Hampshire Archaeology

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.

Reginald Hooley and Worthy Down

Hooley’s ‘best find’ – Iguanodon atherfieldensis

Reginald W Hooley (1866-1923) was a wine merchant from Winchester with a passion for fossil collecting.  He was born in Southampton and began his paleontological career by searching out specimens on the Isle of Wight.  In 1889 he found part of a dinosaur skeleton in Brighstone Bay, Iguanodon bernissartensis, but his real success came in 1914, when he found a new species of Iguanodon which he named Iguanodon atherfieldensis

Reginald Hooley recording a sarsen stone cluster at Shroner Wood

In 1913 he was elected to Winchester City Council and took an interest in libraries and museums.  From 1918 until his death he was involved with the Winchester Museum and added to their collection with some of his own fossils.  When he sold the main part of his collections to the Natural History Museum, they described him as ‘an excellent example of the type of amateur geologist and paleontologist who has done so much for science in this country’.  Despite his disposing of some his material outside the county, the Hampshire Cultural Trust still looks after more than 1000 items from his collection. 

Letter from Hooley to Willis, August 1922, – he mentions a Field Club meeting at Butser, and his disappointment at not meeting up with
Willis, Rainbow and Ellaway, his ‘triumvirate of practical archaeologists’ from Basingstoke

Hooley collected from various sites around Hampshire and wrote papers on the geology of the area.  He was a member of the Hampshire Field Club by 1895, led field excursions and corresponded with George Willis.  The latter called upon him to comment on what remained of bones found in the Loddon valley gravels by labourers who considered them to be from animals that must have existed ‘before the world was drownded’.  One bone had been employed, several years before, to bridge a small stream! Hooley’s opinion was that it was from an elephant, probably a mammoth.  

Iron Age ‘currency bars’ – the socket may have been for a wooden handle – or to demonstrate that the iron was malleable.

The Worthy Down story began with the levelling of a large area for two aircraft hangers in 1919.  A number of iron objects were found and cast aside, but 18 months later one of the workmen, a Mr Blenkinsop, saw similar items in the British Museum, labelled ‘Currency Bars’.  He returned to the site, found they were still there, and took them to the City Museum, where Reginald Hooley was Honorary Curator. 

Hooley and Blenkinsop dug an exploratory trench and were soon finding ‘pot boilers’, charcoal, a human cranium and several animal bones.  Encouraged by these discoveries, Hooley returned on a number of occasions, adding a triangular loom weight and pottery to his spoils and defining the edge of a sizeable pit.  Excavation continued until the floor of the feature was reached, at a depth of 6′ 8″ (2m).  The fruits of these labours were described to the Society of Antiquaries at their meeting in London on 17 February, 1921. 

O G S Crawford encouraged Hooley to take a broader look and suggested ‘tapping the surface of the Down with an iron ram‘ (bosing).  This method, employed in May 1921, revealed the location of several ditches and the dry weather meant that some could actually be seen by surface indications.  Hooley covered 17 acres in this way!  An appeal for volunteers through the newspaper met with a good response and the excavations eventually encompassed five pits and included 14 ditch sections. 

The wide range of Iron Age and Roman finds made during the digging is well covered in an article in Volume 10 of the Field Club Proceedings, but one of the real treasures is the photograph of the digging team out on the Down.  They are drawn from Messrs G Weeks, C Small, S Ware, W Clarke, H Payne, L Powell, A Brown, R Miller, I Cox, H Blackwell, G Blackwell, E Moody, F Macey, F Ray, W Davey and the Rev Tanner. There is no caption to the photo but we think that Reginald Hooley is third from the left in the back row. 

Crossing Worthy Down today – out for a stroll on the ‘Kingsworthy Loop’

A century on, Worthy Down still offers wide vistas – but these are now criss-crossed by prescribed paths. One such is the ‘Kingsworthy Loop’ from the Watercress Way, which takes in some of the former Newbury to Winchester railway and provides useful information panels about the old racecourse and military history of the area. The latter is still developing, with recent additions to Worthy Down Camp, and it is perhaps not surprising that work there between 2014 and 2016 revealed another area of archaeological finds, in the form of a Late Roman cemetery.

Dave Allen, with thanks to Christine Taylor and Ross Turle

A Royal roll call – ‘The Anarchy’ and the Angevins*

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!

Stephen                        1135 – 1154

A succession crisis led Stephen of Blois, grandson of the Conqueror and nephew of Henry I, to grab the throne, aided and abetted by his brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester.  His determination to keep his cousin Matilda (the Empress Maud) from taking his place, resulted in ‘The Anarchy’, 15 years of bitter civil war.  This eventually ended with another negotiated truce, the Treaty of Winchester.

