Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No.91 Summer 2022



Summer 2022

ISSN 1751 – 7060

In this Issue:

News from the Society…. 2

James Russell Memorial Day …. 3

BAAS Programme 2022 …. 5

Visit to Roman Gatcombe …. 8

Medieval remains near Cribbs …. 10

Keep up to date at:


Membership Matters


Looking through my records I seem to be missing the 2022 subscriptions for about 20 of our members – the subscription was due on 1 March 2022.  I hope these members still wish to remain a member of the Society; if this applies to you, I should be grateful if you would send your outstanding subscription as soon as possible – details below.

If I have not heard from you by 31 July 2022, I will regretfully assume that you no longer wish to continue your membership and will delete your details from the membership list.  I thank you on behalf of the BAAS Committee for your support of the Society over the years and we will be sorry to see you go.

If you are unsure whether or not you have paid your subscription for 2022, please contact me by email ([email protected]) and I will happily check for you.

Subscriptions can be paid either:

BY POST – send your cheque, made payable to “BAAS”, to Julie Bassett, BAAS, c/o 384 Wells Road, Bristol BS4 2QP.

BY BANK TRANSFER – to BRISTOL AND AVON ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, Account No. 10201839 at Barclays Bank plc, 86 Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1RB (Sort Code 20-13-34).  Your full name should be used as a reference (we have several members with the same surname).

SUBSCRIPTION RATES –    Single – £10.00    Joint – £15.00      Libraries, Universities, Institutions – £20.00

Kind regards  Julie Bassett, Hon Membership Secretary


James Russell Memorial Day 23 July 2022

James’ death on 2 March 2020 was closely followed by the first Covid lockdown so we could hold only a minimal funeral for him and do nothing afterwards to remember him and cheer ourselves up.

Now we can put that right. The committee of BAAS invites you to a commemoration for James to be held in the Apostle Room of Clifton Cathedral (our usual meeting place) on Saturday 23 July 2022 between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm.

 The programme is as follows:

10.00   Tea/coffee

10.30   Welcome from today’s Chair (Mike Gwyther)

10.35   James Russell – a very private person (Gundula Dorey)

11.00   James Russell and local archaeology – (speaker tbc)

11.45   Tributes to each of James’ friends and associates in BAAS who died in the same period – Reg Jackson (Bruce Williams), Jenny Pennington and Bob Williams (Gundula Dorey), Merle Wade (Keith Stenner), Mike Baker (Ian Beckey)

1.00    Buffet Lunch and raising a glass

            Exhibition of James and friends: pictures, artefacts and digital images

2.30    Recreating James’ Walk through Clifton terraces to Suspension Bridge lookout over the 3 visible Iron Age settlements (maps and commentary provided).

4.00     Close of walk and return to Cathedral carpark

The Apostle Room can accommodate up to 50 members. In order to get the catering right do let us know in advance if you are coming – please email Gundula ([email protected]) or phone her (0117) 927 6812 by Thursday 14 July to make sure of your place. We regret that we will not be able to accommodate extra bodies turning up on the day.

Do come to this special event celebrating the life of James and his contemporaries all of whom made a very special contribution to Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society.


Found It!

Have you ever found objects in your home, perhaps in the attic or under the floorboards, left by previous occupants? Have you stripped wallpaper and found endless layers underneath or even a scribbled message?  Sea Mills 100, who run the mini museum in the phone box in Sea Mills Square, have teamed up with the Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society, Bristol Museums and Bristol Archives and they want to see your found objects.

“Every object has a story and found objects can often tell you something about the history of your home and its previous occupants” says Sea Mills 100 co-ordinator Mary Milton. “We hope to reveal some of these hidden stories by putting local people together with experts from Bristol Museums and Archives and the local archaeological society,” she adds.  Sea Mills 100 are asking people to bring their small found objects to the “Found it!” event on Sea Mills Square on 9th July 10am-2pm. For objects that are too large or not moveable they suggest people bring a photograph instead.

