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Knights End Close, Great Bowden, 2012

History:  The field (in this report referred to as Knights End Close)  is long term pasture currently being grazed by cattle. Knights End is one of the several outlying settlement areas around the central core of Great Bowden (MLE9021) creating a polyfocal settlement pattern.

There is no written evidence found before 1750s, however, from medieval times onwards, documents do refer to hedges and hedge furlongs in this immediate area. The survey of the open fields recently translated by Great Bowden Heritage - Furlong & Furrow, dates from the 1330s and has a reference in the second part of the document to Est Hegsfurlonge in part of the Rector's land.  Several old pre enclosure hedges still

exist in the near vicinity of Knight End Close which retain the wide curving hedge lines and many species indicactive of old pre enclosure hedges.  The close would therefore appear to have always been within the medieval settlement and not part of the open fields. See Hedge Survey.

The Leicestershire Historic Environment Record lists possible medieval house platforms in this field (MLE1953). The only major earthworks visible without a geophysical survey are the mounds and ditches in the south-east corner of the field.  The exploration of these earthworks and their composition and origin was one of the primary tasks of the excavation.

Method 
 

An archaeological drawing was made of the main earthworks area in the south-east of the field (illustrated). Eight pits were dug at various points within the paddock including on the top of the earthworks and in the main ditch.  A metal detecting survey was also carried out.

Pits on the earthwork banks and in the ditch produced only a few modern finds.

Ditches elsewhere in the paddock produced finds including some worked flint but mostly medieval sherds with a few early medieval, and the area to the north of the field where the ridge and furrow is visible produced only post medieval material.




Most of the metal detecting finds were modern. Several Georgian halfpennies were found and the 19th century livery button (illustrated) dropped by a retainer of Henry Hungerford Holdich
Hungerford who resided at Dingley Park and was High Sherriff of Leicestershire in 1828.  It clearly shows the crests and mottos of the Hungerford and Holdich families. 

Conclusion

Without the aid of large-scale topsoil removal or a geo phys survey we were fortunate to find two places where there had been a medieval rubbish pit or trench. No doubt there are many more of these within the field. The discovery of two of these pits does confirm that most of this field was within the medieval village boundary and not part of the open field system.

It was unfortunate that bad weather curtailed further work in the area to the north of the field where ridge and furrow is still visible on aerial photographs.  One sherd of glazed red earthenware suggests but does not prove that this area was under ridge and furrow cultivation until Enclosure.

The area of earthworks in the south-east of the field does not appear to be the remains of medieval house platforms. The complete lack of finds suggests that these mounds are in fact debris from ditch digging, possibly at or post Enclosure from areas that had not been
under ridge and furrow cultivation.  If the mounds had been the remains of collapsed mud buildings there would probably have been ceramic evidence or stone foundation stones in some places.

We hope that through this investigation we have established a more accurate history of the earthworks area comprising approximately 1 rood. Before it was added to the field at Enclosure it was most likely part of the open field system.  It appears to be a continuation ofwhat is possibly a headland of the ridge and furrow field that drops down to Dingley Road to the east.  There is evidence of this headland to the south of Knights End Close, visible on the aerial photograph and on the ground and also on the ground in the field to the north-east beyond where the ditch intersects the eastern hedge. This small area appears to lie east of the original Knights End Close boundary.  The main ditch may have formed the settlement boundary with a hedge and continues in a line southwards edging the adjacent field. The mound on the east of the earthworks may be the result of ditch digging at the new, post Enclosure boundary. 

However, the small section excavated in the main ditch contained no early dating material and very little organic matter, suggesting that the ditch had been deepened more recently.  Unfortunately due to the waterloggged nature of the ditch towards the north, further excavation was impossible.