Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No.84 Autumn 2019

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



Autumn 2019

ISSN 1751 – 7060


BAAS Website;

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

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

Gundula Dorey (Temporary Bulletin Editor)  0117 9276812  [email protected]

Paula Gardiner (Website Co-ordinator) 0117 9213608  [email protected]



Talks usually take place on the second Wednesday of the month in the APOSTLE ROOM in CLIFTON CATHEDRAL, PEMBROKE ROAD, CLIFTON, BRISTOL BS8 3BX starting at 7.30pm and ending by 9.30pm.

Tea, coffee and biscuits are available from 7.00pm.

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 parts of Pembroke Road. The entrance to the Apostle Room is on the same level as the car park, under the main part of the Cathedral.

Non-members are welcome as guests at a charge of £1.00 per meeting.



Wednesday 11 September 2019


Dr Jodie Lewis, Principal Lecturer in Archaeology , University of Worcester.

The talk will consider the results of Jodie’s recent excavations on North Hill, best known as the location of the impressive Priddy Nine Barrows. Her project has revealed sites and monuments dating to the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Romano-British periods, including the earliest Neolithic monument in the region, previously undiscovered round barrows and a very unusual Romano-British site.

Wednesday 9 October 2019


Catherine Woolfitt ACR MCIfA, Catherine Woolfitt Associates Ltd, Conservation of Historic Buildings, Ancient Monuments and Sculpture.

The remains of the temple of Mithras were excavated in the 1950s during the redevelopment of the Walbrook site in the City of London and attracted significant public interest. The stone and brick masonry remains were removed following detailed recording and a version of the temple was recreated in the 1960s on a nearby site above a car park. Recent developments of the site provided the opportunity to return the temple remains to their original location and to create a more accurate reconstruction, faithful to the drawn and photographic records of the 1950s. The process of dismantling the 1960s version of the temple and planning and reconstructing the ‘ruin’ was a multidisciplinary project, with input from archaeologists, conservators, architects, engineers and the statutory authorities. The remains are now open to the public and form part of the larger interpretive exhibition within the new Bloomberg building in the City of London.

Wednesday 13 November 2019


Tom Brindle, Post-Excavation Manager, Cotswold Archaeology.

In 2017 Cotswold Archaeology undertook the excavation which produced evidence for activity during the Iron Age and the Roman periods. During the Roman period the site was on the periphery of a farmstead, and in the later Roman period was used for burial. The group of burials from the site are of particular interest, providing evidence for a range of intriguing and in some cases rare burial sites. This talk will present the excavated evidence from the site in the regional and national context of Roman Britain.

Wednesday 11 December 2019


Tony Roberts, Archeoscan.

 Archaeologist and BAAS member Tony Roberts will give us a project update on the 3rd/4th century building at Doynton which considers the wider environment and the context of the building. He will also give a review of the Roman site at Hanging Hill and news on other sites in South Gloucestershire.

In addition he will give  an overview of the planned Summer community archaeological investigation at Ashton Court, Bristol, where a ‘missing’ wing of the mansion will be investigated.

 There will be mince pies at this meeting and the odd glass of wine.

TALKS 2020

Wednesday 8 January 2020


Cai Mason, Senior Project Officer, Wessex Archaeology

A review of the archaeological discoveries made to date during the Bath Abbey Footprint Project including evidence of Mesolithic activity; Roman buildings; a Saxon monastery; Norman Priory Cathedral; Tudor Abbey; Saxon, medieval and post-medieval burials; and the post medieval development of the spa resort.

Wednesday 19 February 2020 (please note unusual date)  LESLIE GRINSELL MEMORIAL LECTURE


Dr Andrew Armstrong, City Archaeologist, Gloucester City Council.

The castle was rediscovered during excavations on the Gloucester Prison site. Established as a motte and bailey castle during the reign of William the Conqueror it was much enlarged by his son, William Rufus. Further work was completed under Henry I, II and III, and then by Edward I, II and III. By the mid 15th century the castle had fallen into disrepair and was no longer considered defensible.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

AGM followed by: ‘THE LORD MAYOR’S CHAPEL’  Alderman Bill Martin, Chairman of BAAS

Originally a monastic foundation begun by Maurice de Gaunt in 1220 the church was essentially complete by circa 1230. His nephew Robert de Gournay later developed the site into Gaunt’s Hospital. Following the Reformation it was purchased by Bristol Corporation in 1541 for £1,000. From 1687 until 1722 it became a Huguenot chapel before assuming the role of official Corporation Church. Famously it is still the only church in England owned and used for worship by a local authority.

