Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

BAAS Bulletin No.77

Spring 2017


Formerly Bristol & Avon Archaeological Research Group
Registered Charity No. 229317

Welcome to the Spring Bulletin 2017


BAAS Website;

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

Gundula Dorey (Hon. Secretary & Membership)  0117 9276812  [email protected]

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

James Russell (Hon. Treasurer & Bulletin Editor)  [email protected]



These will be held in our new venue, the APOSTLE ROOM in CLIFTON CATHEDRAL, PEMBROKE ROAD, CLIFTON, BRISTOL BS8 3BX.  As previously, they will be on the second Wednesday of the month at 7.30 pm, and will finish around 9.30 pm.  Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available from 7.00 pm, and again after the talk.

Ample car parking is available in the Cathedral car park, entrance from Worcester Road off Pembroke Road. The 8 and 9 buses both take in Pembroke Road. The entrance to the Apostle Room is on the same level as the car park, under the main part of the Cathedral.

Guests are welcome at a charge of £1.00 per meeting (no charge for members).



David Etheridge  (replacing the talk advertised in the previous Bulletin)

 This will be an introduction to the principal sites and finds of western and Northern Britain, for a period that has great popularity in the public imagination; the period of state formation after the end of Roman rule.  This fascinating talk will examine the many parallels that came through trade and contact along the Atlantic seaboard, and highlight key unanswered questions.



Dr. Amanda Chadburn, Senior National Rural and Environmental Advisor, Government Team, Historic England.

The former visitor facilities at Stonehenge were once described by the Public Accounts Committee as “a national disgrace”.  Following years of debate and argument the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre opened in 2013.  Dr. Chadburn will explain the steps English Heritage took and outline the research involved.  Analysis will be provided on key questions:  where did the Stonehenge builders live?  How did the stones get to the site?  Was the building plan completed?  Dr. Chadburn will define the detailed story.


AGM followed by a talk on ‘ROMAN ROADS IN AVON’ from BAAS member Bev Knott



Steve Marshall

An overview of Avebury’s Prehistoric monuments, landscape and waterscape will be discussed.  The talk is based on Steve’s book ‘Exploring Avebury: the Essential Guide’, copies of which will be available for sale following the talk.


We all know about the Adela Breton and ‘Warrior Treasures’ exhibitions at the Museum in Queens Road but did you know about the ‘Stone Age to Iron Age’ room on the first floor? Stunning artefacts from the Palaeolithic to the coming of the Romans beautifully presented and labelled and with something about the individual collectors too. Round the walls of the room runs a very useful illustrated timeline. Truly something and more for introducing prehistory and also reminding the interested how good it can be.

It runs until June 2017 but some of us feel we should be lobbying for it to be permanent. What do you think? (GD)


Saturday 28 January ‘Treasure and Hoards’        Saturday 6 May ‘An Introduction to Human Remains’

There is a charge. To find out how to book follow the Bristol Museums website, call into the Museum’s Queens Road shop or phone 0117 922 3650.


Saturday 22 April  Local History Day on the theme of ‘The Street’ at UWE’s Frenchay Campus. No details yet.


(please refer to individual websites for more details)

B&CAM (Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society) Meetings held at Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN, starting 7.30PM. Charge for non–members £5.00 per meeting.

BGAS (Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society) Meet in the Apostle Room of the RC Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton at 7.45 pm. Charge of £1.

BSA (Banwell Society of Archaeology)  Meet in Banwell Village Hall at 7.30 pm.

CDAS (Clevedon and District Archaeological Society) Meet in the Friends Meeting House, 15 Albert Road, Clevedon, BS21 7RP at 7.30 pm. Visitors welcome:  Adult – £3   Junior – 50p

WBHG (West Bristol History Group – formerly Stoke Lodge History and Archaeology Group) Meet in the Friends Meeting House, Hampton Road, Redland on the second Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm. Guests are £2.

House, Hampton Road, Redland on the second Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm. Guests are £2.

WANHS (Weston-super-Mare Archaeological and Natural History Society) Meetings held in Victoria Methodist Church Hall, Station Road, WsM BS23 1XU at 7.00 for 7.30 pm. Members £1, Visitors £2.50.

