Hampshire Archaeology

Finding your way around the HER

The Hampshire Field Club and Hampshire Cultural Trust have a number of enquiries each year about a particular archaeological monument, or a find or group of finds, asking for advice.  Is it a known site, for example, or what age is this pottery, or is this a genuine flint tool?  *

It’s often difficult to answer a query without seeing the site in question or handling the find – no matter how good the photographs, but there is a way to discover whether things from a particular location are already known about and ‘on the record’. 

The County Council Environment Section, which looks after planning control issues, often involving archaeology, holds a Historic Environment Record which attempts to map every known site and find.  

This note should help you to navigate the various steps and allow you to investigate the area that you are interested in.  You can start by clicking hants.gov.uk

then click ‘Hampshire County Council’,

then the button ‘Land, planning and environment’, 

then the box ‘Environment’, 

then the box ‘Archaeology and Historic Environment’, 

then the box ‘Search the Historic Environment Record (HER) online

phew! There are shortcuts, and plenty of distractions en route, but if you’ve got this far you should have a green banner on the page with ‘Find Location’ – a map of Hampshire below – and a ‘Search’ space above.  So, over to you.  

I’m going to put ‘Alresford’ as a search term (because I went there recently).  Hmm – the centre of the town is covered by a multitude of lime green triangles (they remind me of the greenfly on my roses). Each one of these represents a site, a historic building or a find. What I’m actually interested in is Old Alresford Pond and a click on the green triangle in the middle of the pond turns it into a blue square.  This means that the database is about to deliver some outline information (below the map) which it does (Record ID 18217). Another hyper-link leads to more detail. 

Pond life

(1) Old Alresford Pond was constructed in early 14th century by Godfrey Lucy, Bishop of Winchester when he made the river navigable from Alresford to Winchester and Southampton. Now a sheet of water approx. 23 acres in extent. (9.31ha). 

(2) The pond was thought to have covered some 200 acres (81 ha) in the medieval period although by the late 18th century it was down to about 100acres (40.5 ha). 

(3) Now a small reedy lake, the original extent of Old Alresford Pond is indicated by large tracts of watercress beds, marshy areas and water meadows. (1956, confirmed 1968).

Well, I’m not so sure about some of that.  Godfrey de Lucy was busy in Alresford 1199 onwards, so ‘early 13th century’ would be better and the idea of a navigation from Alresford to Winchester had cold water poured onto it by Edward Roberts in 1985 (Hants Field Club Proceedings 41, pp 127-138). Actually, it was just a magnum stagnum, or ‘big pond’, or to be more precise a magnum vivarium, a ‘big fishpond’ for a population that consumed a lot of fish!  It’s still pretty impressive today and the bird life is remarkable – there’s a secure island where cormorants nest in the trees.  But I didn’t mean to carp about the content – just demonstrate how easy it is to search the records and discover what is known about a certain area.  

The water is held back by a dam called the Great Ware (weir) – and escapes via ‘The Shettles’ (above)

Just downstream from the pond is the Alresford Fulling Mill – now a house – about as picturesque as you can get.

The county databases have been known by various names since the 1960s, when they were first being put together.  My own stint on such a project was in 1976, when I had fun listing sites and inputting information for Clwyd County Council SMR (Sites & Monuments Record). Happy days! 

* Finds can be taken into local museums – the HCT houses the County Finds Officer for the PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) which gives you yet another database to peruse.

Dave Allen

Hockley Railway Viaduct

Now for a bit of Industrial Archaeology.  The Hockley Railway Viaduct to the south of Winchester is a survivor from the initially independent Didcot, Newbury & Southampton line, which opened as far as Winchester in 1885, but then ran out of money and had to wait for help to enable it to reach its stated goal of Southampton.

Two views of the Hockley Viaduct, striding across the Itchen Valley

The DN&S railway had its own station, tucked away in Winchester and called ‘Cheese Hill’, or Chesil and users of the eponymous multi-storey car park (there never seem to be very many) are parking on the site. It also had a reasonable goods yard at what is now Bar End, and once the link with Southampton had been established it saw quite a bit of use, as the goods facilities at Winchester City (as the present station was known then) were so limited.

Heading on to the viaduct – from the east

Originally the DN&S wanted to make its own way into Southampton, but the London & South Western Railway (the main line company) finally agreed to let them link to the main route at Shawford – as long as the locomotives (GWR to LSWR) were changed over at Winchester!

Construction of the Shawford link was awarded to contractor J T Firbank on 22 May 1890 and the line opened on 1 October 1891.  The engineer was W S Galbraith. The route involved a viaduct across the valley of the River Itchen, which eventually ended up with 33-arches.  Galbraith was an innovator who used concrete for the core of the structure, faced with brick. The blue ‘engineers bricks’ used were made by the firm of Blanchard at Bishops Waltham, the red bricks came from Wellington, in Somerset. It is the early use of concrete in this way which is particularly special at Hockley and helped save the viaduct from demolition, once the line was closed.

