Please Note: The Coleshill House site and grounds are owned by the
National Trust. The woods and grounds of the house are all strictly private and access is limited
to set days a year. See our events page for their official open days.
Attempting to access the site outside of these times is not only trespassing but could damage the
future of our work and relationship with the Trust and villagers.
The Coleshill grounds had never been investigated so CART set up Coleshill Uncovered. It's objective, to learn
more about the site through historical desktop research and archaeological study. An archaeological site proposal
was submitted to the National Trust. This was approved and the first survey was conducted on January 22nd and 23rd
CART worked with staff and students at Bristol University, members of Subterranea Britannica, The Ridgeway
Military and Aviation Research Group (RMARG) and GWAG
The second stage of work was conducted in July 2011.
The overall project is managed by CART. John Winterburn and Anna Gow lead the archaeological work.
Coleshill Uncovered January 2011 - A report written by Steve Mason
CART's Coleshill Uncovered project undertook its first work over the weekend of
22nd – 23rd of January 2011 with about 30 enthusiastic volunteers.
On Saturday morning a project outline was given by Tom Sykes (CART), and the
archaeological strategy and methodology was given by John Winterburn and Anna Gow, who handled these aspects
throughout the weekend with an easy-going yet professional touch.
The work began with 3 teams focusing on their given tasks:
1/ identification of the footings of several known Nissen huts in woodland east of
the main house (Sector 1);
2/ general survey (including metal detection) employing a line of people visually
examining the ground of Sector 1, and subsequently Sector 2, woodland east of the ornamental main gates.
3/ close visual examination of the Ha-Ha; a 17th century ornamental wall and ditch
that follows just beyond the outline of Coleshill house and the woodland adjacent to the north wall around the
Team one worked to find and clear the concrete bases of the Nissen huts and
discovered one large base, perhaps previously unknown.
Team two in that area discovered several bullet cases and further east some light
aluminium work perhaps originating from road vehicles or even an aircraft (auxiliers report both at Coleshill for
Team three, looked for the Ha-Ha on the partially open grass areas south of
Coleshill house itself. No trace was found, but the surface remains of a water or sewage cistern was investigated
just south of a large Cedar tree (detailed report forthcoming). The approximate line of the Ha-Ha was followed
around the house and garden to the east and searched for through the adjacent woodland (Sector 1), again without
trace. Further east clear remains of the Ha-ha became visible and examination of the wall began in
Because the known underground OB (operational base) has its escape tunnel exiting in the Ha-ha
wall, team 3 were looking for disturbance/changes to the stonework; particularly deep gaps between stones were
examined with long probes and a torch.
As so much of the wall was similar the team chose to examine the several hundred
metres of the Ha-ha more than once. This methodology proved worthwhile when Peter Antill found one or two slightly
newer looking stones and, upon gentle removal, discovered a small concealed chamber containing a complete British
Saturday afternoon, team one continued clearing the concrete bases in Sector 1,
while team 2 (metal detectorists) moved into Sector 2, woodland east of the ornamental gates.
Team three examined the Ha-Ha close to the known OB locating ceramic pipe
fragments (a possible breather for the OB's chemical toilet), along with metal hinges and hooks (in likely outfill
from the collapsed escape tunnel - previously excavated). Cement filling was found at the escape tunnel exit
between the Ha-Ha's stonework; an application presumably designed to prevent access when the main entrance was also
sealed to put the OB beyond use. Also found, a sizeable fragment of concrete, including chicken wire and wooden
frame impressions; the latter pair being structural materials described by auxiliers as commonly constituting an
original main hatch; and so this find was almost certainly part of the concrete seal over the OB's everyday
Subsequently team three examined the very dilapidated remains of the Ha-Ha east of
the OB, and searched for telephone lines (postulated to run between the OB and the possible observation post near
by on the north side of the Coleshill to Faringdon road). By evening, the Ha-Ha and the telephone line search had
yielded no finds except (via metal detector) the team identified a live WW2 British 2 inch mortar round.
