[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Journal Homepage]


Periods 0-1 | Period 2 | Period 3 | Periods 4-5

Period 3: Debris on the berm | Debris at the back of the bank | Stone-filled ditches | Conclusion

The evidence from the 1975 excavations demonstrated that the wall of period 2 had been totally destroyed, arguably as part of an operation designed to effect the systematic destruction of the defences of the fortress. It was also suggested that a less substantial dry-stone wall part-way up the rear of the bank was also slighted. These inferences arise from the combination of four observed features:

  1. the stone and mortar debris piled on the inner berm, contiguous with the stone and mortar deposits within the space occupied by the wall, which showed clear indications of tip-lines;
  2. the preservation of the cut-back vertical face of the turf revetment of the bank;
  3. the presence of the stone debris scattered over the area of the back of the bank,
  4. the stone-filled ditches.

To substantiate the hypothesis that such a phase of destruction was systematic over the whole length of the stone wall, and therefore the result of the implementation of a policy, it would be necessary to demonstrate the presence of similar deposits in trenches on other parts of the defences. It is argued here that these can indeed be recognised, though their significance has not so far been realised.

Debris on the berm

This deposit has appeared in every trench dug across the front of the bank, and usually consisted of a layer of mixed stones and mortar 1-2.5ft (0.3-0.75m) in thickness. This was invariably spread from the wall over the whole width of the berm, and observed in many places to have been contiguous with the destruction deposits over the remains of the wall. In many places this deposit contained clear tip-lines of stones. Neither Wainwright or Radford appear to have been realised the significance of this deposit. Both interpret it as a result of the robbing of the wall. In many cases this deposit is described by Wainwright as a 'mortar spill' or 'mortar spread with stones' or 'stone spill', or a similar phrase. In some places this deposit is not even mentioned by Radford. The true character of this deposit is shown in the following sections.

W.II - The pile of stones on the berm is shown on the published section, but not mentioned in the text. Here, the site photos (e.g. spool 5, nos 18-20, 1953), as well as the section, show a considerable pile of flat stones in front of the wall forming part of a heap of stones and debris on the berm with well-developed tip lines.

W.VI - A 'thick layer of stones' on the berm is noted by Radford (1972, 68) without comment.

W.IX - (square XXV - i.e. on the outer corner of the bank and wall). Wainwright's plans, site notebook (vol. 2, esp. p.14) and photographs show a low unstructured heap of stones about 1ft (0.3m) in thickness, with clearly discernible tip lines. This is spread outwards over the berm in all directions away from a curved line which should mark the line of the inner face of the wall. Radford briefly notes this 'spread of stones' (1972, 78), though somewhat perversely interprets it as a feature contemporary with the wall.

W.IX - N-S section [south-east corner]. Described by Radford (1972, 77) as a deposit of 'stones, mortar and debris with soil that had been thrown back into the robbed wall trench', and had 'spilled forward onto the berm'. He also notes that the ditch (see below; not shown on the section, but probably the inner Saxon ditch) had a 'setting of stones' (see comments below). Wainwright notes the existence of a spread of stones 6" (150mm) in thickness between S.104 and the end of the trench. This is indicated in Radford's section, but not otherwise mentioned.

W.IX - E-W section [south-east corner]. Radford notes (1972, 76) 'a thick mortar spread with stones' on the berm. This is actually shown as a dense layer of stones on the published plan, though the section shows this to have been part of a much thicker deposit.

M - E-W section [south-east corner]. Radford describes (1972, 75) the existence of 'a stoney layer 2ft (0.6m) thick' in front of the bank.

W.XI - W side [north-east corner]. Deposits described by Radford as being 'a layer of stones laid flat' (1972, 71), and marked on Wainwright's section as 'paving'. These are, however, an integral part of stone and mortar deposits on the berm up to 2ft (0.6m) in thickness, shown in Wainwright's photographs as having a typical rubble and mortar texture.

Radford also sometimes describes this deposit as including a 'setting of stones at or near the inner lip of the inner ditch' (e.g. in R.I and R.V [south-west corner] - 1972, 80). This 'setting of stones' is interpreted by him (1972, 105) as a structural feature - 'a rough flange of mortared stones' which was 'deliberately placed'. It is described as 'a normal feature of the berm' designed to 'prevent erosion of the berm by rain-wash into the ditch'. He furthermore concludes that this represents a 'feature connected with the wall' (i.e. belonging to period 2).

