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Twenty years of Treasure

Small displays of ‘Treasure finds’ have been put on show at the Westgate Museum, Winchester, Andover Museum, the Willis Museum, Basingstoke and Curtis Museum, Alton, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the implementation of the Treasure Act, 1996.  Katie Hinds, Finds Liaison Officer for Hampshire under the Portable Antiquities Scheme tells us more about it.

20 yrs 1

‘On 24th September 1997 the common law of treasure trove, which had been in place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for more than 500 years, was replaced by the Treasure Act 1996. This marked a radical change in the fortune of objects found in these countries, allowing thousands of important finds to be acquired by public collections for all to enjoy.’

Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar, 3rd May 2017.

Before this date, it had to be proved that an object had been buried with intent of recovery for it to qualify as Treasure Trove. Thanks to the broader definitions of the Treasure Act, local and national museums have been able to acquire treasure finds for their collections that may otherwise have been lost to them.

#Treasure20 is a national celebration of 20 years of the Treasure Act and a number of Hampshire Cultural Trust venues which have acquired treasure finds under the Act will be showcasing them from September into November.  Look out for the Treasure20 logo on our finds at The Westgate Museum, The Curtis Museum, The Willis Museum and Andover Museum, as well as at museums up and down the country – you can follow news and events on social media with the hashtag #Treasure20.


The display at the Willis Museum; some of the items have photographic enlargements to highlight key features. The book ’50 Finds from Hampshire’, authored by Katie Hinds, came out earlier this year and describes 50 of the 43,000 finds listed for the county on the PAS database. Amberley Publishing, 96pp fully illustrated, £14.99

These two small fragments of Bronze Age gold strip from Hook may be over 3,500 years old.  Similar finds are known from the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and numerous other locations.


The Andover display contains 24 coins from a hoard of 137 found at Leckford.  They were deposited around AD 274.  Many of them show emperors with ‘radiate’ crowns – like these examples of Postumus (AD 259 – 268) who apparently reigned ‘peacefully, wisely and well’ in a troubled period until he was murdered by his own troops.


The coins – silver washed antoniniani – come out of the ground in green condition (of which traces can be seen) because of the high copper content, but careful cleaning in the laboratory gives a clue to their original appearance.

Among the items on show at Alton is a seal matrix found near Buriton. The heraldic elements (Or on a chevron between three demi lions gules three trefoils Or, with a crescent in chief; the crest is a Bull’s head caboshed argent gutty sable – information from Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald) suggest a link with the Layfield family.


The Rev. Dr Edward Layfield (or Leyfield), Archdeacon of Essex was a prominent churchman, being son of Archbishop Laud’s half-sister and was vicar of All Hallows Barking. The  findspot in Hampshire suggests that it may have been used by his son, the Rev. Dr Charles Layfield, a resident prebendary of Winchester Cathedral who died in 1715 (leaving a quarter of his estate to the poor inhabitants of a number of places, including Winchester and Chilbolton).

These three items show the remarkable variety of treasure reported under the scheme – and represent tens of thousands of objects which contribute markedly to our knowledge, awareness and appreciation of our local and national history.

20 yrs 1







Hampshire excavations # 10

A look at classic digs in the county, both large and small; Excavations on a mid-twelfth century siege castle at Bentley, Hampshire in 1979-80.


Excavations in progress 1979-80; with a few of the diagnostic medieval pottery sherds for good measure.

When J P Williams-Freeman was enjoying his great perambulation of the county of Hampshire over a century ago, he headed for Crondall to search out the remains of two Norman strongholds. The first was ‘Powderham Castle’, evident as a round knoll about 30 m across, located in a copse and difficult to examine as it was ‘covered by wood and…the very thickest brambles in Hampshire’. The other, on the same ridge, was in Barley Pound Copse, and was again difficult to investigate owing to the density of the undergrowth. Nevertheless, he considered it one of the best examples in the county of a ring and bailey fortress, commanding a view of the whole country to the north. The roughly circular shell keep enclosed 9 acres and was strewn with large flints and squared building stones, but ‘there was no trace of a well’.