And looking back from the west – St Catherine’s Hill on the distant skyline

The Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway was not a commercial success, dominated, as it was, by its Great Western and London & South Western Railway neighbours, but it proved a very useful asset in wartime, with thousands of trains using the line.  The route closed to passenger trains in March 1960 and goods traffic four years later.

Wartime memories WWI
Wartime memories WWII

The signal dedication is to the ‘Railwaymen’ who oversaw the passage of trains. In World War II around 100,000 women were recruited to work on the railways (60,000 railwaymen had joined the armed forces). They were allowed to work as station staff, in signal boxes and they were even permitted to clean engines – but not drive them! Here are Doreen Stevens and Thelma Hoare who were pulling the levers in a signal box in the north of the county.

Doreen Stevens and Thelma Hoare, who saw wartime service on the railway between Andover and Marlborough

After a few years of indecision, the viaduct was restored to provide a footpath and cycle route (part of Sustrans 23) across the valley, with Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council providing financial support.  The Friends of Hockley Viaduct contributed memorial plaques and artwork to celebrate the structure’s history. 

St Catherine’s Hill, Twyford Down – sliced by the M3 cutting and, nestling in the valley, Hockley Viaduct.

The viaduct can be appreciated from far and near (the latter sometimes being a bit noisy depending on the wind direction – because of the proximity of the M3) and is a great reminder of the ‘railway age’. It can form part of a number of walks around the southern fringes of Winchester and is still, just as it was in wartime, a great asset.

Sparsholt Roman Villa – and where to find it

The reconstructed villa house at Butser Ancient Farm

I was leafing through a new book the other day ‘Roman Britain – And where to find it’, by Denise Allen & Mike Bryan, when my eye was taken by a picture of the reconstructed Roman villa building at Butser Ancient Farm I’ve not seen it in it’s finished state – and I didn’t watch the tv programme which followed its construction using, where possible, original methods and basic materials, but I was aware that the building was based on a villa house excavated in West Wood, Sparsholt, half a century ago. Taking advantage of the fine weather recently, I took a stroll out there to stand in the actual location, and muse on the whereabouts of various elements of, and archaeological information from, this important site.

The gap in the trees where the villa excavation took place

West Wood is located just over 4 miles (7km) west of Winchester (Venta Belgarum) and is actually crossed by the Roman road to Sorviodunum (Old Sarum). The site of the villa (‘Roman Building’) is marked on most self-respecting maps, even though it is these days just a green space. Some idea of how the various buildings occupied the site can best be worked out from a model made by the excavator, David Johnston, which shows the house on one side of a courtyard and a large aisled building, or barn, on another.

Model by David Johnston showing the villa house, aisled building, bath house, well and courtyard wall

For anyone keen to examine the details of the archaeological excavation, the site has been published, by the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, as their Monograph 11 (Johnston & Dicks, 2014). In addition, some of the best finds, including a well-preserved mosaic floor, are in the Winchester City Museum. But the great thing about Butser is that imagination and invention can be added to the surviving archaeological evidence to give some idea of what life in a Roman villa house was like!

A loo with a view? Open air toilet, with handy sponges on sticks
The kitchen range – anyone fancy wheat pancakes and honey?
The latest fashion – fragments of painted wall plaster showed how the walls were decorated
Look through any window – Roman glass let light in, but didn’t encourage a view out.

Sparsholt villa has featured in these pages before – December 2014 has a piece about the publication of the site report, with pictures of the excavation in progress – July 2015 has a note about a fine decorative glass cup found during the dig. All these clues help us to imagine what aspects of life were like in Roman times, about 1800 years ago. That’s a long stretch for the imagination!

And here’s that book!

Butser photographs courtesy of Dr Denise Allen.

A Royal roll call – and finally…

Victoria                         1837 – 1901

Victoria was the daughter of the fourth son of George III and qualified as her three uncles had died leaving no surviving legitimate heirs.  She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840 and they had nine children.  When Albert died, in 1861, Victoria mourned his loss deeply and withdrew from public life, but her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were enthusiastically celebrated. She often passed through Hampshire on her way to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Victoria – crown – N1993.1763

A bed of roses

Victoria’s forty years without Albert were made more bearable by the twenty years of devoted service she received from her ‘gillie’, or Highland servant, John Brown.  He even saved her from an assassination attempt in 1872.  When he died, in 1883, his room was kept exactly as it was, with a fresh rose placed on his pillow every day. 

** *** **

Edward VII                    1901 – 1910

Spending such a long time as Prince of Wales, Edward came to personify the fashionable leisured class. Racing was among his many interests and he attended Stockbridge Races to see his horse run.  As King he was involved with armed forces reform and improving relations with France.  When he died his funeral attracted ‘the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place’. 

Edward VII gold sovereign – BWM 1957.136

Questionable pleasures

Edward VII, known in the royal family as ‘Bertie’, had plenty of time to indulge in the usual excesses while awaiting his turn on the throne.  One of these was playing the card game Baccarat, illegal at the time!  It resulted in ‘Bertie’ appearing in court and being lambasted in the press for setting a bad example.

** *** **

George V                      1910 – 1936

George was another royal who didn’t expect to be crowned king.  He spent his early years in the Navy, but from 1893 led a comparatively quiet family life, with shooting and stamp collecting among his hobbies.  As Prince of Wales he travelled widely when the British Empire was at its greatest extent, but the First World War saw him change the family name to Windsor, from the German-sounding Saxe-Coburg Gotha.  

George V penny 

Royal cover up needed

George was authoritarian, bluff and punctual and keen to uphold traditional values.  When his oldest son was photographed relaxing on a foreign tour, wearing only swimming trunks, he received an angry letter from his father, who hated modern fashion, and the wearing of clothing ‘inappropriate for the occasion’.

** *** **

Edward VIII                   1936

Edward VIII’s short reign of 326 days, was an intense episode, combining love and political and religious considerations in the years between the two World Wars. He caused a constitutional crisis by proposing to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and abdicated in order to do so.  The couple were created Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and spent most of their lives in Paris.   

Edward VIII pattern penny

Rebel, rebel

Edward, known as David within the royal family, hated the pomp and pageantry of the life he’d been born into.  He wanted to be ordinary.  When he was invested as Prince of Wales at the age of 16, he called the ermine robes he had to wear ‘a preposterous rig’. He was ready to rebel, and rebel he did.  

** *** **

George VI                     1936 – 1952

George VI, born on the anniversary of Prince Albert’s death, was given the name Albert in order to please Queen Victoria, and was another ‘Bertie’.  A shy and sickly child, with a pronounced stammer, he didn’t expect to be crowned king, but his brother’s abdication thrust him into the spotlight.  Taking the name George, to emphasise continuity with his father, he and the Queen did much to boost morale during WWII.

George VI penny

Just a family man

Bertie was initially terrified at the thought he would have to become king.  He had a comfortable life; he enjoyed stamp collecting and embroidery, as well as playing tennis and flying. He was so upset at the prospect of taking the throne that his wife, the late Queen Mother, felt she was ‘sitting on the edge of a volcano’.

** *** **

Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth is the world’s oldest reigning monarch and Britain’s longest-lived. She has presided over major constitutional changes and reigned through various wars and conflicts. Few would argue that her promise, contained in an address broadcast on her 21st birthday…

‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’

                                  …has not been delivered in full.

Elizabeth II penny

A Royal roll call – the Georgians

George I                      1714 – 1727

Fifty-six Catholics with a superior claim to the British throne were overlooked in favour of the 54 year-old Protestant, Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover. When he was crowned King of Great Britain and Ireland there were riots in over twenty towns in England.  His reign saw the emergence of a cabinet-style government, led by a Prime Minister, and also the financial crisis known as the ‘South Sea Bubble’.

The Maypole and the Elephant and Castle

With the arrival of the Hanoverians, gracious and dignified royal behaviour went out of the window.  George I had three interests; women, horses and food. His two closest female companions were dubbed ‘the Maypole’ and ‘the Elephant and Castle’ on account of their appearance. 

** *** **

George II                            1727 – 1760

George Augustus, with an impressive military career behind him, accompanied his father to England in 1714 and was made Prince of Wales.  In 1716 he visited Portsmouth and Havant during a royal progress.  His growing popularity caused friction with his father, but after his Succession, he too had trouble with his own sons, with politics now played out on a world stage. 

Like father, like son (not).

George II had a terrible relationship with his father, and he wasn’t too enamoured with the British Government either! ‘I wish with all my heart’ he once exclaimed, ‘that the devil take your (Prime) Minister and the devil take the Parliament, and the devil take the whole island, provided I can get out of it and go to Hanover.’

** *** **

George III                     1760 – 1820

George III was the grandson of George II.  Born and brought up in England, he never visited Hanover and personally added to his accession speech the phrase ‘I glory in the name of Britain’.  His long reign was filled with military conflicts, in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as political strife and ill health, including bouts of madness. For the last decade of his life the Prince Regent was the effective ruler.

Men behaving badly.

This long reign was overshadowed by the King’s periods of ‘madness’ and a strict parental attitude.  He also managed to hasten the American War of Independence and lose the colonies.  In between times he cultivated an interest in agriculture (he was nicknamed ‘Farmer George) as well as music and the arts. 

** *** **

George IV                     1820 – 1830

George IV was not a great role model for his people. His wasteful spending at a time of crisis during the Napoleonic Wars, and his lack of leadership, tarnished the prestige of the monarchy.  He contributed greatly to the fashions of the Regency era, however, as well as commissioning the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, and remodelling both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. 

It’s my party

When George IV was crowned, in July 1821, his long-estranged wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick, decided she would like to join the party.  The king had guards placed at every entrance to Westminster Abbey, with strict instructions not to let her in.  A furious Caroline was forced to remount her carriage and head home. 

