Practicing UAV survey on excavations at Quay Meadow, Lancaster

UAV survey of trenches at Quay Meadow, Lancaster - 2015

UAV survey of trenches at Quay Meadow, Lancaster – 2015  (c) LDHG

As part of my work at Oxford Archaeology North I’ve recently been practicing (under supervision) flying and surveying with our UAV drones at various archaeological sites in the region. This is in advance of qualifying for a BNUC-S™ pilot qualification to get a Permission for Aerial Work for undertaking commercial projects.

The end of September saw community excavations undertaken at Quay Meadow, in Lancaster. It is located north-west of the Roman fort which is partially extant within Vicarage Fields, and is just below Lancaster Castle. The excavations were undertaken by Lancaster and District Heritage Group in tandem with a wider project aimed at trying to understand the heritage and archaeology of the area which is conducted by Beyond the Castle.

Excavating Roman wall foundations at Quay Meadow - 2015

Excavating Roman wall foundations at Quay Meadow – 2015  (c) LDHG

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteers from Lancaster and District Heritage Group - Quay Meadow 2015

Volunteers from Lancaster and District Heritage Group – Quay Meadow 2015 (c) LDHG

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three excavated trenches were located over interesting anomalies identified in an earlier geophysical survey of Quay Meadow previously undertaken by OANorth. The preliminary results of the excavations suggest evidence for a Roman road heading down towards the original Roman quayside, and what was initially identified as possibly being a post-medieval/modern structure in the geophysics actually turned out to be wall foundations of several Roman buildings found just below the topsoil. There is clearly much much more that Lancaster and District Heritage Group can get their teeth into in future years.

Practicing UAV survey at Quay Meadow, Lancaster - 2015

Practicing UAV survey at Quay Meadow, Lancaster – 2015 (c) LDHG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In practice the UAV survey was relatively simple for this site as all we wanted was a general plan view of all of the trenches and detailed post-excavation surveys of each individual trench, which we then created from the photogrammetry in Agisoft PhotoScan. We also created contours of the surrounding topography but this was not as spectacular as earlier results undertaken on the earthworks in Vicarage Fields to the south-east of the site.

Trenches excavated at Quay Meadow, Lancaster - 2015

Trenches excavated at Quay Meadow, Lancaster – 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roman building foundations in Trench 2 at Quay Meadow, Lancaster - 2015

Roman building foundations in Trench 2 at Quay Meadow, Lancaster – 2015

Exploring the Wery Wall and Roman bath house in Lancaster

General view looking east of the Wery Wall bastion and bath house

General view looking east of the Wery Wall bastion and bath house

The report produced for our assessment of the Wery Wall and Roman Bath House on Castle Hill, Lancaster is now available online. This understated and easily overlooked site is well worth a quick look around if you ever visit Lancaster. Back in the winter of 2010/11 we undertook a survey of the Wery Wall, a fragment of the late Roman coastal fort wall, and the adjacent Roman bath house remains located on Castle Hill. I seem to remember the weather being bitterly cold and snow lay on the ground for some of the time.  Festive cheer was also severely lacking at the time!

The surviving fabric on the west side of the Wery Wall bastion

The surviving fabric on the west side of the Wery Wall bastion

The Wery Wall is a surviving fragment of the late Roman coastal fort wall located on the eastern scarp of Castle Hill at the north-east corner of the Vicarage Fields, and is immediately adjacent to an earlier Roman bath house relating to an earlier fort, which it now partly overlies. The surviving remains of the Wery Wall are thought to represent the core of a polygonal external bastion on the north wall of the defences. Only the inner rubble core of the wall survives, its facing having been robbed for re-use in other buildings at some time before the early eighteenth century.

The 1970s excavations in the bath house caldarium (Lancaster Museum)

The 1970s excavations in the bath house caldarium (Lancaster Museum)

The wall and bath house were excavated in the 1950s and 1970s and the currently exposed archaeological features include at least three episodes of construction. Firstly there are walls associated with a courtyard building, secondly a bath house inserted into the courtyard building and, thirdly the surviving remnants of the Wery Wall bastion.

Detailed survey of the Wery Wall and Roman Bath House, Castle Hill, Lancaster

Detailed survey of the Wery Wall and Roman Bath House, Castle Hill, Lancaster

View looking west of the bath house caldarium and Wery Wall external ditch

View looking west of the bath house caldarium and Wery Wall external ditch

Surviving elements on site consist of extant walls on the north and west side of the caldarium, as well as one inserted through the tepidarium, are all associated with bath house inserted into the earliest courtyard building. These structures consist of the complete extents of the Caldarium and Tepidarium rooms and the partial survival of an annex room, the Praefurnium, on the south-west side.

View looking east of the bath house caldarium, Wery Wall bastion and external ditch

View looking east of the bath house caldarium, Wery Wall bastion and external ditch

The stump of bastion masonry called the Wery Wall, is the only visible evidence of the late Roman coastal fort, along with its external ditch which would have once surrounded the fort.  It was interpreted as being the inner core of a multi-angular bastion, being either a corner or interval tower set along the length of a thinner curtain wall. The external ditch was excavated and preserved where it had cut through either side of the caldarium room in the bath house.

The Wery Wall and bath house were subject to a robust scheme of consolidation works (and in some cases rebuilding) in the 1970s in order to improve their stability and to allow them to be left permanently exposed. The site has degenerated to a degree and is now in need of a phase of remedial repair works to stabilise the monuments and enable them to be subject to only minimal maintenance in the future.

Location of the Wery Wall and bath house in relation to previous excavations on Vicarage Field, Castle Hill, Lancaster

Location of the Wery Wall and bath house in relation to previous excavations on Vicarage Field, Castle Hill, Lancaster