Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle entrance

Bristol University's early medieval excavation site at Berkeley Castle



Thurs 3rd June I drove to Clevedon and joined 'Car share' organised by Clevedon & District Archaeological Society as part of their Summer Programme.

We arrived at the castle car park 10.15 and were escorted by Bob Croft to the dig which was in the garden of Edward Jenner House. We watched as finds were being made in what was a midden. Animal bones, oyster shells etc. Professor Mark Horton was extremely busy and did not want the team to be interrupted. The Director (apparently all digs have them nowadays) was a very colourful character. Apparently he used to be a gravedigger but after an interesting find turned to archaeology.

Berkeley Castle excavation trench.
Berkeley Castle excavation trench.

We then went around outside the castle wall to another large trench. Through the middle was a medieval road under which were the stones of an older hearth. The team were apparently all more advanced students as the dig was such a good one.

Further over in that area a third trench was being dug. A local man had come along and was saying he thought there had been a road in a gap between the houses on the road. It was confirmed that geophys had verified this. He was thrilled.

Berkeley Castle. Aestel for turning vellum pages
Berkeley Castle. Aestel for turning vellum pages

Berkely Castle Great Hall
Berkely Castle Great Hall

Some of us went around the castle in the afternoon. We had a very good guide who had been there 30 years. I had been to the castle and village many times and read local books as my ancestry goes back in the area to around 1600. However she told us a tale I had never heard. It seems one of the Lord Berkeley's generations back secretly married a commoner Mr Cole and had several children. The marriage was then disputed, as the marriage record could not be found, and they had to marry again publicly. All subsequent children were legitimate but the first 5 were not, so the 'illegitimate' son could not be a lord. He then went wild and fathered so many children in the village many were shipped to Australia. Nowadays every year folk turn up from OZ with pieces of paper claiming to be descended from one of these many children.

We visited the butterfly house and had an ice cream in the sun. An enjoyable day in the company of like-minded folk.

Valerie Sweet


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Castle