Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No. 79

Autumn 2017


Formerly Bristol & Avon Archaeological Research Group
Registered Charity No. 229317


BAAS Website:

If you have queries about BAAS events or activities please contact the following:

Keith Stenner (Hon. Programme Secretary)  01275 541512  [email protected]

Julie Bassett (Hon. Membership Secretary) 07749 822508 [email protected]

Rob Iles (Hon. Secretary)  0793 0510 373 [email protected]

James Russell (Hon. Treasurer) [email protected]

Welcome to the Autumn Bulletin


All talks take place on the second Wednesday of the month in the APOSTLE ROOM, CLIFTON CATHEDRAL, PEMBROKE ROAD, CLIFTON, BRISTOL, BS8 3BX starting at 7.30pm and finishing around 9.30pm. Tea and coffee and biscuits are freely available from 7.00 pm and again after the talk.

Ample car parking is available in the Cathedral car park, entrance from Worcester Road off Pembroke Road. The 8 and 9 buses both run along Pembroke Road. The entrance to the Apostle Room is on the same level as the car park, under the main part of the Cathedral.  Guests are welcome at a charge of £1.00 per meeting (no charge for members).



Mark Brett, Senior Project Officer, Cotswold Archaeology.

 It was only after the site was completely stripped of topsoil that the layout of a Roman villa, complete with walled courtyard, outbuildings and wells was revealed, as well as a stone trackway which presumably provided access to the settlement from a nearby road. Investigation of the archaeological remains indicated that the site had been occupied for a few hundred years, with the villa complex developing from an earlier settlement dating to the Late Iron Age. The site appears to have enjoyed its most prosperous period around the 3rd century AD, before being abandoned sometime in the second half of the 4th century AD. Investigations recovered a considerable quantity of artefacts, including animal bone, metal finds and pottery.


James Bond.

The most well-known of the many medieval military religious orders which arose during the Crusades. The rules which governed them encompassed two apparently irreconcilable medieval conceits, knighthood and monasticism – they were monks licensed to kill! The talk will cover a brief exploration of their origins, evolving objectives and organisation, landholding and the ways in which they exploited them. Surviving buildings will be discussed, and the background to the suppression of the order in the early C14.


Jinx Newley

The talk will explore the different monastic forms found in medieval Bristol and what survives from the associated building work. There will also be “diversions” to assess people and place names.


Full details will be made available later but the evening will include festive food and drinks, our traditional quiz and a number of short talks/updates given by Committee members.



Nick Corcos

The excavation and post-excavation account of the mid-19C burials found on the site. Post excavation work will be ongoing at the time of the talk so the presentation will be very much a report on work in progress.


Professor Ronald Hutton

WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH         ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING. This will be followed by the traditional Chairman’s talkBob Jones will present an illustrated talk ‘URBAN ARCHAEOLOGY: AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES’

This will feature an overview of “some of the best bits of urban archaeology” reflecting Bob’s experience of over forty years of his distinguished career working in Chester, Lincoln and Bristol.


 The Dower House, built originally by Sir Richard Berkeley in 1553, and several associated structures are all Grade II listed. There are also fine woodland walks. The estate is in the care of Bristol City Council and is a public open space.


Mike Hooper

Under pressure prompted by unconscionable local living conditions Bristol City Council began extensive slum clearance in north Bedminster during the 1930s. This extended an opportunity for archaeological investigations. Mike will define the project progression and extent of the social deprivation revealed.


Meetings of other local societies this Autumn (please refer to individual websites for more details).

Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (BGAS) Meet in the Apostle Room of the RC Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton at 7.45 pm. Charge of £1. (

Banwell Society of Archaeology (BAS). Meet in Banwell Village Hall at 7.30 pm. (

Clevedon and District Archaeological Society (CDAS). Meet in the Friends Meeting House, 15 Albert Road, Clevedon, BS21 7RP at 7.30 pm. Visitors welcome:  Adult – £5 Junior – 50p (

Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS). Meet at Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16 Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HN. £4 (members), £5 (visitors)(

Nailsea and District Local History Society (NDLHS). Meet at Nailsea School (Green Lecture Theatre) at 7.45. Visitors £2. (

Weston-super-Mare Archaeological & Natural History Society (WANHS). Meet at Victoria Methodist Church Hall, 2nd Tuesday of each month (

Monday 11 September (NDLHS) ‘The Growth of Bristol’s Victorian Suburbs’ Peter Malpass

