Tuesday, 16 September 2008

the playstreet dig - portman connections

I passed by the Play street dig at Bickenhall organised by the Neroche Scheme. They had decided to do a two week dig to see if there was any evidence of a settlement that aerial photographs from the 70s had revealed. The site had been turning up medieval potsherds and tiles from ploughing.

I was particularly curious, as Diane and Brian Hood had talked me through the story of Rachel Portman and her white horse ghosting the road way. 'In 1602 Rachel Portman (daughter of Sir Henry Portman) obtained the property and made it her residence. The name Playstreet is probably Saxon in origin, meaning quite literally the street where people played.'

'Rachel Portman (1554-1631) was buried in Bickenhall churchyard, which has since been demolished. It is said that her ghost riding a white horse roams the area from the old churchyard at Bickenhall, through Park Farm to Playstreet.' (Neroche Scheme website).

We arrived a little after the 'tour' of the dig had begun, so we joined in - as we arrived I sensed a tense atmosphere and realised we were in a group of very obsessive people; posturing, competition, distraction, a man with a child on his back talking so loudly into his mobile phone I couldn't hear the guide, men undermining the woman archaelogist - a really weird atmosphere, lots of agendas. There might have been some very interesting observations going on, but the tension negated anything useful happening. This bit of film demonstrates it accurately enough....

it was weird - i couldn't work out what was going on - the project seemed to have dragged the strongest agendas to the surface. I wanted to watch and listen closely to everyone, to watch the difficulty - but it was so tense that the 'tour' dispersed through the field, and I turned away to film a poignant piece of hazard tape in the corn stubble, and thought about the horse ghost.

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