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Hampshire excavations # 6

An occasional series, covering Hampshire digs large and small: the Anglo-Saxon village at Chalton, 1971-76.

After some exploratory investigations in 1971, a major excavation took place on the hilltop called Church Down the following year, led by Peter Addyman, of the University of Southampton.  Tim Champion took over the reins in 1973 and saw things to a conclusion.

chalton 0004

Aerial view in 1972. Building A20, on the left hand side, is a large, long structure with opposed doors, individual large postholes and internal division. It is 12.5m x 7.5m

The work revealed the remains of a number of rectangular timber buildings.  From the ‘several thousand’ postholes excavated at least sixty-one main structures could be identified, assignable to a number of phases.  The buildings ranged in size from small square plans with a single doorway, via larger oblongs, with two doors set opposite each other in the long walls, to structures with either buttress- or verandah-posts.  An anomalous building encountered in the final year of the dig measured 24m in length and 5m in width and was made up of four unequal sections all slightly out of alignment. There were also four sunken-floored buildings of typical ‘grubenhaus‘ type, although one, at over 8.6m in length was of the ‘giant’ variety.

chalton 0005

Close up of building A20.

Until the final season finds were comparatively few, consisting of grass-tempered and sandy pottery, ironwork and an escutcheon from a hanging bowl.  The final flourish produced a wealth of artefacts, and faunal and environmental remains; loom weights, spindle-whorls and thread pickers, show that wool production was important.

A date for the settlement somewhere in the 6th and 7th centuries is appropriate and the range of finds indicates far-reaching contacts for this rural hilltop settlement.  Oysters must have been gathered or traded from the Portsmouth Harbour region and among the pottery fabrics are wheel-turned vessels from northern France. Glass and quernstones were also imported.


Period piece: The Saxon inhabitants of Chalton may have looked like this (Weorod, 2017).

Work on the final reports is still in hand and the excavation images come from two ‘Rescue’ transparencies of 1972 and from the collection of Gareth Thomas.  Gareth has been a keen visitor to sites, buildings, excavations and museums across the south for more than forty years, and has donated much of his photographic archive to the Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Further reading:

Addyman, P & Leigh, D, 1973, The Anglo-Saxon village at Chalton, Med Archaeol, 17, 1-25.

Champion, T, 1977, Chalton, Current Archaeology 59, 364-71

Series by:  Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone





Hampshire excavations # 5

An occasional series covering Hampshire digs large and small; the Greyhound and Albany Hotel sites, 1989 and 1997.


Part of the zoomorphic roof finial (see below). The nose is 70mm across.

Fordingbridge lies just to the west of the New Forest, about 4 km to the south-east of Rockbourne Roman villa. It sits on the west bank of the Hampshire Avon, the river being spanned by a seven-arched stone bridge dating from the 14th or 15th centuries. Fordingbridge functioned as a market centre at least from the 13th century and was the head of a Deanery including Ringwood and Christchurch. Archaeological excavations in the area just to the north of the bridge have revealed a sequence of 13th and 14th century buildings with interesting decorative features, as well as a 17th to 18th century tannery.


Flint wall footings of the earlier (Phase 2) occupation

Hearths and Fires

The first archaeological work, by the Avon Valley Archaeological Society under the direction of Anthony Light, took place in 1989. This followed the demolition of the Greyhound and Albany hotels. The core of the Greyhound had been known to date from the second half of the 17th century. Excavation revealed that this area had been occupied by a small medieval cottage to which a hearth of reddened clay had been added in the 15th century. In the following century the cottage was rebuilt and given an inglenook fireplace. An additional room with a hearth of overlapping peg tile was then added, using the old hearth as a foundation. The house was destroyed by fire, probably in the late 16th century. The Greyhound Inn was built a little before 1663 – a fairly worn Charles I farthing (c.1640) was found in a footing trench – but the building was destroyed in 1672 during a fire which affected much of the town. It was reconstructed two years later, using some of the original foundations. A half-cellar, employing natural springs to cool the stored barrels of beer, was utilised into the second half of the 20th century.


Wessex Archaeology work begins: Phil Harding in attendance.

In 1997 Wessex Archaeology undertook further excavations, with Phil Harding directing the work. One of the three trenches included the footprint of the Albany Hotel, premises which had been rebuilt as tenements in 1879 and documented as the Albany Temperance Hotel in 1881. Excavation revealed an earlier rectangular building of the 13th or 14th centuries with flint foundations. The gable end faced Bridge Street and the substantial structure extended back at least two bays. The archaeological report of 2003 suggests that the unusual siting allowed the owners to collect tolls from traffic using the bridge. These owners were probably of some social standing as the overlying demolition layer contained a fine assemblage of ceramic building material. This included fragments of at least three louvres. The absence of sooting on their interior indicates that they were used for ventilation, rather than the escape of smoke. They all have some green glaze and the fabric suggests that they were produced by the kilns at Laverstock near Salisbury.


