Hampshire Archaeology

Hampshire excavations # 12

WD site 2

Bird’s-eye-view of excavation in progress; St Swithun’s School on the Alresford Road on the skyline.

A look at classic excavations around the county, large and small; Bronze and Iron Age settlement sites and Romano-British enclosures at Winnall Down near Winchester.

The discovery of a Bronze Age settlement at Adanac Farm – subject of the most recent musing – brought to mind a similar find made forty years ago on the outskirts of Winchester.

A survey of potential archaeological sites along the proposed route of the M3 motorway, in 1974, revealed a complex of enclosures less than 2 km north-east of the centre of Winchester. As the area was earmarked for the ‘Winnall Interchange’ and would be totally destroyed, excavations, supervised by Peter Fasham, took place in 1976 and 1977.

The area examined was 1.26 ha (over 3 acres) in extent. The earliest features encountered were of Neolithic and Middle Bronze Age date (a ring ditch and a disturbed cremation burial respectively), but the later Bronze Age phase, consisting, in all probability, of four post-built round houses, pits and a fence were of particular interest because of the rarity of this sort of site.

winnall down_0006

A near-vertical view of the site with work  in progress – the enclosure entrance is to the left.

The Early Iron Age settlement was more emphatic, contained, as it was, in a D-shaped enclosure, with a single entrance on its west side. More than half a dozen roundhouses, 19 four post structures and 27 pits were recorded within the defined area.

The story continued with an open settlement of at least ten roundhouses, accompanied by 16 four-post structures and more than 80 pits. The pits, as with the earlier examples, provided evidence of general domestic activities, such as animal butchery, cooking, crop production and weaving as well as ritual practice.

winnall down_pit 6595

Ritual rest? Pit ‘6595’ contained the complete skeleton of a two-year old sow. The upper levels of the feature also contained the skeleton of a dog.

Eighteen complete, or near complete, burials were also unearthed, including ten infants. There were also 25 instances of ‘loose’ human bone. Finds of pottery and stone were abundant, but small finds, such as jewellery and tools, were not as plentiful.

WD skeleton 500

One of the Iron Age human burials. This adult male (# 500) was also placed near the bottom of a pit. Look closely – it’s a masterpiece of excavation.

In the Romano-British period four enclosures, represented by about 30 lengths of ditch, some recut, were linked by a track. There were five burials from this phase, the majority of infants.

winnall down_0005

Planning in progress

The excavator, while reflecting on the ‘long and interesting sequence of events…at Winnall Down’ reflected on how it formed only one part of the settlement history of the area. In this regard he drew attention to Winnall Down II, a second large enclosure to the east – outside the threatened area. In 2006, this was sampled by Oliver Davis. He excavated two sections across the ditch and two small areas in the interior, encountering eight pits. The pottery present was similar to that from Winnall Down I (the enclosure phase), making the sites contemporaneous in the 4th century BC at least.

WD site

Roundhouse ring ditches


Fasham, P 1985, The Prehistoric Settlement at Winnall, Down, Winchester, Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc, Monograph 2 (more…)


Hampshire excavations # 11

A look at classic excavations in the county, large and small – Adanac Park, Nursling: a rare Bronze Age agricultural settlement and a Late Iron Age inhumation cemetery


Trial trenches at the evaluation stage

Adanac Park is an area of former pasture on the well-drained gravel terraces of the lower Test Valley at the north-western edge of Southampton. By the 1990s, evidence of the utilisation of this landscape during the Middle and Late Bronze Age was beginning to emerge. Excavations by Wessex Archaeology at nearby Testwood Lakes discovered a timber bridge of that period, the earliest to be definitely identified in England and, in 2008, they were asked to investigate the Adanac Park site in advance of the construction of the Ordnance Survey’s new headquarters.

