Access Cambridge Archaeology, on behalf
of the HLF-funded Managing a
Masterpiece scheme, is running a two-week public programme of community
archaeological excavation, test pitting and survey on and around Mount
Bures Castle between the 8th and 19th of August 2011.
The community excavations will take place on and around the summit of
Mount Bures Castle and archaeological survey and test-pitting will take
place in properties in the vicinity of the monument and in the wider context
of the historic parish of Mount Bures, to explore its context and the
development of settlement around it.
The excavations will be directed by Carenza Lewis, well known from Channel
4's Time Team and BBC's Story of England.
A major aim of the excavations it to give
members of the public, especially those living in this part of the Stour
Valley, a chance to experience the interest and enjoyment of taking part
in an archaeological excavation on an important site in their midst, and
members of the public are warmly invited to apply to take part in these
The objectives of the
excavations at Mount Bures:
To find out more about the mysterious
medieval castle of Mount Bures, for which there are no historical records,
by providing a rare opportunity to investigate the archaeology of Mount
Bures castle and its environs through excavation on top of and around
the motte and by survey and test-pitting in properties in the vicinity
of the monument.
To provide the opportunity for a minimum of 30 volunteers to learn
new practical and analytical archaeological skills.
To provide 300 person-days of hands-on archaeological training
To support and engage with members
of local communities through involvement with the project
Mount Bures Castle is a Scheduled Monument of national importance
(Essex 20674) and is listed in Essex County Council's Historic Environment
Record as site 9161 (OS sheet TL93 SW). It is a medieval motte situated
adjacent to St John's Church, on high ground overlooking the valley of
Cambridge Brook, a tributary stream of the River Stour.
There is no medieval documentary evidence for the castle, which
is therefore (and on morphological grounds) likely to be a construction
of 11th or 12th century date. If of 11th century date it is most likely
to have been built soon after the Norman Conquest on the orders of the
new Norman lord of the manor, Roger of Poitou. If of 12th century date,
it is most likely to be one of thousands constructed during the 1135-54
period of anarchy between Stephen and Matilda and subsequently demilitarized
on the orders of Henry II.
The steep-sided motte survives as an earthwork c.10m high and 61m
in diameter at the base surrounded by a ditch c.3.5m deep and between
10m and 12m wide. The summit of the motte is 16m in diameter. Even allowing
for erosion, this is very compact and would only have afforded room for
a defensive tower, a circular stockade and a rather narrow walkway in
between. Two large holes in the summit represent unrecorded excavations
from the 19th and 20th centuries.
There is very little evidence of an associated bailey. Believed
to lie to the south, traces of a bank, reputedly visible in 1960, followed
the western line of the graveyard of St John's Church. It is however,
no longer visible at ground level, having been overlain by development.
To the south west of the motte, a rectangular shaped area of earthworks
has been partially excavated, however, excavations failed to determine
their precise nature or function and their relationship to the motte is
at present undetermined. Possible interpretations link the earthworks
to the remains of a terraced garden for the adjacent Hall, although they
could be the results of ploughing within an old enclosed horse pasture.
The nearby church dates from the early 12th century and could have
been built within the bailey enclosure.
What Archaeological investigations will be taking place at Mount Bures?
An open-area archaeological trench on the top of the castle motte
will seek to locate and identify any built structures on top of the motte.
The excavation will be carried out by members of the public under instruction
and supervision of professional archaeologists from ACA. 20 members of
the public will be on the Mount Bures site at any one time.
Depending on the results of the excavations on the motte, another
trench may also be excavated within the motte ditch. This will seek to
identify the date and nature of any revetments used to the support the
motte and to look at the deposits which have built up in the ditch, which
may be expected to include finds from the medieval use of the motte as
a castle, and from later periods. Evidence for earlier, pre-castle use
of the site may also be revealed.
Again, depending on the results
of excavations on the motte and in the ditch, a third trench may be sited
beyond the limits of the scheduled ancient monument to look for evidence
of any bailey which might have accompanied the motte.
Ten 1m2 test pits will also be excavated in the open land and private
gardens around the motte to try and the date and characterise historic
activity and establish if and where a bailey was present. These will be
carried out by members of the public working independently with instruction
and supervision as necessary provided by professional archaeologists from
ACA. They will thus be able to apply the excavation skills they have learned
on the open-area excavation to an independent test pit excavation. 20
members of the public will be involved in these excavations each week.
A programme of archaeological survey involving field investigation,
contour survey and earthwork survey will be carried out by members of
the public under instruction from a member of the ACA archaeological team,
with the specific aim of looking for evidence of any bailey which might
have accompanied the motte.
Each week, up to 40 members of the public will be able to take
part, rotating their involvement between open area excavation, test pit
excavation and fieldwork in order to learn a wide range of archaeological
skills. Individuals will take part for either the first week of the second
week, thus providing 80 hands-on places on the project in total.
English Heritage are supportive of the aims of this excavation,
and it will thus provide a rare opportunity to take part in an excavation
on a medieval motte, which are only exceptionally available for excavation
due to their protected status as scheduled ancient monuments, indicative
of their importance and rarity
of the "Managing a Masterpiece" web site