Well there have been lots of surprises during our dig on the house site. After digging out the Wine Bins and the Basement area of Williamson’s House, then the Sandstone Arch, we moved on to dig out the top section of the Gash which leads us into the Banqueting Hall.
We were then excited to start work in the Banqueting Hall. However, in order to dig out the Banqueting Hall, we needed a way to allow us to lift the buckets up to the surface with minimum effort and of course, more importantly, as safely as possible. We decided that we needed to construct a scaffolding tower at the base of the Gothic Arch, this would allow our buckets to be hauled up safely. Before we could do this, we needed to dig down to bed rock floor where the tower would sit, to provide stability.
Once this was operational we started to remove that famous mound of infill that you will remember at the far end of the Banqueting Hall. This was very awkward digging indeed, as the filled buckets needed to then be carried down the steep slope. So volunteer John Morrison came up with a cunning plan – build a wooden slide down the slope, this enabled the filled buckets to be slid down safely.
Over the following weeks and months, we flattened and reduced the height of the mound, it was not long from starting to dig at the top of the mound before we could no longer touch the ceiling. This was amazing. As the mound got lower, we were constantly amazed how the look and feel of the Banqueting Hall changed.
We found quite a few interesting artefacts within the mound, ranging from army barbed wire coils to bottles, to clay pipes and even a Sunblest bread wrapper. One of the Clay pipes we found was the Brenan – Sligo pipe (which you can read about here). You can see some of these artefact here.
As we continued down we discovered a strange Teardrop shaped hole in the left hand wall of the bedrock. This hole was found to a good 6ft long when we probed its depth and penetrates the sandstone in a downward direction. What this is we still don’t know, but could it have been into another chamber on the other side of the bedrock wall? hmmm, Maybe. Time will tell…
As the mound got smaller and we got lower down, we unearthed further finds. We had to continually shorten the slide, with the atmosphere of the Banqueting Hall changing rapidly. From being able to touch the ceiling to now being several feet down in such a short time. We reached the bedrock floor at the end of the Banqueting Hall, which we found to be similar to Paddington’s Level 3 & 4 being rough and uneven bedrock, just like the base of a quarry.
Once the mound was completely removed, we started to dig back toward the Scaffolding Tower at the base of the Gothic Arch, this has uncovered a fairly deep 6ft channel that we did not know existed. This channel or passage seems to run directly across the Banqueting Hall floor and who knows, maybe out under and through the Banqueting Hall sandstone wall. Evidence shows that it once had a brick arch roof on it. So where does it go? Well again, time will tell, but there is a possibility that it will run out of the Banqueting Hall, in the direction of the former Magnet Site. So could this eventually run to the Great Tunnel? Fingers Crossed.
At the time of writing we are getting more of the Banqueting Hall floor exposed, and estimate that we have maybe 4 skips or so before this chamber is completely empty. This is amazing…
With us now having stairs from ground level all the way down into the Banqueting Hall, this much improved access and soon to be empty Banqueting Hall, you will be amazed with the difference compared to previous visits.