The Mystery of the Buried Column Capital - Middleton Hall Excavations 2011

In 2011 a 10 day excavation at the National Botanic Garden of Wales was undertaken by volunteers from the Botanic Garden overseen by archaeologists from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. During the excavation a volunteer was walking in the field adjacent to the excavation and accidently stumbled across an odd looking rock...

Items in this story

Lifting the Column Capital

  • 626
  • login to save

Finds Processing - Middleton Hall Excavation ...

  • 643
  • login to save

Buried Colonnade from Paxton's Hall...

  • 586
  • login to save

Buried Colonnade from Paxton's Hall

  • 679
  • login to save

The Discovery

During the excavation, one of the volunteers one lunch time went for a scout around the surrounding area to have a look for further earthworks and archaeology. While in the field adjacent to the site directly to the west they came across and odd looking bit of stone sticking out of the wet boggy ground. Intrigued by the stone they pulled out their trowel; which as any archaeologist will know is always attached about their persons; and began to remove some of the lichen and moss that had colonised the stone. What was revealed was this strangely carved stone that on first appearances looked natural and weather worn but somehow man made. Rushing back to the excavation to tell everyone of the possible discovery and to get second opinions a group of us set off to look at this new mystery.


The Recovery

After all of us had seen anomaly rearing its grubby and overgrown head out of the ground there was only one thing left to do that would settle this mystery and that was to raise it from its muddy resting place. Armed with mattocks, picks and shovels a small contingent of volunteers returned to the boggy field and began to excavate around the stone being careful not to damage it. After a good half an hour of wrestling with the unrelenting mud, not even mentioning the weather which by this time had turned slightly for the worse, the ground gave up its secret and a lost treasure was revealed.


Deep Clean

Once the stone had been removed from its unrelenting resting place the group was taken by surprise. At first this sodden, muddy lump of stone looked unimpressive, a mass of lichen, moss and brown gunk desperately clinging on trying not to give any hints of what this stone could be. However through the clag, intricate carving and elaborate detail could vaguely be seen. After heaving the heavy lump into a wheel barrow and returning back to the excavation, the finds officer Marie Woods began to wash the stone which truly revealed not only what it was but also the grandeur of what it once looked like.


The stone itself was the ornamental top of a colonnade that adorned William Paxton’s 18th century mansion. What took everyone by surprise and I’m sure you’ll agree from the photograph the contrast in colour between the submerged portion and the lichen rich surface as well as the magnificence and detail of the “egg and dart” carving. Although this had been a great discovery, bringing to life the grandeur of Paxton’s hall, further questions were raised. Primarily how did this beautiful piece of decoration end up abandoned and buried in a muddy field half a kilometre away? My own theory is that when the hall was demolished in the 1950’s the farmer who resided at Waun Las took a great deal of rubble and hall detritus and buried them in the field. Why? Well if you look at the aerial photograph of the site you will notice that there are a series of rectilinear features that are clearly identifiable with the gorse that is growing thickly within them, a sure sign that these features are potentially deep and waterlogged. What these features could be remains uncertain. One theory is that they are drainage feature; another is that they are a water management system associated with the original Middleton Hall, both of which are entirely credible. It seems to me that at some point in the 1950’s the local farmer wanted to make this field less water logged and, perhaps to achieve this, dumped a load of material from the recently demolished hall into the field. Perhaps we will never know however there could be more pieces of Paxton’s hall submerged in this boggy field. Perhaps one day we will recover them.


Comments (0)

You must be logged in to leave a comment