Stephen penny – N1995.117.7 – one of a hoard of 21 found by a metal detectorist on Portsdown Hill (HCT)

The Rout of Winchester

Before the Treaty came ‘the Rout’. In 1141 Stephen had been captured at Lincoln – his cousin Matilda’s army was at Winchester.  Queen Matilda’s forces (Stephen’s wife, how confusing!) dislodged them and chased them all the way to Stockbridge; Robert of Gloucester was captured and exchanged for the King. Just like chess really!    

*** * ***

Henry II                        1154 – 1189

Henry was the son of Matilda (the Empress Maud) and Geoffrey of Anjou.  He married Eleanor of Aquitaine and they had eight children.  Much of his reign was coloured by the question of succession and relationships with the Church.  He appointed Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, but far from being allies, they argued constantly.  Becket’s murder and family feuds tainted his final years.

Henry II penny – A2010.45.24 (HCT)

A rod for his own back

Henry appointed his Chancellor, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, to bring Church and Crown together. Instead, the two were soon at loggerheads. After eight years of dispute, four knights took it upon themselves to confront, and kill, Becket in Canterbury cathedral. The King’s penance included being beaten with rods by monks and bishops. 

*** * ***

Richard I                       1189 – 99

Known as ‘the Lionheart’ because of his prowess in battle, Richard was commanding an army by the age of sixteen.  He spent just six months of his reign in England, being otherwise engaged on Crusade, in captivity, or fighting in France.  He married Berengaria of Navarre, whom he had crowned Queen of England and Cyprus. In later years he personally supervised the construction of Château (castle) Gaillard. 

Richard I penny – A2010.45.78 (struck with Henry legend) (HCT)

Carry on fighting   

In March 1199, Richard was besieging the castle of Chalus-Chabrol, and was distracted by an enemy crossbowman using a frying-pan to bat off missiles.  Another bowman took the opportunity to have a pot shot and struck the king in the shoulder. The doctor made a mess of the wound and the King died a fortnight later.  

*** * ***

John                             1199 – 1216

King John was nicknamed ‘John Lackland’, because he surrendered his French connections to neighbouring warlords.  He also suffered increasing criticism from the Barons at home, culminating in a meeting at Runnymede, and the sealing of Magna Carta.  In Hampshire he built Odiham Castle, in its day a magnificent stronghold able to withstand an invading French army. 

John penny – A2010.45.87 (struck with Henry legend) (HCT)

…a surfeit of cider

After apparently losing the Crown Jewels in the quicksands of The Wash, John consoled himself with peaches washed down with cider.  He contracted dysentery and died a few days later.  He was buried in Worcester Cathedral.

* Named after the ruling house of Anjou (France). Historians disagree as to whether Angevin or Plantagenet should be applied to these early monarchs.

A Royal roll call – The Normans

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!

William I (the Conqueror)   1066 – 1087

William I was the first Norman King of England.  His victory over Harold at the Battle of Hastings, celebrated in the Bayeux Tapestry, allowed him to establish his hold on both sides of the Channel.  Around 1079 he created the Nova Foresta (New Forest) as a hunting preserve and in 1086 he ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, known as the ‘Great Survey’, or ‘Book of Winchester’. 

William I ‘PAXS penny’ – N1995.121 (HCT)

Caen man

After a lifetime of achievement, William the Conqueror’s death and burial were a bit of a let down.  He apparently fell off his horse, hastening his end, and then it took so long to get his body to Caen Cathedral it had swollen in the heat and wouldn’t fit into the coffin. As they forced it in, it burst – filling the church with a foul odour!     

*** * ***

William II  (Rufus)                     1087 – 1100

William Rufus, the third of four sons of William I, was probably named after his ruddy complexion.  An older brother, Richard, had died while hunting in the New Forest and this was to be the fate of William too.  On 2 August 1100, he was killed by an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tirel.  The true circumstance – accident or assassination – is not known, but the nobles left him where he lay and fled.

William II penny

By the Holy Face of Lucca!

This was William’s favourite oath, of the many that he uttered, and he had little time for the Church, or churchmen. He was a good soldier, had no natural dignity or social graces, but wore the latest fashions, including long, pointy, curled up shoes. His abandoned body was trundled from Brockenhurst to Winchester in a country cart.  

*** * ***

Henry I                         1100 – 1135

Henry, William’s younger brother, was there when Rufus was killed.  He hurried to Winchester, seized the Treasury and secured the throne, promising, at his Coronation, to ‘establish a firm peace’ across England.  Within a year, however, he was facing an invasion led by his brother Robert.  Their armies confronted one another in eastern Hampshire and the negotiated settlement was known as the Treaty of Alton.

Henry I penny – WOC 888 ( modern cast ?) (HCT)

…a surfeit of lampreys

Henry was a man of huge appetites – he ate, against his doctor’s advice, a lot of eels – and died of food poisoning. His entrails (including the eels?) were buried in France, his embalmed body at Reading Abbey. He also had 22 illegitimate children, and two in wedlock – William, who drowned in a shipwreck, and Matilda, to whom he left the crown.

