Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No.88 Winter/Spring 2021

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News from the Society

 The AGM

Usually in early March the Annual General Meeting (AGM) is held for BAAS. Our last, held on the 11th of March 2020, was just before the first country-wide lockdown for the Covid-19 Pandemic.  It is hard to believe nearly a year has passed since we were all able to meet for a talk and refreshments inside Clifton Cathedral.  Due to the third lockdown, and the current state of the virus, holding another meeting in person is not possible.  The committee, who still meet monthly via Zoom, have discussed how to approach this year’s AGM.  It has been decided by us to defer the AGM until later in the year. Our charity is required to hold such a meeting annually, however, the option of holding this online would disenfranchise up to fifty members who do not have access to emails.  It would also break the society’s rules which require people’s personal attendance to vote in the meeting.

Given the current circumstances of the pandemic, the Charity Commission is lenient on this matter.  We also felt that as a committee that a general meeting later in the year in person is not only more suitable, but also something to look forward to once we are able to all meet again.

Upcoming events

Whilst we are beating back the virus cases in lockdown, there is still plenty to do online in the comfort and safety of our homes.

Archaeology Online continues to offer monthly online talks brought to you by Bristol Museums, Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society, Bath and Counties Archaeological Society, and the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.  So far, we have received lectures on early modern witches, ancient Neanderthals, and the coal-tar distillery at Crew’s Hole.  The next is on the 10th of March and is titled “From Standing Stones to a Clockwork Universe”, which explores how our view of the universe has been shaped since antiquity.  For booking see:

Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery continue to hold various talks and events online.  Two upcoming highlights include four online Archaeology Study sessions on “Early Prehistoric Art in the British Isles” between the 1st and 22nd of March. An “online and onsite” Archaeology Field School is also being held between the 12th and 26th of April.  For further information and booking on these events and more, visit:

The Severn Estuary Levels Research Committee will present their free “Archaeology in the Severn Estuary” conference on Sunday 28th February. For booking see:

Finally, both the South West Heritage Trust and Wiltshire Museum are hosting a large number of online lectures. Highlights include a lecture on the “Romans in the South West” with the Southwest Heritage Trust on the 4th of March, and a lecture on the “Mount Pleasant Mega-Henge” with Wiltshire Museum on the 11th of March. For booking onto these events visit their respective websites at: and

For more regular up-to-date events also keep an eye out for our monthly email newsletters and follow our Facebook and Twitter pages.

BAA Journals Online

To make archaeological research in Bristol more accessible to everyone, back issues of the BAA Journal have been made available via our public website. Volumes 11-27 are now online, and numbers 1-10 will soon be ready.  There are also plans to digitize the historic BAARG Bulletins. The online pdfs are well presented and are key-word searchable when you press Ctrl+F on your keyboard when viewing them.  Great news for researchers!

To view the journals online visit:

New monthly Newsletter

To keep in touch more regularly with our members we have begun a monthly newsletter to supplement the less frequent BAA bulletin.  This mini-newsletter aims to keep you all up to date with the latest archaeological news and events whilst we are all “locked-down” in our cities, towns, and villages.

The newsletter is sent out via email to our members who have provided their email address.  If you have provided us with your email address and you are not receiving the newsletter, please get in touch with Jack Fuller on: [email protected].

We would also love to encourage any and all members to contribute to this newsletter as a casual place to share stories, events, or even book reviews of archaeological interest.  If you have something you would love to include, or you have an email address which you have not shared with us and would like to receive a newsletter, please advise Jack on the email address above.

BAAS Walks Project

Although we are not yet able to reorganize some of the BAAS walks we used to enjoy each summer, our committee and a team of specialists have begun beavering away to produce a series of self-guided walking maps.  It is hoped that once we are able to get more active outside of our local areas again, that these maps may provide some inspiration to see some of the interesting archaeology Bristol and the former county of Avon has on offer. Some of the routes so far include sites like Maes Knoll hillfort, Stoke Leigh Camp, Blaise Castle, North Stoke and some exciting medieval buildings in Bristol City Centre.  The maps will be available to download electronically when they are completed.