** *** **

William IV                     1830 – 1837

George IV’s only child, Princess Charlotte, died before him, and he was succeeded by his brother William who, at 64, was the oldest person ever to assume the British throne. As the third son of George III, and never expecting to be crowned, he had embarked on a naval career, and served with Nelson. He had several children, including ten with ‘Mrs Jordan’, an actress, but none of them legitimate.

‘The Sailor King’

As third son, William did not expect to be king and his career in the Navy began at the age of 13.  He experienced all sides of a sailor’s life, being arrested during a drunken brawl in Gibraltar, and dining with Nelson.  He captained a number of ships, but not during the Napoleonic Wars, although he was made ‘Admiral of the Fleet’. 

A Royal roll call – The Stuarts

James I                      1603 – 1625

James Stuart held the throne of Scotland (as James VI) for more than 57 years.  In 1603, on his accession to the English crown, he felt he had exchanged a ‘stony couch for a deep feather bed’.  He styled himself ‘King of Great Britain and Ireland’ but his dealings with Parliament were never easy, mainly because of arguments over finance.  In addition, a number of scandals damaged the reputation of the Court.

James I unite N1995.118 (HCT)

F’wever skwaching

King James had strange habits.  His tongue was too big for his mouth, so he was always drooling and hard to understand; he rarely washed, and was always scratching. He also threatened to expose himself to his courtiers! Terrified of assassination, his dagger-proof padded clothes, gave him a strange, lumpy look.

** *** **

Charles I               1625 – 1649

Charles quarrelled with Parliament; his belief in the Divine Right of Kings and other differences resulting in the English Civil War.  From 1642, when he raised his standard, to his surrender in 1645, the country was in turmoil and battles, skirmishes and sieges took place in Hampshire, particularly at Cheriton and Basing House.  Escaping from Hampton Court in 1647 the king was held at Carisbrooke and Hurst Castles, before being taken back to London.

 Charles I shilling – N1995.219.93 – from the Dummer Hoard, one of 122 coins hidden c 1644. (HCT)

There may be trouble ahead

King Charles was a small man, just 4’ 7” (1.4m) in height; he was also described as shy, slow and stubborn.  On the day he was crowned, 2 February 1626, there were several bad omens; some of the crown jewels fell apart and there was an earthquake. Those who were superstitious began to talk of ‘trouble ahead’.  

** *** **


** *** **

Charles II                             1660 – 1685

Declared King in Scotland after his father’s execution, Charles was defeated in battle by Cromwell in 1651 and spent nine years in exile. His return, in May 1660, saw the Restoration of the Monarchy and general relief at a return to normality after a decade of Puritan rule.  Two years later he was at Portsmouth to receive his bride-to-be, Catherine of Braganza, in an event of unparalleled splendour and ceremony. 

Charles II half crown – A2010.45.123 (one of the first ‘milled’, machine made, coins)

Vengeance after death

A campaign of revenge against the ‘regicides’, the men who had signed Charles I’s death warrant, saw ten of them hung, drawn and quartered in October, 1660. Those already dead were not spared.  Oliver Cromwell’s body was exhumed and dragged through the streets. His head was cut off and exhibited on a pole for 25 years!

** *** **

James II                      1685 – 1688

James succeeded his brother without incident, but the country was ill-at-ease with his French and Catholic sympathies.  When his second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a boy, fears of a new Catholic dynasty precipitated the ‘Glorious Revolution’. The Protestant William of Orange arrived at the head of an army and the King fled, eventually acquiring a pension, and a palace, in France. 

James II (HCT)

The Great Escape

Seven prominent Englishmen sent a secret message to William to come and save England from the ‘Catholic menace’.  James knew his time was up and, disguised as a woman, headed for France. He was recognised and returned to England, but Parliament didn’t want him back and made it easy for him to escape a second time.

** *** **

William III & Mary                 1688 – 1702

William of Orange was James II’s son-in-law, having married his daughter Mary in 1677.  She was keen that he should rule alone, but Parliament offered them the crown as joint sovereigns and she found herself in charge when he was away on military campaigns.  Their reign saw the adoption of the Bill of Rights, one of the most important constitutional documents in English history.

William & Mary  (HCT)

‘The little gentleman in the black velvet coat’

 William was hailed as a saviour in England, but north of the border the massacre of the McDonald clan at Glencoe, after a catalogue of errors, was a catastrophe. Ten years later the King’s horse stumbled on a molehill in Richmond Park and he died as a consequence. For years the Scots made toasts to ‘the little gentleman…’

** *** **

Anne                   1702 – 1714

Mary died of smallpox in December 1694, and her husband ruled alone for eight years.  They had no surviving children, and it was Anne, another daughter of James II, who took the throne.  Despite 17 pregnancies Anne, and her husband Prince George of Denmark, also had no child reach adulthood.  The Act of Settlement (1701) again ensured there would be no Catholic return, by looking to Hanover. 