Magdalen Hill Down – a bicentenary

Five Bronze Age barrows – and the tragic figure of the Rev John Skinner.

Running due east from Winchester is Magdalen Hill Down.  This chalk ridge, along with neighbouring Morn Hill, has seen all manner of activity over the years.  A medieval leprosarium, or leprosy hospital, investigated briefly by Time Team and then comprehensively by the University of Winchester, existed on the north side of the Alresford road, in an area that saw military activity during the English Civil War and succeeding centuries.  In World War I, an extensive transit camp, housing as many as 50,000 troops destined for the Western Front, was created on the hill.  Today, Magdalen Hill Down is a haven for wildlife, principally as a bird and butterfly conservation area and among its green folds are the remains of a small Bronze Age barrow cemetery of at least five monuments.

The view west from the barrow cemetery; the M3 and St Catherine’s Hill grace the left skyline.

The barrows have a ‘false crest’ location, overlooking the valley to the south, with Chilcomb to the southeast and Twyford Down and St Catherine’s Hill to the southwest.  The barrows are in a closely spaced linear arrangement but differ somewhat in size, with the three to the east being far more substantial than the other two.  All three of the eastern mounds exhibit signs of having been tampered with and the centre one shows every indication that a trench was dug through its heart.  Be that as it may, the only recorded finds are believed to have come from one of the other two monuments.  In 1940, a display case in the window of the offices of the Hampshire Chronicle, in Winchester High Street, contained a small bronze chisel from one of these lesser mounds, found in association with ‘pieces of pottery and animals’ teeth, in close proximity to human skeletons.’  The whereabouts of any of this material is now unknown, and there are no records of it ever having been part of the City Museum collections.

The barrows viewed from below

One surprising aspect of the barrows’ history is that they were visited, and sketched, by a Somerset parson, the Rev John Skinner, in 1821.  Skinner held the living of Camerton, near Bath, for nigh on 40 years.  He was forever at odds with his wayward and obstinate congregation, who tried his patience sorely, particularly following the early death of his wife and three of their five children to consumption.  He kept a detailed journal of his many trials and tribulations, as he found himself increasingly at odds with his remaining family, the Church, and his conscience.  In truth, he should never have become a clergyman, but persevered with law, which he first studied, and which would have been far more suited to his temperament. 

Rev John Skinner – image courtesy of Radstock Museum of Somerset Coalfield Life.

John Skinner sought solace in antiquarian interests and the company of like-minded men, such as Sir Richard Colt Hoare.  He tried his hand at barrow digging, at Priddy, Stoney Littleton and Charmy Down, and travelled widely throughout Britain and the Continent, recording much of what he saw.  Late in his life his 146 manuscript notebooks were gathered together in three iron-bound chests to be left, on his death, to the British Museum, on the condition that they should not be opened for fifty years.  They are now at the British Library.

About twenty years ago, aware that John Skinner’s brother, Russell, had made a 700-page index of the drawings, maps and illustrations in the notebooks, the Council for British Archaeology South West had it scanned.  Members of CBA SW and the Charterhouse Environs Research Team (CHERT) then transcribed it into a searchable document.  When this was tested, by ordering copies of particular drawings, the wrong items arrived, and it was discovered that in 1896 the British Museum, as was their custom, had renumbered all the pages of all the volumes, making the original index worthless!  The members of CHERT were understandably deflated, but in 2010 decided to give it another go by visiting the Library, re-transcribing the numbers and, in the process, correcting many errors.  It proved to be ‘an onerous and time-consuming exercise’ (as an ex-Curator of archaeological archives for forty years I can feel their pain!).

All of this means little for the Magdalen Hill barrows, but a coloured sketch of the cemetery should be hiding as MS 33670, Fols. 5,6. Listed as ‘Tumulii(sic) at Alesford (sic)’.  I hope, one day, to track it down.

As for the Rev John Skinner, his domestic diary, transcribed by Coombs and Bax, was published in 1930, only for them to find that, three years later, a further twenty-five volumes of Skinner MSS had come up for sale, including ‘The Liber Niger of Camerton’.  This ‘Black Book‘ contained much about the ‘unique, if unedifying’ aspects of English village life at the time and was woven into a revised publication (1971) edited by Howard and Peter Coombs.  It’s a compelling read.

The three larger barrows, looking east; the less impressive remains of one of the smaller monuments are on the right.

The site (at SU 499 293) can be visited using the paths across the conservation area, but there is no car park close at hand.  It is on the 64 (Alton) bus route from Winchester; St Swithun’s School stop.


Grinsell L V, (1939) Hampshire Barrows Proc Hants Field Club Vol. 14, 196
Grinsell L V, (1940) Hampshire Barrows Proc Hants Field Club Vol. 14, 353

Skinner J, (Coombs H & P, eds) (1971) Journal of a Somerset Rector 1803 – 1834. OUP.

