It’s all in the name..

Close up detail of plaster work around the top of the ceiling above the marble staircase

Once again I headed for Kingston Lacy with a mission to check under the floorboards in the house. A condition survey was being carried out by Clivedon Conservation on the plaster ceiling above the marble staircase.

Douglas and Tina (National Trust paintings conservator) surveying the painted plaster ceiling

It was while looking under the floor in the third Tented Room above the ceiling that Douglas from Clivedon Conservation spotted some writing on one of the joists of the superstructure, but he had not had time follow it up further.

“James” written in pencil on the wooden joist

So as well as looking between the joists for objects lost down the cracks between the boards or hidden on purpose, I had a look at the faces of the joists to see if I could find more writing. It was difficult to get the right lighting and angle to make out the words, especially as not all the boards had been lifted. But with the help of torches and various settings on my camera I could make out one full name, a part name and a date!

The surname “Game” to go with the first name James

The complete name was James Game, followed by the name Isaac and something illegible, presumably a surname, and then the date November 25th 1837. William John Bankes commissioned Charles Barry in 1835 to remodel Kingston Hall. This work was completed circa 1841, so the 1837 date fits with work being carried out in the house.

November 25th 1837

With access to the 1840 census I thought I would look up James Game to see if I could find him in the area or on the estate. It was exciting to find someone of this name living at Hillbutts, a small group of dwellings beside the boundary of the parkland around Kingston Lacy house. But best of all, his occupation was listed as a joiner!

I think the second name of Isaac starts with an N? All ideas and suggestions welcome, then we’ll see if we can find Isaac on the census as well!

I think the surname of Isaac starts with an N, or perhaps M

The name Isaac written in pencil

 

Cold Case: Skeleton Cave , Leigh Woods

Sometimes names are a mystery… and until recently that was true for ‘Skeleton Cave’.

Back in 98 we commissioned an archaeological site survey for the National Trust’s Bristol property ..Leigh Woods. It found that one of its Avon Gorge caves (near the Clifton Suspension Bridge), was named Skeleton Cave. No explanation could be discovered, just an empty cave with a name.

10-03-08-leigh-woods-michaels-hill-golden-cap-022The view from Stokeleigh Camp down to the Skeleton Cave at Leigh Woods

Bones preserve well in the carboniferous limestone caves and are often found when cavers dig there…though discoveries may be centuries old and poorly recorded.

Deep cave deposits can be  of many periods. The National Trust has a good Somerset cave collection.. at Leigh Woods, Brean Down and the Mendips properties. Cave deposits tend to be very ancient indeed. At Cheddar there is a cave known as the Bone Hole where many prehistoric bones have been found. The Royal Holloway College has been carrying out exceptional research at Ebbor. Here, after a decade of excavations,through layers containing Pleistocene animal remains, some human occupation evidence has recently been found. This is over 30,000 years old and below layers containing bones of long lost British creatures like aurochs, arctic foxes, reindeer and bears.

img_1386Pleistocene animal bones from Ebbor Gorge

So Skeleton Cave is a cold case.. and an unexpected email from Graham at Bristol University reopened the files. First, and most obviously, it is Skeleton Cave because back in 1965 two men dug there and found prehistoric flint flakes and a skeleton. National Trust had no idea the excavation was taking place until a report appeared in the local paper. At that point the Bristol Spelaeological Society at Bristol University wrote to NT to raise their concerns.

Surviving cave deposits are rare and any excavation needs to be backed up with the resources and experience to analyse the finds and publish the information. So the excavation stopped and the finds were handed over to the National Trust. Bristol Spelaeological Society put together a file on what they could find out about the excavation.

Graham let me see the Bristol correspondence and hoped to find more from the National Trust files. The NT archive is curated in environmentally friendly conditions in old WWII tunnels near Chippenham, Wiltshire. The relevant files were called up and brought to our office at Tisbury. A morning of searching revealed very little additional information.

Back in the 1960s, the National Trust had very few staff compared with today and some properties were administered by local management committees. Some of the letters in Graham’s file were from the Leigh Woods committee and this reminded me of the tin trunk we once had in the cellar at our old office at Eastleigh Court, Warminster.

The box had been full of minute books and maps and other documents held by the Leigh Woods Management Committee and was transferred to the Leigh Woods property hub at Tyntesfield when we moved. I contacted the collections manager there and Graham went to Tyntesfield to look inside the box…Unfortunately,  just committee stuff and nothing about Skeleton Cave.

