Lamer Park

This post is dedicated to the memory of David Gifford of Lamer (1942–2016).

Lamer lies a mile north of the village of Wheathampstead on the edge of the parish.  The name Lamer is first attested in 1396 in a document held by Westminster Abbey.  Westminster held the manor of Wheathampstead, a gift from Edward the Confessor in 1060.  The original deed is held in the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies centre (HALS).  Lamer became a manor in its own right in the fourteenth century.  The earliest mention of a Park at Lamer dates to 1589 (information from Anne Rowe).  The manor house is claimed to have been rebuilt by Sir William Garrard around 1555.  Only one drawing of this earlier house survives, but some sources doubt its accuracy. His grandson, Sir John Garrard became the first baronet, and the tombs of all six baronets are in St Helen’s Church, Wheathampstead.

The tomb of the Sir John Garrard, 1st baronet.

The tomb of the Sir John Garrard, 1st baronet.

On the death of sixth Baronet, Sir Benet Garrard (c.1704 to 1767), the baronetcy lapsed and the estate passed to  Charles Drake, who adopted the name Drake Garrard.  They began the remodelling of the the estate replacing the Jacobean house with an elegant Georgian one.  They also employed Nathaniel Richmond to remodel the Park.  When Richmond died, the task fell to Humphrey Repton who created one of his famous “red books”.  According to the Dury and Andrews’ map of 1766, the Park then consisted of a series of avenues of trees as had been the fashion in the late 17th/early 18th century.

Lamer Park from Dury and Andrews' map, as redrawn by Andrew Mcnair.

Lamer Park from Dury and Andrews’ map, as redrawn by Andrew Mcnair.

The remodelling of the Park by Richmond and Repton created a more open “natural” landscape as was the fashion towards the end of the 18th century.  Maps held by Westminster Abbey (1799) and HALS (1827) show the Park as a much more open landscape.  This is also reflected in the tithe map, and an estate map from 1843 held by the Gifford family.

Map of Lamer from 1843.

Map of Lamer from 1843.

The Estate was inherited by Apsley Cherry in 1892 who changed his name to Cherry-Garrard in accordance with the terms of the inheritance.  His only son was the famous arctic explorer, Apsley Cherry-Garrard.

The monument to Apsley Cherry-Garrard in Wheathampstead church.

The monument to Apsley Cherry-Garrard in Wheathampstead church.

Apsley slowly sold off the estates belonging to Lamer, and finally sold the house and Park just after the Second World War.  The house was demolished in 1949 and the Park turned into farmland.

One might ask how geophysics comes into all this?  Many of the buildings in the 1766 and later maps still survive.  On the Dury and Andrews map, however, there is a small building with, perhaps, a wall and garden just to the east of the main buildings.  This building is otherwise unknown.  In June, Mike Smith and I undertook a small GPR survey in the field to the east of the coach house in the hope of locating this building.  We only surveyed one small 40x40m block, so it was a bit of a long shot.  Here are the time slices.

The 7 to 9ns time slice.

The 7 to 9ns time slice.

The 9 to 11ns time slice.

The 9 to 11ns time slice.

The 11 to 13ns time slice.

The 11 to 13ns time slice.

The 13 to 15ns time slice.

The 13 to 15ns time slice.

The 15 to 17ns time slice.

The 15 to 17ns time slice.

The 17 to 19ns time slice.

The 17 to 19ns time slice.

We have, I think, essentially found the remains of three roads.  The road which shows clearly in the SW corner, especially in the 9–11ns time slice, was known.  Angela Gifford remembers this road being built as a child in the early 1950s.  More curious are the other two roads.  The east-west road, that also shows clearly on the 9–11ns time slide, appears to line up with the existing tarmac road.  That road, however, was created relatively recently by David.  Was there an earlier version of it?  There wasn’t, originally, access between the two buildings north and south of the tarmac road.  A plan at HALS shows the gap filled with the a building for the dung from the coach house and stables (to the south of the current road) and the hack stables to the north. The third road is the broad curving line running from the SE corner of the plots to the middle of the northern edge.  This road is unknown to the current inhabitants of Lamer.  Map evidence shows that the road system was changed quite frequently between the late 18th century and now.  This road must have been part of the Park at an earlier date.  In the deeper time slices, e.g., the  15–17ns one, one edge of the road appears as a series of dots.  I think this is just because Mike and I were surveying north-south and the interpolation algorithm has not managed to join them up when the line is at such an acute angle to the line of the transects. There does, however, seem to be “something solid” edging the road on the eastern side.