 Tuesday 10 January (WANHS) ‘Managing Street Trees’ John Flannigan.

Thursday 12 January (B&CAM) ‘Populations Movement’ Dr Fraser Sturt.

Thursday 12 January (WBHG) ‘Slavery and the Country Houses in the West Country’  Dr Madge Dresser.

Friday 13 January (BSA) ‘The Royal Palaces of Cheddar’  John G Page.

Thursday 26 January (CDAS) ‘A Medieval Mystery at Longforth Farm, Wellington’ Phil Andrews.

Monday 30 January (BGAS) ‘Marching unto War: Training Soldiers for the Great War on Salisbury Plain, an Archaeology’ Richard Osgood (Senior Archaeologist, Defence Infrastructure Organisation).

Thursday 9 February (WBHG) ‘Chasing Red Herrings – journeys through the pleasures and pitfalls of historical research’ Barry Wilkinson.

Thursday 9 February (B&CAM) AGM with Update on Society Projects. 

Friday 10 February (BSA) ‘In the Shadow of the Workhouse’ Pat Hase.

Tuesday 14 February (WANHS) ‘The Hazel Dormouse’ Gill Brown.

Thursday 24 February (CDAS) ‘The Archaeology of Textiles’ Lauren Ferrero.

Monday 27 February (BGAS) ‘The Building of the Bristol General Hospital 1853-2012’ Peter Davenport.

Tuesday 8 March (WANHS) ‘The land of Kush’  Dr Aidan Dodson.

Thursday 9 March (B&CAM)  ‘Recent Roman Discoveries in Wiltshire’ Dr David Roberts.

Thursday 9 March (WBHG) AGM (6.45) followed by ‘Discovering the sacred land of Bristol’  Martin Palmer

Friday 10 March (BSA) ‘The Archaeological Case for  a Minster Church at Chewton Mendip’ Pip Osborne.   

Monday 27 March (BGAS) ‘Bristol Poets and Anglican Englishness’ Stuart Andrews (Hon. Librarian, Wells and Mendip Museum).

Thursday 30 March (CDAS) AGM followed by ‘Surveying, Measuring and Mapping Gentlemen’s Estates in the 17th& 18th centuries’  Colin Budge.

Friday 7 April (BSA) ‘Deserted Medieval Villages in Somerset’ James Bond.

Tuesday 11 April (WANHS) ‘The Archaeology of Cross Rail, Western Section’ Vix Hughes.

Tuesday 9 May (WANHS) ‘Rock End and the lost cottages of Cheddar’  Susan Shaw.

Friday 12 May (BSA) Anniversary Night – supper and games.

Friday 9 June (BSA)  AGM followed by ‘LIDAR – the imaging of a hidden landscape’ Bryan Moore.



Excavations at St George’s, Brandon Hill   Bob Jones

Avon Archaeology Ltd was commissioned by the renowned music venue, St George’s, Brandon Hill, to undertake a large scale excavation, conducted during the summer of 2016, within the grounds of St George’s church, as part of the “Building a Sound Future” project. The development will add new practice space and facilities to the venue.

The site was consecrated as a burial ground in 1820 and remained in use until the late 19th century; initially St George’s was a chapel of ease to St Augustine the Less, before becoming a parish church in its own right in 1832. The site itself is notable for its steep topography, rising northward, from c30.20m aOD (above Ordinance Datum) on Great George Street to c41.50m aOD on Charlotte Street, in three terraces.

The extent of the area used specifically as a burial ground was unknown prior to the excavation. An archaeological evaluation conducted by Bristol and Region Archaeological Services in 2015 had determined the presence of buried remains within the mid-terrace, but their number and density were unknown. From early on, it became apparent that burials were present in substantial numbers, densely packed and often stacked on top of each other.  By the end of the project, a total of 382 burials had been excavated.

The quantity of burials alone marked the project as important, providing what we hope will be a large and valuable data set, expanding substantially on the existing burial data for the period, in Bristol and beyond. Perhaps more exciting still, the unexpected discovery of intact, high status brick burial vaults has provided a wealth of valuable information and burial-related finds. We have already been able to identify numerous individuals by name, and some of the vaults contained remarkably well-preserved coffins.

