RAUNDS, in Northamptonshire, is fast becoming one of our longest-running excavations, having been in progress more or less con tinuously since the autumn of 1977. The excavation has gone through several stages. It began with the dis covery of two Saxon grave slabs; it went on to reveal a Saxon church that had been converted into a medieval Manor house; this was followed by the excavation of the surrounding cemetery; and the project is now turning into the pursuit of the origins and develop ment of the village itself.
The site was first discovered by David Hall, the indefatigable field worker of the Higham Ferrers Hundred Society (and now Field Archaeologist in Cambridgeshire), who put a trench through some threatened earthworks just outside the modern village of Raunds and came up with two finely carved grave slabs, which, ironically turned out to be the only carved slabs on the site.
But as the field was due to be developed, Andrew Boddington commenced excavation for the County Council Archaeological Unit.
The excavations soon showed that the problems of redundant churches are not new, but that the solutions of the Middle Ages were very similar to those of today: convert the redundant church to residential use, in this case into a manor house. The church seems to have been a comparatively late one, founded around 900 AD as a small rectangular stone chamber with possibly an adjoining timber chancel. It was rebuilt and enlarged a century later and then abandoned around 1200, when it was converted into a rather small manor house. The chancel and half the nave were demolished, and the other half of the nave formed the first hall, this in turn being extended to provide a full range of manorial solar, hall and outbuildings. A large circular dovecote, adjoining the manor house, still stood lm high, and the bottom row of the nesting boxes survived at 60cm intervals around the inside wall. Across an open courtyard 30m to the NE stood the remains of a stone outbuilding with numerous hearths and ovens set in the floor and against walls. This structure has been excavated with the assistance of John Knight, a volunteer who has come
This finely carved Saxon grave slab was discovered in the very first trench and was the first indication that there was a Saxon church here.
The final phase of the manor-house. At the west end there was a large circular dove cot.
regularly with his son Jonathan from Norwich.
However, the major part of the work has been the intensive investigation of the surrounding cemetery where Andy and Pat Chapman have been responsible for the recognition and recovery of the majority of graves, of which 350 have so far been uncovered. The bones are very well preserved and will provide evidence of the physique, diet, longevity and diseases of a late Saxon population. The cemetery also provides the