Initial Archaeology

A key activity of the conservation project is initial archaeology. This will identify, examine and build upon the published results of previous archaeology.

Objectives of initial archaeology

The objectives of initial archaeology are:

  • To determine the layout and key features of the abbey complex; and
  • To determine the archaeological potential of the site.

Research questions

This work will seek to answer some particular research questions. Some possible research are detailed below:

  • Nave: Identify the location of key features including the location of columns, the western wall of the church, burial sites and side-chapels.
  • Nave: Identify evidence of previous Anglo-Saxon structures. David Cox notes that: “If there were Anglo-Saxon structures on the site of the intended nave [of Abbot Walter, 1078-1104], the line of its outer foundations may have been positioned to avoid them while they were still in use.”[1]
  • Nave: Identify the location of the great western entrance. The Rudge excavations (in previous archaeology) identified “the supposed site of the west entrance” as its actual situation could not be ascertained.[2]
  • Nave/Cloister: Identify the location of doors leading from the nave into the cloisters. David Cox notes: “In the early 14th century, the Palm Sunday procession passed out of the liturgical choir, through the east, south and west walks of the cloister, and back into the church, which suggests that there was a doorway from the west cloister as usual.”[3]
  • Cloisters: Identify the location of the “great wash place in the cloister” (lavatorium).[4]
  • Cloisters: Determine the size, scale and features of the cloisters.
  • Abbey site: Identify the location, size and probable function of structures on the south and west of the cloisters. These areas have not be subject to any detailed archaeological investigation; and were largely ignored in previous archaeology.

This list is not intended to be comprehensive but is, instead, a list of research questions identified to date. Further questions are likely to be identified during the desk-based assessment and archive research.

Outcomes

This initial archaeology activity addresses the following outcomes:

  • Heritage will be better interpreted and explained
  • Heritage will be identified/recorded
  • People will have volunteered time

This activity, through detailed surveys and assessment, will mean that the site of Evesham Abbey will be better understood, the details and layout of the site better identified, and key aspects and features better recorded. The results of the initial archaeology will be shared through a series of tasks detailed with the engagement activity.

Overview of tasks

This activity comprises the following specific tasks:

  • Archive research;
  • Desk-based assessment; and
  • Field walking and geo-phys surveys.

This work, overseen by the project manager, will be led by a professional archaeologist supported by paid staff, students and volunteers. There are a number of local organisations interested and engaged in local archaeology, including:

This research and surveys will look more widely than the immediate abbey site. The proposed scope of this work is based on the presumed boundaries of the Anglo-Saxon minster (per David Cox); as illustrated below:

Permissions

The abbey site is within a scheduled ancient monument so Scheduled Monument Consent (SMC) will be required.

Archive research

This will involve the close examination of archive materials and documentation, including the results of previous archaeology. Details of some of these excavations are held by the Vale of Evesham Historical Society (who undertook archaeological digs in the 1970s and earlier) while other information will be held in various archives including the Hive at Worcester. These materials will help identify features and structures which might then be located on the ground through archaeological surveys.

Work on the abbey was recently published by David Cox (one or our patrons) in the article ‘Evesham Abbey – The Romanesque Church‘. This provides an excellent starting point for these researches. David Cox is an adviser to the trust.

Desk-based assessment

Undertake an archaeological desk-based assessment followed by on-site archaeological investigations. Hal Dalwood has noted that: “The site of the abbey, although little survives above ground, is clearly of very high archaeological potential… There is high potential for the survival of important buried remains relating to the pre-conquest monastic precinct and its churches.”[5]

Field walking and geo-physical surveys

The layout and key features will be determined using non-invasive surveying techniques including field walking, photographic recording, and geophys.

The results of previous survey work is available for consultation; including the results of Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR). This work is available from the Archaeology and Archive Service of Worcestershire County Council. It might also be possible to undertake “test pits” on selected areas to better understand features identified during this survey work.

Management structure

The figure below shows the management structure for the initial archaeology:

Footnotes

[1]        D.C. Cox, ‘Evesham Abbey: The Romanesque Church’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association (JBAA), vol. 163 (2010), p.49 and p.55 (pp.24-71).

[2]        D.C. Cox (2010), ibid., p.56.

[3]        D.C. Cox (2010), ibid., p.51.

[4]        J. Sayers and L. Watkiss (ed. and trans.), Thomas of Marlborough, History of the Abbey of Evesham, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p.495 (item 525).

[5]         Dalwood, H., ‘Archaeological assessment of Evesham, Hereford and Worcester’, part of the Central Marches Historic Towns Survey (1996), pp.16-17.

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