Oswestry Castle Excavation September 2017
Following the success of the excavation of September 2016 the project team applied for and received another Heritage Lottery Fund grant that will allow us to continue excavation for two more years. A longer, three week, excavation was undertaken in September 2017 to locate and investigate the Southeast corner of the Keep and extend our understanding of the structure. The 9x4m trench (Trench 6) was an extension southwards of the 2016 trench 4, set a little to the East to allow us to examine the East (external) face of the splayed base of the Keep.
The turf was removed and also the 20cm layer of soil containing the usual 20th century finds. The layer beneath was a mixture of stones and larger boulders in a greyish gritty soil similar to the demolition material of previous years. This was excavated to the bottom course of the splayed base and the southeast corner of the Keep was revealed. Unfortunately this corner was also damaged, but enough remained to allow measurements which indicate that the Keep was a square structure. The East face of the Keep’s splayed base showed some later reconstruction, with a section of the splayed base cut away and a vertical stone pilaster added, which was tied into the base. This was probably an external doorway (the lower door hinge was still in place) that gave access into another building or courtyard. There was some later crude reconstruction work and a deep ‘midden’ of burnt material containing lots of animal bones associated with this doorway, both of which may be of the Civil War period.
Along the Eastern edge of the trench we revealed another wall, just over 1m away from the bottom of the splayed base, starting opposite the door pilaster and running South. It is clearly well constructed and terminates opposite the doorway with some very well executed ashlar sandstone blocks. It is not possible to say more about this wall, but it appears that there may be another building on top of the mound to the East of the Keep. We need to find out more about this structure and it will certainly be a target for a future excavation.
The finds this year are more varied. There was an assemblage of pottery fragments, including the complete base of a pot, and some of these pieces have been sent to experts for identification. (see full report) Several more musket balls were found and also two cannon balls, one lead and the other iron. These are small cannon, probably 3 pounders, and may yet be more evidence of the Civil War siege. At the bottom of the trench, at the level of the bottom course of the base a large heavily corroded key was found which has been sent to experts for cleaning and identification. The images below show the key as found and after expert cleaning. The key does not help with dating as keys of this period are very difficult to date with any certainty.
We now have nearly the whole outline of the Keep with just the South wall and Southwest corner to locate. Also we have not yet found an entrance (called a forebuilding) to the Keep; this will have given access to the first floor and there should be foundation structure alongside the splayed base. We hope to find this along the South wall and this will be the target of a future excavation. The unexpected structure we found part of this year will need to explored more fully and have yet to decide in what order to conduct these excavations.