Medieval chapel has Anglo-Saxon origins!
AA volunteers completed a geophysical survey of this important site, a scheduled ancient monument, in April 2013, and followed this with an excavation (directed by Jamie Armstrong of Durham University) in September 2013. The chapel went out of use in the 16th century, and the site now consists of a turf-covered mound in a field adjacent to Frosterley Village Hall. The earliest known reference to it dates from 1346, but it was thought to believed that it may have had much earlier origins, thus it was chosen as a site to be investigated within the AA ‘Missing Centuries’ module.
‘Frosterley’ is a Norman place-name, recorded as far back as the 12th century, but the name ‘Bottlingham’, of much older Anglo-Saxon origin, also survives on recent OS maps. This name, which must be linked to the unusual, and possibly early, dedication of the chapel to St Botolph, suggests that the origins of Frosterley may be much older than generally thought.
The excavations uncovered substantial remains of the chapel. Although much of the building had been robbed for building stone over recent centuries, enough survived to enable the size and general form of the building to be calculated. Many interesting features were also encountered, some of which are not fully understood. Many samples were taken for scientific analysis at Durham University.
Three stone finds are of particular interest. A flint blade of Mesolithic date demonstrates that people were active here thousands of years ago, perhaps in about 6000BC; there may have been a seasonal hunting camp here. A fragment of the chapel’s 12th century font, of beautiful Frosterley Marble, was recovered from the ruins. And, most extraordinarily, fragments of a 7th or 8th century stone cross were found just outside the chapel walls. This takes the site back to the Northumbrian Golden Age, almost the lifetimes of St Botolph and St Cuthbert, suggesting that the chapel and village must have such early origins. Other finds include pottery, window glass and roof tiles. All the finds are being analysed by experts at the University.
It is hoped to return to St Botolph’s for further excavation in 2014; watch this space! The full report on the 2013 excavations will soon be available for download here.
For further information about this project, or any other aspect of the Altogether Archaeology project, please contact the Project Manager, Paul Frodsham: firstname.lastname@example.org