New ideas and routes are being proposed and we would love to hear from you. If you have a recommendation for a good archaeology walk in and around Bristol or the county of Avon you’d like to recommend, please email Jack Fuller on: [email protected].


Exploring Henbury’s Early Medieval Archaeology

Donal Lucey (Senior Heritage Consultant – Arcadis)*

Henbury, now a northern suburb of Bristol, is an ancient settlement at the heart of a formerly very extensive parish within the earlier Hundred of Brentry (which later became known as Henbury Hundred).  The oldest building surviving in Henbury is the Grade II* Listed Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the earliest elements of which date from c. 1200.   Henbury is located near the foot of Blaise Castle, an Iron Age hillfort and on the probable route of the Roman road from Gloucester to the port of Abonae at Sea Mills.  Archaeological excavations on the hillfort have recorded Iron Age artefacts, traces of a Roman building, undated rock-cut burials and a possible medieval stone chapel.  The Roman coins from the excavations show activity at the site continuing until at least the late 4th century.

Excavations at Henbury Secondary School in 1982 (J Russell, 1983, Romano-British burials at Henbury Comprehensive School, Bristol.  A preliminary report, Bristol & Avon Archaeology 2 , 21-24 ) and by Cotswold Archaeology in 2004 (Barber, A. 2004, Henbury Secondary School, Henbury, Bristol: Archaeological Evaluation (Phase 2) and Watching Brief) recorded the Roman road, evidence of an Iron Age to Roman farmstead and associated burials and field systems.  In the wider area, villas are recorded at Lawrence Weston to the south-west, Tockington Park Farm to the north, and more recently, at Stoke Gifford to the east.

Henbury itself is first recorded in a documentary source of 692 AD as “Heanburg”, which is Old English meaning “high/chief fortified place”.  But what were the local inhabitants up to between the end of the Roman period and the takeover of the area by Wessex? Archaeological work and scholarship in recent decades has consistently shown that older ideas of the Saxons occupying a ‘terra nullius’ or eradicating the British population are generally far from the truth, with complex interactions and integrations taking place.

The Chronicle, a document which was commenced in 9th-century Wessex, states that in 577 AD the Battle of Dyrham took place between King Ceawlin of Wessex and three British kings: Condidan, Conmail and Farinmail.  The Chronicle records that the cities of Glevum (Gloucester), Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester), and Aquae Sulis (Bath) were taken by Wessex.  Assuming that this is true (which is very difficult to establish either way) it seems logical that Wessex occupied the British territories up to the River Avon at this point, including the area which now includes Henbury.  Whether this land had formed part of one large British kingdom or independent smaller sub-kingdoms (or indeed a large kingdom or confederacy ruling over such sub-kings) is unknown.  The Law Code of King Ine of Wessex (written between AD 688 and 694) demonstrates that in some areas of Wessex the British population remained and that some retained control of up to five ‘hides’ of land (one hide being enough land to support one household, perhaps 50ha for example) and could serve the king as cavalry.

Given the extensive Roman-period occupation of the area, a pre-Wessex origin for Henbury can be speculated.  Is there any evidence to support this hypothesis?  Firstly, what do we know of the wider area in the 5th and 6th centuries AD?  Across the River Avon in Somerset, activity continued at the town of Ilchester into the 5th century.  More importantly, Somerset formed part of the flourishing monastic world in the 5th and 6th centuries, with monastic sites at Beckery, Glastonbury, Marchey and Carhampton, and possibly others such as St Decuman’s in Watchet.  Some of these monasteries, along with the reoccupied hillforts of Cadbury Congresbury and South Cadbury, show evidence of trade connections with the Mediterranean and the Eastern Roman Empire during this period.  Early Christian activity is also likely to have taken place at Kewstoke in North Somerset, just c. 27km south-west of Henbury (Rees, E. 2020, Early Christianity in South-West Britain, 69).  It is also important to note that South Wales just across the River Severn was a hub of the monastic tradition, with leading monasteries such as Llaniltud at Llantwith Major (established c. 500 AD), from which wandering monks and saints know as peregrinus (both men and women) set out to create new hermitages and monasteries.