Unbeknown to Williams-Freeman a third contemporary earthwork was lurking in the vicinity, this time obscured by plough damage and weathering rather than an overabundance of plant life. ‘Bentley Castle’, as it was named by its excavators in 1979-80, was first recognised in 1956. Its existence made sense of a passage in the Gesta Stephani, which relates how, in 1147, one of the companions of Brian fitz Count, Constable of Wallingford Castle, ‘a man very crafty and cunning in all deeds of evil’ seized the Bishop of Winchester’s castle of Lidelea. This was in the middle of the long civil war between Stephen and Matilda and caused the bishop, Henry de Blois, to besiege his own stronghold by throwing up two castles in front of it. Barley Pound now seems secure as Lidelea, with Bentley and Powderham as the two siege camps.


Looking for the castle ditch


And finding it to be a substantial feature!

The excavations, directed by Paul Stamper, sought to confirm the date and nature of the ‘Bentley Castle’ siege camp and showed it to be ‘a motte surrounded by a substantial ditch, and an apparently undefended bailey’; there were no traces of timber buildings or other structures. Of the 4.7 kg of pottery found, 4.6 kg were residual Roman sherds, from the dark earth sealed by the mound! A significant Roman site lies beneath and nearby.


Enjoying the preliminaries; winter field-walking over the site – eyes down for a full plastic bag

The excavators arguably had most success with their documentary researches. The ’companion’ of Brian fitz Count, who surrendered Barley Pound to King and Bishop, may have been one Roger Foliot, as there are letters to Henry de Blois and Geoffrey, Prior of Winchester, pleading for clemency on his behalf.  As the offence is not spelt out, the association remains unproven, but he was clearly a naughty knight belonging to Brian fitz Count, who may well have been involved in the Barley Pound episode.

Archive held by Hampshire Cultural Trust as A1983.8

Further reading:

WIlliams-Freeman J P, 1915, Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire.

Stamper, P, 1984, Excavations on a mid-twelfth century siege castle at Bentley, Hampshire, Proc Hants Field Club Archaeol Soc 40, 81-9.

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




Buried in time and Kempshott Park; two Beaker graves

Kempshott Park is located to the south west of Basingstoke in an area of former chalk downland rich in prehistoric burial mounds or ‘barrows’. These have been largely ploughed flat and none of them closely investigated although, in 1888, the remains of twenty burial urns were discovered near the border with neighbouring Dummer. These urns, found in an inverted position with traces of burnt or calcined bone, provided evidence that the area was used for burial through to the later Bronze Age.

In 1928 the Kempshott estate was sold to Basingstoke Golf Course and in 1965 the M3 cut through the parkland. This part of the motorway route wasn’t as thoroughly investigated as the next section to Winchester (in the 1970s) when many sites were dug.


Rescue archaeology! House building reveals the first Beaker grave

In 2000, skeletal remains were discovered during the development of the Beggarwood housing estate, now occupying around half of the former parkland to the north west of the M3. Excavation revealed a human burial placed in a crouched position, accompanied by a complete Wessex/Middle Rhine Beaker, a relatively early style in the Beaker ceramic tradition. The vessel has a slender, sinuous profile and is decorated simply with six horizontal bands of impressed comb. The radiocarbon date for the human bone calibrated to 2210-2020 BC (about 4,100 years ago). Anatomical features of the partial skeleton indicate that the individual was male and aged 45+.


The Beaker, after cleaning and conservation

In the following year a quantity of human bone, beaker fragments and a copper awl were recovered about 100m away from the first burial. Steve Teague, the author of the report in the Hampshire Field Club Proceedings (see below) presumed that the two graves were originally associated with ring-ditches forming part of long-ploughed-out barrows which have left no trace, not even in aerial records of the past. The vessel associated with the second burial shares similarities with that of the first, probably reflecting that the same community made them. Only 30% of the second skeleton remained but the gracile nature of the bones is a female characteristic, as is the presence of an awl, or metal needle, as the only grave good besides the beaker.


