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Fence made of animal bones among artefacts uncovered at Rainham Hall archaeological dig

11:11 28 August 2013

A volunteer sorting through findings from the Rainham Hall dig

A volunteer sorting through findings from the Rainham Hall dig

Archant

An archaeological dig at Rainham Hall has revealed clues about the building’s history dating back to the early 18th century.

The plant borders made from sheep bones found in the gardenThe plant borders made from sheep bones found in the garden

The dig saw a team of 24 volunteers join archaeologists to explore the Grade II* listed Georgian National Trust house earlier this month.

Among their most unusual finds was a plant border made from animal bones in the garden.

Local historian Keith Langridge, who was one of the volunteers, speculated that this may be an indication of some 18th century thriftiness.

Original owner Captain John Harle had many staff onsite because his personal and commercial exploits were conducted in close quarters, as was common at the time. Mr Langridge suggested the bones, believed to be from sheep and cattle, could have been leftovers of meat cooked in large quantities to sustain the workers.

The Rainham Hall dig teamThe Rainham Hall dig team

However National Trust archaeologist Gary Marshall, one of the co-ordinators of the dig, had an alternative theory. He said there would likely have been abattoirs in the vicinity around this time, which could have saved up the bones for the house.

Mr Marshall said he had never seen bones used in this way before.

The team was hoping to find trace of an outbuilding that was demolished in the 1920s. Rainham Hall programme manager Emily Gillespie, who was also co-ordinating the dig, said fragmentary evidence of what was probably one of its side walls was uncovered.

Also found during the dig, which took place over the weekend of August 17 and 18, were pieces of ceramic and glass. A near-complete brass oil lamp wick holder was unearthed as well.

Mr Langridge said the dig had been relatively rewarding, and added: “Sometimes it’s the smallest pieces that are the most interesting.”

Mr Marshall said: “The dig certainly exceeded expectations as we found much more evidence likely of the original garden than we had anticipated, including a gravel path running through it.”

The dig was part of an 18-month National Lottery-funded conservation and renovation project that will see future excavations focus more on the garden.

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