Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No. 86 Summer 2020

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this edition of the bulletin has been sent out to members digitally. Those who requested paper copies only will receive a printed edition of this bulletin when we are able to produce them. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience.

A Note from the Chair

None of us could have imagined what lay ahead when the previous edition of this Bulletin was published at the start of the year. The last 5 months have been as unprecedented for BAAS as they have for the country as a whole.

Following our AGM on the 11th of March it quickly became apparent to the committee that it was unlikely we’d be able to continue with the planned programme and, indeed, five days later the government advised against unnecessary contacts. Your health and safety remain the committee’s top priority and we will not recommence meetings until we are absolutely clear we can do so safely, and in accordance with government guidance. This also applies to the summer programme of walks. We will keep you informed as the situation changes. For the latest news please always go first to our website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

This Bulletin also brings news of the sad loss of two of our longest standing friends and members. James Russell and Mike Baker will have been well known to many of you. James died on 2nd March and Mike on 12th March, each from non-COVID causes.  Both have been stalwarts of Bristol’s archaeology and local history for very many years and their loss will be deeply felt by this society and others. The committee is considering how the society can commemorate James and Mike in a suitable manner post-lockdown and we will let you know our plans as these develop.

Mike Gwyther – Chairman


An Update on the Events Programme – Covid 19

The disruption Coronavirus has caused has greatly interrupted the society’s events and lecture series. As a society we are keeping the Covid-19 provisions under observation and the programme will be resumed immediately that there is a collective belief it is safe and legal to do so, hopefully in the winter of 2020/2021. We apologise for the vagueness and inability to provide certain dates for the resumption of our lecture series, but we would like to thank all our members for their continued support, and we look forward to resuming the events series when we can.

In the meantime, there are some brilliant online resources outlined by Kate (Curator of Bristol City Museum and BAAS Project Officer) at the rear of this Bulletin, which you can access from your home.

Keith Stenner – Hon. Programme Secretary


The AGM and Changes to the Committee

 Whilst the pre-Covid world feels quite a long way off these days, it was only a few months ago on the 11th of March 2020 that we held our annual general meeting at the Apostle Room of Clifton Cathedral.

The meeting began with the sad news about James Russell, our former Treasurer and mainstay in BAAS for over four decades. It was announced that the committee will be arranging a James Russell Day some time in the future, and a moments silence was held in remembrance.

This meeting saw a raft of changes to the committee, including some new faces. Kate Iles, one of the curators at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, has stepped into the role of Projects Officer for BAAS, and James Lyttleton, an archaeologist for AECOM, has joined as a member of the committee. A new bulletin editor (yours truly!) has also joined the ranks. Many members of the committee have continued to support the society for another year, including our officers Gundula (now ratified as secretary), Keith, Julie, Paula, Bev, Katie, Bob, and Bruce. Finally, after two years of dedicated service leading the society, our former Chairman, Bill Martin, stepped down for Mike Gwyther to take up his post. Bill has been a bastion of strong leadership and we wish him all the best for the future. A full and updated list of the committee is visible to the rear of this bulletin.

Following the business of the AGM, the evening was concluded with a talk from Bill who gave an account of the history and significance of Bristol’s Lords Mayor’s Chapel. We learnt a great deal about the chapel’s magnificent interiors and its long connection with the Civic council.

We would like to thank all those who attended and hope to see you when our events programme gets back on track!

Jack Fuller – Bulletin Editor


Membership Renewal 2020

 We have had a good response for membership renewals in 2020 which is very encouraging, especially with the lockdown situation.  I appreciate that some members might be questioning the point of being a member of BAAS this year given that our programme of events has had to be postponed, but we have been working hard behind the scenes to provide lots of information on our website, will be taking part in Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology and we still have bills to pay such as rent, website hosting and cost of producing the BAA journal.  I would like to thank all those members who have paid their subscriptions this year. There are still a few people who haven’t renewed, and I appreciate that this could be for a number of reasons. Our membership year now runs from 1st March to 28th February – if you have forgotten to renew, there is still time to do so before our final deadline of 31st July after which date your membership will cease.  You may either send me a cheque made payable to BAAS or pay by bank transfer.  Subscriptions are £10 single, £15 joint or £20 institution membership.

My postal address is c/o 384 Wells Road, Bristol BS4 2QP.  Thank you.

Julie Bassett – Hon. Membership Secretary

Two very sad losses

March not only saw us locked down but also the unexpected and tragic deaths of two of BAAS’s long standing and best-known members.  James Russell was taken into Southmead Hospital following a fall at his home and died during the night a few days later on the 2nd of  March. The death certificate gives sepsis as the cause. He had not been well for a long time – he had been receiving dialysis 3 times a week for over 10 years and was increasingly less mobile – but more recently he had felt a new vigour in the rearrangement of his living space and the cutting down of his vast book collection. He had also been finding new interest in tracing his family on both his (Scottish) father and (Welsh) mother’s side. And he already had stored in his head a new miscellany for the next Bulletin.

