Equidistant from the ancient church of St Mary's to the north and the bright and cheerful twenty-first century 'Town Hall', now known to all as Parkside, to the south, this now derelict, overgrown lot once housed the Victorian building known as the Melton Garage which was built around the turn of the 19/20th century. Once covering a spacious plot, it backs onto the old Mediaeval Way to London, better known as the footpath from the church to the nearby Railway Station and bordering the Play Close. As a matter of pure coincidence and not necessarily pertinent to this article, is the fact that at the rear of the 'Anne of Cleves' restaurant just adjacent to this plot, there used to exist Melton's one and only cock-pit to where the punters used to flock in the days before the cinema and football arrived. This arena became unfit for purpose around 1830 when a new location was found and utilised at the top of Goodricke Street, now roughly near to the entrance of Morrisons and Granby House. Those were the days!
Since the new Council offices were completed, a festering sore has remained with the future of the land which was of necessity exposed in the wake of its construction and which lies at the rear of the shops and businesses in Burton End. Initially scraped level and utilised as a temporary (and expensive) public car park, the good folk of Melton were asked which they would prefer on the site, a retail development or a car park.
To my great delight, after persisting with my presence, I was kindly invited to join the group on site for an inspection of my own and to gain information from team leader, archaeologist Derek Roberts of P.D.A. 'Pre Develop Archaeology', of Peterborough. As is the modern way I was even provided with a hard hat and high visibility bib while he described his company's role and purpose; he also answered many of my endless questions. He told me that his company was asked by the Leicestershire County Council, in conjunction with the heritage department of the local council to undertake a survey for the County Archive purposes.
As a matter of personal interest, I asked Derek if the 'Harris Matrix' was utilised in his work, as I am an acquaintance of Dr Edward Harris of Bermuda who formulated the 'Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy' and of whom I have mentioned in an earlier blog. I was assured that his priciples were followed by all modern day archaeologists, so it was gratifying for me to see the practical results of Ed's hard theorising of the 1970s being put into attested practice.
A week after my visit to the above site, the scene was more akin to the current Wimbledon tennis championships, with a massive roll of plastic sheet being manouvered by a half a dozen fit workmen men all pulling and shoving to make it fit. I looked up expecting to see rain clouds and people raising their brollies but on the contrary, it was a sunny July day and the old archaeological remains were being covered, perhaps for ever.
On the far side of the site however, current surveying has exposed unexpected remains of what is presently estimated to be 16th century stonework - pretty old for this part of the town. I've told team leader Derek to expect another visit from me! Watch this space.
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