Springs, Pubs and a Mystery Feature...

As the week draws to a close, our students are working hard in the trench, and today have been focused on a mystery feature. Round and surrounded by pitched stones, this feature appears to have a drain leading out of it. The feature is in the lower right corner of the trench, cutting through the end of a wall that is most-likely Norman in date, which runs perpendicular to High Street. The wall is thought to be the gable end of a building that would have fronted on to High Street.

The mystery feature.
Currently, we are unsure of what the circular stone feature is, but there are several theories floating around the trench. The drain indicates that this may be some kind of spring, well or water feature. This area of Berkeley is home to multiple natural springs, which in previous years have opened and sent rivets of water pouring down the trench in our absence. These springs may be the reason so many pubs and inn's have been recorded along the High Street. Known pubs on this street include the White Lion Inn, the Swan Inn, the White Hart Hotel and the Bear Inn. These pubs harnessed the natural springs by placing wells in their gardens, which can still be seen in the back gardens of houses on the High Street today. The pubs then used the springs to brew their own beer on site.

Our mystery feature may have been a similar well, associated with the Tudor pub we unearthed nearby in the trench called the Crown Inn. Although this is unlikely as the feature seems to be of pre-14th century date, so earlier than the Crown Inn.
The old High Street, featuring the White Lion and the Swan Inn
(Photo via Bob Osborn)
Instead, dig supervisor Siรขn Thomas believes this to be the capping for a natural spring, possibly used to provide drinking water to the houses surrounding the site. Bizarrely, the drain runs in the opposite direction to the natural slope of the hill, keeping the spring water in this area rather than letting it drain down the hill as other drains in the trench do. This corner of the trench is obviously the site of a spring, as several of the buildings are equipped with drains and the clay is visibly wet. Below the Norman wall a stone lined drain is visible that may have been used to drain water away from the wall.
The bread oven further up in the trench
Another theory is that it is the remains of a corn drier, kiln or bread oven, similar to one excavated several years ago further up the trench. It's round shape may support it being a corn drier and what we assume is a drain could actually be a flue. However, this is also unlikely, as so far we have found no signs of burning around the feature, which would be present if it been heated to high temperatures. Once students have finished drawing a plan of the feature, they will begin to half-section it, and will hopefully find more answers as to what, and how old, it is.

-Hattie Ford