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#Hart Heritage 4 – Excavations of a Jacobean Manor House in Heckfield, by Linda Munday

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The Grove Jacobean Manor House

Heckfield Place is a grand country house set in 200 acres of wooded parkland on the banks of the River Whitewater in Hampshire. It was built by wealthy businessman, John Lefevre in 1790 for his daughter Helena. However, when he purchased the land in 1785, it was another house nearby that took pride of place in Heckfield parish; the Jacobean manor house called The Grove.  Lost in 1818 due to demolition, the house stood just 500 metres to the northwest of Heckfield Place, being located between Church Lodge and Reading Lodge. (Historic England, 2017)

The First Excavation

In 1990 after conducting field walking and other research into The Grove site, North East Hampshire Historical and Archaeological Society (NEHHAS) decided to undertake excavations. These took place between 21st February and the 12th May 1990, after the site had been cleared and a Resistivity survey undertaken. (Hoare 1990, 69) A Resistivity survey can be useful when trying to locate structural remains of buildings and involves measuring the electrical resistance of soil. Built features such as walls are usually more resistant to moisture and so show up differently to more natural features.

Two areas were marked out on the ground where there was abundant evidence of surface building material. Each of these areas were 15 metres long by 10 metres wide and designated as trench 1 and trench 2. The trenches were divided up into 2 metre squares and excavated according to the density of surface building material. Trench 1 had a larger concentration of rubble and yielded significant finds. It was subsequently extended from 10 metres to 14 metres wide. (Hoare 1990,69)

In Trench 1, an area was located containing a culvert or drainage tunnel. This is where a large amount of 18th century china and pottery had been deposited. The excavation of this area also uncovered the floor and walls of what could be interpreted as a cistern or cess pit. However, no organic matter was found in the area. (Hoare 1990, 69)

excavation 2

Fig 1. Clearing out of the culvert just before pottery find – courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

In trench 1, a possible cellar was also located with a clay floor, brick walls and a brick lined drain (Fig 2) Another excavated area in the same trench contained a well – sited next to the substantial structural wall of the house. This was surrounded by an external brick covered drain. (Fig 3)

excavation 3 Fig 2 Cellar with brick lined drain. Photo courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

excavation 1

Fig 3 – Well located next to structural wall of house. Photo courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

The smaller trench number 2 contained a possible garden feature. This consisted of “a pit that had originally had a barrel lining, a small brick walled structure and a path or remains of a channel surface with clay roofing tiles and partially edged with loose and unmortared brick.” (Hoare 1990, 69)

Further Excavations 1990-1996

Further annual excavations of the site took place. The site plan below shows the layout of the site and excavations dating from 1990-96.

Heckfield plan19122017

Fig 4 – Plan showing excavations at The Grove 1990-1996 courtesy of NEHHAS

In 1997 it was decided to investigate feature 37 on the plan in fig 4. This was the projected course of the culvert which fed into cellar 1. There were also investigations to see if there was any physical connection between cellars 1 and 2.

The results of the excavation found that the south end of cellar 1 had a drain running into the culvert. There was a sump where two bottle seals ‘Jacob Hatt 1734’ were found along with “evidence of a raised stone flag floor” (Hoare 1997, 21) Something of a surprise, was the discovery of sprouting horse chestnuts found 1.5 metres underground! These were probably connected to rabbit burrows found in the cellar.

A connection was found between cellar 1 and 2. A passageway with a drain was discovered between them. (Hoare 1997, 21)

18th Century China and Pottery

A Hampshire County Museum Service report on the finds from the culvert, records thirty-eight separate pieces of mainly 18th century china and pottery including a 19th century brown stoneware ink bottle (Macfarlane 1990 1-4).  In addition, several brown bottles were also recovered from a trench on the excavation site.

The 18th century china and pottery were predominantly Creamware and Staffordshire Willow pattern (Macfarlane 1990, 1). English willow patterns such as Staffordshire were based on original designs found on Chinese porcelain. The pattern generally consisted of a Chinese landscape scene with a willow tree in the centre. There were usually two ornate buildings, a bridge with people walking across it and a boatman on the water. Often two doves were shown flying across the centre. This imitation of Chinese design became known as chinoiserie. It has been said that the Willow Pattern was a fantasy image of China which sought to enforce a stereotypical view of it as a backward country which refused to move with the times. (Portanova 2007, 10)

Blue and white porcelain had been imported in vast quantities from China to northern Europe from the 17th century and being very popular it was natural for it to be imitated (Portanova 2007, 2). Depending on your income, most middle and upper- class homes had by the late 18th century a variety of chinoiserie in their home whether imported from China or imitations made in Europe. Production in England commenced in the late 18th century (Portanova 2007, 1)

Creamware was a highly refined cream coloured earthenware originally produced by Josiah Wedgewood from 1740. It was covered in a vivid, rich glaze and was particularly popular due to its moderate price. It was also very versatile and looked good either left plain or decorated. It could be used as everyday ware as well as for special items(Wedgewood 2017). The creamware from the find at The Grove was slightly crazed so probably not produced by Wedgewood but likely made at a nearby factory (McFarlane 1990, 4).

collection Figure 5 – Finds from the Heckfield excavation picture courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

The oriental style was so important in the 18th century that Chinese design was everywhere including in interior design. A good example being the Brighton Pavillion which had a largely chinoiserie designed interior (Portanova 2007, 4).