Anne gold guinea – WOC 400 (HCT)

Mrs Freeman and Mrs Morley

Queen Anne was dominated by favourites – female favourites – who lined their pockets and those of their immediate family while the going was good. The most dominant, Sarah Churchill, played a game at court where she was ‘Mrs Morley’ and the Queen ‘Mrs Freeman’, but pushed it all too far and was banished.  

A Royal roll call – The Tudors

The earliest written histories, in all parts of the world, involve kings, queens and royal families.  And wherever the chosen few have made their mark, it has been with stories of conquest, invasion, loss and betrayal.  

Hampshire is no exception.  Throughout the Norman Conquest, into the turbulent Middle Ages, the pomp and pageantry of the Tudor period and the dissension and division of the early Stuarts, Winchester played a pivotal role and the county saw its full share of triumph and disaster.  Battles, skirmishes, religious upheavals, dynastic marriages and other intrigues accompanied the fight of the rulers to remain just that – rulers!

Henry VII     1485 – 1509

The last King of England to win the crown on the battlefield, Henry founded a dynasty and restored stability after the destructive civil war.  Prudent financial management and tax-gathering saw his personal fortune reach £1.25m (£1billion today!).  A private man, he surprised his courtiers with his grief when son Arthur, born in Winchester, died aged 15. This put his second son, Henry, in line for the throne.

Henry VII groat (London) N1993.1368 (HCT)

Look everybody, it’s me!

Henry VII was the first King of England to have a recognisable coin portrait.  In 1494 he recruited a highly skilled German engraver for the Royal Mint and eight years later the first ever coin issue with a realistic likeness went into circulation.  For most of the population it was the first time they had seen an actual image of their monarch.

** *** **

Henry VIII     1509 – 1547

Six marriages, the split with the Church in Rome, Dissolution of Monasteries and wars with France are just some of the features of Henry’s action-packed reign.  He was an extravagant spender and in 1522 invited Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to Winchester to view a refurbished Round Table.  In 1545 he was at Southsea Castle when his warship, the Mary Rose, keeled over and sank. 

Henry VIII groat (London) – N1993.1372 (HCT)

King Sized 

It may have been a head injury when jousting that led to Henry VIII’s erratic behaviour – and enormous girth – his chest measurement grew to 57” and his waist to 54”.  As the King ballooned, so did some of his courtiers, wearing padded outfits and additional layers in an attempt to keep pace with their mighty monarch.   

** *** **

Edward VI       1547 – 1553

Henry VIII described Edward as ‘this whole realm’s most precious jewel’, but his death, in 1547, saw his son crowned at the tender age of nine.  A Regency Council took control and remained in place throughout his short reign.  At the outset, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, was removed from his position of influence after quarrelling with the dominant Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset.

Edward VI shilling – (HCT)

A weasel word in your ear, sire.

Edward VI was used by his ‘protectors’ and religious advisers for their own ends.  Edward and Thomas Seymour plotted away, the former having his brother executed for treason in 1549. Next up was John Dudley. He had Edward Seymour sacked and executed in 1552. His turn came the following year, after the Lady Jane Grey fiasco.     

** *** **

Mary       1553 – 1558

The six-year reign of Edward was followed by the five-year tenure of Mary.  The re-adoption of Catholic ways saw many religious dissenters burnt at the stake, including Thomas Benbridge at Winchester.  In 1554 Mary married Philip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral but he departed a year later, following the disappointment of her ‘false pregnancy’.  Mary was the first true Queen Regnant in England. 

Mary, Mary quite contrary

Mary’s reign began with cheers of joy; it ended with cheers of relief.  The burning of 300 people at the stake and the hated ‘Spanish Marriage’ brought violent reaction and a rebellion that struck at the heart of London.  She died on 17 November 1558 aged 42 and for many years afterwards this was celebrated as a public holiday. 

** *** ***

Elizabeth I      1558 – 1603

Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.  Her 44 years on the throne provided the cornerstone for a welcome period of stability and growing national identity and included the famous rebuff of the Spanish Armada.  Elizabeth visited Basing House on four occasions, and was particularly fond of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, who attained the office of Lord High Treasurer.

Elizabeth I medal: Support for the United Provinces (Netherlands) against the Spanish – A2010.45.10 (HCT)

Off with her head

Loath to spill any royal blood, Elizabeth kept Mary Queen of Scots prisoner for nearly 20 years.  When plots focused around her became a real threat to the throne, she was executed at Fotheringay Castle, in front of 300 people.  An eyewitness said her lips stirred up and down for a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off!

Charles (Fred) and Cyril Fox and Bursledon Brickworks

Bursledon Brickworks has a long history.  The site, on the banks of the Hamble at Lower Swanwick, was chosen in 1897 as a location with plentiful ‘brick earth’ and easy railway access.  With a steam driven engine powering a brick making machine, the factory could turn out 40,000 bricks a day.  The name ‘Bursledon Brick Co. Limited’ was adopted in 1903 and, as the site grew in size, it could ultimately produce upwards of 20 million bricks a year. It closed in 1974, but is now an Industrial Museum.