The location of the second Beaker burial – all has been gathered in!


The Kempshott copper awl; a five pence piece provides the scale

An awl is a pointed tool used for marking surfaces or piercing small holes. The Kempshott Park awl is just over 6 cm long and made from slightly impure copper. As such, it could only have been used on soft material like textiles, soft leather or thin slivers of wood. The impurity pattern indicates an Irish origin for the metal and a date between 2500 and 2100 BC, a period when copper was being displaced by bronze. This is in accordance with the radiocarbon date for the second skeleton (2350-2130 BC).

Further reading

A2001.50 Archive deposited with the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Andrews, S. 1906, Dummer, Proc Hants Field Club and Archaeol Soc5, pp. 53-62.

Teague, S. 2012, The Chance Discovery of Two Beaker Burials at Kempshott Park, Basingstoke, Proc Hants Field Club and Archaeol Soc, 67(ii), pp. 219-228.


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

Hampshire excavations # 9

An occasional series looking at Hampshire digs large and small; Whitsbury Castle Ditches.


Plan of Whitsbury Castle Ditches, showing the location of the 1960 excavation

Whitsbury Castle Ditches is an Iron Age hillfort three miles north east of Fordingbridge,  with massive multivallate ramparts enclosing 6 ha (15 acres).  Its defences are much obscured by trees, however, and the main entrance has fallen prey to a manor house and set of stables.  The other gaps through the perimeter are not original.  Williams-Freeman, a century ago, and the Royal Commission, in the 1980s, noted ditches running to the north, east and south, which in turn link up with field systems and are Bronze Age in date.

In 1960 an extension to the riding stables enabled Philip Rahtz to mount a rescue excavation and an area of 1000 sq ft (93 sq m) was opened.  He identified eight phases of activity, which expands to nine if the use of the hill as a junction point for the three Bronze Age boundary ditches is included.  Two of the periods relate to the Iron Age and the excavator was fortunate enough to encompass a ‘D-shaped’ Middle Iron Age hut within his trench.  Although Roman and post-Roman phases were postulated at the site, it is worth noting that of the 656 pieces of pottery found, only 19 were Roman and 18 (all from the same vessel) post-Roman.  The latter were, however, associated with a pit, leading to consideration, at least, of Saxon re-use.


Detail of the excavation, showing the circular/half circular hut

The Iron Age hut, of an unusual half-circular form, had evidence for a timber wall, possibly made from planks, a rammed chalk floor and a burnt clay hearth.  Various postholes encouraged thoughts of internal structures such as a loom, and a possible loom weight and fragment of ‘weaving comb’ strengthened this hypothesis.  Whatever the true nature of this ‘workshop hut’ the excavation demonstrated the quality of evidence at this strongly-defended and strategically-placed fort dated, and culturally aligned, by finely made and elegantly decorated pottery of Yarnbury-Highfield type.

The Royal Commission noted that the interior of the fort had been ploughed (visible on air photographs taken in 1954) but was laid as pasture in the 1980s.  They describe the defences in considerable detail but their main concern was the relationship of the fort to the three linear ditches that approach it.  Attempts to be definitive were frustrated by the mixed clayey soil, which deterred geophysical results, degradation associated with trackways, and the implacable grassy and now slightly corrugated nature of the interior.