Tuesday 12 September (WAHNS) ‘Our Seas-Our Future’ Alisdair Naulis

Monday 25 September (BGAS) ‘The Sculpture, Symbolism and Archaeology of the Victorian Garden Cemetery’ Alan and Jane Bambury

Friday 29 September (CDAS) ‘Ongoing Excavations at the Lost City of Trellech’ Stuart Wilson

Monday 9 October (NDLHS) ‘AGM & The History of Bristol Water’ Paul Hodge

Tuesday 10 October (WAHNS) ‘A Day in the life of a Curator’ Gail Boyle

Thursday 12 October (BACAS) ‘Conflict Archaeology’ Robert Bewley

Monday 23 October (BGAS) ‘Recent Research at St John the Baptist Church, Bristol’ Toby Parker

Friday 27 October (CDAS) ‘Recent Research on the Vikings in the West Country’ Derek Gore

Thursday 2 November (BACAS) ‘Britain’s Pagan Heritage’ Ronald Hutton

Monday 13 November (NDLHS) ‘The Carols Are Coming’ Jean Routley

Tuesday 14 November (WAHNS) ‘Archaeology and Pottery Production in the South West of England’ David Dawson

Friday 24 November (CDAS) ‘Salt Routes – the original trade route, why it existed and why these routes are still in use today’ Anthony Poulton-Smith

Monday 27 November (BGAS) ‘Alfred George Stevens, 1817-75: The Life and Times of a West Country Artist’ John Stevens

Thursday 7 December (BACAS) ‘Knowlton Henge’ Martin Green

Monday 11 December (NDLHS) ‘The Christmas Truce 1914’ Garry Gowans

Tuesday 12 December (WAHNS) ‘Recent work on the Vikings in the West Country’ Derek Gore.

Doors Open Days – 7 – 10 September– look behind closed doors and discover the city’s hidden treasures. For more information visit

Bristol’s Bonded Warehouses – until 29 September – this exhibition at B Bond Warehouse features documents, plans, photographs and film telling the story of these Bristol landmarks.

Summer Walk: Public Sculpture – 13 September – join Francis Greenacre, former Curator of Fine Art at the museum and co-author of ‘Public Sculpture of Bristol’ for a late summer’s evening walk.

Bristol’s White City, 1914 – M Shed, 21 September – talk by local historian Clive Burlton.

Archaeology Day Schools run by Bristol Museum – book through the website ( or by calling in:

Saturday 7 October – Fabulous Finds  be the first to find out about some of the most exciting archaeological artefacts found in the Bristol area. 10.30am – 4pm £35/£30

Saturday 18 November 2017 – The art and architecture of St Mary Redcliffe – discover the art and architecture of one of Bristol’s most important landmarks and one of the country’s most important parish churches. 11am – 4.30pm £35/£30

21 October – the Council for British Archaeology’s Home Front Legacy team in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council Living Legacies First World War Engagement Centre are hosting two free community workshops, one in Bristol, to explore how to research, record and fund your own First World War project. To book on the Bristol workshop go to


Wrecked ship rediscovered in Bristol Channel

In the early morning of Christmas Eve 1900 the “Brunswick”, a Glasgow built steam ship trading regularly between Liverpool and Bristol, was proceeding up the Bristol Channel towards Avonmouth in thick fog when it hit a sandbank off Black Nore Point, Portishead and sank rapidly. Nine of the crew, including the Master, John Richard Wade, escaped by lifeboat but seven sailors were trapped in the hull and drowned. A subsequent Court of Enquiry censured Wade for navigational errors and suspended his Master’s certificate for three months. During a recent hydrographic survey by the Port of Bristol, the wreck of the “Brunswick” has been rediscovered, exposed by changing patterns of sand and sediment. Dramatic 3-D sonar images show the hull still standing upright and largely intact, along with parts of the superstructure. Continued monitoring of the site indicates that the wreck is now being re buried in sediments. (BBC News website, 28 July 2017).

