Bristol & Avon Archaeological Society: formerly Bristol & Avon Archaeological Research Group
Registered Charity No. 229317
ISSN 1751 – 7060
News from the Society
SUBSCRIPTION REMINDER 2023
Looking through my records I seem to be missing subscriptions from some of our members – the subscription was due on 1 March 2023. 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 2023, 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 2023, 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.
BAAS Programme 2023 Keith Stenner
Talks usually take place on the second Wednesday of the month in the Apostle Room in Clifton Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3BX starting at 7.30pm and ending by 9.30pm. Tea, coffee and biscuits are available from 7.00pm. Ample 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.
Wednesday 11th January The Hell Fire Club
Illustrated talk by Dr Aisling Tierney, University of Bristol
What defines the Hell-Fire Clubs of the eighteenth century? This talk will explore the many manifestations of these blasphemous and debauched clubs that began in London in the 1720s before emerging in Ireland and appearing once more in England under the leadership of Sir Francis Dashwood, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. The talk will detail archival materials, built heritage and material culture that draw together the fragmented understandings of these enigmatic gentlemen’s clubs.
Wednesday 8th February Mount Pleasant, Dorchester and other mega-henges: new chronologies and ideas
Illustrated talk by Susan Greaney, Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Exeter
Located just to the east of Dorchester in Dorset, the enormous and elaborate henge of Mount Pleasant was excavated in 1970-1 by Geoffrey Wainwright. Until recently, understanding of the site has been based on these excavations and the dating available at the time. Now a new research project has obtained radiocarbon dates from samples of antler picks, charcoal and human remains held in the Dorset County museum, enabling the establishment of a brand new chronology for the monumemnt. The henge and its various components – a palisaded (fenced) enclosure, a concentric timber monument and the great mound of Conquer barrow – can all now be placed in the late Neolithic period, a time of great change in southern Britain. This talk will discuss the results of the research project, explore the current understanding of the Dorchester area in the Neolithic period, and evaluate the implications for thinking about mega-henges across Britain.
Wednesday 8th March AGM followed by The Archaeology of Orkney
Illustrated talk by Andrew Smith, member and former Chair of BAAS
This talk features a selection of sites visited during CBA Archaeology Week in August, 2015.These include the Ness of Brodgar, Maeshowe chambered tomb, Skara Brae and Skaill House, Broch of Gurness, Kirbuster Farm Museum [where the corn drying kiln had exactly the same footprint as Roman versions], Barony Mill, Brough of Birsay, Scapa Flow, Earl’s Bu and Round Kirk, Stones of Stenness & Barnhouse, Ring of Brodgar, Italian Chapel and St Magnus Cathedral. An excursion to the Island of Rousay features Taversoe Tuick and Blackhammer tombs, and Mid Howe tomb and broch. The scope covers multiple historic periods from the early Neolithic to WW II.
Wednesday 12th April A New Pottery Kiln at Wickwar and a Medieval Manor House
Illustrated talk by Tony Roberts, Archaeoscan
Excavations at Wickwar during 2022 has revealed what appears to be a new Roman pottery kiln and unique kiln furniture. The site appears to be a large Roman industrial complex overlooking the road north out of Hall End Roman town. The talk will also outline excavations at Guiting Power in Gloucestershire where a new Medieval manor complex has been discovered.
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 first-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.
Forthcoming BGAS Lectures, Bristol – List of forthcoming talks Spring 2023
Monday 27th February: Lecture by Professor Richard Coates. “National and Local Surnames” The first part of this talk covers the questions of the origin, typology, frequency, dialectology and the social and geographical distribution of surnames, while the second part deals with some characteristic, and occasionally problematic, surnames of Bristol and Gloucestershire.
Monday 27th March: Lecture by Dr Jim Pimpernell. “The Berkeley Estate in the 18th Century”. This talk will look at the evolution in tenancy types and rents on the Berkeley estate, and the outcomes for both the tenants and the Berkeley family.
All talks will be held in the Apostle Room at Clifton Cathedral, starting at 7.45pm. Refreshments are served from 7.15pm.
Saturday 29th April 2.15pm: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society AGM, Apostle Room, Clifton Cathedral, followed by the Presidential address:
“Neither Dilettantism nor Picnics. The Conduct of Archaeology in Bristol from antiquarians to archaeologists”.