Dave Allen

A horse whispers

Antiquarian print of Odiham Castle – it looks much the same today.

The excavations at Odiham Castle from 1981 – 85 (Allen & Stoodley 2010) unearthed two mutilated horse skeletons in a palisade gully otherwise filled with stone catapult ammunition and soil.  Pottery from the ditch appeared to be of early 14th century date, and as there was a documented attack on the place in 1322 by Robert le Ewer, this was presented as the date of these defences in the report.  There was, however, a much more sustained assault – a celebrated siege – one hundred years before, in 1216.  To see (after many years of nagging doubt) if the combat debris actually belonged to this earlier encounter, bone from one of the horse skeletons was recently submitted for C14 dating.  

The remains of the two horses – weighed down by catapult ammunition

The sample, tested at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre – SUERC-93557 (GU55016), returned a result of 914 plus or minus 29 years BP.  Clearly, the median date of 1036 is a bit precipitate for a castle built between 1207 and 1214 and a siege of 1216, but calibration (using the IntCal13 atmospheric calibration curve) gives a 95.4% possibility of a date between 1031 and 1189.  

The ‘arthritic beast of burden’; it lies in a shallow ditch, behind which is a deep palisade slot.

The (probably) female horse in question was about twelve years old.  It was an arthritic beast of burden, not a mobile war horse.  In its buried state it had no legs and had suffered gnawing from dogs etc, but the torso, neck and head were sufficiently intact to suggest it had not been lying around for too long.  It is quite possible, if it was involved in the siege, that it was as much an item of ammunition as the stones gathered around it. Documentary sources show that inflammable material, heads, corpses, dead animals and dung were flung from siege engines, as well as the more conventional missiles of stone and metal (Bradbury 1992, 257)

13th or 14th century pottery

The implication is that the horse carcass and stone ammunition were deposited in a clean-up operation after the siege and this shows that the gully and palisade were there to resist this attack from its early 13th century outset.  As for the pottery dating – it could be that this fairly unremarkable domestic ware is earlier than previously thought. Why the C14 date should be so premature is another matter.  Calibration is a key factor – and contamination is always possible.  There are, of course, the other horse remains to be dated, and curiosity may prevail.

Many thanks to Dr Derek Hamilton of the SUERC for facilitating the Odiham Castle dating.

Allen, D & Stoodley, N (2010) Odiham Castle, Hampshire: excavations 1981-95, Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc 65, 23-101.

Bradbury, M (1992) The Medieval Siege

‘Chateau Basing’

When Time Team accepted an invitation to look for a 17th century mansion at the Grange, Basing House in 1999, they placed their first two trenches in the area that had generated the strongest geophysical readings. To everyone’s surprise, the deposits of brick rubble, mortar and soil, kept going down and down. More trenches were opened, and eventually a wall footing was uncovered, but there was no coherent plan of the house before Time ran out.

Time Team in search of the Basing Grange mansion

In subsequent years the site was excavated by a group from the Basingstoke Archaeological & Historical Society and local volunteers, led by the County Museums Service. Gradually, the plan of a three bay mansion, 19m x 14m, made itself clear, together with a large service area to the rear and an ancillary building 22m x 7.7m, some 15m to the east. The house and the ancillary structure were linked by a massive cellar, 18m x 8m x 2m deep, and it was this feature, filled with all manner of building debris, which had attracted the attention, and most of the energies, of the Time Team.

The house is on the left – the ancillary building on the right – with the cellars in-between. Time Team trenches 2 and 3 cut into the cellars.

The appearance of the excavation report, in Hampshire Studies Vol 75 (2020) reveals various details about the buildings and a possible explanation for the existence of the cellar. Basing House was besieged during the English Civil War, (being a Royalist stronghold) and was overwhelmed by Oliver Cromwell and his army in October 1645. The Paulet family, owners of the estate, lost their lands and these weren’t returned until 1662, after the Restoration of the Monarchy. In 1675, Charles Paulet inherited (he was the 6th Marquis of Winchester and subsequently 1st Duke of Bolton) and it was he who set about tidying up the ruins of Basing House and building the Grange mansion.

Charles Paulet – 6th Marquis of Winchester, 1st Duke of Bolton

Evidence for the date of construction appeared in the form of stamped lead strips, or cames, which held the small glass window panes in place. Evidence for the date of demolition was gleaned from the clay tobacco pipes, also stamped, found among the rubble. The window leads offered two dates – actual dates! – of 1677 and 1693. The clay pipes had makers’ names or marks and the latest of these suggested a demolition date of 1750. This tied in well with the few historical mentions, which suggested that it was 3rd Duke of Bolton who had ordered the destruction of the house.

But what of the middle date, 1693? The mansion house and the cellar/ancillary building were very different in character. The house foundations were comparatively slight and the more massively constructed cellar overlapped them in one corner. It would be quite possible that the 1693 date related to the building of the cellar range etc. But was there anything else going on at Basing, at that time, to account for all this subterranean storage space?

