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)
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
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)
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.
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Fig 5 – Plan showing cross linear bank and ditches on Yateley Common © Copyright Carol White
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)
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.
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:
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.
“I write as you requested yesterday to say that my most crying help at the beginning of the excavation will be for someone to check the arrival of the hands at 8a.m., to start them off and supervise the work till I have managed to dispose of my household chores and get to the site, probably between 9.30 and 10 a.m”
Extract from letter to Colonel Iremonger from Dorothy Liddell 31/7/1937
Fig 1 – The hired hands standing in some of the numerous pits excavated at Choseley Farm 1937. © Dorothy Liddell archive Hampshire Cultural Trust
The excavation that Dorothy speaks of is at Choseley Farm in Odiham parish, Hampshire. With work commencing on the 16th August 1937, she is keen to get as much help as possible with the dig. She goes on to describe much of the work as “tedious and dull” but also positively adds that there is “far more that is enthralling.” (Liddell 1937a)
Dorothy Liddell, had plenty of experience in archaeology, having excavated the nearby Lodge Farm Roman villa site in 1929. She had then gone on to spend four seasons excavating the Iron age hill fort at Hembury in Devon. Most recently she had been working on Iron age rural settlements at Meon Hill near Stockbridge in Hampshire (Morris 1986, 89) Assisting Dorothy on the Choseley Farm dig was Mary-Eily de Putron and Barbara Laidler. De Putron, took the excavation archive back with her to the Channel Islands and continued working on it after Dorothy Liddell’s death in 1938. (Morris 1986,89)
Choseley Farm had first came to the attention of Miss Liddell after the owner, Mr P Parsons, had discovered black earth and pottery fragments in mole diggings back in 1933. Mr Parsons decided to do his own excavation which yielded a lot of Roman pottery. After a small controlled excavation was carried out by a Mr Young on behalf of Miss Liddell, also in 1933, it was decided to do a more extensive excavation in 1937. (Morris 1986, 91)
Fig 2 – Choseley Farm with its wide-open fields and far reaching views across the countryside
In an article in the Hampshire Observer in 1937, Dorothy explained that the “excavations were not spectacular” with the work commencing from” an absolutely zero point.” She says “there was no great vallum, no walls, no enclosure, no ditch, no visible boundary of any sort and not even a trackway to the site which would serve as a guide. There was further no tradition of any ancient habitation in that part of the country.” As far she was aware, no place name pointed to a village having been on the site. (Liddell 1937b) The wide open nature of the site can be seen in figs 2 and 3.
Fig 3 – View across Choseley Farm, near Odiham 23rd August 2017
In September 1937, Dorothy arranged for members of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society to come and visit the exhibition she had put together at the site. (Liddell 1937b) She told attendees that she had discovered four Roman pit dwellings “definitely covered with a wattle and daub roof or a thatched roof.” Her logic being that “the pits must have been covered or they would not be so sharp-edged.” The sides had worn areas that looked like entrances (Liddell 1937b)
Of course, these were the initial ideas put forward at the time. Liddell equated the pits to being similar to those she had uncovered at the iron age site at Meon Hill near Stockbridge. However, this was a site “somewhat like Meon Hill but complicated by use in Roman times.” (Hawkes 1956, 18)
She thought the finds at the site pointed to at least six centuries of continuous habitation from the iron age (200BC) to the late Roman era in 400A.D. But she acknowledged that it perhaps could stretch back even further, particularly with previous finds of bronze age pottery such as the bronze age cinerary urn found at the farm in 1918. (Liddell 1937b)
Fig 4 – Bronze cinerary urn found at Choseley Farm in 1918
The finds from the excavation
Two main trenches had been dug on site with trench two being the site of a middle iron age beehive pit which contained part of a horse skull as well as bones from cattle and sheep. These are reminiscent of finds at Danebury Iron Age Hill fort and probably represent votive offerings. A second beehive pit is mentioned in a preliminary report but this could not be identified in the archive when it was looked at in 1986. (De Putron and Hawkes 1940, 366) (Morris 1986, 94) This pit also yielded some sherds of iron age and Roman pottery (Morris 1986, 94)
Fig 5 – Drawing showing sections through Middle Iron age beehive shaped pit (Deborah Cunliffe)
The site was also covered with many pits and scoops from the Roman era which contained chalk rubble, mixed soil, personal and domestic goods, fragments of pottery and animal bones. (See fig 1 and fig 6) An interim report of the site was published in 1940 by Liddell’s helper, Mary-Eily De Putron, and archaeologist Christopher Hawkes. In this report the pits were described as Iron age grain storage pits which were subsequently re-used and expanded upon during the Roman occupation. This was given as a reason for no actual building remains being found (De Putron and Hawkes 1940, 368) Reference was also made to the filling up of these pits and finds of Roman brooches and pottery. A secondary chalk floor (which had originally been interpreted by Liddell as the floor of a later house) contained two graves beneath. Nearby , there were also the remains of a flued furnace for parching grain for storage (De Putron and Hawkes 1940, 368)
When the archaeology archive was revisited by Michael Morris in 1986, he concluded that most of these pits were related to chalk quarrying and had later been used to dump rubbish. Far from being pit dwellings, they were considered to show “activity peripheral to a native settlement.” (Morris 1986, 95 and 105) There was also no evidence to suggest continual use with a gap between the Middle Iron age and Roman occupation from the 1st to the 4th century A.D. (Morris 1986, 105)
Fig 6– Excavation of pit at Choseley Farm 1937 © Dorothy Liddell archive
