Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No. 85 Spring 2020


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


Spring 2020

ISSN 1751 – 7060


BAAS Website;

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

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

Gundula Dorey (Acting Secretary and Bulletin Editor)  0117 9276812  [email protected]

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


Welcome to the Spring Bulletin

Starting with our programme of events January to April 2020

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 No. 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 £2.00 per meeting.

Wednesday 8 January 2020  ‘THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF BATH ABBEY’

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 works were 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.


OTHER  KNOWN  EVENTS OF INTEREST   Winter/Spring 2020 (compiled by James Russell)

Banwell Society of Archaeology (BSA) Banwell Village Hall 7.30pm.
Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Bristol Section (BGAS) Apostle Room, Clifton Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol. 7.45pm £1 per meeting.

Bath & Counties Archaeological Society (BaCAS) Royal Literary & Scienific Institution, 16 Queen Square, Bath. 7.30pm. Members £4; Non members £5.

Clevedon & District Archaeological Society (CDAS) St Andrews Church Centre, Old Church Road, Clevedon . 7.30pm. Members Free; Non Members £3.
Weston super Mare Archaeological & Natural History Society (WANHS) Victoria Methodist Church Hall, Station Road, WSM. 7.30pm. Non members £2.50


9 January BaCAS: Aerial Photography- Techniques & Recent Finds (Simon Crutchley)

14 January WANHS: Nailsea Glassworks (Andrew Smith)
27 January BGAS: George Boon- Discovering Kingsweston Roman Villa in the Archives  (Gail Boyle)

30 January CDAS: The Cat & The Cemetery  (Nick Corcos)
11 February WANHS: Urban Archaeology – An Embarrasment of Riches  (Bob Jones)

13 February BaCAS: AGM & Members Project

14 February BSA: Law, Noah & the Banwell Bone Cave  (J Page).
24 February BGAS: Bristol Politics in the Age of Palmerston 1847-65  (John Stevens)

27 February CDAS: Worlebury Camp  (Cat Lodge)

12 March BaCAS: Gaining World Heritage  (Prof Barry Gilbertson)
13 March BSA: Lepcis Magna, Lost City in the Sands  (G Gowan).
23 March BGAS: Gouts, Itches & Pillheads – Records of the Gloucestershire Court of Sewers 1583-1642  (R Hewlett)

26 March CDAS: AGM & Journeys Through Ancient Greece  (Jane Maw)
14 April WANHS: The Story of Green Man Carving  (B Wright).
17 April BSA: Aerial Archaeology  (J Bond).
12 May WAHNS: Ancient Egyptian Faience  (L Gablin).

(More information is available from the individual websites)


BAAS has had a varied and successful Autumn programme of talks, ranging from an explanation of  the unusual settings of the Priddy Nine barrows (a possible answer at last) to the contrast of the enthralling reconstruction of the London Temple of Mithras and back to the local area for intriguing Iron Age and Roman excavations and more.  Nothing, it seems, is quite as it appears.  At the time of writing the venue has worked perfectly and the electronics have behaved themselves and Steve Hastings stepped in to make sure you had refreshments and even on the evening the rain came down in stair rods you still came and were really enthusiastic.  Couldn’t be better.

Do take note in Keith Stenner’s excellent programme for the Spring that 2 dates differ from the usual pattern – the Cathedral had other uses for the room on our preferred dates so we have taken either the week after or the week before – yes, the First of April is for real.

A request: is there anyone out there prepared to give up house room for storage of the journal and archival material produced since the first days of BAAS?  At the moment all kinds of precious history are scattered amongst several members of the committee and others and it would be really good to bring it all together.

Committee news:  following the letter to all members detailing our committee vacancies we have been joined by Jack Fuller who is employed as the HER officer in BaNES and Kate Iles who has long been known to us for her work with Bristol Museums.  Both are carefully probing the workings of the committee to see which positions will best suit them in both time and inclination – we welcome them and their skills with open arms.

