August millpond

by Dave Johnston

August 30, 2021

Another still morning, though rather cool, autumnal and overcast and with a team of 3 (COVID caution still in place), we set off from Itchenor across Chichester Harbour, which was like a millpond; the sailing boats just creeping along.

Out to sea, the millpond conditions still held as we headed to site. Today’s tasks were to have a good look around main site for any freshly-exposed artefacts, to check which of the site datum points had survived and to check the site buoy anchor chain. Shotting the site was spot on and visibility looked good as Dave and Rick headed in to find a slightly milky, 2 to 3m – very workable.

None of the batch of the on timber site datums we had installed in recent years could be located, despite them having been installed with yellow or green flexible plastic cow ear tags pinned in place with 4 inch, stainless steel, ring-eyed screws, which just goes to show how rapidly the timber must be being eaten away. Some of the other site datums were still present but their numbers were unreadable so these would also need to be replaced.

Tucked in, within the scaffolding frame (which has now been in place for 2 years and is covered in marine growth) was the base of a fairly large ceramic pot with a white salt glaze

Curiously, it was full of small wooden fragments. It was measured in and, together with its contents, was recovered.

It is possibly Bellarmine ware though it is quite large and with a wider base than many examples of Bellarmine surviving from other sites. We have seen quite a lot of earthenware pot fragments of various sizes on site, but little of this white-glazed material excepting a small, intact pot recovered some years ago, which lacked the typical decoration of Bellarmine ware, which is also more obviously grey than brown. Clearly, more research is needed.

What is more alarming is the fact that this had clearly been exposed since our last visit, suggesting a scouring out of at least 10cm in a few weeks.

We also located the 3 tent pegs installed into the clay just in front of the beak a few weeks ago. All were still firmly in place, although the yellow plastic one slightly less so as it could be wobbled a little bit.

When installed, the clay around the location had been cleared, but they took some finding as seabed movements had nearly covered them with small rocks and clay fragments.

A second dive on the main site located one, more recently installed, cow tag found by Iain, (we don’t call him Hawkeye for nothing). He also confirmed that the northernmost section of the cannonball pile, physically separate from the main pile, appeared to have shifted west. The timbers on both East and West sides of the site have both been scoured out considerably.

A final dive checked the ground chain of the site buoy, all good. With that, we headed back for tea and cake.

Next week will see some new potential volunteers back on site as part of the Historic England funded licensee succession project which was postponed last year due to COVID. There will be plenty for them to do, installing a new set of datums and measuring them in. Fingers crossed that the weather and visibility hold.