The 1st Duke tidied up the ruins of Basing House, 500m away up the hill, and made an ornate entrance to ‘The Citadel’, the remains of a Norman Castle ringwork. This had contained the finest parts of the Tudor mansion, destroyed in the Civil War and he turned the area into a garden and, according to Celia Fiennes, a traveller and diarist who visited around 1696, a vineyard. If the Duke was attempting to establish viticulture at Basing, one necessity would be buildings for processing and storage and this may well explain the developments at the Grange in 1693.

Basing House from the north – the ‘Citadel’ where the vineyard was noted by Celia Fiennes, is the large circular earthwork (site of a former Norman castle) –
the 17th century mansion is in the field marked ‘M’ next to the Great Barn.

Unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence to support this, and ‘Chateau Basing’ remains a mythical vintage. What we do know is that James Oglethorpe at Godalming and Charles Hamilton at Painshill, both in neighbouring Surrey, had created extensive vineyards by the mid-18th century, renowned for their ‘excellent champaign…and very good Burgundy’. It just might be that the Paulets at Basing were forerunners in this quest to make English wine on landed estates, but were unable to convert their early endeavours into a commercial proposition.

Some of the wine bottles found among the rubble. The complete bottle is 270mm tall

Dave Allen

Allen D, Lalor B, Pringle G, (2020) Excavations at Basing Grange, Basing House, Hampshire, 1999-2006, Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc Vol 75(ii), pp323-378.

#Hart Heritage 13 – King John’s Castle and the Mystery of the Gully Horses by Linda Munday

Hidden away next to the Basingstoke canal tow path in North Warnborough lies the nationally important Odiham Castle. Now in ruins, it was from here that, in 1215, King John, travelled to Runnymeade, to put his seal on the Magna Carta. (Macgregor 1983, 37)

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Fig 1 – Odiham Castle ruins, North Warnborough, December 2016 courtesy of David Evans

It’s hard to imagine that this castle was just a royal hunting lodge, as it is often described. To the contrary, this castle had walls ten feet thick and was a “formidable fortress” (Macgregor 1983, 22) Built over a seven- year period between 1207 and 1214, it was one of ninety-three other castles that King John owned. (Macgregor 1983, 28) Strategically positioned half way between Windsor and Winchester, its location on swampy terrain near the banks of the River Whitewater was ideal for defence. The nearby Royal deer park and forest, were ideal for both food and timber. (Macgregor 1983, 22) See figs 2 and 3 below:


Fig 2 – Site of Odiham Castle in North Warnborough, Hampshire.


Fig 3 – Site drawing showing the site of Odiham Castle next to canal tow path and close to the River Whitewater.

Odiham Castle has an octagonal tower and castles with polygonal towers like Odiham are rare. Probably built to impress more than an improved defensive capability, they were first constructed in the early 13th century. (Hull 2006 , 72)


Fig 4 – Drawing of how Odiham Castle might have looked when first completed in 1214

odiham castle 004 crop

Fig 5 – Photograph looking into the keep from the north-west showing beam slots for floors.

The castle was built by King John at a time of much unrest. He as a king was under threat of attack not only from discontented barons but from the French king too. (Allen and Stoodley, 27) In 1216, King Louis of France along with the disgruntled barons, besieged Odiham Castle after King John had failed to stand by the Magna Carta. The siege lasted two weeks and ended due to new agreements being made with the king. At the end of the siege, it was amazing that only thirteen men were left defending the castle, three knights and ten sergeants. This despite facing an army of 140 knights and 7000 soldiers, with a constant onslaught of arrows and stone catapults from the enemy’s engines. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 27-28)

odiham castle 001

Fig 6 Illustration of medieval castle siege warfare showing engine’s firing stone catapults

A further castle siege took place in 1322, when the former keeper of the castle, Richard Le Ewer, rebelled against the King during the Despenser’s Rebellion. In 1320, the castle had been taken from Le Ewer and given to Hugh le Despenser by the King. The Despenser family were unpopular favourites of the King with many barons unhappy with their preferential treatment. Despite rebelling and being outlawed, Le Ewer was subsequently pardoned and the castle was returned to his care. However, in 1322 the King Edward II removed him and put it under the guard of John St John of Basing and Ralph de Camoys. Le Ewer rebelled again and this time tried to take the castle by force. It was a very serious attack although it ultimately failed. Quite a lot of damage was done to the castle during this siege which warranted substantial repairs afterwards. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 29)

After numerous years of occupation, by the sixteenth century the once mega fortified castle appears to be in ruins and remains so. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 28- 29)

From 1981-85, excavations took place at the castle led by Ken Burton with assistance from David Allen, now curator of Hampshire Archaeology at Hampshire Cultural Trust.  The focus in 1981 was initially the keep and the moat with the idea of possibly reintroducing water into the moat (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 32) The following four seasons were focused on an area to the west of the keep. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 23) It is these excavations that are the main focus of this article with particularly reference to the finds of two horse skeletons in a palisade gully.