Williams-Freeman, who walked up to Whitsbury, enjoying a ‘steady three-mile climb’ from Fordingbridge, took in his customary sweeping view.  He remarked on Ashmore to the west, Salisbury Cathedral spire to the north and the New Forest to the south, but he bemoaned the fact that the ramparts were so densely wooded that they could only be examined where the undergrowth was cut.  There is still very limited access to this hillfort, it can only be skirted round, and the time of year is critical.  I recall David Johnston leading a Field Club visit there in the 1980s.  He had made his reconnaissance in the winter; in late spring it was thick with nettles.  ‘Follow me!’ was the cry as he disappeared into a great patch of stingers. Very few of us did.

Further reading:

Ellison A & Rahtz P, 1987, Excavations at Whitsbury Castle Ditches, Hampshire, 1960, Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc Proc Vol 43, 63-82

RCHAM(E), 1990, The Archaeology of Bokerley Dyke

Williams-Freeman, J P, 1915, Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire.

Archive held by Hampshire Cultural Trust as A1985.6 

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

Buried in time – and housing development – the source of the ‘Wiltshire Collection’

wilts pea

The Wiltshire Rpple

R F M Wiltshire (1901-81) was a Hampshire farmer and sweet-pea grower (the ‘Wiltshire Ripple’ variety is named after him) who owned Holbury Manor Farm near Fawley at the south eastern edge of the New Forest from 1951 to 1971. Holbury Manor dates from the 12th century and the manor lands include a system of fish ponds (scheduled as an Ancient Monument) which supplied carp to Beaulieu Abbey, a mysterious medieval site with a moat, and a length of the Roman road from Lepe.

Figure 1 Wiltshire photo

Ronald Wiltshire (right) ad Alan Aberg inspect the latest haul of finds from Site 2 (1958). Photograph by Ronald Longman.

Between 1956 and 1959, Mr Wiltshire carried out field walks and four excavations. He took his efforts seriously and regarded them as something of a community duty undertaken, in the absence of financial support from the Ministry of Works, at his own expense. He involved professionals from Southampton and Salisbury Museums, including Alan Aberg and John Wacher, and additional advice was provided by O G S Crawford.

For many years his finds were kept in a ‘museum barn’ on the site but, in 1971, when he left Holbury, they were donated to the Hampshire County Museum Service. As with many early collections, written records are limited. Some finds can be associated with the four excavation sites and three ‘masonry’ sites are shown on a sketch map which accompanied the collection, but many others are simply identified as ‘Holbury Manor’.

wiltshire map

Map, with additions, drawn by Mr Wiltshire, showing the site of the diggings relative to the line of the Roman road.

Nevertheless the collection, which spans the prehistoric, Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods, represents an archaeological record that would otherwise have been lost as the land, which had seen sporadic housing development since 1928, is now mostly built over.


The tranchet axe of Mesolithic date

In the collection are some four hundred worked flints, consisting mainly of scrapers, cores and flakes. There are a few arrowheads and axes, most notable of which is a Mesolithic tranchet axe. The Roman finds of tile, worked stone and pottery hint at a substantial settlement somewhere near by. Among the medieval and Tudor finds are distinctive pieces of pottery and tile, including a decorated floor tile that may have been made for Beaulieu Abbey.


The decorative floor tile

In 1971 it was agreed that there was nothing exceptional in the finds and there was little more that could be done besides monitoring the area. In 1993 Wessex Archaeology kept a watching brief near the moated site and in 2003 Southern Archaeological Services did likewise, with only post-medieval finds. In 2007, however, the area fell within the University of Southampton’s ‘Dark Water Valley’ survey project and in 2008, a watching brief by Archaeology South East took place at Holbury Infant School. This led to the discovery of Roman features – principally three large pits and two possible hearths – partly enclosed within two ditches (Collings, 2014).

Pottery (dated mostly to AD 275-350), ceramic building material and fragments of quern were recovered. The pottery, of which about 10% was from fine wares, indicates the sort of domestic use usually associated with a villa site, but an analysis of building fabrics suggested that many of the bricks and tegulae, were re-used.

