Cadbury Camp, Tickenham

The National Trust looks after 29 hillforts in Wessex (that’s Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire in NT terms)

I suppose that’s not quite true NT looks after 27 and a bit, the north half of Eggardon Hill in west Dorset and the east half of Whitesheet, Stourhead Estate belong to other people. We care for only a bit of Wick Ball Camp, Dinton Park and just a rampart and ditch survives of poor old Burgh Walls near Bristol. The Edwardians built on the rest. Thank goodness Mr Wills gave NT Leigh Woods so that its neighbour Stokeleigh Camp didn’t suffer the same fate.

However, just a little west from Stokeleigh, along the Failand Ridge towards the coast at Clevedon, lies Cadbury Camp and the Trust looks after the whole of that.

The view from the west side of Cadbury looking south towards the Mendips

The view from the west side of Cadbury looking south towards the Mendips

This is not South Cadbury on the A303 near Yeovil nor is it Cadbury Congresbury also in Somerset. It is a lesser known but no less interesting place.

It is great to visit, quiet though close to Bristol and with panoramic views across the Bristol Channel into South Wales or inland towards the Mendips.

Cadbury Camp divided into 20m grids for our geophysical survey.

Cadbury Camp divided into 20m grids for our geophysical survey.

I visited recently and saw the work that the Bill the ranger has organised there. The double ramparts and defensive ditches have been cleared of scrub and it looks great. There is only one gateway, on the north side overlooking Wales and that’s the place where the only excavation took place. Harold St George Grey came here in 1922 and put two trenches in and found that the ramparts are made of limestone rubble, pottery finds were Iron Age but also Roman. In fact casual finds have included other Roman evidence including sandstone roof tiles and a Roman alter fragment with the figure of the god Mars carved into it. Perhaps there was a temple or shrine up here.

It’s a place that has been visited for a long time. Flints dating to the Neolithic period have been found here and in 1856 someone found a bronze spearhead about 3000 years old. A dog walker found another one a few years ago.

Harold St George Grey's 1922 excavation trenches across the entrance.

Harold St George Grey’s 1922 excavation trenches across the entrance.

Back in 2001, Bristol University carried out an earthwork survey on the south side of the hillfort because they spotted a blocked entrance there. Nick and I thought we would work with them and carried out a geophysical survey of the interior. It took some time but it is good to commune with a place and get to know it. I tend to get to know a hillfort quite intimately when walking up and down taking readings with a resistivity probe.

Somebody stopped to talk and mentioned that he had lived in the nearby village of Tickenham on the south side of the ridge since he was a boy. During WWII, the soldiers from the searchlight battery used to come down the hill and drink in the pub. They were part of the defence line around Bristol to stop the bombers trashing the aircraft factory at Filton. He showed us where their huts had been. The two Marks from the university carried on surveying the blocked entrance while I did the mag and Nick did the res.

Magnetometry, see the lines of the ploughing and the two blobs where we thing the searchlights were.

Magnetometry, see the lines of the ploughing and the two blobs where we thing the searchlights were.

When we downloaded it. The magnetometry didn’t show much just regular parallel lines, evidence of a period when the fort interior was ploughed and in addition lots of ferrous speckley bits along with two ferrous blobs. We concluded that this was where the concrete searchlight buildings had been. A subsequent meeting in Tickenham village hall gave us a clue to the speckles. Unexploded bombs which landed on Bristol were brought into the ramparts and detonated someone said.

The north-west part of the hillfort enclosure. Three parallel ditches. A Roman fortlet?

The north-west part of the hillfort enclosure. Three parallel ditches. A Roman fortlet?

The resistivity was interesting though. Three parallel ditches formed a playing card-like corner and used the north and west ramparts of the hillfort to complete the enclosure. The Roman finds might relate to this. It’s smaller but encloses the highest part of the fort. Seems a bit like NT’s Hod Hill in Dorset. Could there have been a Roman look-out unit here?