Within the Bristol University files were letters from the old Wessex Regional Office at Stourhead. Perhaps the 2 boxes of finds from Skeleton Cave were taken there. No, they may be hidden somewhere but the Stourhead collection is largely catalogued and there is nothing from Bristol.

Another of Graham’s 1960s letters is from Lacock and this is a more likely place for something to be hidden. The Talbot family were finding things on their Wiltshire estate for centuries before it came to the Trust and there are numerous rooms and boxes all through the ranges of Abbey buildings. The collection is still being catalogued. Visions of the two lost Leigh Woods finds boxes hidden like Ravenclaw’s diadem within Lacock’s ‘rooms of requirement’ (Lacock featured in the early Harry Potter films).

No luck so far. Usually back then, NT archaeological finds would be deposited at the local museum which would be Bristol City Museum. They have no records from Skeleton Cave.

However, not all is lost. Graham has a drawn section of the cave, notes on the excavation and a precious human lower jaw which was given to the University by the finders. He will publish an account of the discovery and Lisa at Tyntesfield has found the money to provide a radiocarbon date for the mandible.

10-03-08-leigh-woods-michaels-hill-golden-cap-023Bristol Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge from Stokeleigh Camp Iron Age hillfort.

It was analysed a few days ago and we await the result.

 

 

 

 

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!

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 🙂

Marvel at the marble

Just before Christmas I headed to Oxford to meet with Emma Durham, who is working on the Chedworth antiquarian collections, and we then headed to the Ashmolean Museum to meet marble expert Susan Walker, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

We both had finds bags with various pieces of marble from past and recent excavations at Chedworth Roman Villa. The piece I had was the one found in August 2014 (see post Day 12 – last discoveries and careful covering). Emma had a few pieces from the original excavations in the 1860s.

We met Susan and were led through a maze of stairs and corridors to her book-filled office, she cleared a space on the table and we handed over our treasures. We opened our notebooks and waited, pens at the ready. Susan looked at each piece of marble in turn and made a few interesting opening comments. Three pieces that looked slightly different in surface colour turned out to fit together into a larger piece, others were different in thickness and marble type. After a few questions about the site and finding of the pieces, Susan started to tell us the story she saw in the marble.

All the marble looked to be East Mediterranean, and most pieces seem to be wall veneers, but are quite thick, which may indicate use in a bath house or water feature. Some of the marble looks to be  from Paros, which was favoured for water features. I think the pattern in the marble added to the effect, when under water, of movement.

While drawing the plan of the site we found a mottled stone which on closer inspection turned out to be a piece of marble. An exotic material brought to the villa to decorate an architectural feature or perhaps part of a panel on a piece of furniture.

While drawing the plan of the site we found a mottled stone which on closer inspection turned out to be a piece of marble. An exotic material brought to the villa to decorate an architectural feature or perhaps part of a panel on a piece of furniture.

Susan identified one piece that was worked along the edge, part of a basin, tank, vessel or sink, and most likely came from Proconnesus in the Sea of Marmara. She was amazed this got all the way to Chedworth. She explained that the marble was probably all 2nd/3rd century (Severan) due to the type of marble that was quarried then. At that time the set up with marble was that the Emperor had first call on any marble and only small amounts were then available to others, some of which would be exported to Britain and come in via London. It seems that, to be able to acquire this kind of marble, the person who owned Chedworth Villa had a very high status.

The questions this raises are to do with the dates. Was the marble used in the earlier villa on the site (2nd century) or was it reused marble acquired for the later villa (4th century) from somewhere else? Have there been other finds of these marble types in the area, in Cirencester for example, and how much has been found in the country as a whole? Once again more questions than answers, so onward we go with more research and potentially more exciting discoveries.

Emma and I left the museum with big grins on our faces. It had been a very exciting encounter, thank you Susan for bringing this stone to life, and I hope I have interpreted my scribbled notes right!

Oh, and I must not forget the piece we dug up this year; it’s called Cipollino, little onion marble, probably from the Greek island of Euboea.

A close up of 'Little Onion' the marble found during the 2014 excavations

A close up of ‘Little Onion’ the marble found during the 2014 excavations

 

 

All about Eve: Chedworth, the Mithraeum and 1954

27th July 1954 Oxford

Dear Mr Irvine (National Trust Custodian Chedworth Roman Villa)

This is about the proposed excavation at Chedworth..I am unable to do it myself at that time of year so we have the services of Miss Eve Rutter who has just taken her final exams here and has already been on many excavations including one she has directed herself so I think she will do it very well. Would you and Mrs Irvine be able to put Miss Rutter up during the excavation as she has no means of transport….

