List of Test Pits


  • The earliest occupancy of the site we can determine is 1586 when the land was freehold and was occupied by Thomas Johnson, a shoemaker.
  • By 1694 the land was owned by Mrs Sarah Needham, widow to John Needham, a yeoman farmer. The Needham family continued to own the land until 1801 when they sold it to Mrs Ruth Timms. During this interval the house had been rebuilt and extended three times. Key dates for phases of building are 1644-1671, 1689 and 1749. There is no indication of the occupation of the Needhams during this period.
  • Ruth Timms had previously been married to Richard Oliver, who had died young. He had rented the property for many years and both he and his son Joseph were given as maltsters. In 1822, however, Joseph was a tanner and wine and spirit merchant. He later listed as his occupation bobbin net maker (1828-1835), but he still retained his business as a wine and spirit merchant. This remained the occupation of successive later owners and in 1893 the place was referred to as The Vaults with the occupier being described as innkeeper. It was not until 1936 that it became a post office, remaining as such until 2012.
  • The commercial history of this property is reflected in the archaeology of the test pit. The pit penetrated 6 surfaces interpreted as backyards. Throughout the pit, however, there is a certain amount of mixing of sherds of different ages, which is to be expected in a place that has been subjected to so much re-working. Layers of coal dust, brick pieces, mortar and fire ash also confuse the interpretation. It has been possible, however, to fix approximate date ranges to all the surfaces.
  • The six surfaces are:
    1 Present-day gravel 20th-21st C
    2 Brick surface top at 12-15 cm mid to late 19th C
    3 Cobbled surface top at 22 cm early to mid 19th C
    4 Cobbled surface top at 32 cm mid to late 18th C
    5 Uneven stone surface at 52 cm mid 18th C
    6 Large stones surface at 60 cm late 17th to early 18th C
    Top of basal clay unit at c75 cm
  • The oldest pottery recovered from the pit was Cistercian Ware (1450-1550), which was found immediately under the fourth surface. Midland Yellow Ware (1575 to 1700) was found on the sixth surface, but larger amounts of later pottery types and clay pipes suggest that the best date for the lowest surface is late 17th C. This provides a datum for the succession of surfaces above it. The only pottery type beneath the sixth surface is Coarse Black Ware, which is little researched and cannot be dated with any accuracy. Underneath this is natural clay.
  • It seems that the lowest surface was probably laid during the late stage of the earliest building phase (1644-1671) recorded by the analysis of the house history. The fifth surface is likely to have been laid at the time of the extension built in 1749. Thereafter the surfaces cannot be tied to any phase of building, though they could relate to changes of use. The brick surface (No 2) can be dated through the inclusion of Cafferata bricks, made in Newark after 1930.
  • The type of pottery found is clearly related to the usage of the building. Mottle Ware tankards, chamber pots of various fabric types and abundant fragments of coarse earthenware from the kitchen all indicate a commercial use as an inn. There is also a large amount of bone, much of it beef.

Click here for a detailed account of the pit.

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