Medieval Church project

Stuart Billington

St John's Church, sub Castro, 1776
Samuel Hooper

This is a picture of the medieval church as it was in 1776.

Remains related to the medieval church can still be seen in the churchyard today around the area of the old Chancel, and it was thought that some of the foundations of the church may still exist below ground level.
The Heritage Lottery funded Repair Project makes provision for some archaeological excavation in order to determine the outline of the medieval church so that the footprint can be marked with permanent stones in the surface of the ground.

The capital works component of the HLF Repair Project included improvements to the church roof drainage.
This required the construction of drainage runs and soakaways in the churchyard, at a location which crossed the conjectural outline of the medieval church.

In order to determine the optimum location of the drainage, a Ground Penetrating Radar survey was carried out in May 2016 for the purpose of minimizing the extent to which underground obstacles were encountered during the excavation.

While the GPR equipment was on site together with specialist personnel, the opportunity was taken to try and trace the foundations of the ancient church so that the outlines of it could later be marked on the ground.

The results of the GPR survey, whilst clearly confirming an optimum route and location for the drainage, were less conclusive in detecting the location of any below-ground walls or foundations.

The excavation for the drains and soakaways was duly carried out in August 2017, under the watchful eye of Archaeology South-East.
The excavation crossed the footprint of the church, but no subterraneum walls were encountered.
The original Nave floor from earliest times was about 1.2 metres (about 4ft) below present ground level, and it was thought possible that this might be encountered also, but there was no sign of it.
This would suggest that when the Nave floor was raised to present ground level in 1779, the original floor tiles below that level were salvaged for re-use in the new floor.
It also suggests that when the church was demolished in 1839, the subterraneum walls were also salvaged and the material probably used in the construction of the present church.

Archaeology South-East’s Report on the excavation gave details of the several finds during the excavation, two of which were particularly interesting.

In June 2018, a meeting has been arranged with County and Diocesan Archaeologists and ASE to determine what further work under the HLF funding can usefully be carried out to improve our knowledge of the ancient church.


This page was added on 30/11/2017.

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