The North Hampshire Young Archaeologists Club meets at Andover Museum about once a month and for their June meeting decided to look at some local excavations, the location of which could be seen from the room where they meet!
Just across the road in Church Close, a peg-tile hearth and other features were found in 1990, when a new church hall was constructed, and just down the road, in the same year, a number of extra-churchyard burials came to light when St Mary’s medical centre was built. The latter have yet to be ‘written up’ but one theory is that they date from the time of King John, when his differences with Pope Innocent III led to five years without services taking place on consecrated ground. Perhaps more likely is that the churchyard once extended further in this direction and the graves were ‘left outside’ when the substantial boundary wall was built.
Leaving these two comparatively recent areas of exploration behind, the Club made its way to Newbury Street – about 150m further on. Here, in September 1973, the Andover Archaeological Society made the most of an opportunity which presented itself when the road was widened to allow lorries to turn into the service area behind the High Street. For a few days an area of house foundations, pits and latrines was available for excavation and the volunteers set to work. This location was, in the mid-15th century, at the very centre of Andover with the brand new Angel Inn taking pride of place. It was in later centuries, with the construction of the Guildhall, that the main focus of the town shifted further south.
In 1973 the diggers found evidence of occupation from the 12th century onwards, in the form of small tenements with yards containing pits and wells. Four latrine pits were noted and one was excavated in full, producing a large quantity of late 12th and early 13th century pottery. During the 16th century, redevelopment took place and cellars were dug, removing much of the earlier evidence. In later years the town’s first grammar school was built in the vicinity, undergoing a number of changes before moving to new premises (now the museum). Part of the foundations of the 1773 rebuild of the school was found during the dig. Its demolition, in 1847, tied in with the construction of the new church, as its removal allowed a better view of the edifice from the house occupied by Dr William Goddard and Miss Martha Gale, who financed the new St Mary’s.
After paying homage to the volunteer diggers of 42 years ago (many of whom would have qualified as Young Archaeologists!) and admiring the half-timbered aspects of The Angel and Hair by John, another of Andover’s medieval survivors, the Club returned to the museum to look at the finds. The archive ‘health check’ involved replacing old paper bags with new plastic ones and checking the contents descriptions, as well as learning about the different types of pottery and animal bones present.
From the other side of the museum building the site of an Iron Age enclosure (Vigo Road) can be seen, so a future meeting will be able to look at the evidence for our prehistoric ancestors in this immediate locality.
The Archaeology of Andover (ed Nick Stoodley) AHAS, 2013
A1990.1, A1990.14, A1992.6
The YAC is open to those aged 8-16; find out more from Andover Museum or firstname.lastname@example.org
Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone, with help from Stacie Elliot.