Bristol & Avon Archaeological Society
(Formerly Bristol & Avon Research Group) Registered Charity No. 229317
BAAS Bulletin No. 93 Summer 2023 ISSN 1751-7060
Included in this Issue:
News from the Society … 2
BAAS Programme 2023 …. 3
300th Anniversary of William Stukeley’s visit to Stanton Drew …. 4
North Somerset update …. 5
Updates on work at Stoke Park …. 7
A Spanish ‘olive jar’ from a well at Temple Street, Bristol … 9
A Roman villa in Stoke Gifford … 11
Keep up to date at:
News from the Society
SUBSCRIPTION REWEWALS 2023
We still have a number of members who have not yet renewed their 2023 membership which was due on 1st March 2023. If you are unsure whether or not your subscription has been paid, please contact me (email: [email protected]). If you wish to continue your membership of BAAS and take part in the exciting and interesting lectures and walks programme, please forward your subscription as soon as possible. Cheques may be posted to me (Julie Bassett, BAAS, c/o 384 Wells Road, Bristol BS4 2QP) or payments made by bank transfer to:
Account Name: BRISTOL AND AVON ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
Account No. 10201839 (Sort Code 20-13-34)
Bank Address: Barclays Bank plc, 86 Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1RB
Subscription rates for 2023 only are Single £10.00, Joint £15.00, Institution £20.00
Use your surname plus initial as reference (several members have the same surname)
If you wish to set up a standing order with your bank for future payments, I can send you a form on request.
Julie Bassett, Hon Membership Secretary
BAAS Programme 2023
Wednesday 13th September Archaeology in South Gloucestershire
Illustrated talk by Paul Driscoll, Archaeology and Historic Environment Record Officer, Strategic Planning Policy and Specialist Advice Team (Department for Place}
An overview of archaeological activity and discoveries from South Gloucestershire over the past ten years or so. There will be a notable focus on Roman activity throughout the area and a look at the patterns and trends that are emerging.
Wednesday 11th October New Discoveries in Gloucester
Illustrated talk by Dr Andrew Armstrong, Gloucester City Archaeologist
Gloucester developed from a 1st-century Roman fortress into one of only four colonia in Britain. It became an Anglo-Saxon burh and developed into a key medieval royal centre. It is unsurprisingly, one of the most important archaeological sites in the south west of England. The talk will describe some of the fascinating recent discoveries uncovered during the ongoing regeneration of the historic city centre.
Wednesday 8th November Bristol and Ireland in the Middle Ages
Illustrated talk by Professor Brendan Smyth, Professor of Medieval History, University of Bristol
The first mention of Bristol in our written records, located in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, refers to it in relation to Ireland. Throughout the medieval period, links between the town and the neighbouring island were strong. Trade was an important element of this relationship and was closely related to political developments that drew Bristol and Ireland more closely together. The conquest of Ireland conducted by King Henry II from 1171 onwards relied heavily on resources of finance and personnel provided by Bristol and for the following three centuries English fortunes across the Irish Sea mirrored Bristol’s relations with its insular neighbour.
Wednesday 13th December Pitch Perfect: Excavating a Roman Framing Settlement and Villa at Dings Crusaders RFC.
Illustrated talk by Dr Andrew Pearson, Post Excavation Manager, Cotswold Archaeology, Cirencester
Between 2016 and 2018, Cotswold Archaeology carried out archaeological excavations of disused rugby pitches in Stoke Gifford. These revealed a previously unknown Roman site, which began as a simple enclosed farmstead that was probably established around the time of the Conquest. Over the following centuries the settlement developed in a series of phases, such that by its 4th-century peak the main building had evolved into a substantial winged villa. While the estate was affluent rather than palatial, the finds recovered from the site reveal widespread contact with the wider Roman Empire, reaching as far as the Mediterranean and perhaps Egypt. From its burials to rare artefacts, this unexpected site tells us much about Roman life in the Bristol region.
