Flodden Hill Site 3, Trenches 1,2,3 and 8 2014 - Site note: John
Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Flodden Hill Site 3, Trench 1,2,3 and 8 2014 - Site note: John
(Extract from RAF photo 4013 106G/UK taken in September 1945 showing the double ditch of site 3 in the yellow dashed circle.)
On the basis of geophysical survey (Guard) and some aerial photography (RAF 1945), eight trial trenches were initially proposed and were actually set out the day before the excavation began. It was soon clear that volunteer numbers (and their age/fitness) were insufficient to investigate all these targets, and on the first day just Trenches 2 and Trench 3 were opened, both on a reduced length. Subsequently, as volunteer numbers increased in the last few days of excavation, a 2m by 2m area of Tr.1 was opened and a 1.4m wide trench (Tr. 8) was dug across a degraded linear bank in the plantation to the east, described by Maclauchlan c.1852 as an entrenchment linking the east (Site 1) and west (Site 2) redoubts of the Scots’ camp. (Note: levels could not be related to Ordnance Datum, so depths are sometimes given as below ground level (b.g.l))
Only a 2m square area of this trench was opened, at the north end of the proposed 10m length, to investigate the depth of ploughsoil and potential survival of archaeological features.
Ploughsoil  was thin (0.23m–0.27m deep), and came down onto a stony surface in which a patch, or possibly a linear feature, filled with stones, grey-brown silty soil and lumps of redeposited natural clay  was visible. There was no further excavation.
It is possible that  represents a continuation of the south ditch of the degraded turf bank investigated in Trench 8 to the east.
Intended to be 20m by 2m, to investigate linear anomalies D and E (Guard), just half the length (the southern 10m) was de-turfed. The upper level of ploughsoil  c.0.1m deep was compact and very stony. This was mattocked off to leave a grey brown soil  (c.0.28m deep)in which patches and possible alignments of small to medium stones were visible.
Because of fluctuations in the size and capacity of the workforce it was decided to continue investigation of these possible features an a central 1m wide strip. When  was removed down onto a firm orange-brown presumably natural stony clay  only two archaeological features were revealed. Both were narrow east-west cuts, one packed with small stones  and one with a capping of pinkish-orange re-deposited natural clay . These were sectioned and found to be field drains: , which coincided with anomaly D, was a 'rumbler' c.0.7m deep. Feature  did not appear on the geophysics but contained a ceramic pipe probably of 'horse-shoe' section, at a depth of c.0.56m. Other apparent alignments of small stones within the trench were ephemeral, and probably plough-grooves.
The features were recorded and the trench closed down.
Trench 2 seen from the south showing features 11 and 18
Proposed as 12m by 2m, shortage of workforce reduced the length by 2m at the west end. The trench was laid out to investigate substantial liner geophysical anomaly ‘L’ which appeared to coincide with the inner ditch of a double-ditched rectilinear enclosure visible on aerial photographs. These may be what Maclauchlan noted as ‘the faint traces of a circular camp…there are very few traces of it now remaining, but a person who drained the field found in the soil evidence of its existence.’
The upper ploughsoil  was as stony as in Tr.2 but became softer and more loamy with depth. In order to accommodate the differing abilities of volunteer excavators, two baulks were marked out for sectional reference, and excavation continued at differing speeds and depth between these.
In the central area, at 0.28m-0.32m b.g.l, a shallow ditch-like linear feature  some 1.1m wide and running south-west to north-east emerged. This was defined by edges of compact clay soil  on the north-west and iron pan  to the south-east, where the edge appeared to turn an angle towards the south. Contained within the edges was a fill of grey-brown silty soil . Subsequently  developed into the inner edge of a larger linear feature containing , ,  and , suggesting  may have been a re-cut, or simply a result of settlement of fills within the larger feature. The only finds from  were three small fragments of Iron Age pottery.
At the west end deposits apparently tipping down to the south-east were excavated to a maximum depth of 0.80m b.g.l. These appeared to be lenses of finer silty soil  and  interleaved with more stoney deposits  and , becoming more gravelly and increasingly moist with depth. After torrential rain on the final wednesday this area became too deep and waterlogged for meaningful excavation to continue within such a narrow trench, and so was abandoned without any edges or natural being encountered. The depth and character of the deposits here suggests the fill of a substantial feature, presumably the outer ditch of the rectilinear enclosure identified by geophysics and showing on the 1945 aerial photograph.
At the north-east end of the trench, what began as the south-east edge of  continued through the central baulk, running off into the north section. Roughly parallel with this edge and some 1.6m further south-east, deposits of hard clayey silt  and soft brown silty soil  were taken off to reveal a grey-brown very moist and stony deposit  apparently filling another linear feature . As this lay close to the south side of the trench, and there was continuous water seepage from the north side, only limited examination was possible. This however revealed the north edge of a steep-sided cut which continued down below the practical limits of excavation (0.8m b.g.l) at which level standing water was encountered. Feature  may be another ditch – perhaps the inner of the two shown on the AP.
Trench 3 seen from the west showing features 5, 12, 15 and 20 partially excavated
Although identified as being of potential archaeological interest on the basis of Machlauchlan’s observations, this was not part of the proposed 2014 investigations. It was opened as an overspill area dry enough and shallow enough to accommodate volunteers after Trench 2 was completed and parts of Trench 3 became unworkable.
The degraded bank, visible running through the plantation for over 190m to the east, was found to be a slumped turf-built dyke c.1.5m wide at base, with ditches on both sides: that on the north c.0.68m wide, that on the south c.0.54m wide. The core of the bank contained small-medium stones, some of which may have been packing for a post. There was not enough time to examine this. The flanking ditches contained similar stones, probably tumble from collapse of the bank. On the south side, the ground surface from which the ditch was dug and on which the turf bank lay, was heavily flecked with charcoal. On the north side and below the bank no charcoal was visible.
There were no finds. A sample of the southern ground surface was taken for flotation of charcoal for C14 dating.
Trench 8 seen from the west showing the earthen bank and flanking ditches
Guard Archaeology. Project 3669: Flodden 500 Project Flodden Hill: Geophysical Survey. 2014.
Henry Maclauchlan, Notes on camps in Northumberland in Additional Notes not included in the memoirs already published on Roman roads in Northumberland, 1867, p.28-29.
RAF 1945. RAF vertical 4013 106G/UK.765. 3 Sep’45. F/20”/541 SQDN.
Plan showing the locations of trenches and anomalies from geophysical survey in April 2014