This year three trenches were excavated. Two trenches from last year, no. 2 on the eastern boundary of the manorial enclosure and no. 5 on the site of a large, post-medieval, C-shaped house, were re-opened and extended in order to excavate them fully down to natural deposits at the same time as investigating more of the features within. One new trench (Trench 6) was also dug to investigate the character of the western boundary of the manorial enclosure.
We now know that the earliest feature within Trench 2 is a deep ditch (its base lying circa 1.7m below the modern ground surface) aligned roughly north-south. This has a W-profile, presumably indicating it silted and was then recut. It is currently undated, but we believe it to be Roman or even prehistoric. In the 12th century, long after the ditch had completely silted and been forgotten, a pebble surface was laid over the natural chalk bedrock in the east end of the trench, extending over the ditch. This may have been a yard area, although if so, it was not in use for long before the eastern boundary wall of the manorial enclosure was constructed across it. We have also found a number of other walls within the enclosure, but at present their relationship to each other and the manorial boundary is unclear; one of these was also constructed across the silted ditch and must have begun to fall down for a buttress was subsequently added.
Trench 2 showing the large W-shaped ditch closest to the camera
Trench 5 was started in 2015 to investigate the remains of a large C-shaped building overlying, and therefore later than, the main medieval village earthworks. At the end of last year’s excavations we discovered documentary evidence that suggests the building is in fact the mansion house of John Bourchier, second son of Sir Ralph Bourchier of Beningborough Hall. Sir Ralph bought the Hanging Grimston estate in 1575 specifically for John and his wife. In 2016 Trench 5 was emptied of backfill, extended by a metre or so to the south to expose more of a (presumably medieval) stone wall found last year below the robbed-out remains of the Bourchier mansion, and excavated down to natural across the whole area of the trench.
Trench 5 showing the medieval foundation wall
At the deepest levels in Trench 5, underlying both the Bourchier mansion and medieval wall, a number of features were found cut into natural which here is not chalk but a clayey solifluction deposit overlying Whitwell Oolite. Several of these cut features contained what looked to be Roman pottery and very likely relate to an Iron Age/Romano-British ‘ladder settlement’, which geophysical survey has suggested lies under the eastern edge of the medieval village. Later, in the medieval period, a stone building was constructed of which we have found a stretch of the southern wall: we know this because a doorway in the wall has rebates in its northern side marking the position of a former timber (internal) doorframe. This building was in turn succeeded by the Bourchier mansion whose basic plan is traceable on the surface as a series of earthwork banks. As the excavations progressed last year, it became apparent that the earthwork we were sampling within the trench was in fact an upcast bank of spoil from a robbed-out wall line that lay immediately to the west. The actual robber trench was only seen with difficulty last year, but was much more apparent in the southern extension to the trench this year. Unfortunately the robbing has been comprehensive and no floor levels survive. The form and quality of architectural stone fragments (door mouldings, window mullions, etc) and fragments of window cames (lead strips) recovered from the demolition rubble, however, are indicative of both a 16th/17th-century date for the building and it being of relatively high status, thus seeming to corroborate our identification of it as the documented Bourchier mansion.
Trench 6 was a new trench this year, positioned to sample a point on the western boundary of the manorial enclosure where earthwork evidence indicates it is met by an internal east-west scarp-cum-bank. Before excavation we took the scarp representing the manorial boundary to be the remains of a ruined wall. However, where sampled by Trench 6 the boundary was found to consist solely of an earthen bank overlain by a deposit of yellowish, more stony, material (probably upcast natural), and with a broad ditch or possible routeway on its western (outer) side. The bank is low and broad suggesting it may have originated as a plough ridge; if so, it indicates that the manorial enclosure is laid out over former cultivated fields and post-dates the founding of the village. The east-west scarp running away at right angles from the enclosure boundary proved to be the downhill edge of the upcast natural - seemingly a levelling deposit associated with terracing the hillside within the enclosure to create level platforms for buildings.
The north section of Trench 6
Text Marcus Jecock
Images Chris Hall