North Somerset update – Cat Lodge
Hinckley Point C Connection Project
The Senior Archaeologist continues to monitor archaeological elements of the National Grid Hinkley C Connection project. The Stage 2.1 excavations (Mendip Underground Cable Section) which revealed sites including a Roman roadside settlement were completed in August 2021 and the findings are now subject to specialists’ analysis to be incorporated into a final report which will take several years to produce.
A programme of community engagement is being established with National Grid and various stakeholders, which will ensure the findings of the archaeological programme will be disseminated appropriately, with opportunities for the local community to engage.
On 21st October we held our 11th North Somerset Heritage Forum meeting, in Locking where 17 groups were represented.
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
The Sharing Heritage/Know Your Place North Somerset project has continued to be extremely successful, with volunteers having added over 1100 new records onto the website showcasing the rich history and heritage across North Somerset.
The first national lockdown meant no public engagement could take place, so heritage officers set up Facebook and Twitter accounts to disseminate information in a digital format in March 2020. They worked in collaboration with staff at Weston Museum to produce educational activities, content and videos which were very well received.
The social media channels have allowed for engagement with over 1.4 million people since March 2020, and the Facebook group alone has over 2,100 members.
Heritage officers continue to collaborate with Weston Town Council and Weston Museum as the project was extended thanks to funding made available through the Great Weston Heritage Action Zone. Volunteers have also created two exhibitions to showcase their research including one entitled ‘Then and Now’. Twitter: @KYPNorthSom https://twitter.com/KYPNorthSom
Facebook: Know Your Place North Somerset https://www.facebook.com/groups/638416113618702
Development Management/Planning archaeology
Significantly higher numbers of planning applications and enforcement cases have required input from heritage officers in 2021/2022.
NSC’s Principal Archaeologist, Cat Lodge, has been involved in a variety of large applications including the Scheduled Roman town at Gatcombe Farm (Long Ashton) and Youngwood Lane (Nailsea), multiple applications around Weston-super-Mare, Banwell, Congresbury, Churchill, Clevedon and Yatton, as well as small householder applications in areas of archaeological interest.
Heritage Action Zones
The Great Weston Heritage Action Zone ended in September 2022 and met its aims, and the programme was delivered according to plan despite the challenge of Covid. It has demonstrated how heritage can play a role in the town centre’s renaissance.
The High Street Heritage Action Zone commenced in October 2020 with funding of £1.1 million received from Historic England. Work includes:
- engaging communities with the heritage of Weston through volunteering and stakeholder initiatives
- restoring and repairing original features in historic buildings
- delivering a comprehensive public realm scheme to enhance Station Road, Walliscote Road and Alexandra Parade
- improving the exterior of retail units through the delivery of a shopfront enhancement scheme
- funding the development of training opportunities in traditional heritage conversation skills
- delivering a cultural programme, in partnership with Culture Weston
More information can be found here: https://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/business/regeneration-development/weston-super-mare-town-centre-regeneration/heritage-action-zones
Middle Engine Pit
A Management Plan for this Scheduled Monument (with listed buildings) has now been officially adopted, which means fully informed funding bids can be submitted to external funders to bring the site into public use.
Work is now starting on putting a budget together for the site so we can move forward in applying for funding for work to bring the site back into safe public use.
A volunteer group has been set up and their main tasks will initially be to control vegetation growth on the site and also clear and remove debris. Now they have access to the site they aim to go out once a week to maintain the site. Safety equipment and tools have been provided by NSC.
Worlebury Camp Hillfort
The volunteers of the Worlebury Hillfort Group are continuing with their tireless efforts to physically uncover the hillfort through the clearance of vegetation and management of the restoration of the rare limestone grassland in areas such as the ‘Glade’.
An application for a grant to enable the implementation of the adopted Conservation Management Plan for the hillfort was submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in August 2021 but was unfortunately unsuccessful.
A key priority of the project is still the removal of trees (the reason for the site’s inclusion on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register), and this has been reinforced by the presence of Ash Dieback in many of the ash trees present within the hillfort. Discussions are ongoing with contractors and Historic England to come to a reasonable compromise to prevent both injury to the public and also minimise damage to the nationally important archaeological remains from ash trees, some of which are in an advanced state of disease.