The cow reunited with its ear- a leg and other fragments were also found.

Other roof furniture included coxcomb ridge tiles. These are also of Laverstock-type, as was a very interesting find – a ‘zoomorphic finial’ fragment. This relatively realistic representation of a cow’s head would have been attached to a ridge tile. It has applied ears and horns (one missing). Other fragments include a leg and possible tail.


The view from the bridge shows the proximity of the River Avon


One of the ‘barrel pits’ (right)

It has been suggested that the cow finial may have had symbolic value, linking with the later tanning activity. The ‘Albany Hotel’ trench revealed features associated with tanning activity dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. A stone-lined trough with a brick floor contained lime and clay deposits, one of which yielded an 18th century pottery sherd. In addition, four barrel pits were probably used for the immersion of hides in tanning solutions. The animal bone evidence suggests that both cattle hides and sheep skins were processed at the site.

Further reading

A1989.30 & A1997.37 Archives deposited with the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Hampshire County Council 1997, ‘Fordingbridge Archaeological Assessment Document’ in Hampshire Extensive Urban Studies. Online:< http://documents.hants.gov.uk/archaeology/28414FordingbridgeExtensiveUrbanSurvey.pdf>

Harding, P. and Light, A. 2003, Excavations in Fordingbridge, 1989 and 1997: The former Albany and Greyhound Hotel site, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, Vol 58, pp. 130-176. Online: < http://www.hantsfieldclub.org.uk/publications/hampshirestudies/digital/2000s/vol58/Harding.pdf>

Light, A. 1990 ‘Fordingbridge – Greyhound Hotel’ in Hughes, M.F. [Ed] Archaeology in Hampshire 1989, Hampshire County Council., pp.25-30.

Series by:         Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone.

Hampshire excavations # 2

An occasional series covering Hampshire archaeological digs, large and small.

Grateley South, 1910, 1916, 1998, 1999

‘Grateley South’ is one kilometre south east of the hillfort of Quarley Hill, and around six kilometres north west of Danebury Hillfort.

In 1895 Dr. J.P. Williams-Freeman, a Weyhill country doctor trained as a military surveyor, became a member of the Hampshire Field Club; he was a fine amateur field archaeologist and in the sixth volume of the society’s proceedings he published a short note concerning a supposed Roman villa at Grateley.  Evidence, in the form of an 8 ft. by 4 ft. tessellated pavement, had been observed during the removal of the flint wall foundations to provide material for road mending. The foundations were recorded by Williams-Freeman, who used them as the basis of a scale plan of part of the villa. This discovery brought the total number of Romano-British buildings known within a six-mile radius of Andover up to ten, a concentration well covered in the Victoria County History, and on Williams-Freeman’s own map, which was to follow soon after.


Detail of Williams-Freeman’s map, published in 1915. Grately (sic) takes its place with the other Roman sites clustered around the East Anton crossroads.

During the summer of 1915 a further piece of pavement was discovered at the site. According to Williams-Freeman’s subsequent report, this was ‘carefully exposed under the direction of Mr. E. Rawlence, agent to the Marquis of Winchester, the present owner’. (Rawlence was a surveyor from Salisbury who, six years later, excavated the building at Houghton Down.) The small excavation at Grateley revealed a substantially complete mosaic floor in a square room at the centre of Williams-Freeman’s plan. A fine painting of the floor was made by Heywood Sumner and reproduced as a frontispiece of the Field Club’s journal. No hypocaust was revealed, although Williams-Freeman had heard that a ‘cellar’ (possibly a hypocaust) had been found a few years earlier.


The mosaic pavement; drawn in October 1915 by Heywood Sumner.

Following Rawlence’s excavation the floor was carefully covered over. Sixty years later high-quality aerial photographs revealed that the building was part of a villa complex which had developed from an earlier Iron Age settlement with ditched enclosures. This made the site an attractive prospect for study as part of the Danebury Environs Roman Programme, led by Professor Barry Cunliffe. Its size and complexity meant that only a sample excavation was possible during two seasons in 1998 and 1999; the work focusing on the villa buildings.


A general view of Barry Cunliffe’s excavations – two rectangular buildings containing corn driers are linked by a substantial fence.