The new information panel at the north gate showing the Iron Age round houses that    people would have lived in over 2000 years ago...although we didn't see and ring ditches on our survey.

The new information panel at the north gate showing the Iron Age round houses that people would have lived in over 2000 years ago…although we didn’t see and ring ditches on our survey.

Meet us at Tickenham village hall on October 17th and we’ll show you round.

T. E Lawrence – rescue archaeologist

 

Clouds Hill near Wool, Dorset

Clouds Hill near Wool, Dorset

A few weeks ago I got chance to research and visit Clouds Hill, retreat of Thomas  Edward Lawrence, better known to us all as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

As part of a week-long event to commemorate the death of Lawrence in a motorbike accident in 1935,  we were invited to provide an archaeology display. I knew he had worked in Syria but was not sure how he had developed this interest in archaeology.

Lawrence was born in Tremadoc in Wales in 1888 and by the age of four he was able to read and by six he was learning Latin.The family ended up in Oxford, were his interest in monuments and medieval history developed. At the age of 15, Lawrence and his school friend Cyril Beeson bicycled around Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, visiting many parish churches. They were interested in the buildings and the  monuments and made rubbings of the monumental brasses they found. The Ashmolean Museum have some of these rubbings and there are two in Clouds Hill.

Lawrence  and Cyril  Beeson became ‘rescue’ archaeologists when they started  monitoring building sites in Oxford, undertaking small excavations, recording chance finds and  then taking their finds to the Ashmolean Museum.The Ashmolean’s Annual Report for 1906 said the two teenage boys “by incessant watchfulness secured everything of antiquarian value which has been found”.  Lawrence and Beeson toured France by bicycle, in 1906/07 collecting photographs, drawings, and measurements of medieval castles, Lawrence then won a scholarship to Oxford University to study History.  After
gaining his degree in 1910 Lawrence joined an expedition led by D. G.
Howgarth, from the Ashmolean Museum, to Carchemish – Northern
Syria.

He also worked with Leonard Woolley, and in a letter to his brother said he would contact him about the site his brother was excavating, in the letter he tells his brother ‘Don’t give up at once  if you don’t find anything. Digging is an excellent exercise ‘

A bevy of Brough bikes

A bevy of Brough bikes

As part of the event a bevy of Brough bikes arrived, these are the motorbikes that Lawrence loved. He had a Brough superior, like the one pictured, sadly he was killed in 1935 whilst riding his beloved Brough.

A Brough Superior motorbike

A Brough Superior motorbike

Object of the month – free gift inside

As keeper of the objects we discover on our excavations I probably keep more than I should! But I see stories and links to past lives in everything and  if more recent objects can help take people back in time and start the journey to prehistory then they are as valuable as a Roman statue with an inscription!

I was sorting my boxes of odd and miscellaneous finds and came across this collection of childhood related plastic objects. Some I can remember and still have in my own tin box of things I have saved from childhood!

Plastic toys

Plastic toys

A few of the objects are probably free gifts from cereal packets and some are pocket-money toys. There was always a fear in my home of one of  us choking on a free gift in our cereal, but they were usually too big to be a hazard. If the box said free gift on the outside it was a race to get to it first (the hope was there were two inside) as the youngest I had to wait until the others were too old for free gifts!

A mysterious cereal packet gift

A mysterious cereal packet gift

Part one of the magic

Part one of the magic

The finished magic!

The finished magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure if there are these kinds of free gifts in cereal anymore, the little plastic toys and games have been taken over by chocolate eggs wrapped in orange and white and fast food chains. The main difference now is they will found in their millions, so archaeologists who save everything, like me, will have to find bigger boxes!