Excavation revealed a small Late Bronze Age farmstead, comprising four or five roundhouses and two four-post granaries.  Associated pits containing pottery, charred plant remains and quernstones indicated a mixed agrarian economy including the cultivation of emmer wheat and hulled barley. The farmstead has been radiocarbon-dated to the early first millennium BC. Settlements of this period are rarely found in Britain.

Following several centuries of abandonment an Iron Age inhumation cemetery was established over and to the east of the former settlement. This consisted of at least two flat graves and seven barrows of various forms, one of them being square. Each barrow contained at least one grave but skeletal remains were absent because of the acidic soil conditions.


One of the Iron Age barrows – the circular ditch is staked out.

The grave goods in one of the barrows included a sword, spear and shield fittings, an unusual burial assemblage as spears are rarely found in association with swords in southern England at this time.

The typography of the weaponry indicated a late Iron Age date – 1st century BC to 1st century AD. An apparent lump of stone and mud which was thought to be a single copper alloy object when excavated was revealed by interrogative conservation to be three separate objects: a partial shield handle, an ornamental mount and a buttoned ring. The mount had possibly decorated a shield boss.

Further reading

A2010.72      Archives deposited with the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Leivers M. and Gibson C. 2011, A Later Bronze Age Settlement and Iron Age Cemetery, Excavations at Adanac Park, Nursling, Hampshire, 2008, Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc, Vol 66, pp. 1-30.

Wessex Archaeology. 1999, Testwood Lakes.

Series by: Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone


Buried in time – and Alice Holt Forest – a Romano-British pottery industry.



alice holt with figure

Ghosts of the Forest; a cutaway drawing of an Alice Holt double-flue kiln (after RCHAM)

The Alice Holt Roman pottery kilns are situated on the Hampshire-Surrey border. They manufactured coarse, grey pottery from the 1st to 5th centuries, supplying London and southeast England. The excavations at the small Roman town of Neatham (Millett & Graham 1986) produced large quantities of pottery, with perhaps 99% coming from the Alice Holt and Farnham kilns. There is evidence of a great influx of vessels to the London market from around AD 270 (Anelay & Timby 2014) and production reached its peak in the mid-4th century.

Alice Holt excavation 1967

An oddity – the Trust’s archives has this photograph, accession No. 1967.134 of ‘Excavations at Alice Holt Kilns’ – the actual site is yet to be identified – investigations continue!

The first kiln group was recognised during construction of the Farnham to Petersfield turnpike and this was later recorded (in 1839) by Farnham antiquarian W L Long. Further kilns were located and excavated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries including a kiln and waster-filled ditch at Farnham Sewage Farm in 1930; two kilns excavated in 1945 by Colonel Wade at Goose Green Inclosure and his pre-war trial excavation at Overwey, Tilford, resumed by Clark in 1947-8, located a range of three double-flued updraught kilns. The pottery was dominated by hard, light-grey cooking pots and dishes of a type which suggests 4th century production (Clark 1950). A further double-flued updraught kiln and waster dump dated to AD 350-420 was located in 1971 by a master and boys from Weydon School by the river Slea at Baigents Bridge.

In 2004/5, repairs to the A325 between Frith End and Bucks Horn Oak [Wessex Archaeology] disturbed waster dumps and revealed another double-flue updraught kiln, characteristic of the local industry (Swan 1984:117-19). Analysis of the charcoal showed that a range of wood, including oak, alder, hazel, maple, birch, ash and willow, was used to fuel the kiln. Archaeomagnetic dating from 12 samples of the lining suggested that the date (95% probability) of the last major heating of the kiln was between AD 220-280 (Birbeck et al 2008). The excavation also recovered 31,534 1st to 5th century pottery fragments, c.400 fragments of fired clay kiln furniture and 159 pieces of ceramic building material including tegula and imbrex roof tiles.

In 2011 at the Country Market site at Kingsley [West Sussex Archaeology], three single-chambered twin-flue kilns were examined (Anelay & Timby 2014). Two situated at right angles bore evidence of repair, whilst the third at some 62 metres distance had smaller stoke pits and thinner walls, so was possibly less used. The 5157 pottery sherds found were of later Roman date (AD 270-420) and represented a limited number of forms including jars, flasks/flagons, dishes, bowls and strainers.