Excavations at Oldbury on Severn

The village of Oldbury on Severn lies within a semi-circular earthwork enclosure known as the “Toot”. This consists of two banks up to two metres high with a ditch between. Small-scale excavations in the 1970s produced small quantities of Iron Age pottery, and Roman coins have also been found. The unusual feature of the fortification is its low lying riverside location, on an island of Mercia Mudstone surrounded by the alluvial North Avon Levels. As part of South Gloucestershire Council’s lottery-funded “Forgotten Landscape” initiative, a community archaeology project centred on the fortification has been established, organised by Dig Ventures Ltd. Following a programme of test-pitting, geophysics and geoarchaeological sampling, an excavation was carried out between 20 June and 2 July. Volunteers cut several trenches through the eastern end of the defences, sectioning the banks and ditch. The banks appeared to consist of a hard capping of red clay overlying a softer sandy core. The majority of finds seem to have been pottery fragments of Iron Age and later date. For further details see the Dig Ventures website (

Roman Yate

Until Saturday 2 September 2017 the Heritage Centre in Church Road, Yate is holding an exhibition of Roman finds from the Yate area. The centre is open from 10.30AM to 4.30PM, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday (free admission).

News from YCCCART

The latest on-line newsletter from the Yatton, Congresbury, Claverham and Cleeve Archaeological Research Team (YCCCART) focuses on industrial archaeology. There are notes on a cylindrical egg-ended boiler in King’s Wood, the important Roman pottery industry in Congresbury, and recent finds of Roman bloomery (iron-making) furnaces in Cobthorn Way and Arnold’s Way, Congresbury.

Barton Hill Pottery

The most recent issue of Post Medieval Archaeology (Vol 51(1), 2017) includes a full report by Cai Mason on the excavation in 2013-14 of a late 19th century pottery in Queen Anne Road, Barton Hill. The work was undertaken by the former Bristol & Region Archaeological Services. Although a pottery had operated on the opposite side of the road since 1804, the excavated site was only in use between 1872 and 1888. The base of the single circular kiln was uncovered together with the foundations of a “blunger” for processing clay. The factory produced domestic jugs, bowls and pans as well as flower pots and chimney pots, all in red earthenware or redware. An unexpected find at the southern end of the site was a dump of whiteware sherds from another local pottery, mostly with transfer-printed patterns.

The Early Archaeological Work of the UBSS

The latest Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society (vol 17(2) for 2017) contains a detailed review by D T Donovan of the archaeological activities of the UBSS between its foundation in 1919 and 1939. These fell under three main headings. First there was work in caves, mainly on Mendip (Avelines Hole, Reads Cavern) but also in the Wye Valley and Derbyshire. Secondly there were excavations on surface sites, mainly Mendip barrows but also including the “henge” at Gorsey Bigbury and the Iron Age hillfort at Bury Hill, Winterbourne. Finally, there was non-excavational fieldwork and recording, best exemplified by the pioneering surveys of settlement remains and field systems carried out by C W Phillips on the Failand Ridge. While their excavation techniques sometimes left much to be desired, the commitment and ambition of the UBSS membership cannot be doubted. They built up a fine library and invited many leading archaeologists to lecture to them. Much of their work was written up and published in the UBSS Proceedings. This was just as well given the almost total destruction of the Society’s finds and records during World War II.

Skeleton Cave

Elsewhere in the latest UBSS Proceedings is an article by Graham Mullan and others piecing together the story of Skeleton Cave, a small rock shelter on the slopes of the Avon Gorge, near Stokeleigh Camp. It was discovered in 1965 by two cavers, Tony Oldham and Geoff Workman, who proceeded to carry out a small, unauthorised excavation (permission was not sought from the landowner, the National Trust, “in case it was refused”!!). Partial removal of the deposits produced animal bones, several worked flint flakes and finally human remains – two arm bones (ulnae) and a lower jaw bone (mandible). At this point the National Trust intervened and the dig was stopped. The finds from the site have since been lost except for the mandible, which is now in Bristol City Museum, and has been radiocarbon dated to around 3500 BC. As an apparent Neolithic burial site the cave has considerable potential for further controlled excavation.


North Somerset by Cat Lodge

Know Your Place North Somerset is proving quite popular, with almost 1200 people interacting with the map. We have nearly 30 community layer contributions, all of which allow both local residents and visitors alike to help to unlock this history and heritage of North Somerset. Training workshops are underway and officers are attending local events to promote this fantastic resource such as at the Banwell Archaeology weekend (11th-13th August). If you would like any more information, please contact us on the email below.

Archaeological investigations are still ongoing along the route of the Southern Strategic Support Main pipeline from Barrow Gurney to Cheddar/Banwell, with an excavation currently underway of a Romano-British pottery kiln and associated features. Full details of this will be available shortly.