In Gloucestershire, activity continued at the cities of Gloucester and Cirencester into the 5th century and the recent stunning discovery of a 5th-century mosaic at Chedworth demonstrates that it was located within a prosperous area with surviving elements of Roman culture and elite traditions.  So, Henbury was located within a wider sphere of continuing Romanised culture to the north-east and the new and vibrant monastic tradition coming from the south-west.

As we cannot dig up the town of Henbury, we must turn to historic maps for clues.  The 1841 Henbury Tithe Map indicates the possible presence of a large oval enclosure around the church, the outline of which is partially ‘fossilised’ by later roads and boundaries. Henbury Road and Church Lane along with some property boundaries appear to suggest a particularly clear example of a possible oval enclosure, with the later medieval church located on the western side.

Such oval enclosures can be indicative of early Christian monastic sites, particularly those in the ‘Celtic church’ tradition (although it should be remembered that no such singular institution existed and the term is laden with modern romanticism).  The monastic site at Carhampton was identified from traces on the Tithe map and confirmed by subsequent archaeological excavation (Hollinrake, C. & Hollinrake, N. 1994, Archaeological Evaluations at Carhampton, Somerset).  The enclosure at Carhampton measures approximately 350m by 250m.  The possible Henbury enclosure is similar at c. 313m long and c. 193m wide. Henbury also lies a short distance from the coast, a key characteristic of many such establishments.  It should be noted that monastic sites of this period were not necessarily distinct from secular settlements as they were during the medieval period.  These early monasteries often contained clearly-divided areas for religious and lay occupation, were strongly integrated within the social structure of the local ruling elites and were often handed down through the abbot’s family – celibacy not being a strongly-enforced tenet at this time. Did the Roman settlement in the Henbury area evolve into an Early Christian monastic site evangelised from South Wales or Somerset, which later came under the control of Wessex and became a secular settlement centred on the former monastic enclosure?

It must also be considered that this possible oval enclosure may have originated following the takeover by Wessex.  However, topographically speaking this enclosure is unlikely to have originated as a defensive enclosure as the Old English placename might suggest – while the northern half is located on high ground, the southern half across the Hazel Brook is located on flat and lower-lying ground.  Only archaeological excavation across the possible line of the enclosure would be able to prove or disprove the hypothesis that early medieval Henbury originated as a post-Roman monastic site.

*Editor’s note: we are thrilled to welcome Donal Lucey onto the BAAS committee as a co-opted member. Donal has had an extensive career in archaeology, and we look forward to the expertise he will bring to the society.


 Fancy a dip? Historic Swimming Baths to Reopen in Bath

Jack Fuller (BAA Bulletin Editor)

Perhaps the oldest public swimming pools in the UK are now due to reopen for public use again 40 years since their closure.  Located in Bath on the Bathwick side of the River Avon, north of Sydney Gardens, Cleveland Pools were said to have been built in 1814/1815, making them the only public Georgian swimming baths in the country and the oldest by some margin.  Built on land owned by the Duke of Cleveland, it was a cold, fresh-water swimming Bath, fed by the River Avon. The baths were initially paid for by private subscriptions, however the site’s fortunes took a down-turn in the 1820s, partly due to an economic depression in the period and the remote site of the buildings. By 1827, the promotors were bankrupt, and the Baths were sold to the Reverend Dr. Race Godfrey and refurbished, opening with a Ladies Pool and a “Perpetual Shower Bath”. Their success led to another upper pool, built between 1852-61.

In 1867, the pools were taken on by the ‘eccentric’ Mr W. Evans, who would teach swimming at the pools.  He was known for his party trick of diving into the pool from a great height whilst wearing a tall hat to protect his head.  After declining popularity, the Baths were closed in 1898-99 but were then immediately acquired by the City of Bath Corporation and reopened in 1901 as a replacement for the free public baths, established in 1869 near Darlington Wharf.  After this acquisition, the Baths became very popular in the 20th century and were used by a wide variety of groups in the City, including both the Bath Dolphins Swimming Club and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the latter of which carried out a total immersion baptism of 46 people in June 1941!  Despite being very popular in the 1960s, the Cleveland Pools closed in 1978, and an attempt at reopening them a few years later by a private company failed.