In 2012, Malcolm Lyne published a survey of the archaeology of Binsted, Kingsley and Alice Holt listing 16 new kiln sites discovered since the 1971 systematic review by the Alice Holt Pottery Research Group, which noted the kilns and waster dumps evident at that time (Lyne & Jefferies 1979). This brought the total number of known pottery waste heaps in the area to 95. The publication also describes the excavation of AH 52, which uncovered ‘35 successive phases of industrial building and kiln construction spanning the period between the Roman invasion and AD 270’.

Alice Holt experimental firing 3

Getting stuck in: the potter loads one of the experimental kilns – Malcolm Lyne is in the background.

One interesting aspect of the study is the report on the nine experimental firings between July 1977 and June 1985. The search for the right conditions to make uniform grey vessels was very thorough and despite several setbacks there was general appreciation of what was required. The volume also contains a report on an assemblage of miniature vessels excavated in 1980 at the Country Market site. The twelve vessels were arranged around the inner edge of a shallow, circular pit. They are paralleled by the seven pots found in a sarcophagus at South Hay and by finds from Frensham Common. The burial of miniature vessels at pottery production sites is paralleled at Market Rasen (Lincolnshire) and by finds from Island Thorns in the New Forest (Sumner 1927) and presumably has a religious or ritual significance.

The Alice Holt pottery industry was one of adaptation to meet the demands of a changing society. There is uncertainty concerning the end of the industry, but pottery from Billingsgate bath-house is evidence that production of standard grey wares was maintained until at least AD 402 (Lyne & Jefferies 1979).


Anelay G. & Timby J. 2014. Three Roman Pottery Kilns from Osborne Farm, Kingsley, Bordon. Hampshire Studies 69:82-113.

Birbeck V. Jones G. Powell A.B. Seager Smith R.H. et al. 2008. A Roman Pottery Kiln, Kiln Furniture and New Vessel Forms from Alice Holt Forest. Hampshire Studies 63:110-128.

Clark A.J. 1950. The fourth-century Romano-British pottery kilns at Overwey, Tilford. Surrey Archaeology Collection 51:29-56.

Lyne M.A.B. 2012. Archaeological Research in Binsted, Kingsley and Alice Holt Forest, BAR British Series 574

Lyne M.A.B. & Jefferies R.S. 1979. The Alice Holt Farnham Roman Pottery Industry. London: CBA Research Report 30.

Millett M. and Graham D. 1986. Excavations on the Romano-British Small Town at Neatham, Hampshire, 1969-79 Hants Field Club Mon 9

Sumner H. 1927. Excavations in New Forest Roman Pottery Sites.

Swan V. 1984. The Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain. London: RCHM Supp Ser 5.

Archives held by the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Neatham                                       A1976.18

Goose Green                                 A1983.29

Experimental firings                  A1983.30

A325 (Wessex Archaeology)      A2004.52

Country Fair WSA                       A2011.27

Series by  Anne Aldis Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson. Jane King, Peter Stone

Twenty years of Treasure

Small displays of ‘Treasure finds’ have been put on show at the Westgate Museum, Winchester, Andover Museum, the Willis Museum, Basingstoke and Curtis Museum, Alton, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the implementation of the Treasure Act, 1996.  Katie Hinds, Finds Liaison Officer for Hampshire under the Portable Antiquities Scheme tells us more about it.

20 yrs 1

‘On 24th September 1997 the common law of treasure trove, which had been in place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for more than 500 years, was replaced by the Treasure Act 1996. This marked a radical change in the fortune of objects found in these countries, allowing thousands of important finds to be acquired by public collections for all to enjoy.’

Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar, 3rd May 2017.

