Hampshire Archaeology

Home » News » #Hart Heritage 10 – The Romans of the Whitewater Valley 3 – Choseley Farm, by Linda Munday

#Hart Heritage 10 – The Romans of the Whitewater Valley 3 – Choseley Farm, by Linda Munday

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 124 other followers

“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

Liddell Choseley workers 01 resized

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)

Chosley Farm today 23 8 17 resized

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.

view of the pit village choseley farm resized

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)

Bronze age cinerary urn 1918 find Choseley farm

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)

beehive pit

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)

roman pit choseley

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)

Brooches Choseley Farm Willis resized

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)

Roman Ring Choseley Willis reduced size

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)

bone spoon Choseley Willis

Fig 9 – Bone spoon found at Choseley Farm in 1937 on display at the Willis Museum, Basingstoke Photograph © Linda Munday

original bone spoon drawing DLA

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)

Grave 1

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)

2nd grave

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”

Roman coins found at Choseley Farm reduced size

Fig 13 –Majority of the 30 Roman coins found at Choseley farm 1937

References

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

 

Illustrations

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

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: