follows the theme in Taylor's design for the dining room The site director gets in with the action! Trench etiquette demands
a suave posture


Day SIX Report and Pictures

After today's wash-out the dig will recommence tomorrow from 10am, and continue for so long as the weather is clement!


Day SEVEN Report

This morning we started excavating a number of pieces of plaster in trench C. More appeared as work progressed and, with frequent interruptions for rain, it was about 7pm by the time we finished. It appears that the plaster had been thrown into a bonfire when the house was being demolished presumably to get rid of the wood attached to it. On a first look the collection probably comes from the dining room (the area where it was found) and it will therefore date to the mid-18th century.

We did some recoding in trench A and a small amount of back filling.

If the weather permits we plan to continue excavating trench C tomorrow and maybe we will find the remains of the cockpit.

Day SEVEN Pictures
To find out more about
The Friends
of Honeywood Museum
To join
The Friends
of Honeywood Museum
Andrew applies his talent
for sketching
    Breathtaking finds, but can we extract them
Familiar faces return
to see the progress
Horne & Co., Removals Jane reveals a treasure trove of Robert Taylor
plaster-work c.1765
John and Andrew hard at work
John and Sue Horne have been on site every day to prepare the shelters... well done and thanks John directs himself under the table Making the most of it
as the clouds roll in
At least Jane can
carry on in the dry
Ramblers escorted off site by a Jack Russell Shirley strikes camp so the gazebo can protect the plaster as the weather worsens Steve loses his head in Harry Discipline is everything!
Sue shows the trench to another interested generation The director ponders on where to head for shelter in the event of a cloud-burst Steve proves a match
for the rain
Time to put this trench to bed


Day EIGHT Report

We have continued excavation in trench C and have found further pieces of plaster. A large part – possibly all of it seems to have come from the cornice between the wall and ceiling in the dining room where the trench is located. We will need to make a detailed study of the pieces to be certain of this. Some of the material is burnt. It seems to have been thrown into a bonfire when the house was demolished presumably to get rid of associated woodwork. We have exposed the top of the foundation on the west side of the room and also found a brick column which probably supported the floor. Still no sign of the cockpit.

Day EIGHT Pictures

Two of the pieces of plaster excavated today



Day NINE Report

We did a rather short day so there is not much news. We did some more excavation in trench C and found a few more pieces of plaster. However, we seem to have cleared the main deposit and the excavation was largely in rubble. Work resumes tomorrow.

Day NINE Pictures
There are no new pictures today


Day TEN Report

We have made a good deal of progress today. Most of the demolition rubble has now been removed from trench C and there is no obvious sign of the cock pit we are seeking. We have found some more plaster and stonework from a fireplace. There is a small amount of excavation to be done tomorrow and, after that some recording and, of course, backfilling.

Day TEN Pictures
There are no new pictures today



We finished clearing trench C today. There was a brief period of excitement when we found a flat area on the soil that had been below the floor at the east end of the trench. We wondered if it was a trace of the cockpit but I am included to think that the flatness was caused by workmen trampling the soil; as they built the house. So in the end we have a lot of plaster and no cockpit. Win some, lose some – that’s the way with archaeology.

There is a bit of recording to do, backfilling and a lot of work on the plaster but this is the last of the running reports. Thanks for following them.

Click HERE (410Kb PDF file) for an initial summary of the results of the excavation.

Unless otherwise stated, all images and text on this web site are
Copyright © John Phillips, Paul Williams and The Friends of Honeywood Museum 2011
and the Authors noted

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