Archaeological Excavations in the Master's Forecourt, Emmanuel College, Cambridge 1993

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Dickens, Alison 

Excavation was carried out anticipating the construction of the Emmanuel Master’s Forecourt Building. The excavation revealed evidence of early medieval soils, perhaps derived from gardening or farming activity which may relate to the early Priory period or just pre-date it. At some stage, certainly within the early life of the Monastery, a large tank and accompanying ditch were dug, the ditch taking water away to the north. Whilst the tank may have been used for fish keeping, the environmental evidence does not tend to support this, and it seems the tank formed part of a major water management system which might have included other tanks and ditches across the site as a whole. In the 14th century the tank and ditch were filled in and a stone building was constructed over the backfill. Judging from its remains this was a substantial, perhaps two storey, structure with a tiled roof and decorated with painted window glass and embossed floor tiles. A ditch was dug to the east of the building, into the backfill of the earlier tank, probably for drainage. The Monastery was surrendered in 1538 and the land passed through several sets of hands. Around 1545 the stone building was demolished and the stone sold off. On, possibly two, timber framed buildings were erected and at some stage a brick conduit was inserted, again probably for drainage. The timber framed buildings may have survived until the foundation of the College in 1584, but were certainly gone by the time of Hamond’s 1592 map of Cambridge, when the site had become the Master’s Garden. It remained garden until the middle years of the 20th century when it became a car park.

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