On the committee we are managing to hold things together for you for the momen, but the situation is precarious.  We still desperately need help.  The vacancies detailed in the notice given for the AGM later in this Bulletin give a clue.  Please give helping your committee, on which depends the survival of your Society, some very serious thought.

Jack Fuller also writes news from his ‘day job’ for this Bulletin.  Bev Knott brings you up to date with the latest on North Somerset’s Roman roads.  We also have a list of the dates of the meetings of related organisations which James Russell has compiled and also included is James’ wide ranging news on local events of archaeological interest.  John Hunt happily agreed to be interviewed.  Very grateful thanks to all the contributors and to both Andrew Dorey and James for propping up the Editor in getting this edition together.

Comments, suggestions for content and any complaints to me. Look on the bright side – by the next edition you may have a new editor!    GD.

People of note – an occasional series on Life Members of BAAS


Members who regularly come to meetings will all know John as he often lays out an exhibition of his excellent photographs at the back of the hall.  With his dapper appearance and his seemingly boundless energy you may be surprised to know that his age is more than he wishes to reveal!

A Lambretta scooter bought in the 1960s took him on holidays and to places historical and archaeological.  Then someone in his then firm interested him into ‘looking into holes’ and he found clay pipes – which extended later into investigating all kinds of post industrial sites in Bristol (including with Ian Beckey and Mike Baker).

But his real beginning started with an advertisement he saw in the Evening Post in 1970.  Mike Ponsford, then a Bristol Museum curator, was looking for volunteers to dig in Castle Park.  It was John who, using a borrowed trowel, found the southern edge of the motte of the original castle.  From then on he was hooked.  He worked every weekend and summer evenings as well – and in the lean 3- day week of the ‘70s he spent all his spare time out.  He can list Grey Friars (where Reg Jackson invited him to become a member of the then Bristol and Avon Archaeological Research Group), The Grove (with David Dawson), St. George in Kingswood, Roman in South Gloucestershire (with Toby Parker and James Russell), Barrs Court, Bristol Bridge (with Bruce Williams), Thornbury, Oldbury on Severn, Henbury School (more Roman), Ham Green (garden architecture)  – there seems to be no site in the Bristol area where he hasn’t lent a consistent and much appreciated hand.

His interest in ‘hands-on’ activities began already at school with metalwork, woodwork and sports and his later apprenticeship was in cabinet making, something he continued through various firms right up until his retirement in 2000. He never moved from home, buying his parents’ house in Filton and making it into a veritable museum of all he has done.

The love of his archaeological life has been Stoke Park.  He has worked there or revisited sites from 1988 onwards and knows it inside out – as those who went on his walk there last year will testify.  He worked on the rotunda, the remains of the tomb of the Horatii (pictured), found footings, a flight of steps, a tunnel entrance, a stony track, cottage walls, a dew pond.  ‘James surveyed and John trowelled’ is how he put it.  He also had a camera and took great pleasure in recording what he found.

Articles on these sites have been written up in local publications over the years (including the BAAS journal – see Volume 8 in particular) and although John has not written any of the articles himself, without his  meticulous work they would not exist. BAAS is rightfully proud of him.  He was made a life member in 2010. Here is a thoroughly dedicated amateur still going strong (he’s working on a Victorian garden at Bishops Knoll with Bev Knott at the moment) because he gets a real kick from seeing how things fit together and how people lived.  Long, long may it last.   GD


One of the largest Norman coin hoards ever found in Britain has been dug up by metal detectorists in a field near Chew Valley Lake. It was discovered in January by a party of seven detectorists led by Lisa Grace and Adam Staples from Derby and unveiled at the British Museum on 28 August. It comprises 1236 silver pennies of the last Anglo Saxon king, Harold II Godwinson, and 1310 pennies of his Norman successor William I. They are in excellent condition and must have been deposited within a year or so of William’s victory over Harold at the  Battle of Hastings in 1066. They may have been hidden in response to a revenge raid on Somerset by the sons of Harold in 1068. The coins include a number of previously unknown variants and will be of great interest to numismatists seeking to understand monetary arrangements during this troubled period of regime change. The hoard will almost certainly be declared Treasure Trove and a multi million pound reward shared between the finders and the undisclosed landowner. It is hoped that at least part of the hoard can be purchased for public display by the Roman Baths Museum in Bath. One somewhat regrettable aspect of the discovery is the apparently haphazard way in which the coins were scooped out of the ground by the finders over a period of several hours during a thunderstorm. Important evidence for the way in which the hoard was deposited must inevitably been lost.

