This page illustrates objects recovered during the 2016 excavation of paths and a shelter in an area beside Lower Brake Lock. The finds are from two horizons, the turf/topsoil (unstratified) and the mixed clayey loam beneath it. The paths were not excavated below the topsoil, so these finds are treated as unstratified. The shelter area was excavated to a depth of approximately 30cm, and the finds are divided between the topsoil (ustratified) and the clayey loamn beneath it. Most finds were found in the uppermost 20cm. Both topsoil and subsoil contained scattered ash, clinker, slag and coal. The only in situ feature identified was a terracotta drainage pipe running approximately north-south.
Note that although a degree of care was taken, this was not an archaeological excavation per se. Much of the digging was carried out using mattocks and shovels wielded by volunteers with no previous archaeological experience. It is therefore very likely that a proportion of material was missed during the excavation, and some of the recovered material was damaged by the methods used.
There is no surface or recorded indication as to the origin of the material. The site lies south of the area beside Shop Lock where there was a workshop and cottage in the nineteenth century, the latter surviving until the first half of the twentieth century. The area may have been used by the canal workers for growing vegetables, the material being deposited in "night soil" used as fertiliser. Another explanation could be that it was imported with soil used in construction/landscaping. However given the spread of dates suggested by the ceramics, this is unlikely, and there is no obvious reason why the soil would have been deposited on what was fairly level ground beside Lower Brake Lock. Some may have been dredged from the canal itself during routine mintenance, but the material spreads more than 50m east of the canal bank. Several anomalous finds of small pieces of plastic and a plastic bottle top probably reflect inaccuracies in artefact collection.
The material is remarkably varied, especially considering its rural location. For example, as well as the very familiar "Willow Pattern" desgn, dozens of other designs of decorated vessel can be identified. Whether this represents just the rubbish from 150 years of cottage occupation (plus the workshop) or includes material discarded by passing boats, it is of course impossible to say. The finds in the subsoil also display a wide range of dates, which suggests continual disturbance and discard, evidence perhaps of cultivation. The area was used as a picnic site in the 1970s, which no doubt explains the presence of some more recent material.
At this time no attempt has been made to analyse the material in detail. Apart from the unstratified material, the finds from the picnic area have been sorted into a number of categories that hopefully demonstrate both the date range and variation of types of ceramics etc.