Mary is hoping for an interesting haul, “It will be great to see what people bring along. I expect we will see a lot of smaller items like cigarette cards or tickets which can be really interesting, hopefully we will be able to date them. We might also see some larger items or objects left from businesses that were run here in years gone by.”

Bristol Museums will also be bringing some of their handling collection for the public to see, along with some images of the local area. Found it! Takes place at the Café on the Square BS9 2DY on Saturday 9th July 10am – 2pm. In the event of poor weather this event will take place in Sea Mills Methodist Church – also on the Square.

Donal Lucey

BAAS Programme 2022

Keith Stenner

It is with great excitement that BAAS is now resuming its talks. Currently these talks will be in person at the Apostle Room in Clifton Cathedral on a Wednesday each month (during Autumn and Winter) at 7.30pm, usually ending by 9.30pm. Doors open at 7.00pm. Refreshments have resumed at meetings and are available before the talks. Ample free car parking is available in the Cathedral car park (entrance from Worcester Road off Pembroke Road). The No 8 bus service runs 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.

2022 Summer Field Visits

 23rd July  Field Visit to Clifton Observatory  A field walk as part of the James Russell Memorial Day, led by Gundula Dorey.

20th August  Field Visit Looking for Saxon Bristol  Led by Pete Insole.  For more details see Upcoming Events this website.

2022 Autumn/Winter Talks

Further details of all the talks can be found in Upcoming Events this website.

Wednesday 14th September    The Challenges of Objectively Reconstructing Kings Weston Roman Villa and the Roman Ruins at Sea Mills  Illustrated talk by Alex Birkett, University of Bristol.

Wednesday 12th October   A Romano-British Settlement and the Lost Medieval Hamlet of Wyck: Excavations at Wyke Beck Road and Fishpool Hill in 2021.  Illustrated talk by Cai Mason, Senior Project Officer, Wessex Archaeology.

Wednesday 9th November   Arthur Evans and the Tree Cult of Minoan Crete  Illustrated talk by Jack Fuller, University of Bristol and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Wednesday 14th December  Picking up the Pieces: re-evaluating Romano-British pewter in Wiltshire and the South-West.  Illustrated talk by Wil Partridge, Research Officer, Wiltshire Museum.

Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology 2022

Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology will be back at Blaise Museum this July.  This one-day event celebrates all things archaeological and brings together museum archaeologists, local societies, heritage organisations, re-enactors and field archaeologists.  Throughout the day there will be a whole host of tours, demonstrations, displays and archaeological activities. There’s plenty for younger archaeologists to do too with mini excavations, craft, face painting and more.  Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society will also be there running a stall so please pop along and say hello.

Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology is part of the national Festival of Archaeology and takes place on Sat 30 July from 11am to 4pm at Blaise Museum & Estate. Kings Weston Roman Villa will also open as part of the festival on Wed 27 July. Visit the Blaise Museum website for all the latest information –

Kate Iles

Forthcoming BGAS Lectures, Bristol, 2022.

26th September: Tour of Clifton Cathedral, starting at 6pm. The tour of this important landmark building, constructed in 1973, will be led by Peter Harrison, a Cathedral guide. He was one of the advisors to the architects, Percy Thomas Partnership, led by Project Architect Ronald J Weeks.

24th October: Lecture by Professor Roger Leech. “A Caribbean plantation with Bristol connections: the archaeological survey and study of the landscape of Mountravers, the plantation of the Pinney family on Nevis”.

28th November: Lecture by Trevor Scantlebury. “Bristol Aerospace Company: Some Early History”.

All talks will be held in the Apostle Room at Clifton Cathedral, starting at 7.45pm. Tea/coffee will be available beforehand.