Before this date, it had to be proved that an object had been buried with intent of recovery for it to qualify as Treasure Trove. Thanks to the broader definitions of the Treasure Act, local and national museums have been able to acquire treasure finds for their collections that may otherwise have been lost to them.

#Treasure20 is a national celebration of 20 years of the Treasure Act and a number of Hampshire Cultural Trust venues which have acquired treasure finds under the Act will be showcasing them from September into November.  Look out for the Treasure20 logo on our finds at The Westgate Museum, The Curtis Museum, The Willis Museum and Andover Museum, as well as at museums up and down the country – you can follow news and events on social media with the hashtag #Treasure20.


The display at the Willis Museum; some of the items have photographic enlargements to highlight key features. The book ’50 Finds from Hampshire’, authored by Katie Hinds, came out earlier this year and describes 50 of the 43,000 finds listed for the county on the PAS database. Amberley Publishing, 96pp fully illustrated, £14.99

These two small fragments of Bronze Age gold strip from Hook may be over 3,500 years old.  Similar finds are known from the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and numerous other locations.


The Andover display contains 24 coins from a hoard of 137 found at Leckford.  They were deposited around AD 274.  Many of them show emperors with ‘radiate’ crowns – like these examples of Postumus (AD 259 – 268) who apparently reigned ‘peacefully, wisely and well’ in a troubled period until he was murdered by his own troops.


The coins – silver washed antoniniani – come out of the ground in green condition (of which traces can be seen) because of the high copper content, but careful cleaning in the laboratory gives a clue to their original appearance.

Among the items on show at Alton is a seal matrix found near Buriton. The heraldic elements (Or on a chevron between three demi lions gules three trefoils Or, with a crescent in chief; the crest is a Bull’s head caboshed argent gutty sable – information from Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald) suggest a link with the Layfield family.


The Rev. Dr Edward Layfield (or Leyfield), Archdeacon of Essex was a prominent churchman, being son of Archbishop Laud’s half-sister and was vicar of All Hallows Barking. The  findspot in Hampshire suggests that it may have been used by his son, the Rev. Dr Charles Layfield, a resident prebendary of Winchester Cathedral who died in 1715 (leaving a quarter of his estate to the poor inhabitants of a number of places, including Winchester and Chilbolton).

These three items show the remarkable variety of treasure reported under the scheme – and represent tens of thousands of objects which contribute markedly to our knowledge, awareness and appreciation of our local and national history.

20 yrs 1






Hampshire excavations # 10

A look at classic digs in the county, both large and small; Excavations on a mid-twelfth century siege castle at Bentley, Hampshire in 1979-80.


Excavations in progress 1979-80; with a few of the diagnostic medieval pottery sherds for good measure.

When J P Williams-Freeman was enjoying his great perambulation of the county of Hampshire over a century ago, he headed for Crondall to search out the remains of two Norman strongholds. The first was ‘Powderham Castle’, evident as a round knoll about 30 m across, located in a copse and difficult to examine as it was ‘covered by wood and…the very thickest brambles in Hampshire’. The other, on the same ridge, was in Barley Pound Copse, and was again difficult to investigate owing to the density of the undergrowth. Nevertheless, he considered it one of the best examples in the county of a ring and bailey fortress, commanding a view of the whole country to the north. The roughly circular shell keep enclosed 9 acres and was strewn with large flints and squared building stones, but ‘there was no trace of a well’.

Unbeknown to Williams-Freeman a third contemporary earthwork was lurking in the vicinity, this time obscured by plough damage and weathering rather than an overabundance of plant life. ‘Bentley Castle’, as it was named by its excavators in 1979-80, was first recognised in 1956. Its existence made sense of a passage in the Gesta Stephani, which relates how, in 1147, one of the companions of Brian fitz Count, Constable of Wallingford Castle, ‘a man very crafty and cunning in all deeds of evil’ seized the Bishop of Winchester’s castle of Lidelea. This was in the middle of the long civil war between Stephen and Matilda and caused the bishop, Henry de Blois, to besiege his own stronghold by throwing up two castles in front of it. Barley Pound now seems secure as Lidelea, with Bentley and Powderham as the two siege camps.