Some items from the Choseley Farm excavation are on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke. The following pictures show examples. Below are two simple Roman bow brooches. The primary function of these brooches was to fasten clothing. Usually made of bronze they were often coated with tin to look like silver. (De la Bedoyere 1989, 120)
Fig 7- Two bow type roman brooches found at Choseley Farm. Photograph © Linda Munday
The Romans loved jewellery and the fashion of wearing finger rings was introduced by them to Britain. They became extremely popular and were made from all types of material from gold to bone and jet. This meant that people from all social levels including the lower classes could afford to have one. (Johns 2012 , 41) Often rings were made to look like silver or gold by guilding or silvering base metals. Bronze iron and tin were also used in such a way as to superficially imitate gold or silver. (Johns 2012, 5)
Fig 8 – Roman ring (copper alloy) found at Choseley farm in 1937. Photograph © Linda Munday
Domestic items were also found like this bone spoon. It’s a medium sized bowl type which occurs throughout the Roman occupation. Spoons were made of either wood, bone, bronze or silver. (De la Bedoyere 1989, 101)
Fig 9 – Bone spoon found at Choseley Farm in 1937 on display at the Willis Museum, Basingstoke Photograph © Linda Munday
Fig 10 – Original drawing of Roman bone spoon 1937 – © Dorothy Liddell archive
Burials on the site
There were also two late Roman graves located on the site. The first grave in trench one was cut too short for the body. It was of an adult female who was buried lying face down. She may have had her hands tied behind her back and been buried alive possibly as a punishment. (Morris 1986, 105)
Fig 11 – Grave 1 – female buried face down (skull removed before picture taken) © Dorothy Liddell archive
The second grave of an adult also contained the remains of four infants. One buried at the feet at a slightly raised level and the other three close by. Iron nails were found in the grave which suggested there may have been a coffin. Both graves had a layer of compacted chalk over the top. (Morris 1986, 97) They were both found on the north wall of the kiln or corn drier. This appears to be a common feature of Roman rural burials where both infants and in some cases adults are buried near to these types of features (Pearce 1999, 101)
Fig 12- Grave 2 showing adult skeleton © Dorothy Liddell archive
Roman coin finds
Thirty Roman coins from the 2nd to the 4th century, were found at the site of Choseley Farm during the dig and are held at Hampshire Cultural Trust in Winchester despite a report in 1986 that they had been mislaid. (Morris 1986, 104.) A report by Dr Reece described the collection as forming “a perfect example of a rural site in Britain occupied in the later third and fourth centuries”
Fig 13 –Majority of the 30 Roman coins found at Choseley farm 1937
De la Bedoyere, G. 1989. The Finds of Roman Britain, London: Batsford Ltd
De Putron M E and Hawkes C. 1940. The Excavations at Choseley Farm, Odiham, 1937, a preliminary note in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society vol. 14 (eds.) 366-
Eyton, J.S.1938, Obituary of Dorothy Liddell, Bird-bone markings on Pottery in The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Jun 01, 1938; pg. 16; Issue 48009.
Hawkes, C. 1956. Hampshire and the British Iron Age 1905-1955 in in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society vol. 20 edited by Mrs W J Carpenter Turner: 14-22
Johns, C. 2012. The Jewellery of Roman Britain, Celtic and Classical Traditions, Abingdon: Routledge
Liddell, D. 1937a. Letter to Colonel Iremonger held in the Dorothy Liddell archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust, Chilcomb House, Winchester. Accession no. A2017.04
Liddell, D. 1937b Hampshire Field Club: Pit Dwellings at Choseley’s Farm described by Miss Dorothy Liddell FSA in Hampshire Observer Saturday September 18th 1937 newspaper cutting available at Hampshire Record Office Reference 92M88/11/24
Morris M. 1986. An Iron age and Romano-British site at Choseley Farm, Odiham: The excavations of Dorothy Liddell, 1937 in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society vol. 42(eds.) 89-108
Pearce, J. 1999 Case studies in a contextual archaeology of burial practice in Roman Britain. University of Durham doctoral thesis available on line as an e-thesis at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/108620.pdf
Fig 1 – The hired hands standing in some of the numerous pits excavated at Choseley Farm 1937. © Dorothy Liddell archive Hampshire Cultural Trust. Accession no. A2017.04
Fig 2 – Choseley Farm photograph 23/ 8/ 17 © Linda Munday
Fig 3 – Choseley Farm photograph 23/ 8/ 17 © Linda Munday
Fig 4 – Bronze cinerary urn found at Choseley Farm in 1918 © Dorothy Liddell archive Accession no. A2017.04
Fig 5 – Sectional drawing by Deborah Cunliffe from Morris M. 1986. An Iron age and Romano-British site at Choseley Farm, Odiham: The excavations of Dorothy Liddell, 1937 in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society vol. 42(eds.) 89-108
Fig 6 – Excavation of pit at Choseley Farm 1937 © Dorothy Liddell archive Accession no. A2017.04
Fig 7- Two bow type roman brooches found at Choseley Farm. Photograph © Linda Munday
Fig 8 – Roman ring found at Choseley farm Photograph © Linda Munday
Fig 9 – Bone spoon found at Choseley Farm in 1937. Photograph © Linda Munday
Fig 10 – Original drawing of Bone spoon found at Choseley Farm in 1937 © Dorothy Liddell archive Accession no. A2017.04
Fig 11 – Grave 1 – female buried face down (skull removed before picture taken) © Dorothy Liddell archive
Fig 12- Grave 2 showing adult skeleton © Dorothy Liddell archive Accession no. A2017.04
Fig 13 – Roman coins found at Choseley farm 1996. Photograph © David Allen Hampshire Cultural Trust. Accession No. HMCMS:N1996.14.0-30
It was whilst planting young fruit trees in an orchard at Lodge Farm, North Warnborough in 1929 that the owner, Mr P Parsons, came across several tiles and pottery sherds. He decided they looked unusual and took them to Mr Willis at the Basingstoke Museum, who identified them as Roman. (Liddell 1930, 225)
Fig 1 – The site of the orchard at Lodge Farm where the Roman tiles and pottery sherds were found. Picture taken just before excavation work was to start. Photo courtesy of the Dorothy Liddell archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust. Copyright Hampshire Cultural Trust.