BAAS trip to Gatcombe, Bev Knott

On 21st June, 25 BAAS members visited the Roman site at Gatcombe and a stretch of Roman road to the north.  Modern Gatcombe is a small settlement just to the west of Long Ashton on the outskirts of Bristol and is focused on Gatcombe farm and the mansion of Gatcombe Court. The Roman site is much larger, covers about 14.5 ha (36 acres), and is surrounded by a stone wall of which only the foundations survive, buried under grassy low humps. Apart from a section of the walls and an area of the north-east of the site, most has not been excavated. Although buildings cover some parts, much could be excavated. Significant areas have been investigated by geophysics. We did not see the area where buildings were excavated, and I will append a brief account of them at the end.

Unfortunately, it had not been possible for me to see the site before the visit, and it turned out that I had prepped the wrong area. So, the tour, led by Bridget Mackwood of Gatcombe Court, started in the Gatcombe Court car park, a field to the south of Gatcombe Court.

I had not expected this and so did not explain that this field had been fully covered by geophysical investigation which suggested a pattern of rectilinear features. These were on the same alignment as features identified in the geophysical survey in the upper orchard behind the big house. We looked over the gate at an indication of the line of the west wall. Also, in this field a trench for a sewer crossing the area revealed several building platforms.

We then crossed the lane to Gatcombe Court, a Grade II* listed house, built originally in the late 14th century, comprising a solar built by John de Gatcombe, and further altered in the 17th and 20th centuries.

Within the grounds of Gatcombe Court, we saw a Roman well (interesting as being so close to the water source of the river) and moved on to the area behind the house where a deep hollow way is visible. This forms the route of the Roman internal street; on either side geophysical survey had indicated the presence of buildings. The hollow way leads up to the north-west corner of the walled area where the linear earthworks marking the west and north walls converge. At this corner, a circular shape suggests the presence of a bastion, and a gap in the corner represents the site of the north-west gate which served the Roman town.

Directly north of this gap (after climbing over a stile which I and perhaps others found a bit of a challenge) we saw a 5m wide terrace cut into the side of a hill descending from east to west. This is the start of the proposed Roman Road proceeding north and leading ultimately to the Roman town at Sea Mills (Abona). After a few yards it enters scrub, emerging further on as a well-engineered agger. Entering scrub again, a terrace can be glimpsed in places before it finally emerges as a low agger just before it enters the wood of Ashton Plantation. A field fence blocked further progress, but our Roman Road group has traced the road as a terrace cut into the side of a valley and then as a low agger to the top of the hill.

Branigan (who excavated the buildings in the north-east corner of the site), and others have talked of a hollow way taking the Roman road north from the north-west gate. I believe they have mistaken a small dry valley issuing from the Failand ridge as the road, whereas in my view the road proceeds along the side of the valley as a terrace to ease the gradient for wheeled vehicles up to the top of the ridge; the road doesn’t follow the bed of the valley which would become difficult and muddy in wet weather but is a cut above it where it would be drier. In any case valley beds rarely rise at a steady gradient and an engineered ascent along the side of the valley can smooth the climb.

The corner of a walled enclosure is not the usual location for a gate, nor is the diagonal alignment of the street leading to it a usual feature in a rectilinear space as we have in the walled enclosure of Gatcombe. Surely the reason for both is a wish to take advantage of the more gradual ascent along the side of the small valley the cuts into the southern flank of the Failand ridge.

As we walked, a discussion arose as to how well-founded was our identification of the road as Roman. I had to concede that no geophysics or excavation had been done. We hadn’t even used a metal rod to push into the ground to detect a buried stony surface. It was also suggested that we might be seeing a later track. My reply was threefold. Firstly, our road proceeded directly out of the gate of a known Roman site and an internal street lead directly towards this gate. Secondly, that the proposed road showed more careful engineering than might be expected from a track: a steady gradient, the maintained width, the clearly constructed terraced cut into the slope, the sustained direction of route (quite unlike the wheel tracks of a previously seen farm vehicle that weaved around the clumps of bush). Thirdly, a town the size of Gatcombe, one of the biggest of the numerous small towns of Roman Britain, certainly had communications, just as every other known small town did. However, to investigate the proposed road archaeologically would require consent from the farmer and also from English Heritage as the site is a scheduled monument.