Excavations at Ashton Court

During June and July 2019 Archeoscan carried out a series of small excavations on the lawn to the south east of Ashton Court mansion. Parch marks in the grass during the summer of 2018 had indicated building remains here, thought to be part of a long stable block shown in an engraving of 1791 and demolished soon afterwards. The excavations revealed several phases of stone walls including a cellar like feature with walls surviving to a height of 1 metre and a well preserved floor of stone blocks. These structures are thought to date back to at least the 17th century. The excavations were visited by a number of school groups sponsored by English Heritage as well as by members of the Bristol & Bath Young Archaeologists Club and an introductory archaeology course organised by Bristol City Museum. A good series of photographs of the dig can be found on the Archeoscan website (see links on this website).

A Late Mesolithic Site near Midsomer Norton

The latest issue of the Archaeological Journal (Vol 176(1) for 2019, pp 1-50) contains a detailed report by Jodie Lewis and others on the 2004-5 investigation of a late Mesolithic site at Langleys Lane near Midsomer Norton.  Located on the side of a stream valley around a spring surrounded by deposits of tufa, the site was examined by test pitting and small scale trenching.  The first activity on the site appears to have been the killing and butchery of aurochs (primitive cattle).  Later it seems to have developed a ritual significance with a stone surface being laid down and the digging of a series of small pits in which bone fragments and small flint blades (microliths) were deposited.


News from the Bath and North East Somerset Historic Environment Record

Jack Fuller  BaNES Historic Environment Record Officer, South West Heritage Trust

Over the last year the Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES) Historic Environment Record (HER) has been through a period of change and metamorphosis since it arrived at its new home with the South West Heritage Trust in the winter of 2018/2019.  With the next winter on our doorstep and 2020 fast approaching, it feels like a good time to give a short update on the HER and work within Bath and North East Somerset.

The Historic Environment Record

Aside from now being based within the Somerset Heritage Centre, alongside the Somerset HER in Taunton, the BaNES HER has also been transferred to a new database system.  This has led it to be the subject of intensive work and improvement which has seen the record of sites and archaeological investigations grow by over 1,600 new additions since March 2019, bringing the total number up to over 7,100 entries.

Part of this progress has been owed to an ambitious new project from Historic England to match-up and transfer thousands of records from the National Record of the Historic Environment (formerly National Monuments Record) into the HER.  Particularly interesting additions have included a deserted medieval settlement in the parish of Compton Dando, and a couple of possible Prehistoric or Roman enclosures close to the Fosseway in Englishcombe. It is notable that many early 20th century defence sites have also been added, including Cold War ROC observation posts and additional bunkers along the former Bristol Stop Line.  Aside from adding new records, this project has also provided the opportunity to improve information on older records.  For example, the series of investigations undertaken by Rahtz and Greenfield at Chew Valley Lake in the 1950s now have the locations of their trenches more accurately mapped, despite the area now being underwater.

It is hoped that in the future this information and the BaNES HER will be available online with its own website.  In the meantime, it is currently viewable online via ‘Know Your Place’ and the ‘Heritage Gateway’.

Some recent work in Bath and NE Somerset

Central Bath is also currently a hive of activity. Work has progressed underneath the floors of Bath Abbey and the Kingston Buildings by Wessex Archaeology, and Cotswold Archaeology have continued their work under the Roman Baths as part of the Arches Project. Outside of the city, work has also been carried out on sites around the county, and the discovery of the “Chew Valley hoard” has put archaeology in BaNES under the spotlight.  As work on these projects is not yet complete, it would be more appropriate to provide an update on them later.  However, other recent work by developer-funded archaeology has led to some notable discoveries in Bath and NE Somerset.

