Broadcast 6 January 2008
In June 2007 an archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s Time Team at Codnor Castle, Derbyshire, a Scheduled Monument, centred on NGR 443360 349980. The fieldwork comprised six machine-excavated evaluation trenches. The village of Codnor is mentioned in Domesday Book, and the castle may have begun life as a Norman earthwork motte and bailey fortress. Today all that survives is a three-storey chamber block, with fragments of lodgings built against a curtain wall, flanked by rectangular turrets.
The exact extent and layout of the Castle is not known. Sketches from the 18th century hint at an impressive, if ruined, complex of buildings. Dating of the various building stages and construction at Codnor remains contentious. Part of the curtain wall in the upper court has been dated to c. 1200 (when the castle became the seat of the Lords Grey), and the southern court seems to have been a later addition to the castle, but it is probable that the castle evolved (rather than being rebuilt) from at least the early 13th century onwards.
The evaluation involved the excavation of six trenches, three in the lower court to examine the approaches to the gatehouse and three in the upper court to explore the rear of the extant gatehouse and to trace the curtain wall of the upper court. The trenches in the lower court encountered a large moat, approximately 6m wide and 3m deep, with substantial masonry abutments that would have supported a drawbridge. Pottery recovered from the fills of the moat indicates that this probably fell out of use and was backfilled in the 16th or early 17th century. The finds from the lower fills suggest that the moat was probably open from the early 13th century. The lower fills also produced a notable find, a gold noble of Henry V (1413-1422), struck at the London mint.
Although much of the archaeology in the upper court had been heavily disturbed by post-medieval and modern coal extraction and garden features, excavations here revealed part of the back wall of the gatehouse, which appears to have been built in the early 13th century, and parts of the northern and eastern curtain wall, including the footings of a tower or turret on the northern wall. Occupation deposits were found within the turret, although these appear to relate to a fairly late phase in the use of the castle.
The Time Team evaluation has demonstrated the extent, character and condition of the castle remains and has shown that despite the later industrial use of the area, substantial and important medieval remains survive below ground. Analysis of the finds suggests that the masonry castle was probably established in the early 13th century and continued in use until the 16th or early 17th century.