The items representing domestic activity have no clear buildings associated with them, however, the features revealed in the 1950’s excavations shown on Wiltshire’s map are close to and parallel with the Roman road from Lepe to Applemore Hill, studied in some detail by Clarke (2003). This allows the suggestion that an industrial site grew up here alongside a route which originated as a Conquest-period military road.

Wiltshire Collection held by Hampshire Cultural Trust as HMCMS 1971.452 etc

Burdekin, R (2011) The Wiltshire Collection at the Hampshire County Museum, Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc Newsletter, 56 p 31-33

Clarke, A (2003) The Roman Road on the Eastern Fringe of the New Forest Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc 58 pp.33 et seq.

Collings, M (2014) Roman settlement evidence at the former Holbury Infant School, Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc 69 p 114-130.

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


Buried in time – and protective sand

Titchfield Abbey Inlaid Tiles

Titchfield is located on the River Meon, just two to three km inland from the Solent shore. The church of St Peter has Saxon long and short work and may have origins as early as the late 7th century. The town had a market before Domesday and in the medieval period was at the heart of the second largest parish in Hampshire. Its status was enhanced, in 1232, by the founding of an abbey a short distance to the north. The driving force was Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, and he invited a group of canons from the Premonstratensian Abbey at Halesowen (which he also founded) to get things started.


Titchfield Abbey; the gatehouse straddles the nave of the church; domestic chimneys occupy the western end.

Three hundred years later, Henry VIII granted the abbey and estates to Thomas Wriothesley, a character who will be familiar to readers of Wolf Hall. In 1538 Wriothesley began the part demolition and conversion of the abbey to a family residence which he named Place House (a corruption of Palace House). The abbey cloister became the courtyard of the mansion, preserving paving under soil and masonry until excavation in 1923 by H M Office of Works who had recently gained guardianship of the now ruined building. Sadly most of the excavation records were lost during the Blitz in the 1940s.

After the excavation, some patches of tile in the former cloister were cemented in place. One such – found buried under steps to the post-dissolution banqueting hall – had originally been installed at the entrance to the abbey refectory. It included a fragmentary Latin inscription, in Lombardic type, freely translated as follows:

‘Before you sit down to meat at your table – first remember the poor’.

The manufacture of medieval inlaid tiles involved three processes: first a carved wooden stamp was impressed upon a moist clay blank leaving a pattern; then a clay slip was spread into the hollows; finally metallic oxide was spread on the top surface before firing. The Titchfield tiles were made using a white slip on a red ground and some examples showed traces of a yellow transparent glaze.


Two castellated towers – probably for the Arms of Castile  (GT).

A report in the Hampshire Field Club Proceedings for 1952 by P M and A R Green, lists parallels for tiles found at Titchfield, for instance from Durford Abbey in Sussex, where similar stamps were used. Durford, like Titchfield, was a Premonstratensian house of White Canons, an off-shoot of the Augustinian Black Canons. In addition, twelve of the Tichfield designs have been identified in the village church at Warblington – it is probable that these had been disposed of by Wriothesley.


Among others: upper left, lion passant sinister in a circle with stalked trefoils extending into the angles; 13th century – may be of a different clay and made elsewhere. Middle right; two lions rampant regardant addorsed within a decorated double circle, oak leaves in the corners

Detailed descriptions of many of the Titchfield tiles are included in the HFC report. The authors’ Tile No.1 (identical to tiles found at Winchester, Durford and elsewhere) includes a rondel in which is depicted a woman’s headdress with a chinstrap, a fashion prevalent from 1280 to 1340. Another rondel has two regardant addorsed birds (that is, back-to-back and looking at each other); this example is almost identical to tile stamps found at Chertsey, a highly-regarded school of tile manufacture. Another tile, showing yet more addorsed regardant birds is interesting because there is a geometric figure between the birds which has not been found elsewhere.

Titchfield Abbey is looked after by English Heritage and entry is free. The tiles are generally viewable in the summer months but covered in winter in case of frosts. Anyone keen on learning more about the locality should visit Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham – another free experience. Titchfield retains much of its character – and there is a pleasant walk down to the sea along the course of the now overgrown early 17th century canal.

