The Deer Hill Stones Kingston Lacy

Last time I wrote of the Badbury Barrow and the Bronze Age carvings on a stone now in the British Museum.

I needed to find the cup and ring marks which had been found at another site at Kingston Lacy.  Ploughed up in a field called Deer Hill Field.

I had phoned around and arranged a day to track down the evidence.

A lovely summer. So dry and hot during our Chedworth Roman Villa excavations… but my luck ran out as I drove down from Wiltshire with all of the geophysics equipment heaped up in the back of the car.

The windscreen wipers were working hard from Blandford through Tarrant Keyneston village rising up to the Beech Avenue which loomed out of the rain marking the edge of the Kingston Lacy Estate.

I turned left into Badbury Rings car park and found Dave who was outside his car and looking grumpy and wet. He complained that I was late which was true and I led him down side lanes to the large Victorian farmhouse. The Kingston Lacy farmhouses are little mansion houses and this one has a lovely garden.

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The farmer and his wife welcomed us in and we had coffee in their large kitchen. I got out my note book and asked them about the Badbury Barrow. They thought that the garden might have been created out of the remains of the barrow as it was designed soon after the barrow’s destruction and the garden terraces and archways were made up of thousands of large flint nodules. Reverend Austen had described many such flints built to create the chamber of the Badbury Barrow’s central burial area.

We talked about ploughing in the 1950s-70s and how government grants encouraged bigger and deeper digging ploughs. He pointed to a map and showed where his new plough had torn up a large lump of sandstone in the 1960s, on the south side of Badbury Rings, and below it he found a human skeleton. Not the Badbury Barrow though, the potential site lay a few hundred metres further east in the same field. This site could be seen as ring ditch i.e. the soil filled circular quarry ditch for a Bronze Age burial mound levelled by ploughing.  It was very clear on aerial photographs with a black mark in the centre which was presumably the grave pit.

Kingston Lacy NT403 4 Feb 1989

Bottom centre: The ring ditch south of Badbury with the dark mark perhaps of a burial at its centre.

I had planned to survey it that day but on reflection I doubted whether geophysical survey would give much more information than the aerial photograph already showed This photo did not show indications of the complicated burial structure described in 1846….so I allowed myself to be distracted by Deer Hill field.

We went round the garden and looked at the stones the farmer had ploughed up in 1978 in Deer Hill field. This lies east of Badbury and High Wood and was once part of the medieval deer park (hence the name). Good cut stones of brown sandstone and one of limestone. Clearly once made for a substantial building. I asked the farmer questions….were they mortared into a wall? No. Were they associated with any particular finds? No. …strange

He collected them up and heaped them in a neighbouring copse where the old chalk pits and shooting butts lie. Here there are a group of four oval ditched planting platforms for groups of beech trees linked by banks of elder bushes. An ornamental feature created as an 18th century eyecatcher to be seen from Kingston Lacy House. These have been long abandoned and the heap of stone and flint from the discovery is now overgrown between two of the ovals.

The farmer had chosen some of the stones he had found for his garden. I photographed them and then he took us to the site. The rain was clearing and we negotiated the drying land tentatively taking the cars via the hunting lodge track at Lodge Farm out towards High Wood.

We talked about our memories and his long connection with the farm. The family picnics and the midsummer sunrise. The fields experienced in all weathers and in all seasons.

Kingston Lacy CUAP AHT 70

Deer Hill field between High Wood (top left) and Pitts Copse (bottom right). Note the large square crop mark with curved sides near the centre of the field. Our survey was at the field edge near top left of the field.

The views out from this place across the Allen valley were beautiful, gentle birdsong after the much needed downpour on a summer baked land.

He took us to the the site and we thanked him for his hospitality and said goodbye.

Dave used the GPS equipment to fit our 20m geophysical survey grid to the Ordnance Survey grid. Mark arrived from the KL ranger team and helped with the earth resistance as we marched across the ploughed stubble and wildflower verges to survey as much as we could in the time available.

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Fixing the grid with the GPS before the geophysical survey looking towards Wimborne and Pitts Copse (on the horizon)

There was little to indicate what lay beneath. I found a piece of black pottery which could be Roman.. a chunk of Purbeck limestone and a couple of fragments of baked clay tile. The magnetometer was much faster so the score at 3pm was 6 grids to Dave and 4 to me and Mark and it was time to pack up and move to my next appointment….down the road to Keeper’s Lodge.

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The cup and ring marks on the stone at Keeper’s Lodge

A lovely thatched cottage with outbuildings. This was an important place in the 16th century. The old medieval Kingston Lacy manor house was a ruin and the present house was yet to be constructed. There are fragments of the old manor house salvaged and reused to build Keeper’s Lodge.

David was there to meet me.

In 1978 he had heard of the discovery of the stones and had been shown the pile in the wood. The farmer had given him stones for his garden and we went to find them where they had been placed in the garden bed revetment walls. Large stones neatly faced along one or two edges. Mostly they were plain but one stone he noticed had spiral designs and hollows on its upper surface and part of the pattern had been cut when the stone was reused and dressed.

I took some more photographs and drove home. All this had happened in the time when Mr Bankes still owned the estate but it was good to try to piece the story of the discovery together now the the National Trust cared for the land.

I downloaded the geophysics into the computer.

It’s like fishing..  you never know quite what will be found. It can be very disappointing. The earth resistance survey had been a waste of time. The technique on arable land tends to reveal modern plough lines and tractor ruts and that is what I got. Then I loaded Dave’s magnetometer survey. Bingo! Good clear lines of early field and property boundaries and splodges of high magnetic responses. Particularly at a field corner. At least one large building just where the farmer had said it would be.

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The results of the magnetometer survey with the suspected building site top centre right.

Though the farmer noticed no finds at the time of the discovery David had found Roman pottery here and. This land had been open land, part of the Kingston Lacy deer park back to at least to the 13th century. The stones are most likely to be part of a Roman building, perhaps a farmstead. When building it, the masons had picked up the ring carved stone and re-shaped it to fit the wall.

What other carved prehistoric stones lie undiscovered on the Kingston Lacy Estate. Cup and ring marks are features of the north of Britain not Dorset so the discovery is rare and interesting. We need to go back into Pitts Copse and check the other stones that still lie there and… also a trip to the British Museum would be in order to take some high resolution photographs of the Badbury Barrow carved daggers ….which are so like those at Stonehenge.

Babdury stone

 

 

 

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