By contrast, the bottom terrace of the site contained deeply stacked burials, indicative, perhaps, of lower social status. If, as the initial results seem to suggest, the burials on site span the social strata of the period, within a diverse parish, there may be exciting possibilities, following detailed osteological study, to compare fortunes in terms of health, diet and life expectancy across the social spectrum.

Post-excavation work is now underway, and will encompass detailed osteological study of the burials, in tandem with detailed historical investigation, including elements of social history. We are hopeful that we will emerge with not only a valuable set of data, but an important and engaging story of lives within a diverse urban parish in the 19th century. Following the study, all of the human remains will be re-buried at a Church of England site in the city.

Chewton Mendip Precinct Field Excavations   Pip Osborne

The evidence for an early Saxon Minster Precinct at Chewton Mendip gets stronger on each season’s dig carried out by members of Community Archaeology on the Mendip Plateau, or CAMP for short. Pip Osborne presented to members of BAAS the archaeology thus far uncovered, explaining that this site sits within a curvilinear boundary running round the church, one, which is known from documentary evidence to have been a mother church to several chapelries in the vicinity in Saxon times.

The name Chewton meaning a settlement on the river Chew and the fact that the estate was head of the Chewton Hundred also adds weight to the argument that this was an important place in the past. In addition, at the time of the Domesday Book, both the secular and church lands were valuable and held by the King and you see that this was no backwater. But one can only speculate on exactly where the wealth came from at this stage, however the excavations are shedding some light on this. ,

The field by the church has been excavated over the past 6 years and has revealed a substantial building foundation, which may be that of the Abbey of Jumieges’s holdings after it was granted the land soon after the Norman Conquest. Add into the equation an earlier building on a different alignment which has just come to light, and evidence of a Saxon forge, pre-Norman pottery sherds, textile threads of dyed linen, wool and silk, ferrous and glass items of c8th century date or earlier and a Radiocarbon date of 742 & 746ADcal and you begin to see that this is no ordinary site. In fact this site offers one of the few opportunities to excavate an early Saxon to post Norman site, which has not been disturbed since its demolition in later medieval times.  For more information visit CAMP’s website


News from North Somerset and BANES   James Russell

Writing in  “Association for Roman Archaeology News” No 36 ( Sept 2016)’ Anthony Beeson reports the discovery of an unusually well preserved Roman lead ingot or pig on a farm near Wells. The find was made by a metal detectorist, Jason Baker, during a “rally” organised by the “Southern Detectorists’ Club”. Weighing 38 k the lead pig is 60 cm long and bears a superbly well    preserved inscription in Roman capitals naming the joint emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, “victorious in Armenia”.  It can be dated to 164 AD and is one of the latest datable products of the Roman lead mines on Mendip. Only four other examples of this particular type of lead pig are recorded, two of them being preserved in the Museum of Somerset while the others are lost. It is not clear what will happen to the new find.

Mr Beeson also provides some additional detail regarding Cotswold Archaeology’s recent work in the Roman Baths at Bath, briefly mentioned in the last Bulletin. They have been re-examining structures in the south west corner of the baths complex which were first uncovered in the Victorian period and which are accessible in vaults and cellars running under York Street. They include a rectangular plunge pool which seems to have been filled in during the later Roman period to create an exercise area or “palaestra”. It is hoped eventually to extend the area of the baths open to visitors, while above ground a heritage centre and learning centre are planned for York Street and Swallow Street.

