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The Strip

Excavated July 2010 and situated adjacent to Christchurch Paddock which was excavated June 2010. Pasture field used for cattle grazing close to centre of Great Bowden.  

 The most striking features of this paddock are the two brick pillared gateposts with pyramidal stone caps and ball finials (Historic Environment Record - MLE14942).  These date from the 17th century although the brickwork has been recently restored. There are very similar gateposts on the approach to Rectory House in Sutton Road and also next to the church and forming the boundary wall to 2 Sutton Road. This was formerly the site of the Rectory House stables.

A “coursed ironstone wall with tile coping”(HER) lies between the south-west gatepost and the Village Hall.  There are signs that this wall may have extended further south before the hall was built. The eastern gate pier has about a metre of the wall remaining before it abruptly ends and is replaced by a boundary hedge of Leylandii trees. The direction of this short piece of wall suggests it originally bordered Dingley Road although there is no sign of it further along. 

The existence of these gateposts and the various boundary walls suggest that in the past this was a paddock of some significance and may have been associated with the Rectory at Great Bowden.

Searching for the Barn

Nineteenth century maps indicate that the paddock was occupied by a large building occupying most of its width.   As no garden area is shown on the maps this was probably a barn with a short piece of wall completing the bisection of the paddock. Nothing remains visible above ground and it was the foundations of this barn that the excavation hoped to discover.  It is not clear from the maps whether the barn’s main access was from the West, through the brick gateposts or from the East via Christchurch paddock.
Seven pits were dug during the weekend and a metal detecting survey carried out.

The
finds from this site were almost all post medieval and some pottery and other finds were probably deposited after the barn was demolished.  The Heritage Group hope to be able to carry out a resistivity meter survey of this area in the future although some building outlines may be obscured by the amount of demolition material present. 
 
The excavation grid was set out to cover the area of the former building as accurately as possible.  The two 19th century maps to which we had access showed the barn in slightly different positions.  Both maps showed the paddock cut into two and on the earlier one it seems that the barn was in the eastern section with possibly no access through the brick gateposts on The Green.

The stone  foundations found would appear to relate to the barn shown on the 1891 map.  The large quantity of ceramic tile and brick debris suggests that this barn was brick built and probably with a tile roof.  The barn or other building shown the earlier 1843 estate map may have been a different building and the earlier date suggests it could have been of mud and thatch construction, the predominant construction material at the time, similar to the mud barn still in existence in Sutton Road, Great Bowden.  However the brick works in Bowden started around 1811 and so local bricks would have been available for construction perhaps for higher status buildings such as houses but not for barns. The floor or yard surface at the eastern end of the gridded site was of a rougher nature to the neater cobbled surfaces unearthed at the western side of the site and could be from a different building. If there were mud walls and thatched roofs they would have decayed into the ground leaving no evidence behind.

It is tempting to think that this paddock enclosed by walls and with imposing gateposts could have housed the tithe barn in Great Bowden.  Similar gateposts suggest that this paddock was in the ownership of The Rectory when the gateposts were constructed.  However later documents from the 18th century onwards and during the period when tithes were still collected give the ownership elsewhere.

The site was opened to the public for one day during the Festival of British Archaeology with hands on archaeology appreciated particularly by the children who came.