Pines Way, Bath

In March and April 2019, a small ‘snapshot’ of a possible section of Roman Road was located by Cotswold Archaeology during an evaluation and watching brief at the site of the Homebase in Pines Way, Bath.  In one of the trenches a tentatively dated Roman surface was located. The construction of this surface and evidence of resurface and repair is comparable to other locally investigated sections of Roman road, such as those at Combe Hay, Clandown, and the Royal Crescent.  The alignment of this road may represent the continuation of the Fosseway, as suggested by Peter Davenport, although further study would be required to confirm this.  Alongside this Roman surface was evidence of industrial activities on the site, including a railway track which was possibly related to the Victoria Engineering works of Stothert and Pitt or the Midland Railway yards.

High Street, Keynsham

In March 2019 an archaeological watching brief was undertaken by Avon Archaeology towards the rear of the High Street in Keynsham, following an archaeological evaluation in 2017.  The evaluation had initially located a section of the boundary wall relating to Keynsham Abbey, founded in the mid-12th century.  Deposits within the evaluation trench contained a significant number of pottery sherds and roof tiles dating from 1050 AD onwards.  Foundation trenches observed in 2019 for a new building recorded a further three sections of this wall and revealed that this boundary was well respected long after the abbey went out of use in the 16th century.  However, a rubble layer suggests that it was deliberately removed for the realignment of properties and boundaries along the High Street in the latter 19th century.

The Mead, Whitchurch

Between June and July 2017 an archaeological excavation was undertaken by Cotswold Archaeology at The Mead, Whitchurch.  The excavation identified a probable Romano-British farmstead with six phases of activity between the Iron Age and Roman periods.  Features included an ‘L-shaped’ Iron Age ditch, an Iron Age or Roman sub-rectangular enclosure, and two later Iron Age or Roman enclosures.  The smaller of these later enclosures contained pits, possibly representing an agricultural settlement or industrial activity on the fringes of a settlement, whilst the larger enclosure may be the remnants of a field system or settlement activities. After the enclosures had gone out of use in the 2nd century AD, a trackway on a Northeast – Southwest alignment was cut through them and a small group of inhumation burials containing the remains of three adult men and a child were inserted next to it, along with several empty ‘grave-like’ features.

More on the North Somerset Roman Road Project – Bev Knott

Just west of Long Ashton outside Bristol is the famously enigmatic Roman site at Gatcombe. Speed’s 1625 map of Somerset called it a Roman Palace.  The 15′ thickness of its walls (now only grass covered stumps) pose the biggest puzzle.  What in North Somerset required walls thicker than Hadrian‘s wall? Only 20 buildings or so have been excavated at the top end of the site all apparently concerned with commercial production: iron smelting , pewter, smithing, large scale grain storage and baking ( Brannigan 1977).  Unhappily in 1840 the deep cutting of the Bristol to Exeter railway ploughed through a large part of the site, utterly destroying the archaeology in its path and obscuring the site’s extent. However, detailed and large scale geophysics (Smisson, Britannia 45) has revealed the walled area stretching well south of the railway and showing a total area of 13 hectares , similar to the walled town at Caerwent (Venta Silurum ).  So we have a small walled town, a common feature in late Roman Britain and a town needs roads, but Gatcombe is seriously lacking in these.

A route has long been proposed running Northwest to the Roman town of Abona at Sea Mills in north Bristol.  A small possible section has been excavated in Abbots Leigh on the Bristol to Portishead A369 (Gardner, BAA 15).  Gardner also claims he can see a “dark line“ on an aerial photo linking the Abbots Leigh site with the bank of the river Avon opposite Sea Mills (RAF 1946).  So far, so good, but what about the line immediately north of Gatcombe?  We looked at that this October starting from the North West gate identified by Smisson.  Within a few yards a clear, well formed agger could be seen proceeding north between two hedgerows until it enters and climbs through the trees of Ashton Hill Plantation, where it becomes a terrace cut into the side of rising ground to the west.  At the top edge of the woods, it is lost under a  sports playing field but would need only a slight bend to run towards Abbots Leigh.