It is proposed that once the felling is complete a revised application will be submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a grant to achieve the remaining objectives of the Conservation Management Plan, including community engagement projects and a comprehensive research programme to finally tell the story of the hillfort.
Festival of Archaeology 2022
The Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology theme this year was ‘Journeys’, and the Festival ran between 16th and 31st July.
An in-person event was organised collaboratively between NSC heritage officers and Weston Museum for 24th July and showcased a range of activities and information based around the Festival’s theme. In addition, throughout July, information from Know Your Place was showcased via the Facebook group and Twitter account, which had over 32,000 engagements.
Local Heritage List
The Local Heritage List criteria and management procedures have been successfully adopted by the Council, as has the first tranche of nominated assets.
The first buildings nominated for the Local Heritage List have also now been officially adopted by the Council. A new handbook has been produced with funding from the HAZ.
The heritage officers have held several training workshops to aid local residents in better understanding the nomination criteria and also how to nominate assets themselves. It is proposed to create a short information/instructional video to add to the Council’s website/YouTube channel for residents.
More information can be found here: www.n-somerset.gov.uk/localheritagelist
Young Archaeologists’ Club
The Senior Archaeologist ran a session in May for the Rusty Club on how archaeologists discover new sites through the planning process.
2 test pits were excavated in September 2022 at Kingston Seymour with the hope of finding possible Romano-British or Medieval activity, following on from fieldwalking and geophysical surveys undertaken in 2011 by a local archaeology group. A further session was held in November to clean, examine and record the recovered finds and ahead of compiling a report for the North Somerset Historic Environment Record.
Anarchy Site – Lower Hazel, South Gloucestershire – Alex Birkett
The summer of 2022 marked the first season of an annual student training excavation by the University of Bristol Department of Anthropology and Archaeology as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded South West Anarchy Research Project (or SWARP for short).
The site comprises a set of partially excavated structures located near Alveston, South Gloucestershire. These structures in a little grove of woodland have been excavated by a local community group (Thornbury Archaeology Group: TAG) since 2012. However, the group weren’t the first to look at the site. On historic maps the site is referred as a ‘chapel’, apparently represented by shallow earthworks in a woodland clearing, and excavations in the 1880s by G. A. Hobson revealed a floor of clay, burning, and some Roman and later pottery. A second excavation in 1938 was led by local group exposing a larger area of the building, and they suggested the site was a medieval farmhouse.
By the time the University of Bristol had arrived the site comprised of a complex of buildings with one main T-shaped structure sitting at the centre of the site (see above) and a wealth of material culture. The most common metal find has been early-medieval horseshoe nails (significantly more than any average farmhouse might have) but some of the most interesting finds are arrowheads.
Arrowheads are always made for a specific use and are very distinctive. All those found at the site seem to match those used for military use, strongly suggesting that at some point a group of solders with horses had been camped at the site, or attacked the site, during some period of conflict in English history. It just so happens that the vast majority of the material culture dates to the late 11th and mid-12th century AD, a period marked as one of the bloodiest periods in English history: The Anarchy.
The Anarchy largely stems from The White Ship disaster of 1120, which claimed the life of William Ætheling, the only male heir of King Henry I (William the Conqueror’s son). With no direct male heir, he proclaimed his daughter Matilda his heir, however, she would never be crowned Queen. Soon after King Henry I’s death in 1135, Stephen of Blois, who claimed the right for himself as the most senior male descendant, took the throne and was crowned with the help of the Bishop of Winchester and the Abbot of Glastonbury.
There was then a split between the supporters of Matilda, the heir proclaimed by the king, and those that supported his nephew, the next male heir. The country was ravaged and ransacked as armies crisscrossed the country, pillaging estates and burning property to gain the upper hand. In response, castles were built and even churches fortified, and this is where the site at Lower Hazel seems to fit into the story.
The significant amount and type of material dating to the 11th and mid-12th century AD illustrates that this site was certainly inhabited during this period, possibly as a hunting lodge and this aligns with the use of the area at this time. The Royal Forest ‘Kingswood’ and later ‘Horwood’ originally covered the area and was disafforested in 1228. The privilege to hunt was granted to wealthy nobles, and Henry I is known to have issued charters at Alveston in the early 12th century and given to Fulk Fitzwarin I and his sons. This manor appears to have been located roughly 1.2km south-east from the Site, near to the old church of St Helen.