Gone Barrow Hardy’s Monument

Hardy’s Monument occupies the highest and central part of the South Dorset Ridgeway. The National Trust has looked after it since 1900. You might think that it was built as a memorial to Thomas Hardy and you would be right.. but not the writer. In 1844, the monument was built by public subscription to honour Vice-Admiral Thomas Masterman Hardy who attended Lord Nelson after he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Hardy Monument and the new acquisition looking east

Hardy Monument and the new acquisition looking east

The Monument was built on land owned by Admiral Hardy’s family. They valued him as part of their kinship group, a Dorset celebrity, a heroic leader. His stone tower monument was something they were proud to look up to as they worked and managed their estate. An apt continuation of a Ridgeway tradition stretching back thousands of years.

Until recently, the National Trust only looked after the Monument and a few metres of land around it. However, the density of barrows along the Ridgeway meant that even in this small parcel of ground the Trust cared for a burial mound and a half. We have the other half now.

The view south towards Weymouth with the Isle of Portland jutting out into the English Channel

The view south towards Weymouth with the Isle of Portland jutting out into the English Channel

Just a few weeks ago, the land around the monument was purchased, an area of heather and rough pasture with amazing panoramic views, particularly southwards towards the English Channel. From here Weymouth, the Isle of Portland, Chesil beach and the Fleet can be seen. NT has several more barrows now. However, it was too late to save one of them.

The gravel quarry marking the site of the lost bell barrow.

The gravel quarry marking the site of the lost bell barrow.

Just a few metres to the south of Hardy’s monument there was once a massive barrow, over 35m in diameter and 3m high. A key location chosen at the centre and highest point of the vast Neolithic and Bronze Age cemetery of the South Dorset Ridgeway. Here, there are the sites of over 600 burial mounds between the parishes of Poxwell and Abbotsbury.. but this one is gone now. After 4000 years it was bulldozed in 1955.

The National Trust was too late to save it but we are fortunate because in May 1955 two government archaeologists saw that it was under threat from quarrying and decided to preserve its memory by excavation.

In this area, the chalk ridge is covered by sand and gravel. After the archaeologists had cut a section across the mound and ditch, they considered that when first built it must have looked like Saturn when viewed from a distance. A circular ring ditch cut into the bright orange gravel, surrounding a raised platform or ‘berm’ and at its centre a high burial mound of cut turves. A ‘fancy’ barrow attributed to the ‘Wessex Culture’

The place had been a focus for activity ever since. They wrote in their report that the top of the mound had been dug into during WWII and a gun emplacement had been placed there and on the north side closest to Hardy’s Monument they found another cutting and a brick fireplace built against the barrow. They thought this had been a sheltered place for the 1840s workmen when they built their famous Admiral’s tower.

But who was the Bronze Age celebrity the barrow was constructed for? The mound had been built using acidic soil and therefore no bones survived, no grave goods either so perhaps the centre had been robbed out in later generations.

However, a few hundred years later, three other people’s cremated remains were put inside large crude barrel shaped urns. They were decorated with the makers’ finger tip and nail impressions and each was placed around the outer edge of the mound.

The inscription over the north facing doorway into Hardy's Monument.

The inscription over the north facing doorway into Hardy’s Monument.

The heathy soil preserved the ancient pollen and the report lists all the Bronze Age plants living in the area when the mound was first raised.

It is gone now..the site is just a gravel pit on the edge of a car park..

but thanks to archaeologists Paul Ashbee and M.W. Thompson we can still tell some of its stories. No doubt the mound helped shape many lives, things that we can only imagine.

For a moment pause:-
Just here it was;
And through the thin thorn hedge, by the rays of the moon
I can see the tree in the field, and beside it the mound-
Now sheeted with snow – whereon we sat that June
When it was green and round
And she crazed my mind by what she so coolly told-

Thomas Hardy (the other one)

National Trust HBSMR and Windush

A WWII access track leading to a building in the trees.

A WWII access track leading to a building in the trees.

The National Trust owns many 1000s of archaeological sites. Some were purchased specifically but most were acquired by accident… in the sense that either we didn’t know they were there or perhaps the mansion house, art collection, garden, nature conservation or landscape value of the place was thought to be the pre-eminent reason for protecting it.