Wednesday 1 APRIL 2020 (note unusual date again)


Professor Nigel Nayling, Professor of Archaeology, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Lampeter

During the dramatic discovery of the Newport ship in 2002 the application of dendrochronology provided the first precise absolute dating for the timbers surrounding and within the ship, placing the ship’s arrival to after AD 1468. The ship itself has now been dated against historic buildings in the hinterland of the Basque country in Spain. These discoveries have encouraged further research on other Iberian shipwrecks on the Atlantic seaboard of Europe and in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.



 This edition of the Bulletin is an amalgamation of the one you should have had at the beginning of May and a bringing forward of the Autumn one. Sadly the two members of the committee who brought you the last Bulletin are both suffering ill health and the Summer edition never came out. The committee wishes to apologise to everyone who was relying on it to tell them about the summer walks – although the programme is on the website and Keith Stenner will have sent out his usual informative email reminders we recognise that some members will not have picked up the information and we are sorry. You have not missed out on anything else.

The current Bulletin has been brought together by Gundula and Andrew Dorey (who had been slumbering gently in their retirement) with unstinting help from James Russell (a former Editor) Paula Gardiner and all the many contributors – especially Keith who worked his socks off to get such an excellent annual programme together. Thanks also to Julie Bassett who arranged the printing and sent this edition to you.

Any queries or comments (likes and dislikes) should come back to Gundula. It is likely that the next Bulletin will be produced by the same team but if there is anyone out there who would like to help – or even take on the Editorship – it has its rewards, honest – we’d love to hear from you.

 Content of the Bulletin:  What would you like to see? How about Paula’s Quizzes from previous Christmas parties?  Retrospective views on either winter talks or summer walks?  Something of your own research which you might have undertaken? The programmes of like-minded societies? We’d seriously consider anything – especially new suggestions. Please send to Gundula.

You may be interested in how James Russell is getting on. After four years of struggle he has reached a better place with his back but his dialysis continues and can still cause problems. He has moved to the ground floor of his house for ease of access and is receiving help with sorting his vast collection of books. He can go out for short walks using his walking frame and regularly travels locally by bus. He is still researching through his iPad and writing articles (as you will read below).  We hope that by Autumn he may find it possible to come to meetings again – fingers crossed.

There is one more summer event which involves BAAS:

Saturday 3 August 2019


 A fun packed day of a whole spectrum of special archaeological events arranged by Bristol Museum. BAAS will as usual have a table and display – come and say hello as you wander round marvelling at the numerous stands and activities.



Cotswold Archaeology at 30

Cotswold Archaeology was founded 30 years ago on 17 March 1989. From modest beginnings it has grown into one of the “top four'” professional archaeological contractors in the country, with offices at Andover, Cirencester, Exeter and Milton Keynes, and over 220 staff. To celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2014, Cotswold chief executive Neil Holbrook edited an attractive booklet highlighting 25 key projects and finds, which is still downloadable as a pdf from the CA website ( Neil has now added five more “highlights” to the website, including the Roman villa excavated below a former rugby pitch at Stoke Gifford in 2016. As Neil says, this was “nice but not spectacular”, with two heated rooms and a probable bath suite but no mosaics. Perhaps more impressive was its formal, near symmetrical layout, the main residence being fronted by a walled courtyard with flanking outbuildings. The star find was a bronze oil -lamp in the form of a seated human figure, possibly made in Egypt. (see also Paul Driscoll’s article below – Ed)

Another recent addition to the CA website is a note by Sharon Clough on the re-examination of human bones found during the 1960s in Cannington Park Quarry near Bridgewater. Covered in “calcareous deposit”, the bones of 7 individuals were excavated from a small cave since destroyed by quarrying. They were originally published in 2000 by Phillip Rahtz in his report on the major post Roman cemetery he had excavated close by in 1962-3. Recent radiocarbon dating of the cave bones has shown that they in fact belong to the Mesolithic period around 8500 BC, inviting comparison with the Mendip cave burials from Gough’s Cave, Cheddar and Aveline’s Hole, Burrington.

