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Mud Barn Paddock, Great Bowden,
25th - 26th July 2009
 
This excavation was one of the six mini digs undertaken during the Festival of British Archaeology in 2009.
 
History of the site: The small paddock in which the mud barn stands was once part of the farm in the centre of the village.  A building appears on this site on maps from the early 19th century, although there is no documentary evidence for a dwelling on the site in the past.  The barn was used until the 1960s probably for milking as pencil markings on the whitewashed walls show milk yields from named cows.  It is part of a large area defined by existing roads and tracks as the likely, although unproven, site for the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Royal manor enclosure in Great Bowden.  Henry VIII gave this land to Christchurch, Oxford in 1546 and it remained in their ownership until 1926 when it was finally sold.
 
Method:  A test pit 1 metre square was dug. At a depth of about 30 cms  a layer of stones and ceramic fragments in soil with a high organic content was uncovered.  The most likely explanation for this was a yard around the barn when it was in use agriculturally.
 
At a depth of 1 metre a stone floor was discovered covering the whole pit base.  Unfortunately there was no dateable ceramic found in association with this feature.  There was, however, part of a small horseshoe and a fragment of copper sheeting.  It was not possible to extend the pit in the time allowed and without mechanical help.
 

Observation: There is a possibility that the stone surface found is the floor of Great Bowden’s tithe barn.  The tithe barn would have been within the manor enclosure and may have been demolished once the fields were enclosed and tithes no longer collected.  In Little Bowden the tithe barn was demolished and a new barn erected. The existing mud barn may date from the mid 19th century when mud was used extensively in the village for building. It may be the replacement of an earlier building.  The pit was remarkably dry even at a metre depth, unusual in this part of the village where cellars were known to flood and the paddock to the north of the excavation is also very damp.
 
In 2011 the University of Leicester Archaeological Services carried out an evaluation of land to the north of the paddock at the old Fernie Hunt stables site.  They concluded that the land on their site had been built up in the past, presumably to avoid flooding, and this raised level may also apply to the mud barn paddock.  There is a planning application approved for a dwelling on the mud barn paddock and we hope that our investigation will ensure that adequate archaeological evaluation is done before any building takes place.