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Part 2: What we found

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.

However, our investigations have now shown that the infirmary and chapel did not connect directly. The infirmary ends one bay shorter than hoped for and, as peter says, "the supposed northern aisle... has not been found. Rather there is a much wider 'northern element' to the chapel, even wider than the central vessel." Peter goes on to report that we found a 'connecting compartment' inside the 'northern element', linking the chapel to the infirmary.

We hope to continue our investigations into this 'northern element', and to locate the western end of the chapel.

Some of the objects we found this year include a penny dated 1699, part of a decorated monastic floor tile, and a chevronned voussoir, or part of an arch from one of the abbey's arcades that were destroyed at the Dissolution; its design tells us that these arches would have matched those that still survive in the present Abbey Church.

As well as the inverted V carved into the face of the stone, which would form one part of the arch's distinctive zig-zag decoration, there are also regular cut-marks on the sides of the stone, showing how the less important faces that would be hidden from view after construction, were roughly trimmed to shape with an axe.

It is not known whether this particular voussoir is a survival from the Dissolution, or if it was a cast-off rejected during the construction of the abbey in 1177. We found it rammed firmly into a 'cobbled' farmyard surface, mostly made out of rubble.

We also found that the south-east corner of the infirmary had been rebuilt after having been damaged by fire. The original ground wall of mortared stone and chalk had been re-built using the distinctly large 'Waltham Great Bricks' which can seen in many parts of the Abbey Garden walls. These bricks are only a little younger than Coggeshall bricks, which they strongly resemble in dimension, and which are widely believed to be the earliest post-Roman bricks made in this country. It is recorded in old documents that the infirmary was hit by lightning at one time - could this have been the cause of the fire mentioned above?

Another main feature that we found is a track or roadway, running diagonally south-eastwards over the site of the chapel (in yellow on the plan). This track would have been laid to take the weight of heavily-laden wagons, probably carrying building materials, Peter thinks, either to or from the monastic site.

Peter, measuring some Waltham Great Bricks.

The track was first seen in the 1978 dig; locating it once again this year has enabled us to confirm its location, although it would be helpful to identify its purpose more accurately.


Read the official report by Peter Huggins...

Return to Part 1...


Some Links:

Coggeshall Museum: article on Coggeshall Bricks

National Archaeology Week

The Abbey Gardens

For More Information please Contact WAHS





Copyright Waltham Abbey Historical Society, 2007.