Bursledon Brickworks in its heyday, looking north; several of the clay pits can be seen on the right hand side of the photograph.
(c) Hampshire Cultural Trust

The raw material – the ‘brick earth’ – necessary to the enterprise was a combination of river silts and sea sand mixed over millions of years to create a deep seam of sandy clay, perfect for the job in hand.  It is hardly surprising that as the land was cleared and the extraction pits excavated, a number of archaeological finds were recovered.  What is unusual is who did some of the excavating.

In October 1927, the clay diggers reported finding a number of perforated clay cylinders. Local resident, and amateur archaeologist, Charles (Fred) Fox was invited to investigate. Fox worked for the Capital and Counties Bank, first in Chippenham, then Sandown and Newport on the Isle of Wight, and finally Winchester, where he was branch manager.  He had an abiding interest in local geology and would often search in chalk pits for fossils, taking his son Cyril along with him.

Some of the perforated clay cylinders – interpreted as Bronze Age loom weights
(c) Hampshire Cultural Trust

Fox investigated the quarry face and recorded a pit 18 feet (5.5m) deep. The twenty clay cylinders – ‘Bronze Age loomweights’, as he interpreted them – came from the top half of this feature.  But that was only part of the story. He was summoned back the following July, when the workmen discovered that the pit continued down as a narrower shaft, for a further six feet (1.75m). Set into the middle of this lower section was an oak post, still covered with bark.  The clay surrounding the post was dark blue. To Fox, it smelled like the ‘roke off river marshlands on a sultry night’.  The workmen said that ‘it stank enough to knock you down’.  Dr J P Williams-Freeman, who also visited the site, thought the smell was ‘marsh gas’.

Cross section of the Bursledon pit – after Fox.

The clay was not from the immediate area and Fox found a match in the Hamble estuary, half a mile away. Another intriguing discovery was a layer of dark brown ‘bituminous-looking matter’ on the sides and base of the shaft.  Analysis suggested that this could be ‘mammalian blood’ which had been subjected to successive burnings. Was the shaft an animal trap, regularly cleaned out? Perhaps not – it is more likely to have been a ritual or religious monument, dedicated to the gods of the earth.  Similar shafts are known both in Britain and on the Continent.

A patch of ‘stick wood’ was probably the remnants of a basket and just 60 feet (18m) to the south were four Bronze Age palstaves, or axes.  These, too, are frequently found as part of ritual deposits.

* * *

Just over four years later, in December 1932, the workers unearthed a subterranean timber construction near to the 1927 find.  The Company Director informed Charles Fox, who had excavated the Bronze Age pit. But he was already well into his seventies and arrangements were made for his son Cyril, together with Dr Williams-Freeman, to investigate.

It was a strange time for Cyril Fox. After a slow start to his academic career he made his name with a study of the archaeology of the Cambridge region and, in 1925 aged 36, joined the staff of the National Museum of Wales. Little more than a year later he was elevated to the post of Director, which Mortimer Wheeler had vacated. As well as contributing enormously to Welsh archaeology and overseeing improvements at the museum, Fox produced Personality of Britain (1932) presented in essay form to an International Congress in August of that year. This new and refreshing perspective on the archaeology and history of these islands was a resounding success and became a best-seller but, before the month was out, triumph turned to tragedy. With Fox at work, his wife, Olive had taken their two daughters for a holiday on the Gower. On 19 August, while swimming out to look at the seabirds, she was swept away by the current, and drowned. It must have been an abysmal autumn for Fox, and the investigation at Bursledon, while staying at his parent’s home at The Lawn, was presumably intended to be therapeutic.

A groundbreaking study The Personality of Britain – 1932.
Fox was knighted in 1935.

The Company provided men to do the labouring and when the area around the wooden construction was excavated it was found to be a rectangular frame, constructed of rough oak planks (0.75 x 0.90 x 1.3m in depth) set within a circular shaft (1.10 to 1.35m in diameter).  The shaft had been dug to a depth of 6m through the clay to a hard layer of sandstone and the frame was positioned a metre or so above this level, on a layer of silt.  

The construction was filled with clay and ‘sludge’, leaves, twigs, stones and ‘a boulder’.  At the top of this accumulation was a quantity of Romano-British pottery.  Remarkably, this included four ‘practically perfect’ jugs and four fragmentary jugs, as well as many sherds.  At the very top of the wooden frame was a broken samian dish.  Above this, the shaft was deliberately filled with clay and stones.

Three of the Bursledon jugs – the one on the right has been ritually ‘killed’.

This shaft had all the appearance of a well or cistern, and although the excavators thought this an unlikely location for one, the presence of ‘sludge’ and preserved leaves and twigs suggests it was a waterlogged feature.  The jugs appear to have been ritually ‘killed’ by holes deliberately punched through them and deposited in the shaft to mark the end of its use.  This practice was noted during excavations at Silchester, the Romano British town of Calleva Atrebatum, where a number of wells were ‘closed’ in this way before the site was deserted.

Two more of the vessels – again showing evidence of pre-deposition ‘killing’.