Every bit of land it seems has some sort of archaeology. Sometimes it’s a nationally significant site like a Neolithic causewayed enclosure or a Roman villa or sometimes its not so special like a 20th century sand pit (sincere apologies to archaeological sand pit enthusiasts).

We need to know what we’ve got as far as possible so it can be looked after appropriately.. so each piece of land should have a historic landscape and archaeological survey which unwraps the story of the people who occupied it and how they used it back down through the generations.

Every site gets a unique number.. a description.. a condition statement.. and recommendation on how it should be looked after. The information is put in our database HBSMR (Historic Buildings Sites and Monuments Record). Every building has a number… every earthwork… every buried site (that we know about), each find spot and scatter of debris found in a ploughed field… and even every sand pit.

Two air vents still attached to the collapsed roof of an RAF structure.

Two air vents still attached to the collapsed roof of an RAF structure.

We bring together all existing information and build on it over time typing it into the record and adding reports and notes on monitoring and work carried out on the site.

Three WWII blister hangers now used as farm buildings.

Three WWII blister hangers now used as farm buildings.

The information is now available on-line. Not perfect yet but it will get better. Type into Google… Heritage Gateway and search on the National Trust place you want to look at. For example, type the name Windrush and you will see.. third down below the lilac non-statutory organisations band.. National Trust HBSMR. 78 results.

View towards the rampart of Windrush Iron Age hillfort from the weathered brickwork of a WWII building.

View towards the rampart of Windrush Iron Age hillfort from the weathered brickwork of a WWII building.

Windrush is a scheduled Iron Age hillfort but it stands amongst the most extensive WWII air base the NT owns. Used as a pilot training base from 1940-45. Now a private tenanted farm full of gently decaying brick and concrete structures within woodland and pasture. There is a WWII map that describes the use of each structure.

View of the Watch Office from the pill box which once guarded RAF Windrush.

View of the Watch Office from the pill box which once guarded RAF Windrush.

The concrete identification code UR can be seen in giant letters in front of the air control Watch Office tower guarded by an octagonal pill box. It was bombed in 1940.. and one of the unarmed Avro Anson trainer planes rammed a Heinkel and brought it down. The RAF pilot Bruce Hancock is commemorated for his bravery in the local church.

The Bottleknap Trio, Long Bredy: The Lost Dorset Generations

This is a good story. No photos this time. Just an update.

Bodies in Trenches was a blog from the end of 2013.

At that time, we mentioned that some bones had been unearthed during a watching brief on a drainage trench beside Bottleknap Cottage in Long Bredy. This is a little piece of National Trust land, a 17th century cottage and a couple of fields all on its own in the parish of Long Bredy. It’s tucked away below the South Dorset Ridgeway.. towards the coast. There was no planning condition for a watching brief. The NT believed the place to be significant enough to keep an eye open while the ground was being disturbed.

Peter and Mike watched the digger and almost 1m down beneath some stones, at the point where it must surely have reached natural bedrock, the bucket came up full of bones. They stopped everything, dropped down into the trench and saw the parts of the skeletons in the deep narrow trench section. Including the severed ends of long bones and the line of a spine.

Claire looked through the bones and saw there were the hip bones of at least three young people, teenagers or early twenties. From what could be recorded from such a narrow slice, the bodies had been in a line, buried in a crouched position, with their heads pointing to the north.

Nothing to date them though. What were they doing there so deep beneath the Dorset countryside? Were they buried under a cairn of stones? Was this a crime? The parish church is just a few hundred metres away but crouched burials tend to be far older than the first churches in England.

Burials in round barrows tend to be on hill tops and the South Dorset Ridgeway, which overlooks Long Bredy, has hundreds of examples of these…

The bone fragments were very well preserved so we sent three samples away for radiocarbon dating and waited….not knowing what dates would come back. One date is just a date, two dates may conflict or be a coincidence.. three dates will give you good supporting evidence if they match.

