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Sedgeford's Malting Site

Even though there was a regular blog last season, and our weekly summary blogs, I felt it was a good time to summarise the work done last year and highlight our aims for 2024 for trench 24. This year has brought some answers but also a whole bunch of new questions.


At the bottom of the hill we have kins 3 and 4. In 2022 kiln 3 was fully excavated so last year all that remained was to do a further clean and to fully excavate the step. This revealed the step was not as deep as previously thought and we were able to confirm the thickness of the walls and size of the kiln itself. More work was also carried out on kiln 3's associated clay surface.


We also started the excavation of kiln 4 in 2023, completing the first quadrant, which revealed that the kiln was deeper than kiln 4, but not quite as deep as kiln 2. It had daubed edges and base. The collapsed daub inside the kiln was in large lumps, much larger than found in any of the other kilns. The daub from this kiln is being kept so that we can examine and hopefully analyse the assemblage as a whole. While excavating the area around kiln 4 we believe we have now found traces of the original clay surface associated with the malthouse. However the most exciting discovery was an area with vast quantities of burnt grain to the south of the kiln, a similar deposit had been found to the south of kiln 3 in 2018. We believe this may be the remains of the drying floor and the grain that was being dried at the time the malthouse burnt down.


The middle of the site where we have malthouse 1 and 2 was a hive of activity last year. We had several people working in kiln 2, investigating the thickness of the walls, as well as the construction methods. This revealed that there was at least two phases of construction and repair. Other volunteers worked on removing the light grey floor of kiln 1 to reveal a possible pit feature and post holes. More work was carried out on the steeping tank, where we have now found evidence for each of the in-situ walls.


At the top of the site the work to try and understand kiln 5 continues. This is the area of the site where we are still a bit confused, as each year another clay surface is revealed. So far we have seen that most malthouse kilns on the site only have one clay surface associated with them, usually to the right of the stoking area. However, kiln 5 has clay surfaces on both sides and there are also two other clay surfaces to the south. We therefore need a better understanding of the area surrounding kiln 5, as it could be that we have several phases of malthouse and perhaps more than one kiln.


Kiln 5 and it's surroundings

Last year we also spent some time focusing on the N-S ditch discovered at the end of 2022, on the western side of the malting complex. This new ditch cuts through a charcoal rich deposit that appears to have overflown the other ditches. This suggests that it is later in date, however we still do not know whether this is earlier, contemporary, or later than the features around kiln 5, although the new extension should answer this question in 2024.

So what is the plan for the 2024 season? Well, the answer is that we are working against time as animal action and the weather continues to damage the site out of season. Therefore the priorities for excavating next season are those features that are particularly at risk so that we can collect the remaining evidence from these. We also need to continue to investigate related features to the kilns so that we can determine the site phasing. The primary aims of this season are to:

·        Complete the excavations of kiln 2 and 3, including sections of the kiln wall to investigate construction methods.

·        Excavate the opposite quadrant of kiln 4.

·        Investigate the area around kiln 3 and 4 to find post holes, and the extent of clay surfaces.

·        Investigate the burnt layers around the steeping tank of kiln 1.

·        Investigate the wider area around kiln 5.

·        Start excavating kiln 5 by removing a quadrant.

·        Environmental sampling of kilns 4 and 5, and their surrounding areas.

·        Off-site there is a potential project for someone to analyse and record the daub from kiln 4 and the continued sampling means there is lots of opportunities for those interested in environmental archaeology.


The malting trench team are really looking forward to next season. Each year we see new surprises on the site and I am sure the 2024 season will provide us with even more information about what was happening in Middle Saxon Sedgeford.



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