Fig 7 – Excavations underway at Odiham Castle

The investigation discovered four main phases of occupation from 1207 to 1500 with the distinctive octagonal keep (B1) not being the first building on the site. A moat had been created, within which remains of two buildings (B11 and B111 – see fig 8) were found. They were most likely to have been erected first in 1207 with the tower being added later to both “annoy and impress the French” (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 98) Building V, a rectangular building platform, was created between 1208-1265 and in use in the period 1265-1350. It was 3 metres wide and 6 metres long. Its function is not known (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 34)

Building IV is a building from the final phase of occupation 1350-1500 A.D. It’s most likely to be an ancillary building when the castle was no longer in use as a fortification but as a hunting lodge. Please see fig. 8 for location of buildings on the site.

site plan showing horse skeletons

Fig 8 – Plan of excavation site at Odiham castle

Two horse skeletons were found in gully (37). See fig 8. “The main one, lying on its left side, consisted of a skull and vertebral column, almost complete, and the associated ribs. The other was of a partial skull and cervical vertebrae only.” A complete right metatarsus and the majority of a pelvis were also found but during the excavation an intruder removed some of the bones. Even though they were returned it was not easy to identify whether they were connected with the main horse burial or a third horse burial. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 80)

The skull of the main horse skeleton was very fragile and was removed in fragments. It had a large “chop mark” on the back of it. It’s not sure if this was done before or after death or even if it was damage done by a spade. The horse appears to be 10-12 years old. Examination of the skeleton seems to show that problems in the lumbar region of the spine, causing stiffness, would have made it difficult to jump or gallop if ridden. This type of condition is consistent with being a beast of burden. The horse was discovered weighted down with old catapult ammunition and had evidence of dog gnawing which may show that it was left outside for some time. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 81)

horse and balls

Fig 9 – Remains of two horse skeletons in the gully

The second horse skeleton showed evidence of being skinned, with knife cuts visible on the skull around the nose and the eye socket. This is evidence that the hide would have been made use of by the knacker. This horse was thought to be about seven years old. Disposal of horses in ditches is common in the archaeological record. However, it’s rare in medieval times for the bodies of horses to be buried intact. The fact that the main horse skeleton was almost intact is unusual. This may be due to extreme conditions during the siege. (Steane 1993, 125) The fact that the main skeleton was also weighed down by shot is puzzling.


Fig 10 – Main horse skeleton weighed down by ammunition.

In medieval times, the most common form of missile hurled by engines at castles were large stones. However, other items were also used providing they were both heavy and unpleasant. This included lumps of metal, human heads and corpses, dead animals and dung. (Bradbury 1992, 257) So, the horses found in the gully could have been catapulted over the castle wall during the siege. Only one other comparable example of horse burials in gullies is at Jennings Yard, Windsor, also located near a river. A group of horses had been buried after being skinned and left for dogs to gnaw. However, on this occasion there were only partial skeletons and no catapult ammunition was present. (Hamilton-Dyer UD, 7)

dave and ball

Fig 11 – David Allen, archaeologist, holding one of the small stone catapults.

At least 50 pieces of mostly roughly tooled stone shot were recovered from the excavation. There were three sizes of shot, the largest being 300mm and up to 35Kg (77lbs) the second being 225mm up to 10 Kg (22lb) and the smallest up to 160mm and down to 5kg (11lb) (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 74-75)


Fig 12 – The three sizes of stone catapult.

Fifty five percent of all animal bones found in the gully were of horse with 76 in total being uncovered. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 76) Pottery finds in this gully date to 1265-1350 but that is not necessarily the date of the palisade gully’s construction which could be much earlier. There is a documentary reference to repairs being made to the palisade dating back to 1226. The horse skeletons could date back to even earlier. So, carbon dating would be able to show us if they relate to the siege of 1216 or of 1322 or even another timeframe. (Allen and Stoodley 2010, 94)


Allen D and Stoodley N. 2010. Odiham Castle, Hampshire: Excavation 1981-85 in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society No 62: 23-101

Bradbury, J. 1992 The Medieval Siege, Woodbridge: Boydell Press available at Hampshire Cultural Trust Archaeology Collections Library Accession no. A2009.33.1281 C3

Hamilton-Dyer , S. UD, Animal Bones, Wessex Archaeology paper available online at http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/files/projects/charter_quay/Environmental/animal_bone.pdf

Hull, L. 2006 Britain’s Medieval Castles Westport: Greenwood

Macgregor P 1983. Odiham Castle 1200-1550 Castle and Community, Gloucester: Sutton Publishing Ltd

Steane, J. 1993.The Archaeology of the Medieval English Monarchy, London: Routledge



