Friday, 25 September 2009

Bulletin 32 (September 2009)

Sedgefield Aerodrome Course Report

Well, the first season investigating Sedgeford aerodrome was a resounding success. We had nine very enthusiastic students who, together with three supervisors, spent time doing desktop research and three days practical work up at the Aerodrome. Once suitable work locations had been agreed with the landowner we split the students into three teams, each with their own project to work on.

Team A investigated a building that, according to local hearsay, was used as a mortuary during WWI, one is recorded in the post-war sale of site buildings. They spent some time studying the construction methods, materials, and design of the building, before moving on to create a drawn record of all four external elevations and a plan. The structure, which is located in an area that was woodland during WWI, has elements of architectural design that gives it a chapel-like quality. These, along with some of the more utilitarian aspects of its design, such as high windows and air vents, led the team to conclude that it was the mortuary.

Team B spent most of its fieldwork time investigating a rubbish dump area. A large assemblage of material culture was collected from the trench, mostly found within the topsoil, and included glass bottles and jars, pieces of domestic china, leather boots, a couple of rubber bicycle pedals and a single .303 blank cartridge case (dated to WWI). Initial research undertaken on a small selection of items by the team during their course show that the artefacts span at least a 40 year period. However, the finds were jumbled up together within the area investigated which led the team to conclude that it was not a purpose made dump, but instead a result of continual activity, in particular site clearance and re-use post WWII.

Team C studied an air raid shelter believed to date from the First World War. Constructed of house bricks, it has an internal corrugated iron ceiling overlaid with a thick slap of concrete. A wooden door at the bottom of the steps leads into the one-room shelter, which has brick piers for wooden benches along both walls. A window, crudely hacked out of the south wall, was cut through at a later date, possibly when the shelter was used as a store. Just above ground level a brick capping layer, around the stairwell, suggests that the brick courses above this were a later addition to the structure. A wooden door post at the entrance to the stairwell tells us an outer door was added at the same time. When and for what purpose these later alterations were made is still a mystery. Were they made during its time as a military installation or are they associated with the site’s later life?

The week was finished off with Dave and Angie Hibbitt running a workshop on geophysics, whilst two local detectorists provided the students with an opportunity to try out the technique for themselves. An afternoon presentation on their findings to a group of SHARP volunteers and interested locals rounded off the course for the students.        Anna Gow

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