It was also questioned why the walls of Gatcombe were so thick, for which there was no time for a reply. In brief I propose that the walls were built to express the status of the town and not for any defensive purpose. For detailed discussion, please see the paper I am writing about Gatcombe in the next edition of BAA.

Finally, we repaired to the Greedy Goose restaurant where a long table awaited replete with cream teas. As we munched and drank and chatted, I wonder if anyone realised that below our feet was building number 12 of Branigan’s excavations of the 1970s. Quite an interesting building of two rooms, just under 15 x 10m total area, with a number of phases of occupation as evidenced by a series of floors. A large masonry oven was found in each room, 19 coins with a range ending in the late 360s A.D. from mints such as Trier, Lyons, Arles.  Also, many artefacts such as a fragment of a vase of yellowish green glass, an iron ring, two bracelets, a cosmetic spoon, a silvered rim of a possible mirror were found.

As I said above, we did not visit the area of the excavated buildings but in fact we did pass, too quickly for comment, one of them just behind Gatcombe Court. Building 20 is an intriguing structure, probably put up after most buildings had been abandoned in the late 300s A D and serving as living quarters. Its three rooms went through several phases, perhaps coming to an end by the mid-400s AD. 90 coins were found, three spindle whorls, a bead, a boot cleat, some door studs, a nail, a handle of a spoon, a seal box lid with blue and red enamel inlays.

Other buildings were interpreted for various uses as a cold store, iron ore smelting, making and repairing iron implements, processing and storage of grain, producing pewter work, a slaughterhouse, a store house, and a pottery store.

Medieval remains (hall complex?) near Cribbs Causeway, S. Glos.

Ray Holt with contributions from Cai Mason

Following on from archaeological evaluations undertaken in 2014 and 2015, the 2021 excavations by Wessex Archaeology on a 2.1 ha parcel of land between Wyck Beck Road and Fishpool Hill, near Cribbs Causeway, South Gloucestershire, revealed extensive Romano-British and medieval remains.

This article pertains to the medieval structural remains uncovered along the western margin of the site, which comprised the foundations of a large building – almost certainly a house (Building A) – and a smaller ancillary building containing a furnace or oven (Building B). It is possible that a comparable feature (Structure E) was similarly located within an outbuilding or an annex to Building A. Less well-defined Structures C and D may also represent extensions to the principal building. A path and some yard areas were indicated by extensive patches of metalled surfaces.

Building A

The roughly north/south-aligned rectangular main building was 9 m wide and at least 17 m long. The foundations and walls where they survive were of clay-bonded limestone rubble construction, those on the longer sides being around 1.1 m in width, while at the gable end these were up to 1.35 m wide. The slightly protruding section of stonework on the south-east corner may represent a corner buttress.

Building A was divided into two rooms, separated by a 0.7 m thick stone wall and connected by a central doorway; the larger northern room featured a sizeable rectangular stone hearth. As such, the building was almost certainly a single-ended medieval hall house, which are usually divided into two sections – the largest (usually around two-thirds of the building) being an open hall with a hearth, the smoke from which would have vented through the roof. The remaining third was usually two storeys high, with a service room or two on the ground floor and a solar (private living and sleeping quarters) on the first floor.

Medieval open halls typically had a cross passage (two opposing external doors), which sometimes warranted a full or partial screen to reduce drafts. An L-shaped cut with large inset stones may have been the foundations of such a structure, known as a draught spere. Medieval solar were often timber-framed and projected beyond the ground floor walls, so it is possible that stone-packed posthole and the probable buttress in the SSE corner of the building might have related to a jettying upper storey.

The remnants of a plastered stone wall that lined part of the internal surface of the original northern wall, might represent an installation intended to support the joists of a later medieval/early post-medieval upper floor in the main room.

Building B

Situated approximately 8.5 m to the east of Building A and on a slightly different alignment, Building B was substantially truncated and much of the external walling had been robbed out. It measured 9.3 m x 7.4 m, with walls/foundation being in the region of 0.65 m wide. Its two rooms were divided by a c. 0.5 m thick wall, the southern one featuring only an earthen floor.