We didn’t find the house and courtyard, but it was not entirely a bust either.  Perhaps we should do some more!

Dave’s family have been raising money for the Hertfordshire Air Ambulance in his memory. Please donate to this worthy cause if you can.

Record breaking

It was an odd day, weather wise. Largely dry with just one quick, light shower, windy at times, sunny spells… Luckily nothing interfered with the fieldwork!

The res team consisted of myself (when I wasn’t putting in grids for people), Ellen, Tim and Pauline.  They pulled out the stops and managed a record-breaking eight grid squares.  Area-wise, that is what the GPR covers in an average day, but for resistance survey at 0.5m intervals, that is very good going.  Well done everyone.

The resistance survey at the end of day 32.

The resistance survey at the end of day 32.

Today’s grids behaved themselves and make the four odd ones from yesterday stand-out even more.  I did make sure that some of the connectors were off the ground today.  How annoying. We may have to re-do those four grids.  The survey did, however, show the buildings along the road in the SE corner beautifully.  The big question… where now?  North to the sinuous ditch?  South for more shops?  West to cover the cross roads?  Only four days surveying left, and we have to assume that we won’t cover eight squares every day.

The mag team also had a very successful day in the Macellum field.

Detail of the mag survey showing the Macellum field.

Detail of the mag survey showing the Macellum field.

We can just see a hint of the cross-roads running NE-SW across Watling Street.  The ‘1955 ditch’ barely shows.  With the eye of faith one might see it in the high readings along the edge of the cross-road, but very much with the eye of faith.  Is the ditch just so built over we cannot see it?  Or was it never built here?

With just four survey days left to go, the team is getting close to finishing the field, but I think we are a day or two short of being able to do that.

The entire mag survey to date.

The entire mag survey to date.

Way down across the field, the GPR team tackled another fiddly staggered bit along the hedge line.  In the next three images I have made the previous days’ surveys partially transparent.

The day 32 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 35 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The curious shallow valley to the west of the surveyed area (‘valley’ seems a strong word for it!) that runs down the hill towards the temple is just as devoid of buildings or other recognizable archaeological features as the mag data.  In all three time slices not a great deal shows.  Was this valley always empty?  Or has the archaeology been eroded away, or even buried?  Difficult to say,  There is, however, a long narrow building just to the right of the middle of the surveyed area almost parallel with the hedgerow.  It seems fairly ephemeral, but it definitely there and one corner was picked-up in last year’s grid to the south.

Although the GPR hasn’t covered as much as the mag, we have still collected a mass of data.

Montage showing the area surveyed with the GPR to date.

Montage showing the area surveyed with the GPR to date.

It certainly takes-up a large chunk of my hard disk.

Many thanks to everyone who came out today and worked so hard.  A very successful day all round.  Our next survey day is on Thursday.

I think we found a building…

Today we managed to run all three instruments despite the very blustery weather and the occasional shower. Many thanks to everyone who put up with the bad weather.

Firstly, the magnetometer survey went very well today with another nine grid squares completed, albeit there were many partials!  Here are the results:

The mag after day 31.

The mag after day 31.

As can be seen, the nice straight line of Watling Street continues running from the SE to the NW. Curiously, there appears to be something cutting across the street and running down either side (shown as white lines).  How strange.  The star find, however, is the very nice building parallel to Watling Street.  The wall foundations show as clear white lines against the mid-grey, i.e., non-magnetic wall foundations (or foundation trenches) cutting through the more magnetic background.  Just in case anyone is wondering where the building is:

Today's mag showing the building.