The range of pottery suggested a Romano-British presence of some duration and Fox felt that the quality of the find implied that a Roman villa must be somewhere close by, although so far it has remained undiscovered.

The finds, including examples of the pottery vessels, loomweights and palstaves, are in the collections of the Hampshire Cultural Trust, and some are on display at Westbury Manor Museum, Fareham.

Dave Allen.

Fox, C F, 1928, A Bronze Age Refuse Pit at Swanwick, Hants, Ant J, 8, 331-336

Fox, C F, 1930, The Bronze Age Pit at Swanwick, Hants; Further Finds, Ant J, 10, 30-33

Fox, C, Note on a Romano-British Refuse Pit at Swanwick, Hants. PHFCAS 12, 1934, p181-3

A Royal roll call – Lancaster and York

The earliest written histories, in all parts of the world, involve kings, queens and royal families.  And wherever the chosen few have made their mark, it has been with stories of conquest, invasion, loss and betrayal.  

Hampshire is no exception.  Throughout the Norman Conquest, into the turbulent Middle Ages, the pomp and pageantry of the Tudor period and the dissension and division of the early Stuarts, Winchester played a pivotal role and the county saw its full share of triumph and disaster.  Battles, skirmishes, religious upheavals, dynastic marriages and other intrigues accompanied the fight of the rulers to remain just that – rulers!

Henry IV                1399 – 1413

Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt and Richard II’s cousin, was exiled in 1398, but returned the following year while Richard was in Ireland; he soon had a big enough following to be crowned king.  Richard was imprisoned at Pontefract, where he died in mysterious circumstances.  Henry faced a reign of threats and uprisings, notably from the Welsh, and a debilitating illness for the last few years of his life.

Henry IV penny

‘A sinful wretch’

A chivalrous Crusader in his early years, Henry was wracked with serious health problems in later life.  He had a disfiguring skin disease, thought to be God’s punishment for beheading the Archbishop of York, following a coup.  He described himself as ‘sinful’ and was buried next to Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury.

*** * ***

Henry V                 1413 – 1422

Henry cut his military teeth fighting against the Welsh and honed his political skills arguing with his father for the last eight years of his reign.  This was to stand him in good stead during his campaigns in France (more ‘Hundred Years War’). He set sail from Portchester with 11,000 men and his campaigns culminated in a famous victory at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).  He was married to Catherine of Valois and heir-apparent to the French crown but died, unexpectedly, aged 35. 

Henry V gold noble.

Scars of war

The 16 year old Prince was with his father at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 and took an arrow in the face.  The Royal Physician, John Bradmore, worked on the wound for several days, making a special tool to remove the arrow shaft.  Henry made a full recovery, but lost his good looks.

*** * ***

Henry VI                1422 – 1461; 1470 – 1471

Father and son never met, Henry V dying of dysentery in France.  The infant Henry became King of England and France, but his life was dominated by bouts of mental illness and the ‘Wars of the Roses’, as Lancaster was pitched against York.  A key event was marriage to Margaret of Anjou, at Titchfield Abbey, in April 1445.  She ruled during her husband’s incapacity and was the spark that ignited civil war.

Henry VI groat (Calais) – A2010.45.60 (HCT)

A Saint and a Martyr.

Legend had it that Henry was murdered as he knelt in prayer in the Tower of London and miracles were soon attributed to him.  He raised a plague victim, Alice Newnett, and cured the blind.  At the other end of the scale, his hat was kept by his tomb at Windsor so that pilgrims could put it on, as a cure for migraine.

*** * ***

Edward IV              1461 – 1470; 1471 – 1483

Edward IV was the first Yorkist King.  After six years of civil war, he found himself leading the Yorkist side, proclaimed himself King, and proved it by winning at Towton, Yorkshire, ‘probably the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil.’  A decade of strife followed, but another decisive battle – at Tewkesbury – saw the death of Prince Edward, Henry VI’s son, and political stability was restored.

Edward IV groat – A2010.45.22 (HCT)

Where there’s a Will…

Edward’s younger brothers George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, were rival heirs to their mother’s inheritance.  George was found guilty of plotting against the King and ‘privately executed’.  As Edward neared the end of his life, he changed his Will to make Duke Richard ‘Lord Protector’.

*** * ***

Edward V               1483

Edward, one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, was never crowned.  The sudden death of his father, in April 1483, saw his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, nominated as Lord Protector.  When an assembly of Lords and Commoners accepted that the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate, Richard was declared King.  The fate of Edward, and his younger brother, Richard, is not known.

Reverse of Edward IV groat ‘Civitas London’; minted in London (HCT)

*** * ***

Richard III              1483 – 1485

There were two major rebellions in Richard’s short reign.  The first was led by a previous supporter, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.  When it failed, Buckingham was convicted of treason and beheaded at Salisbury.  The second, led by Henry Tudor, ended in the Battle of Bosworth.  The enduring appeal of Shakespeare and the recent discovery of Richard’s remains in Leicester, keep the spotlight on this episode.