In the intervening years, the Baths were not completely neglected, seeing swimmers of a different kind in 1984 when it became a trout farm.  By 2003, the site was unoccupied and put up for sale, prompting the Cleveland Pools Trust to form and rescue them for public swimming.  At this time, the baths were also added to the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register, and after hard work its Grade II listed status was updated to Grade II*.

In 2018 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £4.7m to enable the restoration of the baths, and thanks to other donations this has reached £5.7m.  Restorations are due to get underway soon with the hope that the historic baths will reopen to the swimming public in spring 2022, keeping its heritage alive through continued use for many years to come.  To find out more about the plans afoot at Cleveland Pools or to support their work, visit:



 Reg Jackson 1949-2020

(Bruce Williams)

Although Reg had been seriously ill for the last few years, it was still a shock to learn of his passing on Christmas Eve of 2020.  Reginald Graham Jackson was born in Bristol to parents from Yorkshire.  In his youth, he took an early interest in archaeology, and thanks to his parents, was driven to see archaeological sites throughout the country.  As a teenager he worked under the direction of Jim Constant on a Roman site at Sea Mills, Bristol.  Later, he helped at the Meare Lake Village near Glastonbury, Somerset.  While working professionally in insurance in Bristol he spent holidays and weekends digging on sites at Westbury College, Bristol Castle and Greyfriars, Bristol, under the overall direction of Mike Ponsford at Bristol Museum. T he work at Bristol Castle in 1971 and the discovery there of a dump of clay tobacco pipe waste, as well as pipes from other Bristol sites, led Reg to follow decades of research into the clay tobacco pipe industry in Bristol. In collaboration with Roger Price, this resulted in the publication in 1974 of a monograph entitled ‘Bristol clay pipe makers: a study of makers and their marks’.  Following further research with Roger Price and Philomena Jackson, his then wife, this was revised and enlarged in 1979 as a private publication. Reg was a founder member of the Society for Clay Pipe Research which now has an international membership. Following the Society’s inception in 1983 he was responsible for the typing and production of the early Newsletters before taking over as editor between 1987 and 1991.  Reg was also a prolific researcher, particularly in relation to the Bristol pipe industry, and contributed as many as 70 notes and articles to the Newsletter.  His contribution spanned 37 years, from the very first issue, right up to the two papers he published in the last Newsletter.  At a national level, he also helped compile and edit the annual excavation reports in ‘Post-Medieval Britain and Ireland’ for Post-Medieval Archaeology during the 1990s.

Reg was one of a group of enthusiasts who regularly carried out ‘rescue’ archaeology at weekends in the centre of Bristol throughout the 70s and meeting at the City Museum on Thursday evenings to process the finds.  It is not surprising that he developed an interest in the study of pottery.  He co-authored the paper detailing the first Medieval waste pottery found in the city, discovered during a salvage excavation at St Peter’s church (1973).  His documentary research with Philomena and Roger Price led naturally to a parallel study of Bristol potteries and potters.  This resulted in 1980 in the publication of ‘Bristol Potters and Potteries, 1600-1800’, which appeared as volume 12 of the Journal of Ceramic History by Stoke-on-Trent Museums.  He later undertook considerable research on the 19th-century pottery industry in Bristol including that at Crew’s Hole.  In 1999 he was awarded an MLitt by the University of Bristol for his dissertation on the origin and development of the seventeenth-century tin-glazed earthenware industry in Brislington and Bristol.  His continued interest is reflected in the magisterial website that he developed and kept up-dated until the time of his death:

Nor was Reg’s research interests confined to the archaeology of Bristol, its clay pipe and delft pottery industry.  He and Philomena played an active role in the archaeology of Monmouth in the 1970s-80s, working on rescue sites throughout the area in collaboration with Monmouth Archaeological Society.  He led an excavation over a two-year period at Welsh Newton, revealing kiln and waste heaps of a country pottery which was the first of a series of excavations and publications of rural kiln sites around Monmouth by Reg and Philomena.  For its work in Monmouth the society was awarded the Legal & General Silver Trowel for the greatest initiative in archaeology as well as the Pitt Rivers Award for the best project by independents.