The latest issue of “Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society” (vol 159) features on its front cover a remarkable copper alloy ornament found near Easton in Gordano, This is semi circular in shape, 3.9 cm across, and decorated on its outer surface with recessed panels filled with yellow enamel. The lower edge of the object is occupied by a human head flanked by two animal heads, all heavily stylised. The object appears to be Irish work of the 8th or 9th centuries AD, and probably formed part of an ecclesiastical shrine or book cover. In all likelihood it represents discarded Viking loot from a despoiled Irish monastery (the Vikings are known to have penetrated up the Bristol Channel at times). (Portable Antiquities report, pp 214-15).
Also included in the “Proceedings” is a note on major excavation carried out in 2015 by Context One Archaeological Services on a site in Henrietta Street, Bathwick. This was probably the largest and most significant excavation to be undertaken in Bath for some years, and produced substantial evidence for a Roman suburb on the east bank of the Avon, across the river from the main sanctuary and settlement of Aquae Sulis. After a possible brief military presence in the mid first century the main period of occupation on the Bathwick site began around 80 AD. It consisted of a metalled street flanked by small stone based buildings, probably shops or hostelries, with yards to the rear containing hearths or ovens. The settlement seems to have gone into decline around the mid second century. However the site showed a revival of activity in the later third century with the construction of a substantial building, probably part of a villa complex. Finds were plentiful and varied, including large assemblages of pottery, glass and building materials, decorated bone pins, an ornate trifoliate horse harness fitting and a rare coin 1– squab showing the busts of Carausius, Diocletian and Maximian (Archaeology in Somerset 2015, pp 225-6).1

Finally, the latest issue of the journal “Landscapes”  (Vol17(1), July 2016) includes an interesting article by David Gould (Universities of Exeter & Bristol) entitled ” St Thomas Head and the Archaeology of the Mundane” (pp 45-61). Middle Hope, a rocky promontory on the North Somerset coast between Clevedon and Weston super Mare, is a National Trust property noted for its natural beauty, superb views and rich archaeological remains, including burial mounds, field systems and the medieval Woodspring Priory. Tucked away behind barbed wire in a secluded position on St Thomas Head, the north eastern corner of the peninsula, is a small enclave used by the MOD for testing explosives during the Cold War. Though now abandoned, its former “Top Secret” status means that little is known about what went on here. Mr Gould describes the physical remains, which are indeed “mundane”, consisting of simple brick and concrete huts, a concrete pier as well as roadways and signage. He speculates on what attitude should be taken towards such recent military sites, which are potentially of considerable historic interest but have scant aesthetic appeal.


Stokeleigh Camp   James Russell

These notes are intended as a follow-up to August’s walk round Stokeleigh led by myself and Gundula Dorey.

Stokeleigh Camp is the largest and best preserved of the three Iron Age forts flanking the southern end of the Avon Gorge. All are (or were) surrounded by up to three concentric dry stone ramparts. Of the others Clifton Camp occupies a rocky outcrop, Observatory Hill, on the east side of the Gorge, overlooking the Suspension Bridge. Despite damage by quarrying its defences are relatively well preserved and are now much more clearly visible as a result of recent scrub clearance. Burwalls, south of Stokeleigh and separated from it by the so-called “Nightingale Valley”, was largely destroyed during the 19th century, first by the western approach road to the Suspension Bridge and secondly by the development of the Leigh Woods suburb from 1867 onwards. All that is left are some fragmentary banks in the private grounds of Burwalls House and a row of three small mounds, marking the northern ends of the ramparts, on the grass verge alongside North Road. Stokeleigh itself would have suffered the same fate had it not been for the donation of the woods around it by George A Wills to the National Trust in 1909.

