Continue Creating at Syon ParkJune 28, 2012 About my museum job, Adult events at our Museums, Archaeology, Blogs, Community, Late:Create, Learning, Syon Park Excavation
This week Continue Creating broke from the routine of doing a workshop at Museum of London and took part in the archaelogical dig to find Little Syon. ‘Little Syon’ sat in the grounds of Syon Park, Brentford. The house was built in c. 1592 by George Watson. The house changed hands a number of times and was eventually bought in 1818 by Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland, and incorporated into Syon Park. It was demolished as part of the landscape renovations commissioned by the Duke but archive records suggest it was still standing in 1820, suggesting a demolition date in the early 1820’s. The excavation is the first time the site’s archaeological will be explored.
The session started with a very interesting talk from Kath, about the history of the site and what the archaelogists were hoping to find. We learnt about Syon during the Roman period, through the Battle (or skirmish) of Brentford in 1642, right up to the C19th. Then we were taught how to dig. Over the course of 30 minutes, 8 willing volunteers scraped carefully away at the earth in the hope that it might yield some of its secrets.
A key part of the archaelogical process is ‘Finds washing’, literally washing what you have found. So with a bowl of clean water, a toothbrush and a gentle hand, the group set to work.
Once celan, we could really see what we had found.
In this tray you can see a number of things. There is an oyster shell, which Dan explained was, unlike today, the fast food of Roman times. Then, it was plentiful, cheap and delivered in throw away packaging (the shell!) You can also see pieces of glassware. Kate told us that the clear galss may have formed a vessel that carried ointment/beauty product and the green a wine bottle. The green glass had a sprawling iridescent stain on it, which may not be visible in the photograph, but was caused by soil staining over the years. There are also pieces of brick and roof tile and you can tell where someone had been guilty of shoddy workmanship. A grey seem running through the centre of the piece shows that it was not fired enough. The clay remained grey rather than turning red.
Two finds attracted particular attention. The first was this piece of Victorian crockery, probably a serving plate used for day to day eating, rather than special events.
The second, what Kate referred to as the ’star find’, was this piece of ‘Poppy ware’, so called because of the black dots across it, which look like Poppy seeds. It is Roman, making it over 2,000 years old, and was almost certainly made in Highgate, North London, where the Romans produced a lot of Poppy ware. The Poppy seed pattern is not only decorative but as the circles are slightly raised, helps the user to grip it. This piece was probably part of a bowl.
After the visit, on the mini-bus on back to London Wall , everyone agreed that they had had a great afternoon. A massive thank you to the whole team who made it possible. Andrew did point out though that someone needs to be more careful with their pots because they are all broken!