Looking for the castle ditch


And finding it to be a substantial feature!

The excavations, directed by Paul Stamper, sought to confirm the date and nature of the ‘Bentley Castle’ siege camp and showed it to be ‘a motte surrounded by a substantial ditch, and an apparently undefended bailey’; there were no traces of timber buildings or other structures. Of the 4.7 kg of pottery found, 4.6 kg were residual Roman sherds, from the dark earth sealed by the mound! A significant Roman site lies beneath and nearby.


Enjoying the preliminaries; winter field-walking over the site – eyes down for a full plastic bag

The excavators arguably had most success with their documentary researches. The ’companion’ of Brian fitz Count, who surrendered Barley Pound to King and Bishop, may have been one Roger Foliot, as there are letters to Henry de Blois and Geoffrey, Prior of Winchester, pleading for clemency on his behalf.  As the offence is not spelt out, the association remains unproven, but he was clearly a naughty knight belonging to Brian fitz Count, who may well have been involved in the Barley Pound episode.

Archive held by Hampshire Cultural Trust as A1983.8

Further reading:

WIlliams-Freeman J P, 1915, Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire.

Stamper, P, 1984, Excavations on a mid-twelfth century siege castle at Bentley, Hampshire, Proc Hants Field Club Archaeol Soc 40, 81-9.

Series by Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone




Buried in time and Kempshott Park; two Beaker graves

Kempshott Park is located to the south west of Basingstoke in an area of former chalk downland rich in prehistoric burial mounds or ‘barrows’. These have been largely ploughed flat and none of them closely investigated although, in 1888, the remains of twenty burial urns were discovered near the border with neighbouring Dummer. These urns, found in an inverted position with traces of burnt or calcined bone, provided evidence that the area was used for burial through to the later Bronze Age.

In 1928 the Kempshott estate was sold to Basingstoke Golf Course and in 1965 the M3 cut through the parkland. This part of the motorway route wasn’t as thoroughly investigated as the next section to Winchester (in the 1970s) when many sites were dug.


Rescue archaeology! House building reveals the first Beaker grave

In 2000, skeletal remains were discovered during the development of the Beggarwood housing estate, now occupying around half of the former parkland to the north west of the M3. Excavation revealed a human burial placed in a crouched position, accompanied by a complete Wessex/Middle Rhine Beaker, a relatively early style in the Beaker ceramic tradition. The vessel has a slender, sinuous profile and is decorated simply with six horizontal bands of impressed comb. The radiocarbon date for the human bone calibrated to 2210-2020 BC (about 4,100 years ago). Anatomical features of the partial skeleton indicate that the individual was male and aged 45+.


The Beaker, after cleaning and conservation

In the following year a quantity of human bone, beaker fragments and a copper awl were recovered about 100m away from the first burial. Steve Teague, the author of the report in the Hampshire Field Club Proceedings (see below) presumed that the two graves were originally associated with ring-ditches forming part of long-ploughed-out barrows which have left no trace, not even in aerial records of the past. The vessel associated with the second burial shares similarities with that of the first, probably reflecting that the same community made them. Only 30% of the second skeleton remained but the gracile nature of the bones is a female characteristic, as is the presence of an awl, or metal needle, as the only grave good besides the beaker.


The location of the second Beaker burial – all has been gathered in!


The Kempshott copper awl; a five pence piece provides the scale

An awl is a pointed tool used for marking surfaces or piercing small holes. The Kempshott Park awl is just over 6 cm long and made from slightly impure copper. As such, it could only have been used on soft material like textiles, soft leather or thin slivers of wood. The impurity pattern indicates an Irish origin for the metal and a date between 2500 and 2100 BC, a period when copper was being displaced by bronze. This is in accordance with the radiocarbon date for the second skeleton (2350-2130 BC).