300th Anniversary of William Stukeley’s visit to Stanton Drew
There will be a celebration in Stanton Drew on the weekend of 22-23 July 2023, of the 300th anniversary of the visit of the celebrated antiquarian, William Stukeley. Stanton Drew, a few miles south of Bristol, is the site of the most important stone circles in England, after Stonehenge and Avebury. There are three circles, of which the Great Circle is second only to Avebury in size, and a cove of three stones in the village.
William Stukeley was the leading antiquarian of the 18th century, and the first to perform a rigorous study of Avebury and Stonehenge. He visited Stanton Drew just the once, on 23rd July 1723, but in that short time he produced a detailed plan, made several accurate drawings, and wrote an account that was to bring Stanton Drew to national prominence.
On Saturday 22nd July, there will be a symposium of talks on William Stukeley, and the archaeology of Stanton Drew, given by leading academics and archaeologists.
On Sunday 23rd July 2023, the exact 300th anniversary, there will be a day of events in the village, including tours of the stones, an exhibition and activities for children.
For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.stukeley300.org.uk Tickets for the symposium (in person and streamed) and the guided tours are available via Eventbrite – you can find a link to this on the www.stukeley300.org.uk website.
These events are being organised by representatives of BAAS, BACAS, BGAS, Stanton Drew Parish Council, the landowner and English Heritage. This weekend of events is also listed as part of the CBA’S Festival of Archaeology. It would be great to have your support.
North Somerset update
Cat Lodge (Principal Archaeologist)
The Heritage and Design Team at North Somerset Council includes myself, Kate Hudson-McAulay (Principal Conservation & Heritage Officer) and Ewan Hale who was recently appointed as Historic Environment Assistant, plus our Heritage Action Zone officers, urban design officers and officers dealing with large projects such as placemaking initiatives and funding applications.
On 28th April we held the 12th North Somerset Heritage Forum, this time at a venue in Portishead where 14 local groups with an interest in history and heritage attended.
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].
Development management / planning archaeology
Significantly higher numbers of planning applications and enforcement cases have required input from heritage officers in 2022/23.
North Somerset Council’s archaeologist has been involved in a variety of large applications around Weston-super-Mare, Banwell, Congresbury, Churchill, Clevedon and Yatton, as well as small householder applications in areas of archaeological interest.
Worlebury Camp Hillfort
Volunteers are still working hard to remove vegetation from Worlebury Camp hillfort on the edge of Weston-super-Mare, supported by the council and its contractors. Work commenced in December 2022 to removed diseased ash trees from the eastern extent of the hillfort along the public right of way and around some of the more significant archaeological features such as the stone ramparts.
An application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the research and community elements of the project is due to be submitted in late 2023.
Festival of Archaeology 2023
The Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology theme this year is ‘Archaeology and Creativity’ and will run between 15th and 30th July.
A free in-person event is being organised collaboratively between NSC heritage officers and Weston Museum for Saturday 29th July at Weston Museum to showcase a range of activities and information based around the Festival’s theme. In addition, throughout July, information from Know Your Place will be shared via the Facebook group and Twitter account.
North Somerset Historic Environment Record (NSHER)
In November 2022 Ewan Hale was appointed as the new Historic Environment Assistant and has made great strides in reducing report backlogs and enhancing the HER database.
The five-year Historic England audit cycle was completed in March 2022 and a new action plan was implemented which outlines a range of priorities for the next five years including focussing on further reducing grey literature backlog and significant data enhancement projects (including adding BAAS articles to the HER!).
Local Heritage List
The second round of nominations for the Local Heritage List were reviewed by the independent panel and were adopted in February 2023. Most nominations were in Weston-super-Mare, as they were identified as buildings of merit through the Heritage Action Zone project. Nominations can be made via Know Your Place North Somerset, or by emailing the heritage officers.
More information can be found here: www.n-somerset.gov.uk/localheritagelist
Updates on work at Stoke Park
John Hunt A.G.B.A. / B.A.R.G. / B.A.A.R.G. / B.A.A.S. since 1973.