This came to the attention of Dorothy Liddell, a female archaeologist with no formal training, who had previously done work excavation work at Windmill Hill in Wiltshire. Liddell, had learnt archaeology from her brother-in-law Alexander Keiller, the marmalade magnet who went onto purchase and excavate the prehistoric site of Avebury. (Fox 2000, 67)
She started an excavation at the site in 1929, which was located close to the north bank of the River Whitewater, approximately three miles from its source. There was no Roman highway nearby and it was 8.5 miles north to the nearest large Roman settlement of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) (Liddell 1930, 225)
Fig 2– The River Whitewater at lodge Farm in 1929 with the excavators dining room in the centre!
The excavation uncovered a seven- roomed building which Liddell interpreted as “a small dwelling” which was later “transformed into baths” which she concluded would have an “adjoining villa of some importance” (Liddell 1930, 225)
Fig 3 – Photograph General View looking SE Flue in foreground, Room B behind it. (Note burnt patch on white chalk floor) DL Archive Photograph by Graham and Polden Limited ( Source HFC Vol 10 )
Roman dwellings are usually thought of as being in towns and cities but the majority of Romans, an estimated 90 per cent, did in fact live rurally. Anyone walking along a Roman road in Britain would have come across people living and working everywhere in the countryside. (Millett 2016, 700)
Dorothy Liddell produced excellent plans and drawings of the site. Below is the plan of the Roman bath house converted from a dwelling.
Fig 4 – Plan of Roman building at Lodge Farm from Dorothy Liddell archive
Areas within the house are numbered A-J. Section A – Originally thought to be the main entrance of the house, this now houses the flue where smoke from the hypocaust or heating system would escape. Sitting behind this in Room B is the fuel store and stoke hole for the furnace. Originally it was a long oblong shaped hall in the Roman house. The furnace is located in section C. This is where the fire was located that provided the underfloor heating for the baths. (Liddell 1930, 226)
Rooms D and F were thought to have originally been a kitchen as there was a well situated between them. They were now the site of the caldarium (heated chambers) and the plunge bath. This can be clearly seen in the picture below. There are stacks of pilae or fire bricks used to support the floor under which heat could circulate. Behind the well is Room F (shown to the right on fig ) where the plunge bath would be located with the well being a possible overspill area. There is a small Room E to the side of these. (Liddell 1930, 227)
Fig 5– Rooms D (left of well) showing hypocaust and F(to the right of well) showing plunge bath; Room G the lavatorium is where the tree trunk and tessellated pavement are located.
Room G is the lavatorium or washing room which has a drain running from it. Within Room G there is also an area containing a tree stump which is unexcavated and surrounded by a tessellated pavement. This can be seen in more detail in fig 6. Rooms H and J are dressing rooms. Room J having a pink floor. (Liddell 1930, 228)
Fig 6 -Tessellated pavement in room G larger tiles on the right Room F behind. Dorothy Liddell Archive
Almost all Roman style rural houses have been attributed with the Latin name villa, meaning country house. There are about 2000 villa sites, mainly distributed over the southern and eastern areas of England. Lodge Farm being one of these. The villa sites, however, represent just one percent of known Roman rural sites. (Millett 2016, 703)
Apart from Roman pottery sherds a number of interesting artefacts were found on the site. This is the base of a fumed clay pot which clearly has the sign of a an ancient pagan symbol, the swastika, (Liddell 1930, 229)
Fig 7 – Base of fumed clay pot showing swastika on display at The Willis Museum
There was also a piece of tile with an interesting inscription which has yet to be deciphered. The original exhibition card from the excavation site (fig 10 ) sums up the views of Dorothy Liddell about this artefact.
Fig 8 – Roman tile with undecipherable writing found at Lodge Farm 1929
Fig 9 – Drawing from Dorothy Liddell archive showing copy of the inscription on the tile
Fig 10 – original site exhibition card about the tile with the inscription.
In 1930 excavations continued on the site with the discovery of another building 120 feet by 63 feet. Liddell thought this to have been used for “domestic servants or farmhands.”) It comprised of several rooms and appeared to have had a hypocaust or underground heating system. (Liddell 1930, 231) Room L1,2,3 and 4 can be seen in the foreground in fig ?. These were thought to be set outside the main house and be byres or stables.
Fig 11 – Looking NE over the house Rooms L1,2,3 and 4 in foreground Photograph Gale and Polden Ltd.
This house yielded a whole range of interesting Roman artefacts including pottery sherds, seventy one Roman coins( mainly from the 4th century), a spindle whorl, bone comb (shown below in fig ) and ironmongery.
Fig 12 – Bone comb found in the aisled house on display at The Willis Museum in Basingstoke
A piece of roof tile was also discovered with the tell- tale imprint of a hob nailed shoe or boot. Someone had no doubt stepped onto it in the tile yard before it was dry! This can be seen in fig 13 below.