Fig 1 – Odiham Castle courtesy of David Evans

Fig 2 -12   All photographs and plans courtesy of the Odiham Castle archive held at Hampshire Cultural Trust, Chilcomb House, Winchester. Accession

#Hart Heritage 12 – The archaeology of Yateley Common by Linda Munday

It’s hard to believe that over the last 200 years, the vast majority of heathland in Britain has disappeared. Fortunately, in Hampshire, there has only been a 3% loss in contrast to an 80% loss from the neighbouring counties of Surrey and Dorset. (Nagle 1999, 98) One area of wonderful natural heathland in Hampshire is Yateley Common in Hart. The largest area of heathland outside of the New Forest. Its sandy soil is acidic and lies on a bed of gravelly deposits. This lends itself to a variety of colourful plant life such as heather and gorse but can also lead to waterlogging in places. (HCC 2012, 3)

Sandy Track Yateley Common Alan Hunt

Fig 1 – Sandy path through Yateley Common © Copyright Alan Hunt

Most heathlands carry traces of an ancient past and Yateley is no exception. Areas which are now heathland were populated by people from the Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic era some 8,000-10,000 years ago. (8000BC-6000BC). Then there would have been forests of trees which they would have cut down to create space to herd animals for pasture. (English Nature 2002, 8) Early farmers in the Neolithic would have continued to clear trees to allow them to grow crops. Over time this led to an impoverishment of the soil and the change in the type of plants growing there such as heather and gorse. By the Bronze age, this land became heathland, and a place for burials and the dead (White 2003, 60)

Heather on yateley common

Fig 2 – Heather growing on Yateley Common © Copyright Diane Sambrook

The “most easily identifiable features of heathland” are in fact Bronze age barrows or burial mounds (Darvill, 1987 111) At present there are more than 2500 scheduled ancient monuments on heathland, the majority being standing earthworks such as Bronze Age barrows (Darvill 1987, 115) Yateley has a Mid Bronze Age barrow located close to the Gibralter Barracks and its perimeter fence on the MOD controlled southern side of the common.

Yateley Common itself is cut in two by the busy A30 road which goes from London to Lands End. The southern side is mainly controlled by the Ministry of Defence with the north owned and managed by Hampshire County Council. To the west is Blackbushe airport and to the south east the Combat Engineer School at Gibralter Barracks. (White 2004, 31)

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Fig 3 – Map showing Yateley Common divided by the A30. Red markers show site of Bronze Age Barrow (tumulus) and Gibralter Barracks (Bks) located in MOD land to the south.

The Bronze Age barrow was originally excavated in 1770 by a Mr Norris of Hawley House who unearthed a coarse earthenware urn which went to Hughenden House. There is very little further information about the site other than a portion of the barrow was removed leaving it exposed when a service road for the barracks was built (White 2003, 60)

Bronze age bell barrow by Blackwater lodge

Fig 4 – Bronze Age Bowl Barrow 28 metres wide and 1.5 metres high. by Blackwater Lodge, Gibralter Barracks  © Copyright Carol White

In 1998, aerial photographs of the MOD land were studied by archaeology students at Farnborough College resulting in the discovery of a “ring ditch feature with an outer small bank” just north east of the Bronze age barrow. There was also “an interesting arrangement of cross-linear features comprised of banks and ditches” of varying height depth and construction. (White 2003,61) Yateley Common was used in WW1 as a training area with trenches being dug and also in WW2 glider obstructions were built to stop enemy aircraft landing.

Having a desire to find out more, the MOD were approached and agreed to an excavation of the site by the students of Farnborough College led by archaeologist, Carol White. A small trench was dug from the outer bank of the ring ditch feature into the centre as well as test pits around the ditch. No artefacts were found during the excavation but several small pits were located (White 2003, 61)

cross linear bank and ditch

Fig 5 – Plan showing cross linear bank and ditches on Yateley Common © Copyright Carol White

Ring ditch excation 1998

Fig 6 – Ring ditch trench excavation 1998 © Copyright Carol White

In 2001, following gorse clearance on the site, an opportunity became available to excavate two mounds from the terminals of the cross linear features. Again, students from Farnborough College of Technology with Carol White were involved in digging an east west trench through both banks. What soon became apparent was that the east bank had different phases of construction which contained gravel and topsoil. This can be clearly seen in figure 7. This has been seen on other banks within the military training area. Stems of 17th century clay pipes were also found in the area. Soil samples taken from underneath both banks and other sites on the military landscaped seemed to point to land clearance. (White 2003, 62)

bank stratigraphy

Fig 7 – Excavation of mound between two terminals of bank and ditch feature showing different phases of construction.  © Copyright Carol White

Carol White, continued for many seasons working on Yateley Common doing research for her PHD thesis at the University of Winchester. Teaching archaeology at Farnborough Technology College she always got her students involved in the excavations.