A Bronze Age “Burnt Mound” in South Gloucestershire

An article in the latest Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society  (vol 136 for 2018) describes Cotswold Archaeology’s 2013 excavation of a “ burnt mound” at Autumn Brook, Yate. Mostly dating from the Bronze Age, “burnt mounds” were places where water was boiled by throwing in heated stones. They are most commonly thought to have been used as a form of sauna, although cooking, craft activities or rituals are also possible. The Yate example consisted of a shallow depression some 20 metres across, filled with layers of burnt stone and charcoal. Water was obtained from an adjacent palaeochannel and boiled in troughs cut into the floor of the depression. Radiocarbon dates indicated that the site was in use around 1500BC. Later features included a Roman drainage ditch and at least one Anglo Saxon pit.

 New Finds from Bath Abbey

Two new video clips on the Wessex Archaeology website describe recent finds in the “Footprints” project at Bath Abbey. One describes a Mesolithic ground surface some 6000 years old found while lowering the floor of the Plant Room east of the Abbey. The deposit was divided into one metre squares and systematically sampled, soil from each square being transported to Wessex headquarters near Salisbury for detailed analysis. As well as environmental evidence a number of flint blades and flakes typical of the period were recovered. The second clip describes the excavation of part of an Anglo Saxon cemetery in the cellars south east of the Abbey.  At least 27 burials have been found, of both sexes and all ages. Three were laid on beds of charcoal, thought to be a mark of high status. The graves were cut into dark silty deposits beneath which Roman floor surfaces are starting to appear. (We shall be hearing about this first hand on 8 January – Ed).


Paul Driscoll

Archaeology and Historic Environment Record Officer, South Gloucestershire Council

It has been a while since there has been a summary on fieldwork in South Gloucestershire but with a number of important discoveries in recent years, it appears an apt time to provide a short update.

A series of evaluations and excavations from developer-funded archaeology have uncovered a number of diverse sites. The majority of the key sites discovered have been Roman and therefore add to the growing, yet not well understood, corpus of information about his period.

Dings Roman Villa, Stoke Gifford

Cotswold Archaeology undertook a sequence of archaeological excavations and watching briefs at the former Dings Rugby Club in Stoke Gifford (just north of Lockleaze ST 6095, 7771) between August 2016 and March 2018. During this work, a previously unknown Roman villa was discovered. The site had been used by the Dings Crusaders Rugby team since the late 1940s and was purchased for residential development (the club relocating to a new ground). Whilst it was clear from previous investigations that there was a Roman presence to the site, it was not until the site was stripped as part of open excavation that it became clear it was a villa complex. Although much of the original villa building itself had been robbed out the outline of the building could still be ascertained in plan and some built features (such as walls and floor surfaces) survived. There was no evidence for mosaics, but the underfloor heating system was well preserved and included the flue system, furnace and pilae stacks. The villa started life as a simple corridor house, before wings were added to the north and south followed by a rear extension to the east. The building had a courtyard garden to the west, within which was the remains of a late Iron Age or Early Roman roundhouse (the earliest domestic activity on site). Beyond the courtyard was a series of outbuildings for agricultural work and an area of probable industrial/metalworking activity. Much of the archaeology was found quite close to the surface with little more than the rubgy pitch turf above it, implying that when the pitches were laid in the late 1940s the remains may have been seen.