6C tiles 2

The images of Titchfield were taken this year (DA) and in the 1970s, by the irrepressible Gareth Thomas.


P.M. and A.R. Green, 1952, Mediaeval Tiles at Titchfield Abbey, Hants., Afterwards Place or Palace House. Proc Hants Field Club and Archaeol Soc., Vol. XVII, 6-30.

G.W. Minns, 1898, Titchfield Abbey and Place House. Proc Hants Field Club and Archaeol Soc, III, 317-338.

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



Hampshire excavations # 8

An occasional series covering Hampshire digs large and small; the pagan Saxon cemetery at Droxford.

Continuing the theme of archaeological sites disturbed by railway construction (although I’m not sure how much the navvies took note of Neatham) we take a look at Droxford – a celebrated discovery when it first came to light around 1900.  A cutting was being dug for the Fareham to Alton railway and word spread that human bones and spearheads had been unearthed.  William Dale, Secretary of the Hampshire Field Club, went to the spot and collected a number of items.  They were soon identified as Anglo-Saxon, and Dale returned to the site and recovered a number of smaller objects. ‘Very little progress’ he reported in his paper to the Society of Antiquaries in May, 1902, ‘was made in 1900, owing to the scarcity of labour’ and when work did resume he bemoaned ‘the tenacious clayey earth, out of which it was very difficult to extract anything of any size whole…Moreover [he continued] the employment this winter of a steam navvy did not help matters and probably some few objects were lost.’


William Dale; Secretary of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society 1887 – 1923

Despite the difficulties, Dale has to be applauded for rescuing what he did; ‘the place is 20 miles from my home and five from any railway station’ he groaned. As well as swords, spears and shield bosses, he collected brooches, toilet implements, spindle whorls, pottery and glass vessels and a composite bucket, most of which went to the British Museum. The wise heads at the Antiquaries agreed with his observation that the cemetery showed signs of comparative poverty, although swords, of which six were found, are generally considered to indicate high rank.


Plan of the 1973 Droxford excavations (F G Aldsworth) from the report in Hants Field Club

The site was rediscovered by Fred Aldsworth in 1973, three years after the railway line had been finally abandoned. Using the few topographical clues in Dale’s account he pinned down the location and inspection of a chalk cutting revealed three graves. Enlisting the help of the Department of the Environment and Hampshire County Museums Service he was able to mount an excavation in the summer of 1974, hoping to find sufficient evidence to throw light on the nature and date of the whole cemetery.  The 41 graves he found, containing over 380 objects, surpassed all expectations.


Two of the ‘warrior graves’ found in the excavation; Grave 4 (left) containing the skeleton of a 35-40 year-old male, buried with spear, shield and knife; and Grave 18, a male of 20-25 years, with spear, shield, knife and buckle.

The excavation is a classic example of a well-run project which is brilliantly recorded and reported and involved a good number of the local community, including members of SHARG; the necessary equipment being loaned by the Test Valley Archaeological Committee.  Although the final report is short on specialist contributions ‘since the author felt that the provision of such material would unduly delay the publication’ it does have full catalogues, including the British Museum material and a few additional finds made in 1906 which went to Winchester City Museum.  It also benefits from a discussion of the late 5th and 6th century cemetery, the settlement it served and the phenomenon of the ‘heathen burial place’.

It also benefited from a visit by keen photographer Gareth Thomas, who was clearly lured there by an ‘open day’ in 1974.



The archive from the 1970s excavations is in the care of the Hampshire Cultural Trust – A1974.309


Aldsworth, F, 1979, Droxford Anglo-Saxon Cemetery, Soberton, Hampshire, Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc 35, 93-182.

Dale, W, 1903, [Droxford, Hants]  Proc Soc Antiq Lond 19, 125-9.

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