Mike Baker collapsed at his home on the same day James died – he never knew about James as he remained in a coma in the BRI over the next 10 days until his family had to make the terrible decision to end his life support. He had been ill for many years with a number of problems, more recently leukaemia. He was always immensely cheerful though and convivial – he came, as usual, to the Christmas meeting last year. Alongside his interest in field archaeology (where he often encountered James) was his artwork. His commissioned plaques commemorating notable people and events are not only part of the Living Easton trail, but in the bus station and outside the Seven Stars pub as well.

James’s funeral was at Canford Crematorium on the 25th of March. Mike was buried in Greenbank Cemetery on the 17th of June. Because of lockdown restrictions neither funeral could give credit in the way the mourners – or the Society – would have liked. We had already decided that there should be a James Russell Day as soon as we can arrange it – probably Spring next year – and now it will include Mike as well.

Full obituaries will appear in the next printed Bulletin.        Gundula Dorey – Hon. Secretary


Archaeology News from North Somerset – Cat Lodge, Senior Archaeologist (North Somerset Council)

Heritage Forum

Due to the current circumstances we were unable to hold the last Heritage Forum meeting. However, in May a digital forum was held where NSC heritage officers shared news on projects and member groups shared updates on their ongoing research and projects.

These forums take place every six months, in different locations across the district, highlighting the rich and varied heritage that North Somerset has to offer. If you are a member of a local history, archaeology or heritage interest group and would like to attend future events, please contact the heritage officers at [email protected].

Know Your Place/Sharing Heritage

In June 2019, North Somerset Council and Weston-super-Mare Council were jointly awarded a Sharing Heritage grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This was to establish a project focussing on adding archive and information from recent research projects such as the Heritage Action Zone to Know Your Place.  A team of volunteers signed up to the project and have since added over 450 new contributions to the Community Layer.

As part of the need to engage in a different way with wider community due to the Covid-19 situation, Facebook and Twitter accounts for Know Your Place North Somerset were set up at the end of March. Over 200,000 people have been reached and we have seen a direct increase in users of KYP as a result of this.  We’ve also been producing educational activities based on the KYP Learning Pack (

Collaboration with Weston Museum

NSC’s heritage officers have been working closely with Weston Museum over the past couple of months to provide educational content to help parents and careers with home-schooling needs.

Throughout June & July ‘History Month’ will see educational activities and videos being produced on a range of archaeological and historical periods, and can be found on Weston Museum’s website ( or their Facebook page.

Worlebury Camp Hillfort Project

This project is currently on hold due to the current Covid-19 situation, but since the last update for BAAS, North Somerset Council has applied to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence, with a decision due to be made by the end of July. We have applied for this licence to fell and thin trees/forestry across the hillfort; it’s primary reason for being added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register in 2017.

Volunteers are now able to recommence work with strict adherence to social distancing guidelines) in clearing invasive vegetation at key areas across the hillfort. It is hoped that their presence will also go some way to deterring the increase in anti-social behaviour at the site.  Information on the project can be found at:

A thought on the fall of the Roman Empire in the West – Bev Knott, BAAS.

A German academic once listed 212 different ideas for the fall of the Roman Empire. I have suggested previously a 213th idea: the battering of the Western Roman world by Germanic invasions, undermining the business confidence that had sustained a globalised economy which resourced the infrastructure (e.g. the maintenance of roads and bridges) and especially the armed forces. Although the causes were entirely different, the 2008 world economic crisis also suffered from a destruction of confidence which led temporarily to a steep decline in commercial activity which ‘dominoed’ into a severe contraction of societal infrastructure. I now propose another idea.

Let’s start from three quotes.

  1. The general expansion of agricultural production in many parts of central Britannia typically involved more extensive cereals cultivation, almost exclusively of spelt wheat in most areas, and increased scales of processing seen through the frequency of corn dryers and high density crop-processing waste deposits. The falling numbers of farmsteads and potentially population, in most areas, and perhaps the resulting reorganisation and expansion of some Villa estates to fulfil a growing state demand for wheat…” (The defended Vici of Roman Britain by Fulford and Smith, Britannia 50, 2019).“…grain and other food supplies and the movement, potentially either to the northern frontier or south to London and, perhaps export to the continent…”. (Ibid)
  2. “…grain and other food supplies and the movement, potentially either to the northern frontier or south to London and, perhaps export to the continent…”. (Ibid)
  3. One episode is worth recording to show that there had been no overall decline in agricultural productivity. Shortly after the rebellion of Magnentius , the Emperor Julian ( 360-363 A.D.) had a large fleet especially built to carry grain from Britain to the lower Rhine in order to relieve a famine. The Roman historian Ammianus, who referred to this event, implied that the export of corn was a regular feature of British trade: presumably there was ample surplus for this trade.” (John Wacher, A portrait of Roman Britain, 2000)

