Broadcast 10 February 2013
Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Videotext Communications Ltd to undertake a programme of archaeological recording and post-excavation work on an archaeological evaluation undertaken by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ at the site of Oakham Castle, Leicestershire (NGR 486147 308895).
Oakham Castle (National Monument Number 323228) comprises a Great Hall, whose construction dates to the 1180s, replacing a late Saxon hall listed in Domesday, and the remains of a motte or mound inside a square inner bailey. To the north of this is a large rectangular outer bailey known as Cutts Close, which contains dry fishponds and garden earthworks. Archaeological work within the Castle in the 1950s by Peter Gathercole and John Barber located the Castle ditch outside the South Gateway, and masonry footings belonging to service buildings at the eastern end of the Great Hall. It was hoped that the current evaluation would be able to supplement these findings and recover further evidence for the layout and chronology of the Castle.
The evaluation comprised six trenches of varying sizes, five lying within the inner bailey around the Great Hall, and one situated across the northern earthwork of the outer bailey. Trench 1, 2, and 3 all contained evidence of medieval stone-built structures. Trench 1 located Barber’s trench from the 1950s and confirmed his finding of a passageway leading eastwards from the Great Hall through the service block and towards a free-standing kitchen. In Trench 2 the wall of one of the castle’s ancillary buildings was uncovered, which had been re-faced at some point, possibly reflecting a change in function or style of the building. Three successive walls were found in Trench 3, but none probably earlier than the early post-medieval period. No archaeological features were revealed in Trench 4, while Trench 6 contained a single robber cut.
As for the earthwork of the outer bailey, no evidence was found in Trench 5 to determine its date or function. This is unsurprising as the earthwork in its current form almost certainly relates either to the early 19th century enclosure of Oakham, or to the construction of the Melton to Oakham canal.