Romano-British Enclosed Farmstead, Post Farm, Thornbury

Following a programme of trial trenching by AC Archaeology in 2015, Cotswold Archaeology undertook an open excavation at Post Farm, Thornbury (ST 6427,9153) between June and September 2017 and uncovered the remains of a relatively well-preserved Romano-British enclosed farmstead. Only the southern extent of this farmstead was excavated (the northern part of the farmstead lay outside the red line development boundary and was not therefore excavated at the time). The earliest evidence on site relates to Iron Age storage pits but there is a clear intensification of activity in the Roman period when a sequence of enclosures were created. Thirteen inhumation burials were found, some of them out of the ordinary including supine burials, double burials and decapitation, along with two cremation burials. The focus of activity appears to be 1st and 2nd centuries becoming more limited into the 3rd and 4th centuries. (Subject of our 13 November talk – Ed)

Romano-British Enclosure and Iron Age Burials, Oakham Farm, Almondsbury

At Oakham Farm, Almondsbury (ST 5995, 8320), geophysical survey followed by trial trench evaluation (undertaken by Bournemouth University Archaeology Services) revealed the presence of a Romano-British oval enclosure of 2nd-4th century date. Within the enclosure were two abnormal burials. One was a probable adult male placed into a very shallow (just deep enough for the body) oval grave and appears to have been forced to fit with the legs flexed above the head. The second was a child, aged probably around nine, who had been placed into a grave much too large for the body and with their hands behind their back, implying that they had been tied. Whilst within a Romano-British enclosure, both these burials were radiocarbon dated to the Iron Age and pre-dated the site by at least two centuries.

 Excavations at Farley Water, Brendon Common, Exmoor         Paula Gardiner

Following successful excavations in 2016-18, the Mesolithic Exmoor Research Group (MERG) under the direction of Dr. Paula Gardiner (Hon. Research Fellow, University of Bristol) returned to the Farley Water springhead in June this year for further excavation.  A geophysical survey in 2017, under the direction of John Oswin of the Bath & Counties Archaeological Society, highlighted several anomalies suitable for testing in small trenches, close to the springhead on Brendon Common.

These trenches produced burnt flint, two postholes and tools that were diagnostic of the Late Mesolithic.  The main Trench 2 produced such a good quantity of flint that this trench was extended during the last two years of excavation.  The 2019 excavations aimed to extend Trench 2 further in an attempt to obtain further flint and organic material that could be used for radiocarbon dating.  All the spoil from the trenches was sieved and the site was excavated entirely by trowelling.  All sections were drawn and featured were planned.

The flint from the 2019 excavation has yet to be washed and classified, but to date 529 pieces of flint have been recovered of which 128 are retouched tools from the late Mesolithic.  The majority of the finds are waste products (debitage) and this together with six cores, from which blades were struck, indicates the raw material was brought to the site for knapping.  The collection is dominated by retouched and utilised blades and includes microliths (triangles), cores and scrapers.  The raw material is beach pebble which was probably collected from Lynmouth beach, Wringcliff Bay or further down the coast at Baggy Point.

Eight thousand years ago hunter-gatherers crossed the moorland, carrying beach pebbles that were suitable for knapping into tools that could be used for hunting and butchering.  Arrowheads and composite cutting tools are among those found at Farley Water.  Here they lit their fires at the top of a natural combe and erected a temporary shelter for an overnight stay.  This was a place where they could observe deer and other animals who might come to the springhead to drink.  This small group of hunters may have come across the moor from Hawkcombe Head on a day’s hunting expedition, or they may have climbed up from the coast at Lynmouth to a landscape that could offer a regular supply of food as part of their seasonal round.  Moving between the coastal plain and the high moorland would open up a variety of resources that were essential to a subsistence economy.  Farley Water is an important late Mesolithic site on Exmoor and will be further explored in 2020.

More on the North Somerset Roman Road project                             Bev Knott

 Near the village of Charterhouse on Mendip, there was a much larger Roman settlement of 25 to 30 ha, bigger than the walled area of Aquae Sulis. A centre for production of silver and lead, it surpassed most, perhaps all, other such sites in Roman Britain. Its exports even reached Pompeii.

A road ran south east leading to ports on the English Channel. Did a road run North West to a port on the Bristol Channel, perhaps at Uphill just south of Weston super Mare? There has been much dispute about the latter. I used to be sceptical partly because I doubt the importance of coastal traffic (and no evidence exists for a Roman port at Uphill) partly because no firm route or even evidence of part of one has been established.

I have changed my mind, at least for part of the route, that between the Charterhouse Roman town and Winthill/Banwell (east of Weston super Mare) because of my mantra that roads run between towns, and the little known latter town covers, according to a local archaeologist, an area at least as large as Bath. Following Tratman’s ideas, we have examined a possible middle section between Star on the A38 and Tynings Farm on Mendip.

In a field next to the farm, Yatton, Cleeve and Congresbury Archaeology Research Team (YCCART) have been examining faint visual traces using geophysics. The field has been deeply ploughed in the past and this has likely damaged any road vestiges. However following findings elsewhere, it looks that the stone top surface has been scraped off and deposited in the ditches on either side giving the opposite to normal picture where ditches are identified by depths of soft infill material.  A little to the west, after a difficult to trace section in Rowberrow forest, a crossing over a stream leads to a steepish uphill track. Our archaeologist ,who was brought up on a farm, reckons draught animals could manage loads on this slope. Its surface has rough stones which resemble remnants of a possible foundation.

Beyond, the route follows straight lines along lanes through Shipham to Star near where a Villa existed. We have not examined between Star and Winthill/Banwell. I thought I had found a faint visual trace on Google maps but this turned out to be a recent pipeline! However. And somewhere in this stretch and a while ago “A discontinuous stone linear alignment, possibly the surviving core of a Roman road” was seen by archaeologists.  Further west from Winthill/Banwell towards the Bristol Channel, possible alignments may suggest something, but seem to lead to a recently discovered Roman settlement on top of Bleadon Hill, not to a port.  The work proceeds!


                                                   Obituaries: Arthur Ap Simon & Joan Day                                          

James Russell

 Two scholars who made a significant contribution to archaeology in the Bristol area passed away in April 2019. While their interests were very different both had reached the great age of 91 and both were Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries.

Arthur Massey ApSimon who died on 21 April was an academic prehistorian who after studying under Gordon Childe at the London Institute of Archaeology had a distinguished teaching career at the Universities of Belfast and Southampton. He excavated on prehistoric sites across the British Isles from Cornwall to Northern Ireland, including Stonehenge in 1979. His work in the Bristol area came about through his interest in caving and his long-standing membership of the University of Bristol Speleological Society.  “ He was the right shape for a speleologist, short, trim and terrier-like”.

His many papers in the UBSS Proceedings included articles on cave sites in the Mendips  (Pickens Hole and Bos Swallet) and Wye Valley ( King Arthur’s Cave) as well as the Late Roman temple on Brean Down and the stratified Prehistoric deposits in the adjacent Sand Cliff.   ApSimon was a meticulous fieldworker and, like many British archaeologists of his generation, a superb draughtsman with his own distinctive graphic style. The exquisitely detailed plans, sections and reconstructions in his Brean Down temple report are particularly notable.

Joan M Day who died on 30 April was a  pioneering industrial archaeologist and a founder member in 1967  of the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society (BIAS). Her particular interest was the Bristol brass industry on which she published a seminal book in 1973 followed by numerous scholarly articles in metallurgical journals. She played a pivotal role in the preservation and restoration of the Saltford Brass Mill, retaining an interest in the project until the end of her life. For many years she gave lectures for Bristol University on aspects of industrial history. Aided in all her endeavours by her late husband Roy her other interests earlier in life had included cycling, gliding and pony trekking.



CHAIRMAN: Bill Martin VICE CHAIRMAN: Mike Gwyther
SECRETARY: Rob Iles MEMBERSHIP: Julie Bassett TREASURER: Steve Hastings

EDITOR (BAA):  pending   PROJECTS OFFICER:  Gundula Dorey

CO-OPTED: Peter Insole, Kate Churchill, Bev Knott, Bob Jones.

Do keep an eye on the website for Event Reviews and updates.  If you have forgotten the Members’ password contact Gundula.  If you are not receiving email communications, but would like to, could you contact Keith  on [email protected],uk  and give him your email address.

We need help with tea and coffee at evening lectures.  Brian Orchard does sterling work during these evenings, but would very much appreciate some help.  If you feel you could help out at any of the meetings, please make yourself known to Brian.  If we have enough volunteers, then we can spread the load each month.

Bulletin 85 is scheduled for December 2019. If you would like to write anything for it or wish to highlight a subject you think should be in there please contact Gundula on [email protected]  Copy date is Friday 15 November 2019.