Today’s mag showing the building.

OK, I’m not being entirely serious.  It is perhaps one of the clearest buildings I have seen in our mag data despite the rather noisy background.

The GPR crew were working quite some distance away.  Here is a location plan:

Location of the three surveys.

Location of the three surveys.

It is 550m from the magnetometer survey to the GPR survey as the swallow flies, slightly further as the archaeologist trundles.

The GPR team were not to be outdone by the mag team.  Here are four time slices from the area they did today. Remember each slice is going a bit deeper into the ground.

Day 31, GPR slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The top image (time slice two) is just showing noise in the ploughsoil.  The second image is showing a nice Roman building very clearly.  There might be more than one phase, with the upper phase being somewhat damaged.  The third image shows the building very clearly.  In the last image some of the internal walls show a little more clearly suggesting that they may have been robbed or replaced at some point.  All in all, a rather nice building in a prime position on the road across the town.

The GPR team have now covered quite a large area of the town!  Remember that they have to walk four times the distance to cover the same area as the mag, but have the advantage of being able to create images at different depths.

The extent of the GPR survey after day 31.

The extent of the GPR survey after day 31.

The Earth Resistance survey managed four grid squares today after the rain made it possible to take readings at all!

The earth resistance survey after day 31.

The earth resistance survey after day 31.

The res has picked up some more details of the Insula XVI temple.  Unfortunately, the trick of spreading the remote probes widely apart to avoid problems with grid matching has finally failed.  We did not have enough rain to change the moisture levels at 50–75cm down, so I am not entirely sure why this is the case.  Perhaps some current leaks through the grass?  I’ll have to investigate.

The weather forecast is better for tomorrow and so we will be out again in force.

GPR update

The rain has given me a chance to catch up on processing the GPR data. The procedures introduced by Mike Smith have made it much easier. Thank you Mike!

Here is an image of the whole survey so far:

The complete GPR survey after day 30.

The complete GPR survey after day 30.

That is roughly 7.5ha of GPR data.

Here is a detail of the area around the edges of which we have been filling-in the gaps:

The eastern side of the survey after day 30.

The eastern side of the survey after day 30.

Sadly, all that fiddly work has presented us with any nice clear buildings, but there are lots of bits of walls which join up with other things we have found.  When I process the data fully, we may well get more from it.  The one thing that does stand out are the triple walls of the temple just heading into the area of the theatre.

Lastly, Mike sent me this lovely picture entitled “Lonely archaeologist”.

The Lonely Archaeologist (c) Mike Smith 2016.

The Lonely Archaeologist (c) Mike Smith 2016.

Hopefully, it will be drier tomorrow, but with enough surface moisture to make the resistance survey easier!

 

 

Watling Street

Firstly, apologies to those who turned-up and found themselves unemployed. With ground conditions difficult for the resistance meter, we just couldn’t run all three machines. Thank you for being so understanding.  Looks like it will rain most of tomorrow, so hopefully we can press-on with the resistance survey on Saturday.

The mag survey in the second field, which I am going to call the macellum field for convenience (it isn’t the field’s real name) is going well.  Firstly, an image of the whole town:

The mag survey of Verulamium.

The mag survey of Verulamium.

My long-held dream of having a complete survey of Verulamium is getting close to becoming a reality!  Thank you everyone.

Looking at the new area in more detail:

The area surveyed on days 29 and 30 in the macellum field.

The area surveyed on days 29 and 30 in the macellum field.

Hopefully, everyone can see the clear linear feature running from the SE to the NW.  This is Watling Street, the main road from London to Chester.  As one might expect just near to the gate (which was robbed and then excavated, and lies in the trees), there appear to be lots of little buildings along the road which show as white lines against the mid-grey background. What is more curious is the rather different look of that background: much less even and more noisy. I’m not sure why, yet.  The field certainly feels different: flatter, slightly different vegetation, and is obviously closer to the river.  Perhaps we have moved from chalk to the river gravels?  I must check the geology map…

The GPR has been doing lots of bitty blocks around the edge of last year’s survey area.  Rather than hold-up the posting of the mag data, I thought I would do the GPR later when I have dropped all the different areas on to Google Earth.