This week the dates came back. If you have.. that time bug… then such moments are electric.

The dates of the three samples matched (C14 is not precise you understand) and fell between 800-600 BC. The graph suggested that the true date of burial was likely to be towards the earlier end of this range.

The thing to do now is to make comparisons with similar finds in Dorset.. but there are none. I checked with Peter who checked with Claire.. nope.

There are times in prehistory where there is much evidence for burial and others where there is none at all. (whatever did they do with their dead?) and our Bottleknap trio fall within the latter.

Bit of a dark age really.. when the very first fragments of revolutionary iron were being brought to our shores. These three are the very first Dorset people we can link to this period.

If we look to the wider world..this is the time of the Assyrians. For example, in the book of Isaiah in 701 BC King Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem…. but Dorset has no such history.. just these three young people found in a drainage trench beneath some stones.

Bread and butter

A lot of work during these winter months is the behind the scenes, or beyond the trench jobs :-) We can finish the last of finds washing and marking, gather the specialist reports from excavations, receive paperwork and finds archives from contractors and prepare for publishing. Also as it’s the end of the financial year some projects are coming to fruition including some involving archaeological archives.

We have spent many days lately putting up shelving and moving hundreds of boxes of finds into newly renovated buildings and rooms.

New archive room at Lanhydrock

New archive room at Lanhydrock

At the Lanhydrock office a room had been racked out to create a central area for archaeological archives. Now we had room to open an old, dusty, unmarked box and have a look at what it held.

Box of finds fro cross Cornwall, found by the public, Rangers and property staff

Box of finds from across Cornwall, found by the public, Rangers and property staff

Among the bags of pottery, bone, stone and plaster we found some strange brown stuff stuck to open weave cloth.

Brown stuff found to be old latex

Brown stuff on open weave cloth

Textured side of the strange brown stuff

Textured side of the strange brown stuff

It was all cracked but had a textured side, very strange……. but luck was with us and we found a small note that explained what we were looking at!

The odd brown stuff is old latex!

It’s old latex!

I would never have guessed that the mystery substance was latex! It had been used to take an impression of the surface of pottery, with the hope that it would help with identifying the grass seeds and the type of  weave showing on the pottery surface.

Some of the pottery with impressions of cloth or basket work

Some of the pottery with impressions of cloth or basket work

 

The next archive project involved building work on an important building so we could create a store and resource space for our finds from the Kingston Lacy Bankes estate. The WWII American Army hospital, 10 bed isolation ward, needed a new roof and its concrete cancer treating, it also needed a use and as we had already been using it to work on and store our archaeological collections it seemed logical to extend this use.

The old hospital building with its new roof

The old hospital building with its new roof

After emptying out everything into large ocean-going containers the work was done over the autumn and winter. Finally after a lick of paint it was time to put everything back so with help from two house removal experts we moved 350 boxes and many other oddments back into the fresh bright well racked room. This now allows good access for researchers to study the finds from all ages of sites from across the estate.
The finds boxes back on the shelving all sorted and assecable The last big move was the Crickley Hill collection from excavations that ran from 1969 until 1993. The contract for re boxing and creating an archive  copy of the Crickley photographic collection was under taken by  Cotswold Archaeology, and the store at our Sherborne Estate office was to be its final destination.

Sherborne store ready for the Crickley finds

Sherborne store ready for the Crickley finds

after the delivery of the finds

 

 

 

The environmental sample tubs

Last week the day came to move it all back into the store, a total of 244 finds boxes and 90 environmental sample tubs.

 

 

 

 

The guys from Cotswold Archaeology turned up in their white vans and we spent a few hours off loading everything onto the new shiny racking.

Tom, Fran, Emily and Claire from Cotswold Archaeology

Phew! three down two to go! the next archive stores waiting for an update are Purbeck and Lacock but they can wait until my back has had a good rest and a few chiropractic sessions :-)