Astonishingly Reg achieved all this whilst holding down a full-time job at the Prudential.  However, a turning point for him came in the early 1990s when he turned his back on insurance to pursue a full-time professional career as a freelance archaeologist.  Working chiefly for BaRAS in Bristol, he undertook fieldwork and wrote specialist reports on post-medieval ceramics and clay tobacco pipes from numerous Bristol sites, his skills being recognised by other archaeological units with whom he worked locally.

Reg undertook more archaeological excavations in Bristol than anybody else, totalling nine major investigations over a 12-year period.  The list includes an excavation in 1994 at Tower Harratz, the easternmost, and largest, tower on the Portwall.  This was the first of Reg’s major fieldwork commissions for BaRAS and there followed an excavation in 1995 at St James’s Priory, a Romano-British site at Inns Court, Knowle West in 1997 and more Roman stuff off Upper Maudlin Street in 1999, medieval and later remains at the Bath Street site of the former Courage Brewery in 2000/2001, an excavation off Union Street in 2000, separate 18th-century glassworks west and east of St Thomas Street in 2000 and 2006, as well as numerous site assessments.  It is a tribute to Reg, but something of a rarity for Bristol, that he reported on all his fieldwork, leaving no backlog of unfinished fieldwork reports, but a legacy of several stand-alone monographs and numerous smaller fieldwork reports.

Reg eventually settled in West Cornwall in 2008 with his new partner Frankie, where together they ran a bed and breakfast establishment.  Recently, he rekindled his interest in active archaeology, joining an Iron Age dig on the Lizard and pursuing documentary research on the potters and clay tobacco pipe makers of Devon and Cornwall.  He was a long-time member of BAARG/BAAS, serving as Membership Secretary in 1973, Vice Chair in 1988-89 and Chairman in 1990.

Reg combined a natural talent for archaeology with good interpretative skills and strong organisational strengths, completing work which he undertook with care and attention to detail. He will be greatly missed.

Jenny Pennington 1936 – 2021:

(Gundula Dorey)

Jenny joined BAAS in 1984 when it was still in its heady pioneering days.  She was rapidly persuaded to become Membership Secretary and it was she who devised the very simple and easy file membership sheets which we still use today alongside electronic methods.  She decided in the late 90s that she wanted a change from being a member of the committee and elected instead to run the kitchen at meetings – so competently that nobody noticed.  And meetings were every fortnight at the time.  Without her so much would not have got done – she was always the first to run stalls at Open Days and Seminars and the Christmas Party.  She ‘retired’ a year or two before we moved from St Matthew’s to the Apostle Room, when turning out regularly on cold dark evenings became more of a chore and she was beginning to feel the onset of the dementia which took over the last years of her life.

She was one of the few who could get through to James Russell.  It was in her car that he travelled on field trips and she ate lunch with him, still in the car, as joining the rest of us in the pub was not in his book.  It was she who wheedled out of him that nothing in his house worked any longer and set about trying to change that – she organised the new washing machine and put various improvements in hand. She was one of his regular visitors in hospital despite already being in difficulties herself.

She was the most wonderful stalwart – every organisation needs its Jenny and she certainly did it for us. Always with such willingness and a bubbling undercurrent of humour.  Her middle name was ‘Patience’ and it fits, but she was much, much more. We are so happy and grateful to have known her.



CHAIRMAN:  Mike Gwyther

VICE CHAIRMAN:  James Lyttleton

SECRETARY:  Gundula Dorey

MEMBERSHIP:  Julie Bassett

TREASURER:  Steve Hastings



EDITOR (BAA):  pending



COMMITTEE MEMBER:  Katie Churchill, Bev Knott, Bob Jones, Bruce Williams

CO-OPTED:  Peter Insole, Donal Lucey

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 Julie Bassett at [email protected].  If you are not receiving email communications, but would like to, could you also contact Julie Bassett and give her your email address.

Bulletin 89 is scheduled for Summer 2021.  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].


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]