The Archaeology and History of Stoke Park, Bristol in the 18th century
The archaeology and history of Stoke Park was originally written on by James Russell in volume 8 of the Bristol and Avon Archaeology Journal (1989). The owner of Stoke Park, Norborne Berkely, became involved in planting and landscaping during the 1740s – the Pale Plantation in the parkland was laid out and planted between 1743 and 1745/46. He was assisted by Thomas Wright from 1749, with much work done by both men up to 1768. When Berkeley departed Stoke Park to become Governor of Virginia in America where he subsequently died in 1770, despite his short tenure there, a marble statue was erected in his honour in 1773. Berkeley’s sister, Elizabeth had married Charles Noel Somerset in 1740, who became the 4th Duke of Beaufort. Following his death in 1750, Elizabeth lived at Stoke Park where landscaping work continued, assisted by Thomas Wright with designs and improvements. He died at his home in Byers Green in County Durham in 1786. The Duchess died in 1799. Of all the numerous designs by Wright, some structures built above ground were still extant in the 20th and 21st centuries, while others were removed, ruined or hidden by earth and vegetation.
On a recent TV programme, Professor Alice Roberts stated that ‘archaeology is like detective work’. How true that is – clues learnt on sites and literature help to paint a picture of the past. My interest in the archaeology and history of Stoke Park has grown over the years, since assisting with James Russell’s dig on the site of the Rotunda Base within Barnwood and briefly surveying the ‘Tomb of Horatii’ in 1988 with fellow members of BAAS (Mike Baker, Paula Baker, Ian Becky, Andy Buchar, Dawn Harris and myself).
The ‘Tomb of the Horatii’ at Stoke Park
The following concerns the report in B.A.A. volume 29 (2021) of the ‘Tomb of the Horatii at Stoke Park’, pp 73-80 by James Russell and myself.
First, the keen-eyed members may have noticed an error in the more recent article regarding two of the piers or bases of the tomb – labelled respectively F1 (east) and F4 (South) – the latter was mostly quarried away in the 19th century. This followed the collapse of the ‘tomb structure’, possibly due to strong stormy weather as well as the fact that monument was partly built on sloping ground.
The F1 (east) pier was the so-called ‘Old Owl House’ and was extant until 1940, when it was unfortunately blown up by personnel from the WW2 gun battery on Purdown; its remaining ‘stump’ was seen in 1988 by the aforementioned BAAS members, and again viewed by this writer in 2008.
Early in 2018 a proposal to reduce hedgerows and scrub included removal of a blackthorn thicket at the site, with subsequent harrowing of uneven ground, which could have caused damage to the piers of the tomb F2 (North) and F3 (West). This writer met Andrew Gordon (then 2018) of the Bristol City Park’s Department several times, having shown him James Russell’s drawings (B.A.A volume 8 (1989), pp 73-80), and my photographs of the dig, Andrew was interested enough to see the site, and used part of a grant to place a post and wire fence around the bases of the tomb.
In early 2019, quarried stones were delivered to Stoke Park where three young men built above bases F2 (70cm high) and F3 (57cm high). Unfortunately, the bases F1 and F4 were undermined by rabbit burrowing and to rebuild would have cost too much. A signboard was set up giving brief information on the ‘Tomb’ site.
Further conservation work on two ponds in the parkland
Two dew ponds within Stoke Park have been cleared of mud and stones under the auspices of the Stoke Park Community Group Volunteers – one in the Pale Plantation called the Upper Circular Pond and the second on the lower section of the park known as the D-shaped pond or the Lower Newt Pond. Unknown to them, I had been there 17 years earlier. These volunteers work to support the history and ecology of Stoke Park. The work is supported by Historic England and Natural England, with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group also supporting the work.
The park created a website highlighting the activities of the Stoke Park Community Group Volunteers:
The same website also has a progress report on the same scheme: http://stoke-park.co.uk/index.php/2023/01/21/pale-plantation-pond-progress/
As you will see the Group are posting photographs of cleaning the ponds on the website. Their intention is to have the ponds cleaned, rebuilt, and repointed by September this year.