Broken in battle

The remarkable discovery of King Richard’s remains at Greyfriars Church allowed osteo-archaeologists to tot up his wounds (those that left a mark). An arrowhead in his spine, a gaping hole at the base of his skull and at least eight other cuts and punctures across his body show how he met his end.  In life he suffered from scoliosis of the spine. 

A Royal roll call – the Plantagenets*

The earliest written histories, in all parts of the world, involve kings, queens and royal families.  And wherever the chosen few have made their mark, it has been with stories of conquest, invasion, loss and betrayal.  

Hampshire is no exception.  Throughout the Norman Conquest, into the turbulent Middle Ages, the pomp and pageantry of the Tudor period and the dissension and division of the early Stuarts, Winchester played a pivotal role and the county saw its full share of triumph and disaster.  Battles, skirmishes, religious upheavals, dynastic marriages and other intrigues accompanied the fight of the rulers to remain just that – rulers!

Henry III              1216 – 1272

‘Henry of Winchester’, born in Winchester Castle, succeeded to the throne at the age of nine.  At 18 he, too, promised to abide by a ‘Great Charter’, but after unsuccessful attempts to win back land in France, lost favour with the Barons.  In 1263 his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, who held Odiham Castle, led the Second Barons’ War.  At the crucial Battle of Evesham Henry, and his son Edward, prevailed.   

Henry III penny – A2010.45.52 (HCT)

Henry the holy

Henry idolised his 11th century predecessor, Edward the Confessor and, in 1269, personally helped move his remains to a new resting-place in Westminster Abbey.  He participated in ‘laying-on of hands’ cures, fed the poor, attended Mass at least once a day, and tried to outdo Louis IX of France in his piety.

***  *  ***

Edward I                  1272 – 1307

‘Edward Longshanks’, at 6’2” (1.88m) he was taller than most men, spent the early part of his reign restoring royal authority, after the disasters precipitated by his father.  There were campaigns against the Welsh and the Scots but, closer to home, his interest in Arthurian legends resulted in the creation of the Round Table in Winchester.  This may have graced a pageant held to mark the betrothal of two of his daughters. 

Edward I penny – A2010.45.10 (HCT)

The Stone of Destiny

In 1290, after a succession crisis, Scotland allied with France and attacked Carlisle. Edward responded and confiscated the Stone of Scone (or Destiny) – the Scottish coronation stone.   It was placed in Westminster Abbey but, in 1950, was stolen by students and taken home.   It was returned to England – but is now back in Edinburgh Castle.

***  *  ***

Edward II                  1307 – 1327

Edward was born in Caernarvon Castle, following his father’s Welsh campaigns.  Some saw him as a new ‘King Arthur’, who would lead England to greatness, but his reign was dogged with intrigue as firstly Piers Gaveston and then members of the Despenser family, became despised royal favourites.  Gaveston was murdered and the Despensers exiled, before Edward himself was deposed.

Edward II –penny –BWM 1959.70 (HCT)

Isabella; the ‘She-Wolf of France’.

Edward’s reliance on favourites infuriated the Barons and also his Queen, Isabella of France.  She was sent home to seek an alliance, but instead teamed up with Roger Mortimer, who had lost land to the Despensers.  They returned with an army and tracked down the King.  He died, in strange circumstances, at Berkeley Castle.

***  *  ***

Edward III                  1327 – 1377

Edward III is another king credited with compensating for the failings of his father.  Under his guidance England became a formidable military power and, during the ‘Hundred Years War’, won back territory in France. The high point was the fall of Calais, but the following year (1348) the plague – the Black Death – hit England, killing more than a third of the population and bringing economic decline.       

Edward III

Strictly, the Order of the Garter

Edward was keen on chivalry and, probably in 1348, created the Order of the Garter.  Joan, the young Countess of Salisbury, accidentally dropped her garter at a dance and the King stifled the ensuing ridicule by tying it to his own knee with the words ‘honi soit qui mal y pense’ – ‘shame on him who thinks ill of it’.

***  *  ***

Richard II                  1377 – 1399

The throne jumped a generation. Richard’s father Edward (the Black Prince) and older brother, another Edward, both died before him, and he was crowned at the age of ten.  He was guided by a council, with his uncle, John of Gaunt, also having influence. The early years of his reign saw the ‘Peasants’ Revolt’ which he handled well, but towards the end his tyrannical ways saw him deposed and imprisoned.

Richard II

‘A most beautiful King’

Contemporary writers were agreed on Richard’s good looks, but painted a slightly feminine picture, implying that he lacked manliness.  His most serious shortcomings, however, were in his lavish spending on favourites and the opulence of his court.  He was another monarch who was devoted to the cult of Edward the Confessor.

* The term ‘Plantagenet’ is used by historians to identify four royal houses that originated from Anjou. The traditional derivation of the name is that first generation Geoffrey of Anjou (Geoffrey Plante Genest) wore a sprig of broom (planta genista) in his hat.

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