Winner of the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award 2013

Dedicated to the history and heritage of the town of Brixham in Devon

Second Progress Report on the HLF Funded “All Our Stories” Project

Excavations at the Victorian Cottages site on Berry Head, 27th July 2013.

Dr Philip L. Armitage (Curator)

17th September 2013

Image of Torquay Young Archaeologists

Despite the prospect of stormy weather, the planned open house dig for the Torquay Museum’s Young Archaeologist Club went ahead on Saturday 27th July 2013. July 2013. Twelve children and thirteen adults joined Brixham Heritage Museum’s Archaeological team in investigating domestic refuse deposits located alongside the western garden wall at the site of two demolished Victorian cottages on Berry Head Common. The efforts of the museum team and Young Archaeologists Club members were well rewarded with the recovery of over 760 pottery sherds, 12 small finds, 71 fragments of glass, 26 shellfish remains and 36 animal bones. Unfortunately heavy rainfall after lunch put paid to carrying on the excavation in the afternoon. However, a workshop at Brixham Heritage Museum in November organised for the Torquay Museum club members will enable them to handle the finds and discuss how these contribute to our knowledge of the everyday lives of the inhabitants of the Victorian cottages.

Preliminary post-excavation analyses of the finds by Brixham Heritage Museum finds specialists has identified table wares with “Asiatic pheasant” and “Willow pattern” transferprinted designs, a blue and white transfer printed cup with the design of a women with baby sitting on a chair, and sherds of a large pancheon used in bread making. Sufficient pieces were recovered to allow for the reconstruction of an almost complete example of a blue and white transfer printed jug (pictured).

Image of jug

Among the small finds recovered there is a small porcelain cat figurine (pictured), a cartridge case of a Martini-Henry rifle bullet (probably from the Berry Head Victorian rifle range – in use 1865 - 1908) and dressmaker’s scissors. The latter find is of interest as it may be associated with either of the two women who occupied the cottages in the 1870s and known to have been dressmakers.

Image of cat figurine

Identified among the glass fragments are the neck and base of an embossed “Scotts Emulsion” (cod liver oil) bottle. The animal bones are food remains (beef, mutton and fish) but also include the two lower jawbones of an adult cat – presumably a pet owned by one of the families living in the cottages.

Image of cat jawbones

Excavations at the site are continuing and latest noteworthy finds include parts of a kitchen range and a George II farthing, Areas adjacent to the cottages site are also being explored by the museum team, who are discovering prehistoric worked flints (debitage from flint knapping/tool making).

Click here to read the third progress report on the 'All Our Stories' Project