WAHS DIG REPORT
Part 1: Setting the scene
Waltham Abbey Historical Society has now concluded
the main phase of its archaeological dig at the Abbey Gardens,
under the leadership of our member Peter Huggins. We
worked from July 12th
to 20th, as part of National Archaeology Week.
Excavation then continued on odd days until 30th July, but the
hot weather defeated us,
so we will resume work in September. What follows
below is, therefore, only an interim report, as we have so far only partially
been able to fulfill the tasks we set out to complete.
Part of a WAHS survey of the abbey complex.
Our work was in the green area - note the incomplete building outlines
here, reflecting limited current knowledge.
dig took place in the Abbey Mead, to the north of the church by the Ancestor
statue. A surprisingly high number of members turned out to help during the
week; we also had invaluable help from two members of
Society - as they were conducting their own archaeological dig as part of
National Archaeology Week, their time was greatly appreciated. A
report of their own work is available online.
The Abbey Mead is one of the
least explored parts of the Abbey Gardens, and understanding how it fitted in to
the monastic complex overall would be very valuable. We knew that the abbey
infirmary was here, and a chapel was recently discovered next to it, but so far
we have only very sketchy ideas of how both were laid out.
As Peter explains in his Report,
the infirmary was first excavated in 1972. In 2003, whilst two new picnic
tables were being installed, workmen reported hitting stonework in their trenches,
and WAHS was called in to undertake a salvage excavation.
All these digs are shown in mid-blue on this plan.
What was discovered by
these two exercises were the remains of a
north-south as shown in light blue on this plan (marked A),
consisting of a central aisle with side aisles, and a roof supported on two rows
of pillars, each with its own stone foundation (shown as squares;
one is also clearly visible in this photo of Trench A in 2003). The
aisles and part of the nave were found to be divided up to form
small rooms, each with its own fireplace and
space for a bed.
In 1978, another dig was
carried out just to the south of the infirmary (at the
lower end of the plan). An apsidal-ended chapel (marked B on
the plan) was discovered. We know from old records that
it was dedicated in 1188, which helps to date the
infirmary to the initial phase of the abbey's construction.
But, as often seems the
case, these excavations have
left us with more questions than answers, and part of our aim this year was to
try to answer some of those questions, in the trenches
coloured deep blue. Needless to say, we have ended up once again with yet
more questions, and precious few answers!
One of our main aims this year was to find out
whether the infirmary directly connected with the
chapel, as is normal at other monastic sites. For this to be so, the infirmary
would have to be one bay longer than expected, and the
chapel would have to have a northern aisle next to its central area. The plan
shows this theoretical north aisle, mirroring a
southern aisle which had been broadly identified from a "line of ephemeral
foundations" in the 1978 dig.
Read the official report by Peter Huggins...
Go to Part 2...
Enfield Archaeological Society, NAW dig report
The Abbey Gardens
For More Information please