Fig 13 – Clay tile with the impression of a hobnailed book or sandal found at courtyard villa site Lodge Farm North Warnborough 1929-1931
A study has taken place of the artefacts found in this aisled building at Lodge farm. Items of male and female use are not spread evenly which has led some to believe there was a division of the sexes on the site. (Perring 2009, 209) Liddell herself noted how feminine objects such as combs, shuttles and spindle whorls were found in certain parts of the building whilst masculine objects such as spears, padlocks and knives were clustered elsewhere (Liddell 1930, 235-6)
However, there are difficulties with assuming a division of the sexes within the building, as most artefacts were found in middens or rubbish pits and were therefore not in their original setting. (Perring 2009, 12) The rubbish was associated more with its abandonment than use. So, it may just point to there being a large workshop with other domestic rooms in the building. (Perring 2009, 209)
Fox, A .2000 Aileen: A pioneering archaeologist, Leominster; Gracewing Publishing
Liddell, D. 1930 Roman House at Lodge Farm, North Warnborough in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club Volume 10 (ed.) 225-236
Millett, M. 2016. By Small things revealed, Rural settlement and society in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain (eds.) Millet M, Revell L and Moore A, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Perring, D. 2009. The Roman House in Britain, Abingdon: Routledge
Fig 1 – The site of the orchard at Lodge Farm where the Roman tiles and pottery sherds were found. Picture taken just before excavation work was to start. Photo courtesy of the Dorothy Liddell archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust. Copyright Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Fig 2– The River Whitewater at lodge Farm in 1929 with the excavators dining room in the centre! Dorothy Liddell Archive Photograph by Graham and Polden Limited
Fig 3 – Photograph General View looking SE Flue in foreground, Room B behind it. (Note burnt patch on white chalk floor) Dorothy Liddell Archive Photograph by Graham and Polden Limited
Fig 4 – Plan of Roman building at Lodge Farm from Dorothy Liddell archive
Fig 5– Rooms D (left of well) showing hypocaust and F(to the right of well) showing plunge bath Room G the lavatorium is where the tree trunk and tessellated pavement photo by Gale and Polden Aldershot Dorothy Liddell archive Accession No. A2017.4
Fig 6 – Tesselated pavement in room G larger tiles on the right Room F behind. Dorothy Liddell Archive Accession number A2017.04
Fig 7 – Base of fumed clay pot showing swastika on display at The Willis Museum. Accession No. BWM:1965:1165 Photograph Linda Munday
Fig 8 – Roman tile with undecipherable writing found at Lodge Farm 1929. On display at Willis Museum, Basingstoke Accession no. HMCMS:BWM1965.1156
Fig 9 – Drawing from Dorothy Liddell archive showing copy of the inscription on the tile. Accession A2017.04
Fig 10 – original exhibition card about the tile with the inscription.
Fig 11 – Looking NE over the house Rooms L1,2,3 and 4 in foreground Photograph Gale and Polden Ltd.
Fig 12 – Bone comb found in the aisled house on display at The Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Accession no. HMCMS:BWM1965.1156
Fig 13 – Clay tile with the impression of a hobnailed book or sandal found at courtyard villa site Lodge Farm North Warnborough 1929-1931. Held at Hampshire Cultural Trust Archaeology Collections, Chilcomb House, Winchester Accession No. HMCMS:BWM1965.1156.3
Stonehenge and Woodhenge are well known examples of Neolithic circular monuments made of stone and wood respectively. However, another type of prehistoric circle exists called a pit circle. Generally found from the middle to late Neolithic and early Bronze age, pit circles are arcs or rings of “shallow but fairly regular oval scoops” which often contain carefully selected deposits. (Darvill 2009)
The diameter of these circles is usually under 20 metres. So, when a Middle Bronze Age pit circle with a diameter of 42 metres was uncovered during an excavation at a housing development site in Fleet in 2007/8, it was considered a rarity. Especially as this part of Hampshire is not known for its archaeological sites. (Pine 2016,1)
There are only 60 timber and pit circles recorded in England. Unfortunately, very little is actually known about pit circles with classification of the various types not yet undertaken. (Historic England 2011,2)
Fig 1 – Site of Bronze Age Pit Circle at Hitches Farm before area transformed into housing development.
Fig 2 – Picture showing the large size (42m diameter) of the Bronze Age pit circle at Hitches Lane, Fleet.
The excavation site at Hitches Lane was large with 231 trenches dug. 150 individual features were identified with approximately 20 being prehistoric and 20 Roman. The rest were medieval or modern. (Pine 2016, 2) For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on the Bronze Age finds of a pit circle and field system although it is important to note that evidence of “a substantial 2nd-century Roman rectangular timber-framed building set within a system of fields and paddocks” was also found on the site.
The pit circle consisted of 29 pits, many containing deposits of burnt flint. Each pit varied in depth from 10cm to 50cm. This may be due to damage by ploughing but also the construction of a late post medieval ditch. (Pine 2016, 14 -16) It appeared that the flint had not been deposited to hold up timber posts. Most pits were too shallow and wide to hold posts, except for one. (Pine 2016, 16) Some pits contained unburnt flint as well as pieces of Bronze Age pottery. One of these contained four flint flakes and a flaked flint axe. Wood charcoal of oak, alder and hazel were also found in some of the pits with one containing a single grain of barley (pit 702 see fig 5). The distribution of these finds can be seen in figure 3.
Fig 3 – Plan of pit circles showing the distribution of finds. Small arc of pits inside main circle also shown.
Radio carbon dating from pit number 725 dates the pit circle to 1494-1395BC placing it in the Middle Bronze Age. Pit circles with diameters over 20 metres are usually a feature of the late Neolithic. So, to have one of 42 metres dated to the Middle Bronze Age is possibly unique. Later Bronze Age pit circles tend to be half this size and have multiple rings. (Pine 2016, 36) However, an arc of four pits with a diameter of 4 metres within the main circle could be the remains of a smaller inner pit circle. Of course, it could just be the remains of a round house as it does not lie in the centre of the main pit circle but 5 metres to the south. Burnt flint and sherds of Bronze age pottery were found in the pits (Pine 2016, 14-16) See fig 3 pits 718-721.
Fig 4 – Pit 701 containing pieces of burnt flint in situ.
Fig 5 – Pit 702 which yielded the largest amount of burnt flint – 13.5 kilos and one grain of barley!
Fig 6 – Pit 726 in the process of excavation
Fig 7 – Pit no 728 under excavation. This pit yielded 786g of burnt flint.
A flaked flint axe made from grey flint with the butt end missing was found in pit number 703. It can be viewed in fig 8.2. It appeared to have been broken and also had a large lump on the side. Its not known whether the axe broke before it was used or whether the inability to remove the lump meant it was discarded. Again, this is an unusual find on a Middle Bronze Age site. If in use during this time the flint axe would certainly extend the chronology of lithic core tools (tools made from rocks or stone) Of course it could also have been a tool that had been passed down through time and deliberately placed as an offering in the pit. (Pine 2016, 23)
Fig 8 – 1: Flint scraper recovered from Middle Bronze Age urn. 2: Broken flake flint axe found in pit 703. 3: Broken flint knife found just outside pit circle.