Since end of February 2023, mud has been cleared out of the Upper Circular Pond near the Pale Plantation. A spring fed by the showers of March and April replenishes the pond with water. James Russell’s 1989 article on the archaeology of Stoke Park didn’t specifically mention either pond, which suggests that James had never seen them.
Horse Pond in Barnwood, west of Dower House
In 2004, the stone walls of the Horse Pond in Barnwood were being rebuilt and repointed. I was told by a local man then of another pond located south, beyond the Obelisk. In December 2005, I was informed that it was located in a clearing near the Pale Plantation, overgrown with nettles, brambles and ivy. On visiting the site, I encountered what appeared to be a collapsed stone wall partly covered by ivy, and adjacent to it was a square stone socket. The open end of a rectangular three walled enclosure was part fed by a spring in the 1980s and was thought to be a plunge pool for humans because of several stone steps leading into the pond. Built to Wright’s design in 1749, it was in fact used to wash horses and farm carts. The function of the socket is not clear. In medieval times such a socket usually supported the shaft of a cross, but in this instance could have supported a Greek urn or a statue such as that of a water nymph.
Indeed, the current author had difficulty in subsequently finding the Upper Circular Pond in the Pale Plantation in 2006, it being covered by nettles and brambles within the tree cover. The author visited both the Upper Circular Pond and the Lower Newt Pond earlier this year as both ponds were being cleaned by volunteers. Interestingly, their work revealed that the bottom of the Upper Circular Pond is lined with regularly laid cobbles – laid in regular lines or string coursing.
The Lower Newt Pond is the D-shaped pond on the valley floor and was inspected by the author in January 2005 when it still contained water and was overgrown with vegetation, though in the following June and July it was dry. Associated with the pond is a coursed wall in a ruinous state which volunteers are hoping to repair.
The volunteers thought that the Lower Newt Pond was put in as part of Thomas Wright’s design in c. 1750, and that the cobbled base of the pond was a rare example of a spider’s pattern, not knowing that a similar pattern was evident at the Upper Circular Pond. The Horse Pond was also lined with cobbles decorated with three rows of string coursing. The Lower Newt Pond was similar to the plunge pools set in Roman ruins that Norborne Berkeley possibly saw when on the Grand Tour of Italy. Was it Wright’s 18th century version of a Roman plunge pool, although intended for use by cattle, horses and sheep, that were built at Stoke Park during the 18th century?
A Spanish ‘olive jar’ from a well at Temple Street, Bristol
A complete Spanish ‘olive jar’ container, dating to the 16th–18th century was recovered from a well during a watching brief at Temple Street, Bristol by Cotswold Archaeology in June 2021. The well was originally identified during excavation of the site in 2015 and 2016, with the base subsequently being exposed during ground reduction works.
Commercial containers such as these were used to transport goods by sea from Spain to its American colonies and other countries. This trade was centred around Seville as the city had obtained a trade monopoly in the very early years of the 16th century. A range of goods would have been packed in ceramic jars – from wine and olive oil to capers, lentils, olives, soap, or coins. The jars would have been hermetically sealed, using a cork and wax, for example. They were sturdy, utilitarian containers which once empty could have been reused.
They are not rare in Britain and have been recorded at over 100 sites across the country, especially around the coast, but also inland. The jars are frequent finds in Bristol although no overview of numbers and distribution has been compiled yet.
The fact that the jar was complete would suggest it was not discarded on purpose and may potentially have been an accidental loss associated with the use of the well. A small notch on the rim might suggest that a rope could have been secured around the rim to be used to extract water from the well, although it is not clear how well the jar would have sunk to collect the water. Another possibility is that water might have been decanted from the well into the jar and this might have been knocked into the well during this process. The narrow rim would have kept the water safe during transport from the well, perhaps producing less splashes than an open bucket.
The well itself was probably constructed in the mid-16th to 17th century within the backplot of a property fronting onto Temple Street. The plot was likely to originally have been laid out during the 12th to 13th century colonization of the Redcliffe area of Bristol and remained in use until the 18th or 19th century, at which time the well was infilled.