The work revealed that there were two Roman phases, the earlier one (c. AD 50-300) including evidence of timber structures in the form of post alignments, a gravelled road, a well and a large corn-drying oven.   The later phase (c.AD 300-400) comprised at least four masonry buildings. One of these was the villa house, previously reported by Williams-Freeman. Corridors ran along the back and front of this ‘strip house’.  Cunliffe’s excavation included a trial trench across the building, but no surviving mosaics were found.


Corn driers in close up. The two square drying floors were served by one furnace. Toasting, for storage – and malting, resulting in grain suitable for brewing were the intention.

Four large corn-drying ovens were unearthed, however, and found to be in an exceptional state of preservation. They dated from the third and fourth centuries and the three earliest were all double ovens. They were similar in plan, with two ovens set side-by-side and served from a single stoking chamber.  The evidence suggested that the right-hand chamber had been more intensively fired than the left.  Analysis of the crop remains from the cooler flues produced remains of sprouted wheat, showing that they were used for parching malted grain. The right-hand chamber, run at a higher temperature, could have been used to dry the crop prior to storage. The later, single oven had continued in use until destroyed by fire, preserving its last load beneath the collapsed burnt roof of the building. The load included mainly spelt wheat, with other grains as contaminants.


The final, ill-fated firing. The building went up in flames and the roof came down with a crash – sealing layers of grain. Here the archaeologists carefully sample the unexpected treasure!

A single burial, of a male aged 35-40 year, was found at the site, dumped into a pit too small to contain a prone body. The casual nature of the deposit differs from the usual inhumation practices of the time and it was suggested that the unfortunate individual had been held responsible for starting the calamitous fire, and made to suffer in consequence!

The environmental evidence from the corn-drying ovens provided significant information about the agrarian economy, an objective very different from those of the excavators of the Edwardian era, who originally uncovered the mosaic.

Further reading

The Victoria County History of Hampshire , Vol 1 (1900) p 265ff.

A1998.45, A1999.40  Archives deposited with the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Cunliffe, B. 2000. The Danebury Environs Programme, Volume 1, Introduction.

Cunliffe, B. and Poole, C. 2008. Grateley South, Grateley, Hants 1998 and 1999, The Danebury Environs Roman Programme.

Series by Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone

Cats in the attic



So Historic England have put out a call for people to look for ‘witches’ marks’ in their attics – carvings and marks on beams that would repel evil spirits and malevolent forces. We have in our collections two cats (or the vestiges of two cats) one probably and the other certainly, placed in the attic for that same purpose.


Riverside Cottage, Corhampton

The first (HCMS 1969.150) was found in Riverside Cottage, Corhampton, in the 1960s. This is the more dubious as it hadn’t been ‘arranged’ in a particular way (as far as I can tell).  According to Ralph Merrifield’s 1987 classic ‘The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic’ cats deliberately placed in the attic were set up in ‘hunting mode’, often with a rat, mouse or bird in their jaws. This poor desiccated puss doesn’t look very fierce, it must be said.


A house in Chawton

The other one (HCMS 1969.270) is a classic example.  It has been stuffed with straw and is in a very lively (well, you know what I mean) pose.  There’s no record of a rat, mouse or bird being in the vicinity, but the earlier owners of the house in Chawton, where  it was found were definitely hoping it would keep vermin or evil influences at bay.

Merrifield quotes an article by Miss M Wood (‘Dried Cats’, Man, November 1951) where twenty-two examples are listed, and suggests that the practice may have originated from the sacrificial use of animals during the building process. It developed, however, as an antidote to witches, particularly in the 17th century. Witches were supposed to work their evil by familiar spirits, such as rats or mice, and a sentinel cat would be the perfect (so to speak) guard.


Beneath a beach hut.

There was another desiccated (and salt cured) cat in the collections – striking quite the most scary pose – but the place of discovery, beneath a beach hut at Christchurch, suggests something less than a deliberate concealment.

Hampshire Cultural Trust

Series by: Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone.

Hampshire excavations # 1

An occasional series covering Hampshire archaeological digs, large and small

Houghton Down, Stockbridge; 1922, 1994, 1997.

Was this both a Roman villa and an Iron Age farm? A dig in 1922 by E A Rawlence, a Salisbury surveyor, found a substantial Roman aisled building containing a bath house. The excavated baths were covered by a shed until the 1930s. Rubbish accumulated, including a dead pig and barbed wire, and the hollows were eventually filled in. Later, aerial photographs showed circular buildings, storage pits, and fenced and ditched fields in the immediate vicinity.