Ritual and ceremony were very much part of life in prehistory. Making votive deposits in the earth or gifts to the gods is known from the Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic onwards. In the Bronze Age votives were frequently placed in holes in the ground, under stones or rocks and in caves. (Mackintosh 2009, 258)
Other deposits of flint and bronze age pottery were found in gullies on the site. The gullies were interpreted as a bronze age field system. They formed a rectilinear pattern and were positioned south of the pit circle. A flint scraper was found in a Middle Bronze Age urn found in one of the gullies. (Fig 8:1) and a broken flint knife was recovered from an excavation trench just outside the pit circle. (Fig 8:3 and Fig 3) (Pine 2016, 10)
The conclusion come to by archaeologists is that Hitches Lane is a non-typical Middle Bronze Age site. The large pit circle along with gullies forming a rectilinear enclosure is an unusual feature for the era. It is difficult to place this site in a wider context due to a lack of comparable sites. This is truly a unique find in Hart. (Pine 2016, 35-36)
Darvill, T 2009; The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology, 2 ed Oxford: Oxford University Press available online Oxford Reference. Retrieved 24 Jan. 2018, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100329121..
Pine, J. 2016 A Middle Bronze Age Pit Circle and Field System and Roman settlement at Hitches Lane, Reading: Thames Valley Archaeological Services available online at http://tvas.co.uk/reports/pdf/OccasPap12onlineversion.pdf accessed 2/8/2017
Historic England, 2011. Prehistoric Henges and Circles available online at https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/iha-prehistoric-henges-circles/prehistorichengesandcircles.pdf/ accessed 23/1/2018
Mackintosh, J. 2009 Handbook to Life in Prehistoric Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Figs 1 – 8 All photographs and plans courtesy of Thames Valley Archaeological Services. With many thanks to Anna Ginger from TVAS archives.
A Finds and Memorabilia day focusing on local Roman finds in Hook, Hampshire was held on the 10th June 2017, at Hook community centre. The event staged by the Hook Local History Group, was part of a local heritage project funded by the National Lottery. The project’s aim being to digitise the group’s history archives and make them more widely available to the local community. (Hook local history group 2017, 21)
Fig 1 -Hook Local History Group – Finds and Memorabilia Day 10th June 2017 at Hook Community Centre.
Fig 2 – Roman artefacts on display from Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Archaeology collection.
Fig 3 – An example of a roman tegulae (tile) showing roof construction
Fig 4 – A roman coin found in Ravenscroft, Hook in 1986
A number of artefacts were on display including Roman pottery and tile finds from the area and a Roman coin discovered in a garden in Ravenscroft Hook in 1986. Although in poor condition,. It was taken to Andover museum for identification where it was thought to be 1st or 2nd century A.D. (Wilsdon UD, 7) A similar looking coin with Roman temple can be seen in fig 5. This coin is from the reign of Antoninus Pius who was emperor from 138 to 161A.D.
Fig 5 – Coin from the reign of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius 138-161 A.D.
Local school teacher, Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) took the lead in setting up the Hook History Group in 1987. She had initially become interested in Hook’s Roman past when she came across information about a find of Roman tesserae, tiles and pottery (including Samian ware) on a public footpath in Hook in 1952. (Willis 1952, 61) This was reported in the Hampshire Field Club proceedings of the same year. The footpath in question was one that ran “east from Hook crossroads to Holt via Bell pond.” (Willis 1952, 61) See fig 12 which shows location on a map.
Glynis lived on the Bell Meadow estate near to the original Bell pond site and contacted the Hampshire Museum service to make further enquiries (Wilsdon UD, 2) The Museum Service were able to inform Glynis that the Roman finds were mainly sherds of Alice Holt coarse ware of the 3rd and 4th century A.D. which included “the rims of a bowl, a dish and a jar and part of a cheese press”. (Wilsdon UD, 2) No further investigation of the site had taken place and in 1963 the pond was filled in and the field turned into a housing development.
The site where the initial finds of Roman pottery were reported in 1952 is now number 10 Church View. The owner, a Mr Pugh had, found a lot of Roman roof tiles and pottery sherds in his garden which led in 1970 to a trial excavation taking place. Archaeologists, Graham Cole, Graham Huxley and Martin Millett, concluded that there was a Roman building on the site dating from the 1st and 2nd century A.D. ( Wilsdon UD, 2)
In 1989 another excavation took place on the site as footings were being dug for an extension. The archaeologists then were Martin Morris from Basingstoke Archaeological Society and Geoff Hoare from North East Hants History and Archaeological Society (NEHHAS) It was thought at the time that a layer of flint could be the footings of a Roman wall but further excavation did not take place. (Wilsdon UD, 6)
Fig 6 – Plan showing 1970 excavation trench along with excavation of footings in 1989 for house extension.
As the pictures in figs 7-11 show, the layers of the trench clearly contained Roman tile fragments and rubble. (Wilsdon UD, 6)
Fig 7 – Extension footings trench at 10 Church View 1989
Fig 8 – Extension trench showing layers of Roman tile 1989
Fig 9 – Archaeologist, Geoff Hoare at the excavation at 10 Church View 1989
Fig 10 – layers in the trench clearly visible at 10 Church View 1989
Fig 11 – Corresponding drawing of the photograph in fig 10 showing different layers in the earth.
Living nearby at 8 St Johns Close, Glynis had also found, during the 1980’s, a lot of Roman pottery sherds in her own garden. A total of 100 sherds were recovered. However, she only discovered them in the topsoil. If she dug deeper to a depth of 3 feet nothing was to be found. (Wilsdon UD, 4) Investigations by Glynis concluded that the topsoil had been removed from the Bell Pond site when the housing development began in 1963. It was dumped in what is now Bandhall Place before being redistributed after completion amongst the gardens in Church View and St John’s Close (Wilsdon UD, 4) Now it made sense as to why so many of her neighbours were also finding Roman pottery and tiles in their gardens.
Fig 12 – Map produced in 1980’s by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray)( showing location of Roman finds on Bell Meadow Estate
Below are some examples of Roman pottery from Glynis Wilsdon’s (now Dray) garden which are held at Hampshire Cultural Trust archaeology collections in Winchester. Their accession number is A1990.17 to A1990.17.11.
Fig 13 -Decorated coarse ware found in Glynis Wilsdon’s (now Dray) garden in Hook
Fig 14 – Drawing in 1980’s by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) of decorated coarse ware found in 1987 shown in fig 13 above
Coarse ware was the most prevalent type of Roman pottery used for cooking vessels. It makes up more than seventy five percent of all Roman pottery finds in Britain. Local production of coarse ware took place at Alice Holt near Farnham (De la Bedoyere 1989, 93) Finding a lot of this type of pottery suggests that Hook had a Roman settlement.
Fig 15 – Piece of mortarium found in Glynis Wilsdons’ (now Dray) garden in Hook
Mortaria were mixing bowls which were used for grinding food. They were usually small and had “internal gritting” to help with grinding. (De la Bedoyere 1989, 96) These pieces of grit can be clearly seen in fig 15.
Roman sites nearby
Of course, it is not surprising that Hook had a Roman past with the known Roman sites of Choseley Farm and Lodge Farm in Odiham being so close by. These were both excavated by Dorothy Liddell in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
More articles will follow on Lodge Farm and Choseley Farm.. So watch out for them!
De la Bedoyere, G. 1989. The Finds of Roman Britain, London: Batsford Ltd
Hook Local History Group, 2017. Hook Local History Group Celebrates its 30th anniversary year in style. Hook Focus, The Hook Village Magazine, June edition: 19-22
Varley, T. 2013. Hampshire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Willis G W. 1952. Two New Roman Sites Near Basingstoke, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club Volume 18: 61
Wilsdon, D. ud (1980’s) The Romans in Hook, NE Hampshire, Pamphlet :1-8 held at Hampshire Record Office reference TOP166/1/9 copyright held by D Wilsdon (Dray)
Fig 1 – Hook Local History Group – Finds and Memorabilia Day 10th June 2017 at Hook Community Centre (Photograph courtesy of www.facebook.com/MemoriesofHookinHampshire)
Fig 2 – Roman artefacts on display from Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Archaeology collection photograph Linda Munday
Fig 3 – An example of a roman tegulae (tile) showing roof construction. Photograph Linda Munday
Fig 4 – A roman coin found in Ravenscroft, Hook in 1986 photograph Linda Munday
Fig 5 – Coin from the reign of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius 138-161 A.D. courtesy Wildwinds.com
Fig 6 – Plan showing 1970 excavation trench along with excavation of footings in 1989 for house extension .Excerpt from The Romans in Hook by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray)
Fig 7 – Extension footings trench at 10 Church View 1989 – photo held in Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust Accession No. A1990.17 to A1990.17.11
Fig 8 – Extension trench showing layers of Roman tile 1989 photo held in Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust Accession No. A1990.17 to A1990.17.11
Fig 9 – Geoff Hoare at the excavation at 10 Church View 1989 photo held in Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust Accession No. A1990.17 to A1990.17.11
Fig 10 – layers in the trench clearly visible at 10 Church View 1989 photo held in Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust Accession No. A1990.17 to A1990.17.11
Fig 11 – Corresponding drawing of the photograph in fig 10 showing different layers in the earth. Excerpt from The Romans in Hook by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray)
Fig 12 – Map produced in 1980’s by Glynis Wilsdon showing location of Roman finds on Bell Meadow Estate. Excerpt from The Romans in Hook by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray)
Fig 13 -Decorated coarse ware found in Glynis Wilsdon’s (now Dray) garden in Hook photograph Linda Munday
Fig 14 – Drawing in 1980’s by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray) of decorated coarse ware found in 1987 shown in fig 13 above. Excerpt from The Romans in Hook by Glynis Wilsdon (now Dray)
Fig 15 – Piece of mortarium found in Glynis Wilsdons’ (now Dray) garden in Hook photo by Linda Munday.
The parish of Yateley in north Hampshire, is renowned for its natural resource of gravel. However, what is less well known is the prehistoric past hidden beneath the surface.
Fig 1 – Gravel extraction at Yateley CEMEX site
On May 23rd 1917, Mr John Pakenham Stilwell of Yateley wrote to the curator at Winchester Museum to find out if they would accept a “British funeral urn and bones” which he dug up in one of his fields whilst gardening. He described the urn as being of “very early date” and not having been “turned on a wheel.” (Stilwell 1917a)
He continued in a following letter on 30th May 1917 to explain that he was planting fruit trees on arable land known as Round Close when he came across the urn and its contents. They were discovered about 18 to 24 inches (600mm) from the surface where the soil was “a sandy gravel geologically described as Bagshot Sand.”
He concluded by saying “there was nothing of the kind found near the urn burial and no barrow nearer than that on Yateley Common on the Minley border of the parish, a mile away.” (Stilwell 1917b)
Fig 2 – Remains of Bronze Age bucket urn found at Round Close 1917 by J P Stilwell
The cinerary urn, resembling “a large Stilton cheese in shape and appearance.” (Stilwell UD, 8) was examined by archaeologist Stuart Piggott, who gave the dimensions of the base as eight and a quarter inches with just six inches of the sides remaining. The top of the urn was missing and he put this down to it being buried upright and subsequently damaged by ploughing (Piggott 1928, 71)
Fig 3 – Close up of label on cinerary urn presented by J P Stilwell 1917.
