WAHS DIG REPORT
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
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
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...
Coggeshall Museum: article on Coggeshall Bricks
The Abbey Gardens
For More Information please