Ralph Mills

RALPH AT LARGE


BRONZE AGE CALDICOT


Ralph taking photographsstanding in a small trench
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: I took photographs, drew sections of the deposits and learned how to use a Total Station.
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In early 1991 I was in a bad place. I was still reeling from a miserably ended relationship, had pretty well run out of money, and was existing on an occasional freelance commission. To survive I decided to return to something I knew I’d enjoy and which would at least pay me enough to survive, so long as I lived on baked beans and beer— field archaeology, I managed to get a job on a CADW excavation at Caldicot Castle, borrowed some cash from my good friend (and saviour) the late Delvine (“Delly”) Beckley, and persuaded Chepstow Youth Hostel to let me stay in a disused room that I shared with (long-suffering) fellow excavator Ken Bramwell until the ceiling collapsed.

Cycling to and from the dig every day, I worked at Caldicot for about six months, until the excavation ended, leaving with happy memories. The excavation was a fascinating and challenging one, as it involved digging and recording waterlogged deposits crammed with Bronze Age timbers and various other artefacts, including the remains of several dogs. The team were pleasant company, especially Ken, with whom I’m sorry to have lost contact.

However the highlight of my stay in Chepstow was meeting my future partner Lenore on the porch of the hostel that looked south out over the Bristol Channel. I did manage to repay the load from Delly, and at the end of the excavation, clutching a £69 seven-day Greyhound bus ticket, I caught a £64 one-way flight to Toronto and travelled to Vancouver, British Columbia. That of course is another story.

The Caldicot Castle site is now an artificial lake, and Chepstow Youth Hostel closed in 1992 and was converted into flats. The photographs are not mine, but I can’t remember who took them!

Reference:

Caseldine, A. E. and Nayling, N. (1997). Excavations at Caldecot, Gwent: Bronze Age palaeochannels in the lower Nedern Valley. Council for British Archaeology Research Reports https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/20805/

Last updated 1st January 2022

Scaffolding and bvlack plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: I’m wearing a hard hat because I would forget about the scaffolding that lurked at head-bumping height.
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General view of excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: I’m holding the Total Station target.
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Scaffolding and bvlack plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: Me, clinging to the scaffolding.
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Scaffolding and bvlack plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: Waterlogged wood projecting from the sediments.
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Scaffolding and black plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: I’m in the far left hand corner.
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A plank from a Bronze Age boat
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: The boat strake, excavated the previous year.
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Group photograph
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: The Caldicot Team, summer 1991. A good bunch. Ken standing on the right, me beside him, looking as if all the exercise was paying off. I haven’t been that fit since! I think we were celebrating...
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Scaffolding and bvlack plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: Another, more formal photo of the Caldicot Team, summer 1991, taken on an Open Day. I still have my Bronze Age Caldicot T-shirt, though it is now full of holes and I keep it for sentimental reasons!
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Scaffolding and bvlack plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: A lunchtime moment.
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Scaffolding and bvlack plastic cover the excavation
Excavation of waterlogged stratigraphy at Caldicot Castle: Another lunch time moment! I was attempting to entertain the dog...
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View of St Lawrence House
Chepstow (St Lawrence) Youth Hostel from the south, showing the porch where I met Lenore Ogilvy, my future partner.
(Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales)
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My interests
My archaeology