Local archaeological groups’ work over the last few months and moving forward include:

  • YCCCART (Yatton, Congresbury, Claverham and Cleeve Archaeological Research Team) – forthcoming excavation at a Roman site in Cleevesurveys on Yatton Moor to locate a possible Romano-British industrial site, investigations into the history of Congresbury Bridge, and the ongoing boundary stones project.
  • Weston-super-Mare Archaeological and Natural History Society – continued excavation of a site in Weston with finds including Iron Age and Roman pottery.
  • WASP (Winscombe and Sandford Archaeological and Historical Project) – work still ongoing to provide a narrative for the development of the landscape of the parish through examination of archaeological and historical evidence. Fieldwork in the form of test-pitting is also still ongoing.

The HER enhancement project is also continuing at a notable pace, led by the Archaeologist and HER Officer, which is looking to improve substantially the information available to users.

A quick reminder that there has been a small change in contact details for all archaeological, built heritage or HER queries – please email [email protected].

Bristol by Pete Insole

The Portwall at Temple Gate

As part of the significant changes at Temple Gate as the Temple Circus roundabout is removed, Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA) have been excavating trial trenches in the area to locate the 13th century Portwall. This ‘defensive’ structure that once enclosed the areas of Redcliffe and Temple has been previously recorded, most notably by Reg Jackson in the 1990s during excavations at Temple Quay.

Two of PCA’s trenches revealed the wall approximately 1.2m below the present ground surface. In both locations there was evidence of reuse of the structure for buildings along Portwall Lane and Temple Street in the post-medieval period. The footings of the wall were recorded as being 1.9m wide and just like the previous excavations it was constructed with sandstone rubble bonded by an orangey-red sandy mortar.

The archaeological work will enable the wall to be preserved in situ as the engineering works progress.

St Catherine’s Hospital

Excavations by Wessex Archaeology ahead of developments at Regent House, Bedminster Parade, have identified the fragmentary remains of part of St Catherine’s Hospital. The hospital itself was founded in the 12th century by Robert of Berkeley and survived until at least the 16th century. Much of the site became redeveloped first for the Bedminster Tannery and then the Wills’ Tobacco Factory in the 19th century.

Excavations have identified the partial remains of a medieval structure including a trampled surface that would have formed part of one room within a stone building. The remains are deeply buried and the walls have largely been robbed of stone, but map evidence suggests that the structure may relate to the ‘Guest House’ of the hospital. This house was recorded by the Clifton Antiquarian Club in 1887 prior to its demolition.

The archaeological remains have been recorded and monitoring will continue on site throughout the development groundworks for a large residential scheme that includes the conversion of the former Tobacco Factory office buildings.

Dove Lane

Initial investigations by Cotswold Archaeology at a redevelopment site at Dove Lane, St Pauls, have identified the archaeological remains of nineteenth century workers’ housing to the north of Newfoundland Road. Early indications suggest that two phases of housing development survive on the site and further investigations will complement studies of Bristol’s post-medieval housing such as that by Dr Roger Leech and excavations at Wade Street recently published in Internet Archaeology by Avon Archaeology. (The full report on Wade Street is freely available to view at

St George’s

Fieldwork ahead of the new extension of St George’s concert hall has been completed by Avon Archaeology. The excavation of part of the graveyard of the former Church of St George built in the early 19th century involved the removal of 384 burials. These skeletal remains will now be analysed at the University of Bristol, although initial assessment has suggested that further analysis will provide highly significant information about the 19th century Bristol population.

The graveyard contained a good cross-section of Bristol society with some very wealthy individuals interred within highly decorated coffins in family tombs as well as poorer members of the community buried in simple graves. The remains also included evidence of post mortem medical studies.

Analysis of the remains and the preparation of the full publication is likely to take a number of years given the amount of material that the archaeologists have recovered. The site is featured in a short film in the current Skeletons exhibition at M Shed. Our committee member, Nick Corcos, will be talking about the findings of this important site in January 2018 (see programme above).



SECRETARY: Rob Iles TREASURER: James Russell


COMMITTEE:  Bev Knott, Wendy Russ, Kate Churchill, Nick Corcos
CO-OPTED: Peter Insole, Debbie Brookes, Mike Gwyther

Do keep an eye on the website! If you have forgotten the Members password contact Julie.

Also if you are not receiving email communications but would like to, could you send Julie your email address? (contact details at the start of the Bulletin).

Back numbers of the BAA will be available at the Autumn meetings.

This edition of the Bulletin was brought together by BAAS Chairman, Bob Jones.