A Roman villa in Stoke Gifford Bristol
Between summer 2016 and spring 2018, Cotswold Archaeology excavated land previously used as rugby pitches by Dings Crusaders RFC at Stoke Gifford, Gloucestershire. The work uncovered the remains of a high-status Roman building.
The site was initially occupied by an enclosed farmstead, dating to around AD 43 and comprising a single roundhouse and a possible small granary, beyond which were ditches and fields perhaps used as stock enclosures. During the 2nd century AD, the site was re-modelled with rectangular fields and trackways, the roundhouse was rebuilt and a rectangular timber building, over 10m long and 4m wide, with at least two rooms, was constructed. Although the function of this building is unknown, it was positioned in what was to become the centre of the villa complex.
By the mid-to-late 3rd century the settlement had been replaced by a new rectangular building with masonry foundations that measured 18m long and 5.5m wide and contained four rooms. A narrow passage ran from the front to the back of the building. An ancillary building may have been used for craftwork or industry, such as crop-processing brewing or as a laundry.
Alterations to the building in the mid-to-late 4th century saw it become what we typically imagine as a villa. Wings were added to the north and south, the former including a small bath suite, a kitchen and a room with a channelled or ‘labyrinth’ hypocaust system, probably a reception room. Another heated room at the rear of the south wing used a hypocaust system of stacked tiles of squared pennant sandstones forming over 20 individual pilae (pillars). One room within the bathhouse had heat-resistant surfaces, tiled flooring and a mortar finish to the walls, which may indicate use as a hot room.
A portico and walled courtyard were added at the front of the building and an outer courtyard was flanked by ancillary buildings to the north and south, one of which contained several corn dryers. Excavation revelated that the villa had flagstone floors, a carved roof finial and some glazed windows and painted wall frescos; these were probably limited to the more important rooms. Although the villa’s occupants were undoubtedly wealthy, the villa lacked some of the very lavish features seen at the most impressive villas; there were no mosaic floors, and the roofs were likely to have been largely tiled with stone.
The presence of the corn dryers and recovery of artefacts such as quernstones, a hammerstone, whetstones and a possible pestle suggest the economy of the villa may have had an emphasis on grain production. Evidence also suggests that small scale metalworking for local use went on throughout the life of the villa.
Other artefacts recovered from the site provide further insight into the lives of the villa’s occupants. A lamp, possibly depicting the god Silenus, dating to the 1st century AD, was imported, probably from the southern Mediterranean, and is rare in Britain outside early military and large urban contexts. The nearest major market for imported goods was probably the port and associated settlement at Abonae (modern Sea Mills), just to the west of Bristol. A lion-headed mount dating to the later 1st and 2nd centuries may have decorated a wooden box or casket. Items typically recovered from domestic sites were also present; these including iron nails, keys, tools, household items, and dress and toiletry objects such as brooches, bracelets/armlets, finger rings, glass beads and bone hairpins. Pottery wares were generally of British types although a small quantity of Samian Ware imported from Western Europe is of note due to its rarity at rural sites, particularly in the Bristol area. A small number of glass vessels and over 260 coins were also recovered. Most of the coins date from the mid-3rd century to the end of the 4th century, which is quite typical for Romano-British rural settlements.
A group of four adult inhumation burials probably date from the 3rd or 4th-century AD. A lack of grave goods to indicate high status suggests that they may have been workers rather than the owners. Hobnails recovered from two of the graves and nails in one indicate the inclusion of footwear and a timber coffin respectively. Osteoarthritis, poor nutrition during childhood, and other indications of a physically stressful existence were in evidence on the remains.
Artefactual evidence suggests the villa continued to be occupied at least until the end of the 4th century, and possibly into the 5th. After it fell into disrepair the walls were robbed for stone, some of which, including pilae fragments, were used for a broadly rectangular rubble and stone platform for a new building. The date of this and its purpose is uncertain although it may be significant that an early medieval cemetery, in use between the early 5th and the mid-7th century, was located just 400m to the east of the villa. The location of post-Roman cemeteries near ruined but still visible Romano-British buildings is a common phenomenon, so there may have been some continuity of population in the immediate post-Roman period.
