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Wisbech Library, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

Phillips, Tom (2008) Wisbech Library, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Between 14th and 22nd of July 2008 Oxford Archaeology East (formerly CAMARC, Cambridgeshire County Council) conducted an evaluation at Wisbech Library, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Due to the size of the plot (9m x 8m) it was only possible to open a 4m x 3m trench. The location of the site, in the historic core of Wisbech, between the 11th century castle and the 12th century church, meant there was a high probability of deep buried remains. This proved to be the case; 3m of archaeological deposits were encountered. The earliest activity consisted of a ditch/terrace, 34, dating to the early medieval period, possibly relating to the castle moat. It may have been part of the original moat itself or had an associated function such as a terrace, lowering the ground between the castle defences and the moat. This interpretation is based on the belief that ground level at the time of construction of the original castle in the 11th century would have been higher than 2.35m OD, the approximate level of natural silt encountered in the trench. Also, the fills of this feature had the appearance of infill within a large feature, rather than the gradual build up of occupation layers expected in the middle of a medieval town. The size of the trench makes it impossible to estimate the proportions or shape of the feature.
Feature 34 was truncated by 33, which appeared to be a later phase of castle ground work. The fills of feature 33 dated to the late medieval period. Overlying the medieval remains were approximately 1.5m of post-medieval deposits including a mortar construction surface (17) and two phases of brick-built wall (3 and 27), the later lying directly over the earlier, orientated west-northwest to east-southeast. The wall ran across the trench and the interior was clearly to the north as it had been backfilled with modern debris. The 1853 Board of Health map (Wisbech Museum) clearly shows a wall at this location. Later maps show the area to be part of the Baptist Church which stood on the site prior to the library.
Despite such a small trench the findings are significant in enhancing our understanding of the development of Wisbech castle. Although a 1794 plan of the castle exists, this only shows the castle as it existed at the end of the 18th century, prior to the development of the area in to its current form. The design and layout of the Norman castle, reputedly destroyed during a devastating flood of 1236, is unknown. Therefore the current evaluation adds to our knowledge, even though definite conclusions cannot be drawn.

Item Type: Client Report
Additional Information: archaeological evaluation
Subjects: Primary Archives
Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cambridgeshire
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology East
Depositing User: Chris Faine
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2014 09:50
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2014 09:50
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/1829

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