Stilwell came to live in Yateley in 1871. A successful banker, he had an interest in heritage and conservation, becoming a member of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society. (HFC 1904, ix). His then wife, Georgina Stevens, had inherited the large house called Hillfield and the family became one of the most prominent in Yateley during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Unfortunately, Hillfield House burnt down and was completely rebuilt, becoming known as Yateley Place. (Conservation Studio 2011, 3.2). That house too, no longer exists, being demolished in 1973 to make way for a housing estate. (Kerslake 1995, 5) The only remains visible of the original site is Skaters pond, formerly Hillfield pond, which lies on the east side of Cricket Hill. The pond used to be in the garden of Hillfield House.(Conservation Studio 2011, 3:2) and can be clearly seen as the Fish Pond in Fig 4 below:
Fig 4 -Map 1932 showing Yateley Place (formerly Hillfield) and Round Close with the site of the Bronze Age cinerary urn find of 1917. The gravel pit adjacent is marked to show where Bronze Age pottery was found in 1927 by Mr J P Stilwell.
John Stilwell continued to find more Bronze Age cremation pottery on his land. In 1927 a gravel pit, owned by him, to the west of Hillfield House yielded several pieces, the best preserved being a small vessel, probably for food, which was originally described as a small vase. Whilst it was common in the Middle Bronze Age for simple cremations to have no grave goods save the pot containing the ashes, we know on occasion a small Food Vessel might be present, which seems to be the case here (Spoilheap, 2017) Groups of cremations were placed in small cemeteries close to settlements. (Parker-Pearson 1999, 90) So we know there would have been a Bronze Age community living nearby.
The original museum exhibition label describing the finds is shown below.
Fig 5 – Winchester Museum label from 1928 for Bronze Age finds from Yateley
Fig 6 – Small Bronze Age pottery vessel found at Yateley gravel pit in 1927. Small pieces of flint grits can clearly be seen on the outside.
Fig 7 – Side view of the Bronze Age pottery vessel shown in Fig 6
There are also a number of sherds from a Bronze Age Collared Cinerary Urn which clearly shows its cord pattern. Stuart Piggott identified it as coarse gritted ware, brick red to black in colour with a probable diameter of 15 inches. (Piggott 1928, 71) Collared Urns are unique to the British Isles and not found anywhere on the Continent (Parker-Pearson 1999, 82) They were used for domestic as well as funerary purposes but it is still not fully known why the collar design originated. One idea is that it may have made it easier to secure an organic covering over the top whilst affixing it underneath the base. (Longworth 1984, 6)
Fig 8– Pieces of a Collared Cinerary Urn found at Yateley gravel pit 1927
Fig 9 -An example of a complete Bronze Age Collared Urn with similar pattern found at Wilsford in Wiltshire
The 1920s saw a number of other cremation finds at Yateley gravel pits. The Romano-British/Late Iron Age vessels shown below were found at a gravel pit owned by Mr J Patterson in Darby Green just east of Yateley. They became part of an exhibition at Reading Museum in 1928, along with Bronze Age cremation finds from the Moor Place gravel pit in Yateley.
Fig 10– Romano-British/Late Iron Age pottery vessels found at a gravel pit Darby Green in the 1920s ((c) Berkshire Archaeology Society)
Vessel 1 was found about two feet from the surface in 1928. It appears to have contained the cremated remains of an adult. Item 2 is a completely intact cinerary urn made of thin ware which would have contained the remains of a child. Items 3 and 4 are the partial remains of tazza form, tazza being the Italian for a shallow bowl on a mount. Item 5 is part of a cup of brownish-red ware with item 6 likely to be the lid of a cinerary urn. (Piggott 1928, 72-73)
The Ash-hole Field at Moulsham
Fig 11 – Map of Yateley (1932) showing Moor Place Farm in Moulsham along with the gravel pit
The most prolific quantity of cremation finds were made at the gravel pit at Moor Place Farm, Moulsham. Locally known as the Ash-hole field and subsequently the Urnfield, it all started on 22nd February 1926 when workmen opening up a new hole in the gravel pit came across three Bronze Age cinerary urns. Unfortunately, they were broken into pieces by their picks and thrown back into the gravel heap. A long piece of wood was also discovered which crumbled upon contact with the air. (Stilwell 1926, 83)) Mr English, who owned the pit, saw the urn sherds and took them to Reading Museum for identification. They were classifed as being of the Bronze Age from 1000-500BC.
Mr English kept three of the fragments; two were of ordinary grey earthenware, but the third was of a brown colour with a smoother surface with traces of indentation about two inches below the lip which formed a rough ornamentation. (Stilwell 1926, 83)
Examined in 1928 by archaeologist Stuart Piggott, the brown colour earthenware was described as more reddish. He interpreted this find as a late Bronze Age bucket urn. However, he acknowledged that it was also very like an early Iron Age Hallstatt type where bronze was still in use during a cross over period before iron became widespread. Piggott dated it to 700-600BC (Piggott 1928, 69)
N.B. These types of bucket urns are currently thought to be Middle Bronze Age and are now dated at 1700BC-1150BC. So, they could be more than 450 years older than first thought.
Fig 12 -The Urnfield site as seen from the end of Coombe Road. Looking towards the former site of Moor Place farm and the gravel pit.
The same workmen also came across a ‘domed underground cavity’ about four feet high, approached by three tunnels from different directions. There was a tree trunk on the floor. This may have been a burial place or dwelling. The workmen kept their spades and picks in the cavity! – then it was destroyed in order to extract gravel. (Stilwell 1926, 83)
Discoveries continued to be made by workmen digging at the pit. In December 1927 an artificial pit with burnt ashes was found. Unfortunately, the workmen dug right through it. They also found two pieces of the upper part of an urn and a few plain sherds (Piggott 1928, 70). In 1928, the base of very large cinerary urn was found, made of coarse pottery, and nearly 12 inches in diameter. Other pieces may have been there too, but were probably discarded or broken up by workmen. (Piggott 1928, 70)
From 1928 to 1936 a further 30 Late Bronze Age bucket urns were discovered during gravel extraction on this site and the opposite side of the road. There is also evidence for a settlement in the area with loom weights and Roman pottery being found(HCC 1996, 6)
The Urnfield Excavation
Local residents and councillors for many years have fought against housing development on this piece of land. However, in October 2017, following a successful planning application by Bellway Homes to build 150 dwellings, Cotswold Archaeology began an archaeological evaluation of the land.