Redrow Homes funded the programme of archaeological investigation, which will be published in 2023. Further information on the site is available through an online resource: https://cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/dings/
Medieval and post-medieval remains at Temple Back, Bristol
During an excavation and watching brief at Temple Back in Bristol by Cotswold Archaeology in 2019, a series of medieval and post-medieval structural remains were revealed to overlay a 12th–13th century ditch.
The ditch, which ran broadly parallel to Temple Street, would have separated the floodplain of the River Avon to the east from the newly colonized Temple area of Bristol, which had been founded on land granted to the Knights Templar by Robert Earl of Gloucester between 1128 and 1148. An oak paddle-shaped artefact was recovered from the upper fill of the ditch, which probably derived through flooding of the river. These types of objects have a surprisingly broad range of uses, including processing food and fibres, cleaning clothes and even digging. However, this example was probably used with a small craft on the nearby river. Similar examples include an 11th-century oak paddle from London (Marsden 1994: 159) and a Roman or medieval ash artefact from Cambridge (Cessford forthcoming).
The ditch may also have acted as a rear boundary to the medieval burgage plots fronting onto the eastern side of Temple Street. The site lay within the back of one of the plots; with a series of alluvial deposits indicting that this area was still prone to episodic flooding throughout the late 12th and 13th centuries. Although the site was undeveloped during this period, it appears to have been utilised to dump construction waste. Gradually the floodplain was pushed back with the reclamation of land. A substantial 14th–15th century wall was probably a precursor to a rear plot boundary wall depicted on Braun and Hogenberg’s 1563 Birds eye plan of Bristol.
Later cartographic sources suggest that alongside residential redevelopment of the late 16th century onwards, the Temple parish was becoming increasingly industrial and was heavily developed from the mid-18th century. The majority of the remains encountered across the site date to the 18th to 20th centuries and included walls, surfaces, drains and a cobbled path. Goad’s Insurance Plan of 1887–1902, the earliest map to detail property usage, depicts warehouses, almshouses, shops, a public house, residential dwellings and yard spaces across the site. No evidence for industrial activity was identified and the relatively small finds assemblage was mainly domestic in nature, suggesting the uncovered remains were more likely associated with residential dwellings. Recovered finds included pottery, a copper-alloy button, clay tobacco pipe stems, painted wall plaster and a glass marble.
The evidence suggests that this part of the Temple parish was predominantly a low-class working area, initially likely to be primarily residential but becoming increasingly industrial from the 18th century onwards.
Cessford, C. (Forthcoming). Riparian Cambridge, Archaeological Excavations near the River Cam at WYNG Gardens and Elsewhere. Submission for the Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.
Marsden, P. 1994 Ships of the Port of Roman London: First to eleventh centuries AD. English Heritage Archaeology Reports 3, London.
BAAS COMMITTEE 2023/2024
CHAIRMAN: James Lyttleton
SECRETARY: Kate Iles
MEMBERSHIP: Julie Bassett
TREASURER: Steve Hastings
PROGRAMME SECRETARY: Keith Stenner
WEBSITE CO-ORDINATOR: Paula Gardiner
EDITORS (BAA): Bruce Williams and Bev Knott (assistant editor)
PROJECTS OFFICER: Donal Lucey
BULLETIN EDITOR: James Lyttleton
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Mike Gwyther
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Bob Jones
CO-OPTED: Gundula Dorey, Peter Insole
Do keep an eye on the website and social media for event reviews and updates. 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 94 is scheduled for October/November. If you would like to write anything for it or wish to highlight a subject you think should be in there, please contact bulletin editor James Lyttleton on [email protected]
BAAS CONTACT POINTS
BAAS Website: www.bristolandavonarchaeology.org.uk
If you have any queries about BAAS events or activities, please contact the following:
Kate Iles (Hon. Secretary) [email protected]
Keith Stenner (Hon. Programme Secretary) 01275 541512 [email protected]
Paula Gardiner (Website Co-ordinator) 0117 9213608 [email protected]