Archaeological Dig in Colton
Back in 2008 with the guidance of Staffordshire County Council and with the generous financial support of the Lands Trust and the Parish Council, Colton History Society had commissioned a Medieval Survey of Colton. This was conducted by John Hunt of Birmingham University. In his desk based survey he suggested that there was evidence for an early medieval manor house in Colton, possibly Saxon in origin. Colton History Society decided as a project that we would like to investigate whether there was any archaeological evidence of this Manor House. As non of us have any training or experience in archaeological work, we approached the Stoke on Trent Archaeological Society(SOTMAS) and asked if they would be prepared to help us. They agreed to do an initial survey. There were two potential sites. The first site was the field immediately behind the Church known for centuries as Castle Croft and the second site was in the grounds of a residential house in Colton. SOTMAS conducted a resistivity test on both sites for us to see if there was any potential evidence. Both sites showed something of interest below the ground, sufficient to warrant further investigation. It was agreed that they would help us conduct a dig on the Castle Croft site. With the kind permission of Lichfield Diocese, the owner of the site and Mr James Daw the tennant farmer, volunteers from their club and ours, dug three test pits into the features in the field in October 2010.
Over a few days an immense amount of earth was removed by trowel to see if there was anything of interest. A number of pieces of pottery were found of differing dates. There were quite a lot of pieces from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries but the really interesting ones were a few pieces of Roman pottery and a small piece that was thought to be Iron Age. As the digging continued a feature began to emerge running through two of the test pits. We began to get excited but then the experienced archaeologists amongst the Stoke club decided that it was not evidence of the Manor house. The two sides of the rectangular feature proved to be ditches filled intermittently with clay. This was thought to be an agricultural feature, to either allow the field to be flooded for water meadows or, less likely, to slow drainage in an otherwise very sandy soil. There was dating evidence for the final back filling of the ditches circa 1730 in the form of black iron glazed pottery.
This feature was interesting in it’s own right but the Colton History Society members who were involved, had hoped for evidence of the manor house and could not help feeling a little disappointed. After five days of digging the soil was put back into the holes and the field returned to normality. We would not have believed so much soil could have been removed by trowel in so few days!
For our efforts we had some interesting pieces of pottery that are evidence of early settlement in Colton. However for those of us who spent time at the dig, we had a memorable experience and we thank the SOTMAS members sincerely for their help and expertise.
What was really satisfying was that over the period of the dig, lots of Colton residents including the children from the school, had come to see what was going on and had shown a keen interest.
Our latest news is that we have now been given permission to dig the other site in April 2011 again under the guidance and with the help of SOTMAS. We shall report on the second dig at a later date.