North Park Farm Quarry, Bletchingley

Three further phases of excavation by P Jones and R Lambert of SCAU adjacent to areas previously investigated. The first phase undertaken in the summer of 2011 was to the immediate west of the area investigated in 2009. The range and character of the archaeological features present were closely similar to those identified in 2009. The features included three Mesolithic pits (which were 100% sampled and sieved for flintwork), an early medieval pit oddly sited out on the Gault clay, and a continuation of the late medieval/ early post-medieval roadway identified during the work in 2005. A rectilinear enclosure was apparently aligned with the road and may therefore be of similar date, but there was no clear dating evidence. The examination of a flint scatter by a series of 1 x 1m squares excavated in spits in a chequerboard pattern, demonstrated that it was in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age tradition; the conclusion reached was that the scatter was not in situ and had been moved by collluvial action. The second phase, undertaken in December, was to the west of the earlier phase, although separated from it by a narrow strip of land occupied by a hedge, ditch, bridleway and bund. It had been expected that the depth of subsoil would be similar to that found to the east, in the area investigated in the summer, but this proved not to be the case. Except in the south-west corner, where subsoil lay as deep as previously found over Folkestone Beds sand, little was present. This is almost certainly because over most of the rest of the site superficial deposits blanket the natural sands as part of a solifluction lobe that had slumped down the scarp slope of the Downs in periglacial freeze-thaw conditions towards the end of the last glaciation. Very few features were found across the solifluction clays and pebble gravels, and almost all of those present lay close to the southern edge of the lobe. The only part of the site with archaeological features and tree-throw hollows was the south-west corner, where the sand had not been covered by solifluction deposits, although a few extended onto the pebbly clays. In addition to an array of tree-throw hollows revealed were six or seven small cremation pits containing burnt bone fragments, two more with charcoal-rich fills and single sherds of Bronze Age pottery, and another with a profusion of calcined flints that probably represented a hearth. One of the tree- throw hollows was distinguished by an internal feature, perhaps dug, that contained sherds from more than one Late Bronze Age jar and a few struck flints; another yielded sufficient struck and burnt flints to indicate a possible Mesolithic or Neolithic date. Another hearth pit, cut through the solifluction clay, contained a profusion of ferruginous sandstone pebbles along its base and a fill of fire-reddened clay, but no datable finds. The only linear feature found formed part of a complex of features on the solifluction clay along the southern baulk. A straight length of gully curving into the baulk at one and possibly both ends enclosed seven postholes, some of which lay on the same axis, and a charcoal-rich layer at the base of the plough-soil that also filled all the features. A few sherds of early medieval shell-tempered pottery were recovered from the layer. A remarkable absence was of the ditches and gullies of field systems that were followed through the excavations of 2005, 2009 and earlier in the year. All of those had lain east of the ditch/watercourse within the narrow strip of land separating the summer and December excavations. The western limits of that early medieval field system, therefore, which was abandoned on the emparkment of the area prior to the mid-13th century, seems to have been the watercourse. This makes it more likely to have been farmed from the 12th century settlement found at the southern edge of the area examined in 2005, and adjacent to Place Farm Lane. Kitchen Meadow, the site of the December excavations, was most probably attached to the medieval manor now occupied by Place Farm immediately west from it, but as yet no remains of that period, or of its Tudor residency by Anne of Cleves, have been recovered. The third phase in 2012 was located in the strip of land between the two areas excavated in 2011. The natural sands were found to be overlain by solifluction deposits of late glacial origin, through which one or more minor palaeochannels of Bronze Age and possibly earlier date meandered. Few features of archaeological interest were exposed. These included three small and undated features, all of which may have been tree-throw hollows, a small pit containing fire-reddened ironstone fragments, and a larger hearth pit containing large quantities of calcined flints that seem most likely to be of prehistoric, possibly Bronze Age, date. A carefully dug gully that abutted a round posthole contained a large fragment of a late 11th or early 12th century jar and sherds of other pottery vessels of the same date, as well as a possible sheep metatarsal; it is suspected that the gully may be related to some woodland craft or minor industrial activity.
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