Excavations by Professor Barry Cunliffe and his team in 1994 and 1997 for the Danebury Environs Project showed that, yes, it had been occupied, not quite continuously, between 700 BC and the 4th century AD. Generations of farmers extended the fields, pastures and ditches, dug wells, buried their dead, and built furnaces for metal-working and corn-drying ovens. The main activity took place in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, when there may have been more than one family in residence. By about the year 200, the main buildings were in masonry rather than timber, and included the aisled hall and a narrow building, also used for living and eating in. The farm had expanded from a modest to a prosperous state.

The aisled building, 27.2m long by 13.6m wide, had been carefully constructed and was a substantial structure that would have been visible for miles around. It had a chalk floor, full-height flint walls on greensand corner foundations, a central nave and light from a timbered clerestory. The roof, supported on 14 stone and timber piers, was made of hexagonal Purbeck stone tiles. In the south wall (and probably also in the north) there was a large door opening – over 2m wide.


The bath suite at the western end of the aisled building; the abandoned ‘cold plunge’ is at the top of the picture, the replacement to the right.

By the late 3rd century the building had been subdivided by timber partitions. It had a large oven inside. It was evidently now the main working area of a moderately prosperous farm. It also had a large bath suite retrofitted into the northwest corner. A cold plunge pool was started outside the building, but abandoned after only a day’s work! Making a breach in the gable end wall had caused serious structural damage, and so the design was hastily changed and the plunge pool moved to the north side instead of the west – but still outside the main rooms!

A new strip building then enlarged the farm’s living accommodation. Beer was brewed from surplus corn. But there was still little in the way of fine, non-local pottery or decorative ornaments. By the end of its life, in the middle of the 4th century, the building housed a smithy and piles of building material for recycling.


Infant burial F295, discovered inside the aisled hall

The dig unearthed 13 burials. Two were Roman cremations, two were adults buried close together in the old western enclosure ditch, and nine were infants, buried, here as elsewhere in Roman Britain, under the floors of the Roman buildings.

Houghton Down archives A1994.35 & A1997.55 are in the care of Hampshire Cultural Trust

Further Reading:

The Danebury Environs Programme: The Prehistory of a Wessex Landscape, Vol 2 Part 6: Houghton Down, Stockbridge, Hants, 1994, by Barry Cunliffe and Cynthia Poole. English Heritage and OUCA Mono 49, 2000.

And Vol 2 Part 1: Houghton Down, Longstock, Hants,1997, Mono 71, 2008.

Series by: Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone


Royal blood reaches Alton

It seems like only yesterday that ‘Royal Blood’ was being installed at Andover, Fareham and Aldershot…and already it’s time to up sticks and cases and graphics and objects and move things to Alton, Christchurch and Eastleigh.  At Alton it’s the Allen Gallery that hosts the touring exhibitions and last week saw RB safely installed, with particular mention of the Late Iron Age and Civil War periods.


Horse skulls, harness fittings, chariot fittings, sling stones and gold coins; military might 2000 years ago.

We chose the Late Iron Age because there’s a hoard known as the ‘Alton Hoard’ in the British Museum. The find was of particular significance because it contained coins of a tribal leader previously known only as ‘Tinc’ – and believed to be ‘Tincommius’ (by adding the ‘Tin’ bit to his father’s or grandfather’s name).  The new finds (well, 1996) contained coins marked ‘Tincomarus‘, causing excitement across the numismatic world.  Incidentally, although the hoard is said to hail from Alton – it’s actually from Froxfield – ‘and that’s nearer to Petersfield’ as one mildly indignant Altonian told me.

Whichever corner of East Hampshire the coins hail from, they’ll be on show in the  main Royal Blood exhibition, which begins its tour (at Basingstoke) in early September.

The other featured element at the Allen Gallery is the ‘Storming of Alton’, and this Civil War episode couldn’t have reached its climax much closer to the exhibition’s location.  In December, 1643, as Alton was occupied by a Royalist force of 900, the Parliamentary General, Sir William Waller, gathered 5000 men and began a night march, ostensibly towards Basing. He turned towards Alton, however, and surrounded the town. A fierce battle ensued, with Waller getting the upper hand by using a number of lightweight leather-barrelled field guns, recently received from London.


And a military episode of 373 years ago. The lead and iron shot all come from Civil War sites. The iron ball from the leather-barrelled gun is top right on the crystal block.

The defenders fell back on the church of St Lawrence, a stone’s throw from the Museum. The attackers tossed in grenades, before storming the building. Colonel Richard Bolles led the defence, defying his men to surrender. With his death, however, they laid down their arms and over 800 were taken prisoner and marched off to Farnham.

