WHITEHALL ROMAN VILLA AND LANDSCAPE PROJECT

AN OCCASIONAL PROGRESS REPORT
of the 2012 Excavation

by Jeremy Cooper

The views expressed are Jeremy's own and the information is his own understanding - he has been known to get things wrong!

Reinstating the site (i.e. burying it!)
18th September 2012

Watch the video (on the CLASP VIMEO Channel)



This was a day to delight any small boy - and (I confess) me. Bulldozers and diggers can achieve amazing transformations of the landscape incredibly quickly, and I decided by the end of the day that I want to be bulldozer driver when I grow up.

On the other hand...

When you have spent 12 years painstakingly scraping and brushing soil from precious remains, or photographing people you admire doing this, it is a bit strange, to say the least, to see the soil pushed back over the site in just a couple of hours.

Anyway, let this be a warning to those of a nervous disposition: the following contains scenes which you may find distressing.

To begin the day there were two tasks to perform to prepare for the bulldozer:

1. a huge heap of gravel was delivered and distributed over the more delicate parts of the site.







It was touching to see the gentle care with which the pilae had been excavated used again in covering them with gravel to protect them from the weight of the soil and bulldozer, and to keep them well drained...

The heap was close to the hypocaust, but needed to be wheelbarrowed to less accessible parts of the site. Gravel, by the way, is well heavy! ...







The tessellated pavement (under the black plastic) eventually had three inches of gravel on top of it.

2. Drains were dug and improved with new, large-bore piping, to keep the site as dry as reasonably possible.




Olly as we have usually seen him, driving his small JCB with consumate skill



Victorian drain pipe sections in the foreground



In this process a section of Roman drain was uncovered on the northern edge of the site...

This has been left exposed and will be planned before this last tiny element of the dig is filled in.

A slight digression now: two of the posts along the northern edge of room 5 had been fully excavated...



The points were well shaped. These were quite substantial bits of timber!

Meanwhile, the gravel spreading was nearly done...





It was time for the bulldozer.

There was a brief pause for the time capsule to be buried. Lesley had taken charge of gathering bits and pieces to bury in a fine steel box.



There are brochures, posters, photos, videos and the web site, a coin for each year of the dig, a London 2012 memento and a brand new trowel (we reckoned a used one might pose a rust risk). There is also a message in a bottle...

Lesley put the capsule in place and it's position was surveyed for the record...

... and photos were taken...




(This one's got me in it! Thanks Nick!)

Then...



Dave Derby watches on.

But the real time-capsule burial came a bit later when Steve got back from work.

The bulldozer stopped and loomed over us...



Dave Derby, who discovered the site, put the box in place...

...and Steve covered it with gravel...

Then we took another photo...

This photo was taken at 14.47. From then on the site was cleared and left to the boys with the heavy machines: Olly (probably the most delicate digger driver in the world) drove the CAT monster, and pushed the spoil heap bit by bit back to where it had come from...



Nick brought soil from the heap round by the container and dropped it into the northern end of the site.








Having covered the site, Olly smoothed it out, using his metal monster like a hot knife on butter - quite amazing to watch...

By 17.10 this was the scene:

The spoil heap used to be right in front of me, where the grass ends and soil begins.

All gone.

By this time everyone had left apart from me, Nick, Olly and John...

Job well done.

I hear there's going to be a wake in the Spring when Steve will bring us all up to date with the latest state of knowledge about Whitehall Farm Roman villa.

I wonder what the Romano-British called it?

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