Further reading

A2001.50 Archive deposited with the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Andrews, S. 1906, Dummer, Proc Hants Field Club and Archaeol Soc5, pp. 53-62.

Teague, S. 2012, The Chance Discovery of Two Beaker Burials at Kempshott Park, Basingstoke, Proc Hants Field Club and Archaeol Soc, 67(ii), pp. 219-228.


Series by Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone

Hampshire excavations # 9

An occasional series looking at Hampshire digs large and small; Whitsbury Castle Ditches.


Plan of Whitsbury Castle Ditches, showing the location of the 1960 excavation

Whitsbury Castle Ditches is an Iron Age hillfort three miles north east of Fordingbridge,  with massive multivallate ramparts enclosing 6 ha (15 acres).  Its defences are much obscured by trees, however, and the main entrance has fallen prey to a manor house and set of stables.  The other gaps through the perimeter are not original.  Williams-Freeman, a century ago, and the Royal Commission, in the 1980s, noted ditches running to the north, east and south, which in turn link up with field systems and are Bronze Age in date.

In 1960 an extension to the riding stables enabled Philip Rahtz to mount a rescue excavation and an area of 1000 sq ft (93 sq m) was opened.  He identified eight phases of activity, which expands to nine if the use of the hill as a junction point for the three Bronze Age boundary ditches is included.  Two of the periods relate to the Iron Age and the excavator was fortunate enough to encompass a ‘D-shaped’ Middle Iron Age hut within his trench.  Although Roman and post-Roman phases were postulated at the site, it is worth noting that of the 656 pieces of pottery found, only 19 were Roman and 18 (all from the same vessel) post-Roman.  The latter were, however, associated with a pit, leading to consideration, at least, of Saxon re-use.


Detail of the excavation, showing the circular/half circular hut

The Iron Age hut, of an unusual half-circular form, had evidence for a timber wall, possibly made from planks, a rammed chalk floor and a burnt clay hearth.  Various postholes encouraged thoughts of internal structures such as a loom, and a possible loom weight and fragment of ‘weaving comb’ strengthened this hypothesis.  Whatever the true nature of this ‘workshop hut’ the excavation demonstrated the quality of evidence at this strongly-defended and strategically-placed fort dated, and culturally aligned, by finely made and elegantly decorated pottery of Yarnbury-Highfield type.

The Royal Commission noted that the interior of the fort had been ploughed (visible on air photographs taken in 1954) but was laid as pasture in the 1980s.  They describe the defences in considerable detail but their main concern was the relationship of the fort to the three linear ditches that approach it.  Attempts to be definitive were frustrated by the mixed clayey soil, which deterred geophysical results, degradation associated with trackways, and the implacable grassy and now slightly corrugated nature of the interior.

Williams-Freeman, who walked up to Whitsbury, enjoying a ‘steady three-mile climb’ from Fordingbridge, took in his customary sweeping view.  He remarked on Ashmore to the west, Salisbury Cathedral spire to the north and the New Forest to the south, but he bemoaned the fact that the ramparts were so densely wooded that they could only be examined where the undergrowth was cut.  There is still very limited access to this hillfort, it can only be skirted round, and the time of year is critical.  I recall David Johnston leading a Field Club visit there in the 1980s.  He had made his reconnaissance in the winter; in late spring it was thick with nettles.  ‘Follow me!’ was the cry as he disappeared into a great patch of stingers. Very few of us did.

Further reading:

Ellison A & Rahtz P, 1987, Excavations at Whitsbury Castle Ditches, Hampshire, 1960, Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc Proc Vol 43, 63-82

RCHAM(E), 1990, The Archaeology of Bokerley Dyke

Williams-Freeman, J P, 1915, Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire.

Archive held by Hampshire Cultural Trust as A1985.6 

Series by Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Jane King, Lesley Johnson, Peter Stone

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