Unearthing Shakespeare – Part 8

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During the 2010 excavations, three trenches were excavated across the site.

The first was excavated at the frontage and exposed the remains of the cellar and house foundations. These foundations dated primarily to the 18th century (1702). There were however foundations surviving from Shakespeare’s house, made up of local Wilmcote limestone. Other building materials recovered from the backfill layers, confirm the early house had a high status clay tile roof, sourced from workshops in the Malverns, substantial amounts of tudor brick and stone floor tiles were also recovered.

A second trench was excavated in the back-plot area (within the Knot Garden) and exposed post-holes, rubbish pits, quarry pits, cess pits, a possible oven, a lime- burning pit and a brick- built storage pit, all dating from the 14th to 19th century (see additional blog post).

The final trench was along the side of the plot towards the frontage. Various foundations and stone platforms were exposed, all dating to the primary construction of the house in the later 15th century. These are most probably part of the service range of buildings built in c.1483, the platforms may have been used as oven bases or for supporting brewing vats.

The artefact assemblage has been used to embellish the known history of the site and inform us of its occupants. A range of different types of animals were being used and eaten (meat from cattle, sheep, pigs, geese and chickens; venison, rabbit, wild birds, salt and freshwater fish were included in the diet in the earlier and later post-medieval periods).

The range of pottery was both varied and at times high status, there were imports from places such as Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and as far away as Germany. The earliest clay pipes found were from the 1650s-1680’s period. The buttons, beads, and pins etc, all provided clues to the type of clothing being worn. There was also evidence of various crafts being undertaken on site such as bone working (offcuts, buttons) and textile working (thimble, pins).

Features and artefacts dating from 1500-1700, which could conceivably have belonged to Shakespeare and/ or his descendants, have been identified. The majority of these were identified in the Knot Garden. Artefacts dating to this period included pottery, a rowel spur, a belt mount, cribbage peg and pins. All of these are personal items which suggest the types of clothing being worn, and pastimes being undertaken.

And now ‘Dig for Shakespeare’ continues….

You can find more images and information about the project here.

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Will Mitchell is Archaeology Supervisor for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and lead archaeologist on 'Dig for Shakespeare.'

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