By contrast, the northern room was predominantly occupied by a massively built, 3.5 m x 2.5 m wide, rectangular stone-built oven or furnace. Whilst there was evidence for significant heating on many of the inward-facing stones, the heat appears to have been concentrated in a small recess in the north-west corner, presumably the location of the heat source.

The function of Building B is uncertain, and its interpretation will largely depend on understanding of the function of the large oven/furnace within it (something that should become clearer once we study the material from the samples). The most plausible interpretation is that it was a detached kitchen block, as this was a common feature on higher status medieval occupation sites – the purpose being to reduce the risk of fire in the dwelling, reduce heat, smells and dirt, and delineating functions and roles.

Other structures

Structures C and D were both retaining walls constructed of large, squared limestone blocks. The walls defined an area of flat higher ground abutted by a yard surface. Their massive and deliberate construction suggests that they are likely to have been part of a small building – potentially a timber-framed annex to Building A, of which no other remains survive.

Structure E was an L-shaped section of heavily truncated walling, abutted by a paved surface of heat-effected limestone slabs. Their insubstantial nature suggests that they were built for a single storey stone structure. Its function is uncertain, but it had clearly been exposed to intense heating, most likely functioning as some form of oven or furnace.

External surfaces

Although heavily disturbed and covered by rubble-rich abandonment/demolition debris, it was possible to discern outdoor features in the area between Buildings A and B, comprising patches of metalled surfaces and a 2.9 m wide, 7 m long probable path between the two buildings, defined by two parallel lines of kerbstones.

To the west of Building A and Structures C and D, there was an extensive and well-defined yard surface constructed of closely packed rubble. At the eastern edge of the yard, there was a very large limestone slab, the upper surface of which was marked by numerous small straight indentations, leading to the interpretation that this was as a chopping block.


Although post-excavation analysis is ongoing, preliminary results suggest that the main building was built in the 13th to 14th centuries, when it would have been within the Manor of Henbury, which had been controlled by the bishops of Worcester since at least the late 8th century. The episcopal manor house and parish church were located in Henbury village, with a further seven chapels located in the outlying settlements of Aust, Northwick, Compton, St Blaise, Lawrence Weston, Kings Weston and Shirehampton. In addition to these, there were at least nine smaller settlements, all probably no more than hamlets.

The excavated buildings appear to have lain within one of these hamlets, known as The Wick, or Wyck. The earliest known reference to which is a charter of AD 1092, which records the granting of a substantial area of land in Westbury and Henbury, including ‘28 acres of land in Henbury and in Charlton and Wica’ to the monks of Westbury minster. The Wyck is also recorded in the pipe rolls of AD 1195 and reoccurs in later medieval and post-medieval property records. There was no chapel in Wyck, and the settlement is likely to have been very small, possibly no more than two or more farmsteads strung out along Passage Road, which was once an important route linking Bristol and South Wales via a ferry at Aust.

The buildings appear to have been abandoned in the 15th or 16th century, perhaps to some degree influenced by the transference of the manor to private ownership during the Dissolution.


BAAS Committee 2022-23

CHAIRMAN: James Lyttleton

MEMBERSHIP: Julie Bassett

TREASURER: Steve Hastings


EDITORS (BAA):  Bruce Williams and Bev Knott (assistant editor)


BULLETIN EDITOR: James Lyttleton
CO-OPTED: Gundula Dorey, Peter Insole, Bob Jones

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.

A big thank you from the Committee to James Lyttleton for compiling this Bulletin single-handedly.  It’s a very comprehensive edition – well done!

Bulletin 92 is scheduled for November. If you would like to write anything for it or wish to highlight a subject you think should be in there, please contact James Lyttleton on [email protected]


BAAS Website:




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

Kate Iles (Hon. Secretary) 0117 31508 [email protected]

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

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