After bomb disposal experts confirmed and blew up the mortar round the teams continued.
Generally, at the same locations (as Saturday) but now pursuing new clues towards further finds.
Large anomalies were identified to the east of the known OB using deep field metal
detection; the Ha-Ha's entire length was re-examined (twice) for any other areas of concrete infill around the
stonework, but without result. The various teams recorded finds locations with GPS.
Later, team three focused on testing CART's special recording sheet for OBs. These
are designed to help lone researchers (like our CIOs - County Information Officers) when working in the field. One
observation made concerned the possible original construction technique of the escape tunnel.
The tunnel was partially made through solid rock, some two to three feet below the
woodland surface, and in this are a number of channels (approx 1 to 2 inches wide) on both side walls. It was
posited that these were perhaps drilled down from the surface and subsequently filled with high explosive in order
to blast the rock, allowing easier digging of the tunnel.
As the light began to fade in the afternoon, the various teams packed up their
equipment and headed back to the courtyard. And as we all departed we agreed on the completion of a very exciting
and satisfying stage of the Coleshill Uncovered project.
We have already discovered about 60 finds over the first weekend (Stage
The identity of many of these finds is yet to be established but we have found the
Bayonet (see below)
2 inch mortar round
Panels from one of the radios
Fuel can lid
Spent bullet cartridges
C96 Mauser cartridge cases
Bases to some Mills Grenades
Shotgun cartridge bases
A coat hook
With the help and advice of the former Royal Armouries curator at the Museum of
London one of the Coleshill Uncovered team, Guy Taylor, has successfully managed to remove the bayonet from the
The corrosion on the blade appears to be relatively superficial for the most part;
the worst appears to be on the cross-guard, but even this is not too bad overall. It is clear that the edges of the
blade have not been sharpened, so the fighting-knife theory appears not to hold up. Such is archaeology!
Guy has used a fine round scalpel blade to remove a small amount of the corrosion
from the ricasso, to see if it is possible to find any markings stamped on the blade. There do not appear to be any
deep, clearly defined, impressions alas, but there is possibly a rather light letter R (VR?). As far as further
treatment is concerned, the separation of scabbard and bayonet will make the conservation process much easier. When
Guy spoke initially to the senior MoL conservator, she said that if he could separate them, the scabbard could be
treated with a proprietary leather treatment. As the leather is already drying and stiffening, Guy will go ahead
with this. There is some corrosion on the scabbard metalwork but it is not too far gone and after the loose
material has been removed it will probably be sufficient to keep it in a relatively dry atmosphere; a small silica
gel bag will be adequate until it goes on display.
As far as the bayonet itself is concerned, Guy suspects that the blade would
benefit from some form of cleaning and/or chemical inhibition. The wood grips probably need only an application of
some commercially available wood preservative; treatment with PEG and freeze-drying is thankfully not called
1. Complete the clearance work started during the January 2011
evaluation weekend on the concrete slabs in Sector 1. This work will also now include exploratory trenches that
will hopefully provide both further information about the construction of the structures and also regarding the
original use of the structures.
2. Undertake clearance work and excavate two trenches at the
3. Work carried out so far at Structure 2, previously known as
the Generator Base, has not really yielded any useful information about it's use. We therefore propose excavating
two trenches at this feature.
4. The metal detecting that was carried out over the
evaluation weekend provided both a substantial number of artefacts and a number of strong signals that should be
investigated further. Subject to number of detectorists on site, we believe that a larger systematic gridded metal
detecting survey of these areas (Sectors 1 & 2) will provide us with even more evidence of the training
5. Follow-up all strong MD & geophysics signals recorded
during the January 2011 evaluation weekend with some excavation to see if any further structural remains (including
another possible OB) can be identified.
6. Depending on manpower available we will also look to
conduct an initial walking survey of Sectors 3 and 4.
All of this is obviously dependant on how many people we have
during the week.