Animal bones and old coins discovered in woodland dig in Backwell

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 June 2018

Volunteers hard at work. Picture: Peter Speight

Volunteers hard at work. Picture: Peter Speight

Peter Speight

The excavation of an old cottage in Backwell has resulted in a series of unusual and interesting finds.

Visitors on the open day. Picture: Peter SpeightVisitors on the open day. Picture: Peter Speight

The Backwell Environment Trust (BET) has been working on Backwell Hill to uncover the remains of a cottage which dates back to the 1780s.

Although the location of the cottage in the Jubilee Stone Wood is shown on old maps, the volunteers had no idea what – if anything – they would uncover when they started to dig.

BET trustee Ian Chambers said: “When we started, it was just a pile of soil.

“I didn’t expect to find anything at all, except a pile of stones.

Volunteers enjoying the work. Picture: Peter SpeightVolunteers enjoying the work. Picture: Peter Speight

“In the first week, we dug down to find the top of the wall, which changed everything.”

The building is called a warrener’s cottage, and its origins date back 700 years, when Sir Richard de Rodney was granted the right to farm for rabbits on Backwell Hill by King Edward II.

The warrener’s cottage was lived in until at least 1843, and some of the finds date back to the Victorian period.

Ian said: “When we found the walls, we called in an archaeologist to have a look at it and give advice.

Volunteers hard at work. Picture: Peter SpeightVolunteers hard at work. Picture: Peter Speight

“Since then, we have been slowly removing the soil. It is slow and careful work, sieving soil and getting out the artefacts.

“The main great discovery is the walls of the cottage, but we have also found the flagstone floor completely intact.

“We have found some incredible things. There is a lot of pottery, but my favourite find is the wild boar tusks.

“There were lots of animal bones, as you would expect, along with clay marbles kids would have used to play with, and Victorian coins.

Volunteers sifting through the soil. Picture: Peter SpeightVolunteers sifting through the soil. Picture: Peter Speight

“Another strange find was a knee buckle. In the 1700s, buckles on the knees were used to keep breaches up.”

The volunteers expect the work will continue into next year, and they intend to work with archaeologists to excavate the inside of the cottage.

The ruins suggest the cottage covered an area of about 40sq.m.

Surveys from 1709 indicate thousands of rabbits could have been harvested every year. The fields were divided up for other agricultural purposes in 1812, and it is likely the cottage was later abandoned.

BET held an open day to present the discoveries, which was attended by around 60 people.

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