In 2003 test pits were dug by the students around the area where William Boismier had found worked flint and burnt mounds in the 1980’s. The excavation uncovered examples of worked flint from the Mesolithic era located 10-14 centimetres below the surface. In total about 40 pieces of worked flint (flint modified by humans) were found during the excavations. They were made up of cores, blades, microliths and debitage. (White 2004, 32)

To see a variety of Mesolithic stone tools, go to http://www.stoneagetools.co.uk/mesolithic-tools.htm.

The burnt mounds found on his fieldwalking of the heath were interpreted as “a type of Prehistoric sauna consisting of a ditch and small burnt flint mound,” (White 2012) A possible burnt mound had been seen just south of the Hospital Pond near Wyndham’s Pool. So, when the common management team were thinking to dig three drainage ponds nearby, Carol thought this would be a good opportunity to investigate.

Hospital Pond Yateley Common reduced

Fig 8 – The Hospital Pond on Yateley Common where a burnt mound was recorded in the 1980’s. © Copyright Angus Kirk.

Test pits were dug and yielded a number of interesting finds. An in-situ hearth surrounded with bladelets, cores and other material were located at one site with a denticulate scraper also found which could be 40,000 years old.  Two Upper Palaeolithic blades were also found dating to 12,000 years ago which really shows the extent of the prehistoric past on the heathland (White 2012) The burnt mound turned out not to be prehistoric but rather part of a trackway with wooden rafting built in the 18/19th century.

After the storm of 1987 felled a number of trees, rangers uncovered a mound at Castle Bottom nature reserve on the common. Local residents said that this mound was called The Twelve Apostles after 12 pine trees that were planted there. Carol got the opportunity to excavate this mound with students in 2012 and was able to confirm that it was indeed a small bronze age bowl barrow. (Yateley Society 2013)

These finds of Mesolithic flints across Yateley Common has influenced the way Hampshire County Council manage the heathland. The Yateley Common site manager’s report February to May 2004 states that “Carol White’s work on the heath shows that this is an ancient landscape that needs to be protected. So, in future all scraping of the heathland can only be the removal of leaf litter.” This will mean that any further Mesolithic material will not be disturbed (White, 2004,32)

Yateley has certainly had many other Bronze age finds particularly at its gravel pits. To find out more go to:

What lies beneath – Yateley’s hidden cemetaries.


Darvill, T.1987 Ancient Monuments in the Countryside: An archaeological management review: Swindon: English Heritage Publishing

English Nature, 2002 Lowland Heathland, A Cultural and Endangered Landscape Peterborough: Belmont Press Ltd available online at http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/81012 accessed 23 1 18

HCC 2012 North East Hampshire Plantations and Heath, Hampshire County Council integrated character assessment available online at http://www3.hants.gov.uk/1b_north_east_hampshire_plantations_and_heath.pdf accessed 24 1 18

Nagle, G.1999. Britain’s Changing Environment, Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd

White C 2003. Lowland Heath, Landscape Features and Yateley Common, MOD Sanctuary Magazine: 60-62 available online at http://www.yateleysociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/comp_carolw_Lowland_heath_landscape_features_Yateley_Common_C_White_MODpubln_2003_ocr.pdf accessed 18 1 18

White C. 2004 The Mesolithic Hunters of Yateley Common Hampshire Field Club Newsletter No 42: 30-33

White C. 2012 Archaeological Excavations near Wyndham’s Pond during 2012, Yateley Common Countrypark Blog site https://yateleycommoncountrypark.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/2012-archaeological-dig-on-yateley-common/

Yateley Society, 2007. Yateley Society Newsletter June No. 86

Yateley Society Newsletter February 2013 available on line at http://yateley.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/94693958/nls110_2013Feb_newsletter-0213.pdf accessed 23 1 18

Young A. 2008 The Aggregrate landscape of Hampshire: Results of NMP Mapping available online https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/aggregate-landscape-hampshire-nmp/Hampshire_ALSF_NMP_Report_web.pdf/


Fig 1 – Sandy Track, Yateley Common http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4285915 © Copyright Alan Hunt reproduced under creative commons license as per photographic rights shown.

Fig 2 – Heather on Yateley Common © Copyright Diane Sambrook http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/646741 reproduced under creative commons license as per photographic rights shown.

Fig 3 – OS map courtesy of Digimap educational licence.

Fig 4 – Bronze Age Barrow courtesy of Carol White. © Copyright

Fig 5 – Plan of banks and ditches © Copyright Carol White

Fig 6 – Photograph of excavation of bank and ditches 1998 © Copyright Carol White

Fig 7 – Photograph of stratigraphy of bank © Copyright Carol White

Fig 8 – Hospital Pond 2012 © Copyright Angus Kirk https://www.flickr.com/photos/anguskirk/8193067858/in/photostream/ reproduced under creative commons license as per photographic rights shown.


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