Thanks to everyone who helped today, especially Graeme for acting as my driver and go-fer as I limped around the field  (don’t ask!), and Ruth for helping transport all the equipment.

 

Done it!

The mag team have completed the Theatre Field. Yay!

The mag survey of the theatre field, complete.

The mag survey of the theatre field, complete.

Congratulations everybody.  It is quite an achievement.

A detail of the area surveyed on day 29.

A detail of the area surveyed on day 29.

The detail above shows that the very north end of this field is quite busy.  This is unsurprising being right next to the Chester Gate.  The sinuous ditch, or should we just call it the aqueduct?, leaves the town about 50m away from the gate.  Unfortunately, it goes straight into woodland. Hopefully, we may get a chance one day to look for it the other side of the wall.  Rosalind Niblett traced what she thinks is the aqueduct from aerial photographs all the way the valley to Redbourne.

The mag team also started in the next field, but I’ll report on that when there is a little more completed.  The res team struggled with the hard, dry ground conditions and managed another two grid squares.  We will have to stop doing res until we have had some rain.  There is some forecast tomorrow.  The GPR team also completed two areas.  I wanted to post the completion of the field, so I’ll report on everything else this evening.

Around the bend

We are within four grid squares of completing the “Theatre Field.” The sheer size of the field doesn’t really come across in the images. From the northernmost point to the southernmost it is 855m and it is 600m from east to west, enclosing an area of 27ha. That is about 38 soccer pitches in area!

The survey of the Theatre Field after day 28.

The survey of the Theatre Field after day 28.

But enough of all this nonsense about soccer pitches, I hear you cry, what about “the sinuous ditch”?  Well, here it is…

The course of "the sinuous ditch" after day 28.

The course of “the sinuous ditch” after day 28.

Yup, the ditch is now heading north again.  On a flat image, this looks really odd but when one is in the field it seems pretty clear that it is following the contour lines.  Perhaps we can still consider the ditch an aqueduct?  Here is a detail:

Detail of the area at the end of the sinuous ditch.

Detail of the area at the end of the sinuous ditch.

The section of the ditch surveyed today seems very broad, and gets a bit fuzzy near the big irregular feature shown in stronger black and white.  My guess is that the irregular feature is a later quarry pit — very common in the Hertfordshire countryside — and this may have partly destroyed the ditch.  Who knew that the last four squares might provide the answer to this mystery feature!  There are also quite a few weaker and more indistinct ditches in this area, along with quite a few pits.

The GPR crew worked their way steadily eastwards along the northern edge of the Theatre Field.  They have covered an amazing area too.  Remember that (a) they have to walk four times as far to cover the same area as the magnetometer and (b) their cart is dragging a plastic tray along the ground.  In longer grass it is quite a difficult task.  Despite this, look what they have now covered.

The total area covered by the GPR.

The total area covered by the GPR.

This image is a bit of a mish-mash of different time slices but it conveys the main message… look what we have covered!

Here is a detail of the last two days area:

Detail of the area covered during day 27 and 28 of the survey. Fourth time slice (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Detail of the area covered during day 27 and 28 of the survey. Fourth time slice (15.5 to 18.5ns).

The surviving wall foundations are easy to spot: the black lines looking like buildings!  We are, however, also seeing the outlines of building foundations in white where the stone has all been removed just leaving robber trenches.

The GPR data is just being fairly crudely processed here as it takes much longer to do than mag or resistance data.  At some point I will need to process it all in much more detail and much more consistently.  It does, however, give us an excellent comparison with the mag and res data even with this basic level of processing.

Tomorrow and Tuesday are our “weekend”.  We all deserve a rest!  Many thanks to everyone, I hope you agree it is worth the effort.