Best wishes Yours sincerely Mr D. Harden Keeper Ashmolean.

Plan of Chedworth before Eve Rutter's excavation.  The 'Porter's Lodge is the small room (IX) bottom left on the plan protruding south of the south range.

Plan of Chedworth before Eve Rutter’s excavation. The ‘Porter’s Lodge is the small room (IX) bottom left on the plan protruding south of the south range.

13th August 1954 Long Crichel House, Wimborne Minster, Dorset

Dear Miss Kirk (Joan Kirk Assistant Keeper Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

After getting your letter, I had a chat with Irvine who thinks that two men for a week might be enough..After having Lord Vestey’s men for a week after harvest we may have to pay for additional help… I hope you feel you can go ahead. Of course if the dig reveals some wonderful finds you may be tempted to go slow and then the labour problem will grow more serious…

Yours sincerely Eardley Knollys National Trust Regional Representative.

28th September 1954 Chedworth

Dear Mr Harden

Herewith the plan of the excavation at Chedworth: any suggestion as to what the well drained room is will be welcome….

Plan and sections drawn by Eve Rutter of the 1954 excavation

Plan and sections drawn by Eve Rutter of the 1954 excavation

Could this have been a scullery – old farms do have similar drains in their sculleries although not such a complicated trip up pattern!

I hope you have found all the things returned alright. Mr Ovenall was on duty when I came in on the Sunday. I don’t know whether Joan has returned: I thought she said she would be away a week but the Museum said two?

The glass fragments, mainly from one vessel I think, although few seem to fit, came from the first trench and were associated with a Rhenish thumb indented jar. Is any result yet available on the bracelet?

..the NT has asked for a report and plan to be available for the annual general meeting on 12 Oct to liven up the members and if I could have a photograph or two to include, the dig might look a little better – the Mithraeum is setting a high standard of what the public expect!

I go to the Guildhall on Friday. The Mithraeum is very interesting although I can’t help feeling that many of the thousands must have been disappointed at the rather wet stonework. Life there is very hectic consisting chiefly in an attempt to avoid too many press reporters all seeking to see the latest head!

Please send the photographs to the Guildhall as time is running rather short.

With best wishes, yours sincerely Eve

IMG_4873

9th October 1954 Ibthorpe, Hurstbourne Tarrant

Dear Joan

Thank you so much for your letter and help over the Chedworth stuff. I enclose what I hope will be an adequate report for the NT…

I am enjoying life at the Guildhall very much indeed although it is extremely hectic there at the moment. The other morning we were crowded out by the press (a usual event in the past Mithraeum statue-a-day week).. The statuary is absolutely fantastic – Miss Toynbee says that the Serapis head is as good, if not better than anything in the Rome museums…

Best wishes to all Eve

October 1954

The aim of the short excavation was to discover if the mound to the south of the south wing had been disturbed since Roman times, and if not, whether it merited further investigation and, incidentally, whether the present reconstruction walls of the south wing are correctly aligned….
Eve Rutter

IMG_9139

18th October 1954, Queen Anne’s Gate, London

Dear Miss Kirk Joan Kirk, Dept of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

I was delighted to get Miss Rutter’s fascinating report on the excavations. I should like you to know how how grateful the Trust is to the Museum for undertaking this work on our behalf…

As regards the possibility of further excavation next year, I am asking Mr R. Stewart-Jones our representative for Gloucestershire to get in touch with you…

Yours sincerely R. Romilly Fedden

18th October 1954, Warwick Road, Earls Court, London

Dear Joan

..I sent the Chedworth photographs per express and hope they will arrive in time. I enclose the bill for the film and some drawing paper…

I am interested in Richard’s “C.I.D.” investigations on the bracelet. It was not close by the coffin, at least not close enough to be part of the burial I shouldn’t think. Anyway the details I could gather from Mr Irvine about the burial suggested that anything worn by the child when inside it could not have slipped outside the coffin stones, or if it had only just down the side. There were no human bones otherwise associated with it. Anyway I shall be glad to hear Richard’s final verdict. Gold sounds exciting, quite beyond one’s wilder dreams: I only hope this doesn’t mean that I shall be pursued by coroners seeking to prove that the owner is still alive and presently returning to recover his lost possessions!
Life at the Guildhall has become less hectic this week. Mr Cook and Mr Merrifield are very kind and have made me feel very welcome. Mr Cook seems a little worried that I shall expect every excavation to produce marble heads!

…In the afternoon I went down to the site and the temple has produced a very nice door step..The “reconstruction”, if one can call the pile of Roman used debris so, is a pathetic affair and the way they are carving the original up with electric drills is tragic.

