Foxearth and District Local History Society

In a fascinating exposition of what “digging up the past” really means, Foxearth archeologist and author Corinne Cox entertained at the Society’s meeting on 8th May. Secretary Clare Mathieson welcomed 25 members and guests of the Stour Valley Archeological Group to hear Mrs Cox focus on the test pit excavations in Foxearth in 2013 and 2017.

As Corinne explains in her book “Foxearth Treasures” of  2014 it seems likely that the village’s name has nothing to do with a burrowing fox! Research into Old English supports a derivation from two Anglo-Saxon words meaning “folk or people” and “a piece of land or ploughed field” – but why spoil a good myth!

With the help of a large screen and computer technology Corinne took us through the excavations in private gardens and fields illustrating the detailed and meticulous approach that can prove that even a tiny piece of pottery can be the source of important information about settlements in the past. Taken together these snippets can build a comprehensive picture of community life thousands of years ago. Before any digging (a misnomer as the work with very small trowels is slow and painstaking) can take place a one metre square is marked on a site that is measured and accurately charted. Any turf is cut and put on one side before soil removal begins in layers of 10cm. The maximum depth of a pit would be 90cm. Soil strata and colour are noted and sifting to find any small pieces takes place. Some pits do not reach maximum depth because a layer of natural material e.g clay or in one case chalk is encountered -or because of time constraints. Finds in Foxearth have included many flint tools (dating back to 4,000 BC), Roman coins, a vast range of medieval pottery fragments, clay pipes – which can be quite accurately dated because over time bowl shape and stem design changed – and even some Spanish tin-glazed ware which was a very expensive commodity. All these treasures are recorded and photographed and sent for expert evaluation when necessary.

Corinne acknowledged the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Scheme – All our stories – project and the local residents who had allowed their personal space to be briefly invaded; everything is put back as it was at the end of the two-day excavation. An exhibition showing some of the artifacts and photographs is continuously on view in Foxearth church. An invitation was made to all villagers to consider offering one square metre of garden for the next series of excavations on Wednesday and Thursday, 6th and 7th June 2018. Please contact Corinne if interested.

The 2017 exercise gave senior pupils from schools in Sudbury and Haverhill the chance to experience test pit digging and this year a similar insight will be available to interested students in Bury St Edmunds and Halstead.

Another book is in the pipeline – and this is Corinne’s research into Foxearth and  the First World War. It will be called Foxearth Pals, is due for publication later this year and is eagerly awaited.

Corinne was warmly thanked by Clare for her most interesting talk which was clearly well appreciated by her audience.

Next meeting: Tuesday 12th June A guided tour of Hadleigh  – in the hands of Jan Byrne 

Ken Nice

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