This interpretation cannot be sustained. This 'rough setting of stones' is described by Radford in trench R.V (south-west corner) and (1972, 105) as 'covering the old turf line', but was observed in the same trench re-excavated in 1975 (section 4) to have formed an integral part of the stone and mortar destruction debris spread over the berm, which was entirely conformable with the tip lines in these deposits. It was anyway found not to overlie any 'turf line', which had been eroded away at this point. Such 'settings of stones' observed elsewhere (as in W.IX, south-east corner, shown on the published plan of the trench) must be interpreted therefore not as deliberately laid structures, but rather as an integral part of a pile of destruction debris on the inner berm of sufficient magnitude for the larger and flatter stones to have accumulated at its outer edge by natural sorting during the process of demolition of the wall. The presence of tip lines in this debris, so clear on the south-west corner in the 1975 excavations, has been noted elsewhere (above). This evidence also implies - contrary to Radford (1972, 106), who concluded that the ditch is contemporary with the wall - that the ditch whose edge these 'structures' are supposed to have protected belongs to an earlier phase.

The presence of these deposits on all sides of the defences is of some significance. The ubiquity of these deposits, together with the highly truncated remains of the wall in all places, shows that the wall on all four sides of the defences had been destroyed to its foundations, and the destruction products spread over the berm and piled into the ditches, in one operation.

Debris at the back of the bank

In almost every place where the area to the back of the bank was opened, a sometimes dense scatter of stones (apparently without a mortar component) was observed. This has been commented on in detail under period 1, since it has invariably been misinterpreted by Radford as the stone surface of an intra-mural street (or, more improbably, as a ramp leading up the back of the bank to a wall-walk along its top), thus confusing it with the real intra-mural walkway of period 1. In all cases observed, this deposit lay over and beyond the laid stones of the walkway. It has already been suggested that this deposit was derived from a stone wall built in period 2 part-way up the rear of the bank to augment the function of the added wall at the front. It is possible - indeed likely - that some of the stones of this deposit tumbled down the back of the bank during the period of neglect of the defences in period 2B. However, the ubiquity and density of these deposits in every section across the defences excavated, the fact that the stones were spread in many cases far from the back edge of the bank, and the fact that they were clearly not reused in the refurbishment of the defences in period 2C, all imply that this deposit was the result of the systematic destruction of the wall at the back of the bank over the whole length of the defences, as a single operation. It can also be reasonably inferred that this took place on the same occasion, and for the same reasons, that the front wall was destroyed.

Stone-filled ditches

In three of the four places where it was found (see Table 2) the centre ditch is recorded in Wainwright's original records as being filled with stones, a fact not brought out by Radford in his report. The significance of these observations was clearly not realised by either Wainwright or Radford. These three instances (all in the south-east corner) are:

  1. W.IX (E-W section). The centre ditch (section not published) is described by Radford as containing 'an accumulation of stones' near the base of the inner slope. These stones are shown on Wainwright's plan (site notebook 2, 1954, plan no. 3) as a spread of stones about 5ft (1.5m) in width in the area of the ditch, and on his section as extending downwards into the filling of the ditch. They are shown as being around 1ft (0.3m) in width and are described as being 'larger flat stones throughout'.
  2. W.IX (N-S section). The centre ditch (section not published) is described by Radford as having a 'setting of stones'. Wainwright's records (e.g. site notebook no. 2, 1954, p.9) show however that the whole ditch was completely filled with large stones at least two layers deep, the stones being at least 1ft (0.3m) in width. It is described by him as a 'stone-filled ditch as in (square) XXVII' (i.e. the centre ditch in the E-W section, described above).
  3. Maddison's trench. The centre ditch, marked in section between 48 and 54ft east of the rear of the wall (section not published and not described by Radford) is shown in Maddison's MS section as being filled with 'large stones'.

The stone-filled ditches have therefore been observed (including those recorded in 1975) on all sides of the defences except the north. Though the sample is small compared with observations of other features around the defences, as a proportion of the number of places where the ditch was located in the first place it is quite high. In only three places where either the inner or centre ditch was located (W.VI [N side], W.X [S side] and R.V [south-west corner]) were no stones found in the ditches. (In trench W.VI it seems probable that this ditch was subsequently reused, and cleaned out, in period 4, during which process any stones in it would have been removed.) It can be concluded therefore that over most of the length of the defences the inner and the centre ditch were filled with stones. Their large size recorded in the south-east corner (as in the south-west corner in 1975) demonstrates that this was the result not of a phase of casual robbing of the wall, but rather of a deliberate (and successful) attempt to obliterate the defensive capabilities of the ditches at a time when they were open and comparatively clean.


It is argued here that the occurrence of these three features - the debris on the berm, the spread of stones at the rear of the bank, and the stone-filled ditches - in trenches on all sides of the defences provides a validation for the hypothesis that the destruction of the whole of the defensive circuit of Cricklade was accomplished in a single episode which was total and purposeful, and was therefore the result of an organised (and successful) attempt to destroy the defensive capabilities of the fortress. The phenomena described are clearly not the result of a phase of demolition and/or robbing of the wall in the post-Conquest period after the defences had fallen into disrepair, as has been suggested by Radford (1972, 108). The probable historical context of this episode is discussed in Part 3.

Periods 0-1 | Period 2 | Period 3 | Periods 4-5

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Journal Homepage]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue14/1/reassessment-per3.htm
Last updated: Mon Jul 7 2003