Smisson also suggests (less certainly) a gate in the wall two fields south of the railway on a modern right of way footpath which runs in a very direct line to the outskirts of Barrow Court.  Where lane cuts through its line at right angles, it leaves corresponding agger humps on either side.  A little further on, our proposed route crosses a recently laid and pre-surveyed pipeline where a geophysics response tallies with our line.  The general direction lies towards Broadfield Down and our proposed road there, but beyond Barrow Court, enclosure over several fields show no map evidence and sadly LiDar does not cover this area.

We are pursuing a number of other possibilities.  Much building stone used at Gatcombe originated at the Roman quarries on the west end of Dundry and we think we see a route to be investigated.  Another, with possible traces, probably aimed South and South East.  Others suggest themselves.  Altogether we propose seven possible routes out of Gatcombe, all linking, sooner or later, with other settlements.



MRS. JEAN DAGNALL (from an article by her son, Julian).

‘We regret belatedly to note the passing in September 2017 of Jean Dagnall, aged 91, one of local archaeology’s greatest amateur servants, who was awarded an MBE in 2011 ‘for services to the Clevedon and District Archaeological Society’.  This brief citation revealed little about Jean’s services to the Clevedon Society, which she joined in the late 1960s, eventually to become Chairman and then to serve as Secretary from 1976 until 2010, when she was made President.  She was active on the CBA’s South-West Committee for more than thirty years, serving as Chairman and more latterly as a trustee.  She was a member of the national CBA Council, and was elected as one of the CBA’s first Honorary Life Members.  Finally, she served on the Council of the Somerset Archaeological Society for ten years. Friends of Jean said that if you mentioned in archaeological circles that you come from Clevedon, it was very likely that the response would be ‘Oh yes, Jean Dagnall’, such was her renown.  She leaves behind a rich legacy of service that doubtless others will acknowledge far more readily than she ever would have done herself.’

Gundula writes:  Jean was a supporter of our BAAS meetings for decades until increasing age and infirmity took its toll.  She was made a Life Member of BAAS as early as 2005.  Andrew and I also met her and Jack her husband on a memorable University trip to Santorini in 1998.  Her boundless enthusiasm including in the tightest of places and the obligatory daily swim are never to be forgotten.

When asked for some information regarding Jean, Julian wrote ‘Very grateful for your interest; Mum would have been very quietly and modestly pleased!’  Such a lovely person.



2020 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: Wednesday 11 March 2020

Notice is hereby formally given that the AGM will be held on Wednesday 11 March 2020 at the Apostle Room in Clifton Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3BX, starting at 7.30 pm.

It is very important for the smooth continuation of the business of the Society that the meeting should be quorate and we would ask you to attend if at all possible.

We are saying Good Bye to Bill Martin who has very ably guided us as Chairman for the last 2 years. Keith Stenner would like to step down as Hon Programme Secretary.  The work of Rob Iles as Hon. Secretary and Cat Lodge as Bulletin Editor, both of whom have sadly already left, is also acknowledged.

The Committee is looking to fill the following positions:

Vice Chairman (leading up to being Chairman in 2 years time)

Hon Secretary

Hon Programme Secretary

Hon Editor Bulletin

One Committee Member

If you are interested in any of these positions please make yourself known.  Anyone on the Committee will gladly talk to you  –  or come to a committee meeting and see how you feel about it.  An absolute essential is a good familiarity with IT and being able to attend the bi-monthly committee meetings is also helpful.

Formal Nominations for Officers and Members of the Committee should be sent to Gundula Dorey (Temporary Hon. Secretary) at 14 Goldney Road, Bristol BS8 4RB [email protected] not later than 21 February 2020.



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

EDITOR (BAA):  Bruce Williams     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 with your email address.

Bulletin No. 86 is scheduled for May 2020 in time to give you the summer programme. If you would like to write anything for it or wish to suggest a subject you think should be in there please contact Gundula on [email protected]   Copy date is Friday 10 April 2020.