With so many prehistoric finds having been made in the past, it was expected that this dig could prove to be very fruitful. Forty-one trenches were dug, each 30m long and 1.8m wide. However, the former gravel pit was not part of the excavation.
The outcome was very disappointing with only one sherd of probable prehistoric pottery found and a few pieces of discarded burnt flint. It is interesting to note that “The majority of the archaeological evidence from the evaluation consisted of ditches, pits and postholes from which no dating evidence was recovered. Where dating evidence was recovered it dated to the medieval period.” (25)
Conservation Studio, 2011. Cricket Hill Conservation area character appraisal and management proposal available online at https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2_Businesses/Planning_for_businesses/Conservation_and_listed_buildings/Cricket%20Hill.pdf
HCC, 1996. An Archaeological assessment of Land at Yateley Hampshire Hampshire County Council Countryside Planning and Management publication held at Historic Environment Record
HFC, 1904. Hampshire Field Club Members list available online at http://www.hantsfieldclub.org.uk/publications/hampshirestudies/digital/1900s/Vol_5/Prelims&other_pt1.pdf: 1-14
Kennedy, R 2017. Land off Moulsham Lane, Yateley, Archaeological Evaluation, Cotswold Archaeology report available online at www.yateleysociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Archaeological-WIS.pdf accessed 5/1/2018
Kerslake, V. 1995. Stilwelliana, The Yateley Society Newsletter, June, No 59: 5-6
Longworth, I. 1984. Collared Urns: Of the Bronze Age in Great Britain and Ireland (Gulbenkian Archaeological Series), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Parker-Pearson, M.1999. The Earlier Bronze Age in The Archaeology of Britain: An Introduction from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Industrial Revolution (eds.) John Hunter and Ian Ralston, London: Routledge
Piggott, S. 1928. Bronze Age and late Celtic burials from Yateley Hants. Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeol Journ 32: 69-73 available online from Archaeology Data Service at http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-787-1/dissemination/pdf/BAJ032_PDFs/BAJ032_A10_piggott.pdf
Spoilheap Archaeology. 2017. Introduction to burial archaeology, Spoilheap archaeology http://www.spoilheap.co.uk/burial.htm accessed 5/12/2018
Stilwell, G H. UD The History of Yateley, C T Hunt Ltd: Crowthorne
Stilwell, G H. 1926. Find of Ancient Pottery at Yateley in Hants Field Club Proceedings (ed.) Volume 10 Southampton: Gilbert and Son
Stilwell, J.P. 1917a Letter 23/5/17 to Winchester Museum held in Hampshire Cultural Trust Winchester City Collections archive at Chilcomb House Winchester. Accession No. WINCM.ARCH 33.00.1-5 and 33.00.2
Stilwell, J.P. 1917b Letter 30/5/17 to Sir Thomas Holt at the Guildhall Winchester held in Hampshire Cultural Trust Winchester City Collections archive at Chilcomb House Winchester. Accession No. WINCM.ARCH 33.00.1-5 and 33.00.2
Fig 1 – Yateley gravel works (CEMEX site) Diane Sambrook reproduced under creative commons licence available on line at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yateley_gravel_works.jpg accessed 5/1/2018
Fig 2 – Remains of bronze age bucket urn found at Round Close 1917 by J P Stilwell photo copyright L Munday- Hampshire Cultural Trust Accession No. WINCM: ARCH 33:00:2
Fig 3 – Close up of label on bronze age bucket urn photo copyright Linda Munday – Hampshire Cultural Trust Accession No.WINCM:ARCH 33:00:2
Fig 4 – Ordnance survey six- inch Berkshire XLIX.NE (includes: Hawley; Sandhurst; Yateley.) Revised: 1930 Published: 1932 online http://maps.nls.uk/view/97793608 accessed 31/12/2017
Fig 5 – Winchester Museum label from 1928 for bronze age finds from Yateley photo copyright Linda Munday – held in Winchester collections archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust, Chilcomb House, Winchester Accession No. WINCM: ARCH 33.00.1
Fig 6 – Small bronze age pottery vessel found at Yateley gravel pit in 1927. Photo copyright Linda Munday Hampshire Cultural Trust accession no. WINCM: ARCH 33.00.1. 1-5
Fig 7 – Side view of the bronze age pottery vessel shown in fig 6. Photo copyright Linda Munday Hampshire Cultural Trust accession no. WINCM: ARCH 33.00.1. 1-5
Fig 8– Pieces of a collared cinerary urn found at Yateley gravel pit 1927 photo copyright Linda Munday Hampshire Cultural Trust accession no. WINCM: ARCH 33.00.1. 1-5
Fig 9 -An example of a complete bronze age collared urn with similar pattern found at Wilsford in Wiltshire picture http://greywolf.druidry.co.uk/2015/03/bronze-age-clay-drums/ accessed 5/1/2018
Fig 10– Romano-British/Late iron age Pottery vessels found at a gravel pit Darby Green in the 1920’s (Copyright Berkshire Archaeology Society) accessed via Piggott, S. 1928. Bronze age and late Celtic burials from Yateley Hants. Berkshire, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal No.32: 69-73 available online from Archaeology Data Service at http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-787-1/dissemination/pdf/BAJ032_PDFs/BAJ032_A10_piggott.pdf
Fig 11 – Berkshire XLV1.SE(includes Crowthorne; Finchampstead; Sandhurst; Wokingham without; Yateley.) Revised:1930 Published 1933. OS Six—inch England and Wales http://maps.nls.uk/view/97793404 accessed online 8/1/2018
Fig 12 -The Urnfield site as seen from the end of Coombe Road. Looking towards the former site of Moor Place farm and the gravel pit courtesy of google maps.