The work of Boon and Selley provide an interesting case study to explore the complications surrounding recording and reconstructing archaeological remains long after they have been excavated. Despite the incredible skill of Boon at the age of twenty, the villa has very limited records compared to modern excavations.  Similarly, Selley, who excavated the Sea Mills site did not leave any record of artefacts, plans or any appropriate photographs of the archaeology.  Both sites feature buildings, fences, signage and limited management of vegetation, all of which will interfere with the recording process and obscure features.  A tool like photogrammetry can provide quick and highly accurate surveys which can create traditional archaeological plans whilst also providing an accurate foundation to reconstruct the remains. But by also testing the structural validity of reconstructions using engineering software, appending data to features within, and visually showing levels of certainty, the reconstructions can help communicate the story of these sites better to archaeologists and the public alike.

Some plans for the reconstruction at Kings Weston and Sea Mills include testing the propositions put forward by Boon and the current illustrative reconstructions used at the site. This will include using Finite Element Analysis to test the different types of roofing and walling that are likely by drawing data from the excavation itself and data from other similar excavations around the country.

The project is at the recording stage, and only parts of the sites have been recoded using photogrammetry. Sadly COVID-19 has somewhat interrupted this project, however, it is hoped that by this time next year the results of the survey’s and the first stages of the reconstructions will be produced and viewable online to the public.


Archaeological Activities in ‘Lock Down’ – Kate Iles – Curator (Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery) & Projects Officer (BAAS).

As there will be no more BAAS projects for a while, below are some highlights from the many online resources to enjoy at home on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Online lectures

Bristol Museums are running fortnightly Zoom talks on archaeological topics on Fridays at 2pm. Go to their website or email Curator Kate Iles ([email protected]) to be added to the mailing list and hear about them as soon as they are released:

Online Archaeology Courses

The Open University has three courses on archaeology that you can do at home. Each one contains a series of podcasts or information to read that can be completed at your own pace.

  • Archaeology: The Science of Investigation includes audio podcasts of archaeologists from the British Museum explaining their processes of discovering, investigating, and interpreting.

  • Introduction to Material Culture examines what can be found out from objects that cannot be learned just from reading. Students learn what material culture is and how to study objects.

  • World Archaeology presents the methodologies and challenges inherent in archaeology.

  • Future Learn have also just released a new course on the Mesolithic site at Star Carr.

Archaeology in Museums

Museums have had to move fast since lockdown with a huge amount of new digital material being created and put online. Here are a few round-ups of what museums can offer visitors at home:

Research your local archaeology online

You can still access local archaeology and browse historic maps in Bristol and Avon from your home online by using Know Your Place:

You can also browse the Bath and NE Somerset Historic Environment Record and Somerset Historic Environment Record online:

Archaeological digs and sites

You can still visit archaeological sites, albeit virtually!

Archaeology on TV

If you haven’t watched it yet, the latest archaeological show on TV is The Great British Dig: History in your Back Garden presented by Hugh Dennis and a team of archaeologists and experts.

Archaeological podcasts and chat

All the history episodes of BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time are available online. They should keep you going for years!

Archaeological books, reports and things to read

If you are looking for something archaeological to read, then head to this page to find digitised reports from The Council for British Archaeology

Archaeology for kids

There are plenty of archaeological activities for young people to do at home until school starts again including:

  • A whole series of engaging enquiry-based workshops themed around archaeology from Professor Carenza Lewis (University of Lincoln and TV’s ‘Time Team’) with the Council for British Archaeology
  • A whole list of archaeological learning resources hosted by the Archaeological Data Service.

  • Bristol Museum’s latest copy of Archaeology at Home.

 Festival of Archaeology

The Festival of Archaeology run by the Council of British Archaeology has gone digital this year! It runs from the 11th-19th July and will have a whole host of archaeological online events taking place across the country. Take a look at the full programme here and get ready for BAAS’ own archaeological quizzes created for it –



CHAIRMAN: Mike Gwyther

SECRETARY: Gundula Dorey

MEMBERSHIP: Julie Bassett

TREASURER: Steve Hastings


WEBSITE CO-ORDINATOR: Paula Gardiner  EDITOR (BAA):  Bruce Williams


COMMITTEE MEMBER: James Lyttleton, Kate Churchill, Bev Knott, Bob Jones
CO-OPTED: Peter Insole

Do keep an eye on the website and social media for Event Reviews and updates, especially during the current pandemic.  If you have forgotten the Members’ password please contact Gundula Dorey via email at [email protected]. If you are not receiving email communications, but would like to, could you contact Keith Stenner via email at [email protected],uk  and give him your email address.

Bulletin 87 is scheduled for Autumn 2020. If you would like to write anything for it or wish to highlight a subject you think should be in there please contact Jack Fuller on [email protected]. Last submissions will be Friday 11 September 2020.


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 (Hon. Secretary)  0117 9276812  [email protected]

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