We are still very early in the process of uncovering the story of this site. What we have discovered is that the site is far more complex than at first thought. The site itself is built up land, formed of clay taken from the nearby hillside, and a level platform created against the structures’ foundations. A period of demolition and levelling was perhaps the most obvious (and time consuming to get though). This, thanks to environmental sampling and radiocarbon dating, has been dated to around 1162 with an error of 27 years, just clipping the short Anarchy Period of 1135 and 1153.
As for appearance of the site, what we currently see as a T-shaped building is likely the result of many phases of demolition and adaption of former structures; some sitting within the standing ruins of others. What we can say is that a fairly grand structure with leaded windows stood on the site up until the 13th century when the site was stripped of material. Any evidence of roof tiles or decorative stonework seems to not survive, and any heavy burning or battle demolition is currently not present. It is possible that the area we hoped would show this has been removed from the site during the 1880s and 1930s excavations.
Regardless, the trenches excavated only just touch on a small portion of the site (see above), and much more is to be excavated with more analysis to be undertaken the better build up a picture of both how this site fits into the Anarchy and how this complex once appeared.
Possible Roman glassmaking in Bristol – Bev Knott
Brislington Meadows in South Bristol have been the subject of a planning dispute in which the Mayor first supported development and then changed his mind for environmental reasons. However, the planning application required archaeological assessment, and that led to joy for us archaeologists.
In his report to the planners, Bristol‘s chief archaeological officer said, “the site has yielded evidence of Roman period glass working in the vicinity of the excavated trial trenches. Such activity is unique to this site in the Bristol region, and it is consequently of great archaeological significance”.
So, what was actually found? Nothing to suggest any crop processing, food preparation, or other domestic activities, but there were linear and rectilinear features, interconnected, and relatively uniform, however no actual structures. Found in association with these features were small quantities of industrial waste, including a crucible, along with glass beads and glass waste, possibly indicative of small-scale industrial activity. Fragments of glass vessels proved meagre in quantity, but the star find was 72 glass beads.
14 of these, coloured black, have been dated to no earlier than the later fourth century, a remarkably late date for Roman Britain. 10 green beads include cylindrical types found throughout the Roman period up to the fourth and fifth centuries. The remaining 48 represent a type characteristic of the third and fourth centuries. Interestingly, similar glass beads have been unearthed at the Brislington Roman villa, which is less than a kilometre to the west, which flourished in the third and fourth centuries. The full Cotswold Archaeology report of their work on this site has yet to be completed, but it does look as if glass industry could be added to the list of industrial activities, such as lead and salt production, to be found in my paper in BAA journal 28 (2021) on local Roman roads and their proposed connection with these activities. Further, as will be seen in my paper on the Gatcombe site in forthcoming BAA 29, much economic activity appears evident in North Somerset in the third and fourth centuries.
Disappointingly the discoveries at Brislington Meadows are fairly meagre. A much fuller site has been found in East Somerset in the outskirts of Frome at the Saint Algar’s villa and roadside settlement. Here, 400 fragments of glass and glass waste were found, together with small chunks of raw glass and crucible fragments. This clear evidence of glass working can be dated to the fourth century or later.
Looking at the wider picture of glassmaking, no sites of production of pre-worked basic glass masses have been found in Roman Britain. Although all the ingredients can be found in Britain, the best kind of salt (about 15% of a glass product) is Natron, a mineral salt found in dried lakebeds, consisting of hydrated sodium carbonate. Natron was most easily found in Israel, Lebanon, and other areas of the eastern Mediterranean. In Israel, a nine-ton sheet has been discovered, abandoned because of corruption by impurities. Massive tanks are being excavated capable of producing eight tons at a go. These glass slabs were then exported to places for secondary production of glass objects such as window glass (very common in Roman Britain) or glass vessels. We thus have another example of proto-globalistic mass production and long-distance distribution from places of manufacture driven by a market economy. A shipwreck near Marseille contained glass chunks, as well as window glass and other secondary products.
BAAS COMMITTEE 2022/2023
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
CO-OPTED: Gundula Dorey, Peter Insole, Bob Jones
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 93 is scheduled for June. 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 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) 0117 31508 [email protected]
Keith Stenner (Hon. Programme Secretary) 01275 541512 [email protected]
Paula Gardiner (Website Co-ordinator) 0117 9213608 [email protected]