How is Oxford? it seems odd not to be pottering about it. Look after yourself and don’t catch any more peculiar diseases ‘cos I shan’t come out to the Slade this year Love Eve

6th November 1954 Warwick Road, Earls Court, London

Dear Joan

Re the Chedworth stuff Mr Irvine asked if it were possible to have a short report for the Museum. Secondly, were two coins amongst the stuff I brought back? Mr Ovenall said he would have them sent to Dr Sutherland. Only one is from the site, the other was given to Mr Irvine by a local forester for identification.

John Harris tells me that the “graffiti” “samian” looks suspicious. I haven’t looked at it myself apart from giving it a hasty clean. It should be alright according to the level it came from. Has Dr Harden had a chance to look at it yet? I should be interested to know the date as it was found in connection with the Rhenish ware which is the only apparently early pottery amongst fourth century pie dishes etc..

Hope to see you fairly soon. Give my regards to Roper and Miss Carter Yours Eve

5th March 1955 The Roman Inscriptions of Britain

Dear Miss Kirk

Thank you for sending me the Chedworth graffito for examination.
I read the graffito as ABCDEFGHI[… It is not clear whether further letters were cut or whether the space after I marks the termination of the original text. The letter forms are of Roman type and unlike modern falsifications. This graffito may have been cut when the bowl was intact or on this sherd after the fracture of the bowl.
If space allows, I should like to include this in my next JRS report.
Yours sincerely R.P.Wright

8th March 1955 Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Dear Eve

I am enclosing a copy of Mr Wright’s letter about the Chedworth sherd with the alphabet on it, from which you will see that it is perfectly good Roman graffito. If you felt like it you might drop him a line to say that you would be glad for him to publish it in J.R.S.

Yours ever Joan

25th June 1956 Guildhall Museum, Royal Exchange, London

Dear Dr Harden

Thank you very much for your letter which greeted my return home. France in many ways was maddening…

As regards to Chedworth, I am interested to continue the excavation of the Porter’s Lodge area to see whether there is a definite clue as to what it is..

I don’t like to ask Mr Cook to “wangle” me the extra time off which Chedworth would probably involve. However, if it is a case of now or never with the National Trust I could ask him about the possibility..

I have wondered whether anything should be due in the way of an interim report..should the local archaeological society at least have a note of what was found in their reports…

I hope you enjoy the conference and have good weather Best wishes Yours sincerely Eve

Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol 78 1959

the so-called Porter’s Lodge (Room 2) which was proved by excavations conducted by Miss Eve Rutter, now Mrs Harris, to have had a very different purpose. It proved to have been twice reconstructed, serving as a latrine in the first and second existence, but deprived of the sanitary fittings in the final stage. Sir Ian Richmond

Guildhall Museum Reports..Coleman St. E. Rutter 1956; Lombard St E. Rutter 1957; Clarence Place E.Rutter 1958; Midland Bank Gresham St 1959 E. Harris & and P. Mardsen; Oldgate Hill E. Harris 1960.

19th December 2014

Dear Martin

The Museum of London has forwarded your enquiry to me. I worked with Eve Rutter in the 1950s employed to record the archaeology while the old WWII bomb sites were being developed within the City. She married a John Harris and left the Guildhall Museum in the early 1960s. He was a specialist in the cult of Mithras I think.

Sorry not to be of more help.

With best wishes

Peter
……

Eve Harris and John R. Harris, 1965, The Oriental Cults in Roman Britain.

……

The newly qualified graduate Eve Rutter began modern excavation at Chedworth 60 years ago.. spending the late summer of 1954 at the villa before starting her new job at the Guildhall Museum London.

She arrived during great excitement, the extent of Londinium’s temple of Mithras was beginning to be revealed together with its exotic statues and carvings (see British Archaeology no 140, Jan-Feb 2015). The discovery caused great excitement in the press, thousands queued to visit the site. The P.M., Winston Churchill stepped in to give the archaeologists more time.. but the temple was eventually broken up and re-erected by the building developers.. the structure blocked their construction site.

Museum of London is involved in a new project to rebuild it in a far more authentic way in the next few years using the information collected by the London archaeologists back in 1954.

Through Mithras, Eve met her husband and together they published a definitive work on eastern religions in Roman Britain.

I wonder where her archaeological career took her after that…

It would be good to speak to her about her memories of Chedworth all those years ago.

(These letters were found a couple of weeks ago amongst the Richmond Archive at the Sackler Library, Oxford)