Stokeleigh Camp occupies a promontory some 3 hectares in extent, bounded on the south by the Nightingale Valley and on the north east by a deep gully leading down to the Avon Gorge. On the west the site is enclosed by two curving ramparts of earth and stone fronted by rock cut ditches. These can now be properly appreciated following the removal of choking vegetation by the National Trust. While the outer rampart is relatively slight the inner bank is of massive proportions, rising externally some 10 metres above the base of the partly infilled ditch. Along its crest are traces of a drystone wall 1.4 metres thick; this however may well be post Roman or medieval, replacing an original timber palisade. Running along the north side of the fort is a third bank and ditch which seems to have been intended to channel visitors or attackers eastwards towards an entrance at the north east corner; while doing so they could have been bombarded with sling stones and other missiles hurled from the inner rampart. The entrance way itself is today poorly defined but probably consisted originally of dry stone bastions flanking a substantial timber gate. The rest of the perimeter of the fort was for the most part adequately defended by steep slopes and cliffs. Along the south side, however, there is a terrace overlooking the Nightingale Valley fronted by a low dry stone parapet.
Excavations at Stokeleigh were carried out in 1966-67 by the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society directed by J W Haldane. These took place behind the inner rampart in the northern part of the interior and were on a small scale, the largest trench being only 5 metres square. Evidence was found for more or less continuous occupation from the 3rd century BC to the mid 1st century AD; it appeared that this had resumed for a time around 250AD. The plentiful finds included some 750 sherds of pottery, iron and copper alloy brooches, a variety of other iron objects and clay and stone spindle whorls and slingshot. Animal bones found were mainly cattle, sheep, goat and pig. While a number of structural features were encountered, such as pits, post holes and hearths, the limited areas examined were too small to enable complete building plans to be discerned. Limited test pitting elsewhere in the fort interior produced little evidence for settlement. These results have been largely confirmed by a partial geophysical survey of the fort interior undertaken by volunteers from the South Gloucestershire Community Archaeological Research Project (SCARP). This showed the outlines of circular huts or round houses at the rear of the inner rampart but few structural features elsewhere.
Stokeleigh and its neighbouring forts have sometimes been seen as having formed a coordinated  defensive scheme designed to control movement both along and across the Avon. This however seems improbable in view of what we know of the nature of Iron Age society. It is far more probable that they were the product of competition and mutual hostility between three distinct tribal units whose territories converged on the natural boundary formed by the river and gorge.
One later feature within Stokeleigh remains to be discussed. On a rocky outcrop just inside the North East entrance are the substantial footings of a rectangular  stone building, measuring 13 by 5 metres and aligned East/West. This is mentioned in most accounts of the Camp but without offering any clear explanation. It is possible, however, that the remains are those of a seemingly undocumented medieval chapel. Fragments of dressed freestone were found in a trial excavation c.1913.  Further foundations a few metres to the south east could be those of a priest’s house or hermitage.



Annual subscriptions are due on the first of January.  A subscription renewal form accompanies this Bulletin.

Back numbers of the BAA are available ! Should you wish for a particular edition or to make up missing numbers please apply to Gundula (Contact details at the start of the Bulletin).

Also if you are not receiving email communications but would like to could you send Gundula your email address?

Contact her also if you have forgotten the Members password for the website (maintained by Paula Gardiner and always worth keeping up with).

The University of Bristol is sadly no longer issuing Library cards.

NEXT BULLETIN DUE APRIL 2017 (will include a bumper summer programme).



2017 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: Wednesday 8 March

Notice is hereby formally given that the AGM will be held on Wednesday 8 March 2017 at the Apostle Room in Clifton Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3BX starting at 7.30 pm.

It is very important for the smooth continuation of the business of the Society that the meeting should be quorate and we would ask you to attend if at all possible. It is even more essential this year as there are a number of very important committee changes which will need to be addressed: Mike Gwyther and Debbie Brooks will have completed their 2 years as Committee Members.  Gundula Dorey is retiring from her position as Secretary and Membership Secretary (with no possibility of extension this time) and we still have no Vice Chairman.

The Committee is looking to fill the following positions:

Vice Chairman (leading up to being Chairman in 1 year’s time)

Hon. Secretary

Hon Membership Secretary and Database Holder

Project Officer

Two Committee Members

 If you are interested in any of these positions please make yourself known. Anyone on the Committee will gladly talk to you  –  or come to a committee meeting and see how you feel about it.  The only essential is a good familiarity with IT.

Formal Nominations for Officers and Members of the Committee should be sent to Gundula Dorey (Hon. Secretary) at 14 Goldney Road, Bristol BS8 4RB [email protected] not later than 24 February 2017.


SECRETARY and MEMBERSHIP: Dr. Gundula Dorey TREASURER: James Russell

EDITOR (BAA):  Bruce Williams   PROJECTS OFFICER:  Vacant
COMMITTEE:  Debbie Brookes, Mike Gwyther, Julie Bassett, Kate Churchill.
CO-OPTED: Peter Insole, Bev Knott, Wendy Russ.