The Bourdaloue

There were three chamber pots discovered alongside another very interesting item called a Bourdalou(e). This could be described as an 18th century portable chamber pot for female use. The design is of a chinoiserie landscape with a pagoda and a moth border made by John Davenport of Longport in Staffordshire. With the death of Wedgewood in 1795, John Davenport became the most important producer of china in the Stoke area. (Macfarlane 1990, 6)


Figure 6 – Bordaloue made by John Davenport found during The Grove excavations (courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS)

The term Bourdalou or Bourdaloue is said to have come from the name of a French Jesuit priest called Père Louis Bourdaloue. He apparently gave such lengthy sermons when preaching at the court of King Louis XIV, that ladies in attendance asked for a portable chamber pot to be supplied to relieve themselves without leaving court. Maids would be on hand to remove the vessel for emptying. Of course, it is important to remember that in the 18th century women did not wear knickers as they had not yet been invented and there were no public toilets! (Getty Museum 2017)

This urinal pot, resembling a gravy boat, was designed to be used by a lady whilst standing. An explicit painting circa 1760 by Francois Boucher called “La Toilette Intime (Une femme qui pisse)” or in English “The intimate Toilette” or “A woman who pees” clearly shows one in use.


Fig 7 –  “La Toilette Intime (Une femme qui Pisse)”  Boucher 1760

After the finds were analysed by Hampshire County Museum Service, a report was compiled and everything was returned to the landowner. A digital copy of the report can be obtained from Hampshire Cultural Trust, Collections (Archaeology), chilcomb House, Winchester.

Further excavations 1997- 2001

In 1997 the passageway joining cellar 1 and 2 together was excavated further to make sure there was a definite connection. Evidence was found to confirm that the base of two drains in cellar 2 converged on the passageway that linked to the drain in cellar 1 (Hoare 1998, 36).

An access stairway in cellar 2 was also excavated with a large number bottle bases and necks being found. The foundations of a Tudor fireplace with hearth were also discovered (Hoare 1998,36)

In 2001, NEHHAS returned to the site of the Grove to conduct further excavation work. Work again took place on the culvert, the site of the pottery finds, and it was found to veer slightly north. It appeared to get deeper rather than coming up to the surface as expected and was observed at one point with a tile floor. (HFC 2003,2)

Further excavations north of the original site yielded finds of bronze age pottery sherds and iron age slag. The pottery was dated to the late bronze age/early iron age (HFC 2003, 2). It is thought that the slag comes from the middle iron age and was probably produced from iron ore production. (Dungworth 2007, 8) Iron working is known within the area at nearby Risely Farm dating to the Late Iron Age and the Early Roman period. An unidentified linear feature was also discovered running east to west as well as a semi-circle of stake holes (Hampshire Environment Record No 51294)

An examination was made of the Iron Age slag and a report compiled by English Heritage in 2007 which can be accessed below:

Heckfield, Hampshire: An Examination of Middle Iron Age Iron Smelting Slags

For more information about the work of NEHHAS go to their web site http://www.nehhas.com/



Dungworth, D. (2007) Heckfield, Hampshire: An Examination of Middle Iron Age Iron Smelting Slags English Heritage Report number: 104/2007 available online at: http://research.historicengland.org.uk/Report.aspx?i=14615&ru=%2fResults.aspx%3fp%3d1%26n%3d10%26t%3dheckfield%26ns%3d1 accessed 12/12/17

HFC (2003) Heckfield 2002 based on a report by Richard Whaley Hampshire Field Club Newsletter No.39 Spring: 2-3

Historic England (2017) Heckfield Place List Entry Summary available online at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001379

Hoare, G.S. (1990) Heckfield, The Grove in M Hughes (ed.) Archaeology in Hampshire Annual Report: 69-70

Hoare, G.S. (1997) Heckfield in B Howard (ed.) Archaeology in Hampshire Annual Report:21

Hoare, G.S. (1998) The Grove Heckfield, in A Purdy and D Hopkins (eds.) Archaeology in Hampshire Annual Report: 36

Getty Museum( 2017) Chamber Pot (Bourdaloue) The J. P. Getty Museum available online at http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/5724/chantilly-porcelain-manufactory-chamber-pot-bourdaloue-french-about-1740/  12/12/2017

Macfarlane, M (1990) Hampshire County Museum Service Pottery report from The Grove excavation available at Hampshire Cultural Trust, Archaeology Collections, Chilcomb House, Winchester

Portanova, J. (2007 ) Porcelain, The Willow Pattern, and Chinoiserie, New York, New York University accessed online 19/10/17 at http://www.nyu.edu/projects/mediamosaic/madeinchina/pdf/Portanova.pdf

Wedgewood Museum (2017) Queen’s Ware, Wedgewood Museum available on line at http://www.wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk/learning/discovery_packs/pack/lives-of-the-wedgwoods/chapter/queens-ware  12/12/17


Figure 1 – Clearing out the culvert – Heckfield Excavation 1990 photo courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

Figure 2 – Cellar with drain – Heckfield Excavation 1990 photo courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

Figure 3 – Well located next to house’s structural wall Heckfield Excavation 1990 photo courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

Figure 4 – Plan of excavations at the Grove from The Archaeology of Hampshire Annual Report 1996 pg 17 courtesy of NEHHAS.

Figure 5 – A display of the finds from the 1990 Heckfield excavation courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

Figure 6 – Bourdaloue found at Heckfield excavation 1990 photo courtesy of Tony Wright NEHHAS

Figure 7- Francois Boucher painting 1760 “La Toilette Intime (Une femme qui Pisse)” available online open source.


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