Among the items on display is a small iron shot unearthed in Alton Churchyard, which must be from one of the leather-barrelled guns.  Other parts of the exhibition reflect on the careers of Waller and Sir Ralph Hopton  – friends before the war, but on opposing sides during the conflict – and there is the full sweep of the Heads and Tales timeline, from the Atrebates to our very own Elizabeth II.

Royal Blood; Heads & Tales – Allen Gallery, Alton, 16 July to 18 September



Great survivors – the Angel of Andover

When Andover entered into an agreement with the Greater London Council and grew rapidly in the 1960s and 70s, it was promised a new town centre. This massive redevelopment swept away many buildings and even threatened the old Angel Inn at the top of the High Street.  A ‘Save the Angel’ campaign was mounted and most of the structure was saved. Investigations by Richard Warmington and Edward Roberts have confirmed that it is ‘arguably one of the most significant timber-framed buildings in Hampshire’.

Work in progress, June 1969. The Angel is top right, on the other side of the High Street from all the white-fronted buildings.

Work in progress, June 1969. The Angel is top right, opposite all the white-fronted buildings on Upper High Street.                            Photo RAF Andover

In 1414, the rectory of Andover was purchased by St. Mary’s College, Winchester, and brought with it income in tithes, urban land and freehold property in an important medieval cloth-producing centre.  It stood at a crossing of trade routes from London to Salisbury and Southampton to the Midlands and was almost certainly a long-term investment. When the town was devastated by fire in 1434, the College re-built extensively, including the construction of a brand new timber-framed inn.

The half-timbered heart of the Angel

The half-timbered heart of the Angel

In March 1445 the College Warden, Robert Thorbern, entered into a contract with carpenters John Hardynge and Richard Holners for a building consisting of four ranges around a courtyard to be situated on a rectangular plot of land measuring 90’ north to south by 80’ east to west. A separate contract provided for the building of a ‘long house’, probably on a separate site, that would contain kitchens.

Although the Angel was associated with the main contract, published by the College in 1892, other references made no mention of it. Research by architectural historian Richard Warmington (1972) and later availability of other documents, have led to the firm conclusion that the structures specified in the 1445 contract and the Angel Inn are one and the same.

View from the courtyard, showing the gate to the east (and the old London Road)

View from the courtyard, showing the gate to the east (and the old London Road)

The documents include a College ‘chattels only’ listing (1462) and an inventory of Richard Pope, inn-holder, of 1633. The latter shows the inn to have consisted of a hall, parlour, and seventeen chambers, with ninety-one beds! It also refers to fifteen fireplaces. Staff accommodation (hostery) and an innkeeper’s chamber are also noted along with numerous service rooms such as kitchens and cellars and ‘ffyve stables’.

Present day structural evidence points towards substantial alterations between the 16th and 18th centuries, resulting in the excavation of an additional cellar, a gallery overlooking the courtyard behind the east gate, lean-tos and internal partitions, as well as chimneys

These alterations changed the external appearance of the building significantly with demolition of the west range and substantial reconfiguring to most of the south range. The east front, facing the High Street, was re-built probably in 1775, as evidenced by an inscribed brick, when the jettied gable ends of the cross wings were taken down and roofs truncated.

The brick clad east front

The brick clad east front

In 1793 the building was divided into two tenancies with a carpenter occupying it to the south of the gate with access to a timber yard. To the north a brewer took the building now called ‘The Old Angel’. The division is shown on a plan of 1839 when James Grant, presumably the landlord, was the occupier; a carrier named Reynolds held the south range.

The plain walls of the adjacent shopping centre (Chantry Centre) have bbeen enlivened by a host of Hogarthian characters.

The plain walls of the adjacent shopping centre (Chantry Centre) have been enlivened by a host of life-sized Hogarthian characters.

An investigation of 1990/91 showed that the remains of three original ranges contain some interesting features that conclusively support the opinion that the core of the present day building closely follows the specification laid down in 1445. Of particular interest was the scissors brace in the east range hall, which itself had dimensions of 20’ by 30’ in line with the original specification. The northernmost bay of this range contains the arched gateway still in use.

Another survivor is a large chimney-stack, attributed to Thomas Beere in 1449 -50. Also, the 5’ width of a present day closed corridor has led to the conclusion that it is the original ‘oriell’ (open gallery).  The south range contains the remains of a cross wing which mirrors that of the north range. The chimneypiece and stack of this range were removed in the 20th century. The cellars beneath it and the north ranges have dimensions as listed in the 1445 contract.

Of the west range there is no trace.

More 18th century revels

More 18th century revels



Roberts, E (1991) A Fifteenth Century Inn at Andover, Proc Hants Field Club & Arch Soc. Vol. 47 pp 153-170

Series by:  Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone