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Exeter College Library Project, Oxford Archaeological Watching Brief Report

Kennard, Elizabeth Exeter College Library Project, Oxford Archaeological Watching Brief Report. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Oxford Archaeology (OA) was commissioned by Donald Insall Associates to
undertake an archaeological watching brief at Exeter College Library henceforth
known as the ‘site’ and is centered on SP 5150 0639.
The site contains the Exeter College Library, a Grade II* listed building, which was
built by Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. The building is arranged in an L‐shape in
plan, and is made up of a two storey range known as the Library, orientated eastwest
which is joined on the northern elevation at its eastern end by a single storey
range known as the Annex (orientated north‐south). The floor level in the Annex is
0.71m below that of the Library.
A total of six test pits located across the site were hand‐excavated to depths ranging
between 1m to 1.30m below ground level). Test Pits 1, 3, 6 and 7 were located within
the Annex, Test Pit 3 was located within the eastern extent of the Library. Test Pit 4
was in the external alley between the Annex and the Bodleian’s Convocation House
and Test pit 5 was located within the Rector’s garden along the west facing elevation
of the Annex. Several test pits were also hand‐augured to retrieve information about
deposits below the limits of the hand‐excavations. Test Pit 2, located within the
Annex building against the eastern wall, had to be abandoned.
Archaeology was encountered between 0.15m and 0.40m below ground level within
all excavated test pits. Terrace Gravel geology was only encountered in one auger
hole in Test Pit 6 at 61.84mOD. Although the loess deposits, usually encountered
immediately overlying the natural gravels on the Oxford promontory, were not
observed in this location the gravels did not appear to be truncated, except by
general digging over of the ground, and therefore probably indicates the level of
such deposits across the site. In other test pits archaeological deposits were
observed within hand‐auger holes to extend below this level, and this is thought to
indicate the presence of ‘cut features’ of archaeological origin, such as pits (probably
medieval or potentially Post‐medieval).
The gravels were overlain by homogenous deposits of humic garden soils, and such
deposits were observed in all test pits, bar Test Pit 7 where fills were observed
instead. Some yielded medieval dating evidence and recorded an upper horizon of
63.28mOD within the footprint of the current buildings, 63.60mOD in the Rector’s
garden, and 63.35mOD in the external alley between the Annex and Convocation
House. In some test pits these were overlain by post‐medieval garden soils.
The medieval archaeology encountered consisted of possible fills of cut features in
Test Pits 3 and 7 and garden soils. Structural deposits and features were present
within Test Pits 1, 5, and 6, and consisted of a thin mortar surface and potential
limestone walls which were overlain by medieval garden soils within the footprint of
the building and Post‐medieval archaeology in Test Pit 5 in the Rector’s garden.
Post‐medieval archaeology consisted of the limestone foundations of the existing
structures (and associated construction cuts), part of a N/S limestone wall and
mortar surface in the southern end of site, likely relating to the previous library
building dating 1664 ‐ 1778, as well as garden soils and demolition/construction
deposits within the northern areas of the site. Test Pit 5 also contained a wellpreserved
cobbled surface with an overlying heavily compacted gravel surface.
Two individual pieces of disarticulated human bone were recovered. One from the
backfill of the construction cut for the Annex (Test Pit 5, context 504), and the other
within garden soil 311 recorded within Test Pit 3 in the Library. This indicates the
disturbance of inhumations probably from a nearby cemetery, which would have
been associated with the original 1326 Exeter College chapel which was located just
to the north of the Annex, if not under the Annex itself.
Also, of note was an unusually thick flat tile recovered from post‐medieval deposit 602,
which may be a reused Roman item, or an unusual type of post‐medieval ceramic
building material. Although Roman archaeology has been recorded in the area it is still
rare so this could potentially be a relatively significant find.
Although the full depth of the Library and Annex foundations were not seen it is
anticipated that they would extend into the load‐bearing natural gravel geology at
61.84mOD and perhaps deeper where the fills of archaeological features would
have created ‘soft‐spots’.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Oxfordshire
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Fieldwork
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2021 11:58
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2021 11:58
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6162

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