Views From Hardy’s Monument

Last week I looked out and back from Hardy Monument consideration of someone pivotal… now gone.


The view south from the Hardy Monument to Weymouth and the Isle of Portland

Hardy’s is high up. The highest point of the vast Bronze Age cemetery of the South Dorset Ridgeway.

Looking distantly down onto a field… now, with dogs gathering sheep… but then, where my caravan was.

A September Sunday afternoon. After the excavation…. ordering the artefacts.

I was leftover. The vibrant dig community gone. A row of bleached grass rectangles. Just the finds supervisor’s tent against the Loscombe Copse.. two fields away.. and the HQ caravan, a little out of sight, beside the barrow …and the lone tree.

HQ was full ..of vegetarian beans, pulses and CND posters ‘do not walk gently…..’ With the blackberries and hazelnuts.. enough to keep me for a while.

From my window, rural Dorset, and just the tinny sound of Terry Wogan leaking from a battered transistor. All that it could manage.

On the table, a plastic bag containing one of the cremations from the barrow.

Each had a gift for the dead. One had a bronze dagger, another a stone archer’s wrist guard. But what of this one? The director had asked me to separate the bone from the charcoal.

That was my job.. on an isolated peaceful Sunday afternoon.

Soon, my survey contract would begin… me and my bicycle, visiting, measuring, researching every Ridgeway barrow… but the winter-let flat and marriage were still 2 weeks away.

So… place the contents carefully on the table and gradually separate the black from the grey-white while listening to the hits of 82.

As the hours passed…the necklace emerged.

The National Trust archaeologists have been to Sutton Hoo. Angus showed us the new visitor access route. How to evoke the wonder of the place from a few low mounds.. ringed with modern distractions? To reveal the very roots of the English…in a nice way.


The NT Archaeologists on the site of the Sutton Hoo ship burial

What a story ! Local skilled archaeologist Basil Brown asked to excavate a mound…. on the utter brink of WWII. Britain’s Tutankhamun, emerging as the tempest clouds of war gathered. A sand long boat. The decayed planks carefully revealed as a beautiful and curving ridged mould, spaced with clinker nails. That long last peaceful summer…it never rained.

Amazing gifts for a king, gathered in Suffolk from across the known world. The find so great that Brown is edged out by the posh academics from the BM. A poignant photo in the cafe as he respectfully watches the experts at work.

We gather in the wood above the riverside. We imagine the 7th century long boat dragged to its final resting place. Was this Raedwald, Bretwalda, king of the Anglo-Saxon kings? His people gathered around him and the gifts and treasure bestowed in honour of his greatness. Memories and stories. The holy men guided the congregation from life to death and a life beyond his passing.

I stand at the stone tower and look back to the caravan… and beside me a large Bronze Age barrow. The highest of the 600 or so scattered along the ridge between Dorchester and Weymouth…from Abbotsbury to Poxwell.


The plundered burial mound beside the Hardy Monument.

Presumably, the tomb of one the greatest Dorset barrow men but truncated and burrowed into long ago. Its contents taken without record. like so many of the barrows at Sutton Hoo… except Mr Brown’s wonderful discovery…

and mine in 1982…the amber and shale.. hidden but then emerging from the charcoal. Lozenges and cones, with holes drilled for the long rotted thread.

As the sun passed to late afternoon, his mini-van bumps across the field to meet me. I wait to show him.

Years before, the newly graduated Weymouth students had followed him to the shores of Poole Harbour and spent the summer easing a Roman pottery workers’ settlement from the stubble. We got food poisoning…the motorbike got a flat. His back gave out… but we tenderly carried him on the finds table to the trench edge. A battle stretcher but with cheesecloth and loons.

On a road to Emmaus, at his requiem mass, we gathered to honour him and remembered.

Look around you.

‘There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend’

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


‘Here Gen. Montgomery stayed and ate before the invasion…..’

Ted Applegate

Major Ted Applegate

Just recently I have managed to make contact again with the lovely family of Major Ted Applegate. It is always worth trying the internet every now and then when searching for a lost contact 🙂

Grace, one of his daughters, has recently sent another of her Dad’s letters written while based at the American Army hospital during WWII at Kingston Lacy. We got very excited as it was about a visit inside the big mansion. It is wonderful to get first hand accounts of our properties in the past. A fresh eye on the contents and place and we often glean important or interesting information we would never have discovered in the estate archives.

 Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy

We had gathered from other family members of staff who served at the American hospital that they were allowed up to the house and that the officers had use of some rooms in the house. But we had no real details to confirm the past memories and snippets. I have reproduced the letter below as it speaks for itself….

Ted’s letter home –

Monday 1830, 6 November 1944, England –

Dearest Margie

………………I must tell you! I had the most amazing experience today. Ten of us were invited to go thru Kingston-Lacy estate, the manor house. The agent’s kindness was great and he took us thru himself.

As you enter the large entrance hall – all the beautiful marble with fluted columns – the pieces that take the eye are four enormous deeply and intricately carved teakwood chests about four feet high and eight feet long. They are massively exquisite! Swords, pikes, daggers, shields and armor adorn the walls in profusion. The carving on the chests is Jacobean (?). There are two daintily fine French cabinets. Enormous vases stand here and there. Two steps straight ahead take you to a right angle hallway which leads to marble stairs to the left. Here is a Van Dyke painting of a cavalier – another point of interest is a chair attached to a marble cabinet in which is a balance with bronze weights marked in measurement of stone (7 lbs). You sit in the leather chair and weigh yourself. It is 17th century. As you walk up the marble stairway toward a one piece window which much be 6 x 10 feet you are struck by the enormous bronze figures lying on the stairwell ledgers looking down. They are the works of Michael Angelo! The stair makes one (180 degrees) turning and on the walls are two enormous paintings of dogs attacking a bull. They were painted for one of the Kings of France! They were a gift to the owner years ago – or the master as they speak of him.

Now we go into the library. The room is enormous and above the book lined walls are life sized paintings of the ancestors running back to 1700! Some of the books, most of them in fact, are old enormous works of art, some printed by hand! Desks, chairs, footstools are all most interesting, all very old and in excellent shape. I could have spent months there with pleasure.

Adjoining is the saloon. I can’t begin to tell you of half the marvels here. Enamel portraits of many people of the times – most, most beautiful China figurines and some unbelievably delicate. Lace over the hair, around the collars and sleeves which I felt sure must be lace until I looked at it with a magnifying glass. There were some pieces exactly similar to what you have on the way. Two Van Dykes were here.

Now into the drawing room. Twice as big – really an enormous room. (All the ceilings are beautifully painted with figures) the overhanging border near the ceiling looks as though the room as been prepared for indirect lighting. Gold leaf adorns it! Here is an enormous painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds and another by Rembrandt! Many others whose names are not familiar to me, several Dutch names. An ebony and ivory cabinet heavily inlaid with mother of pearl! It is most delicate. A book of signatures bears many King’s names, the Duke of Windsor’s, German Emperor, or Duke of Wellington, etc. etc. I can’t remember everything – museum pieces were in the greatest profusion. Every door everywhere was carved deeply and signed by – Gobelin (?) I’m not sure of the name but he should be famous.

Now into the small or private dining room. The walls are oak covered with the original leather all over. It is dark and cracked. The ceiling is most beautifully carved and covered with gold leaf! Here Gen. Montgomery stayed and ate before the invasion for two weeks with his staff! This room has many pieces about the room from Spain. It is called the Spanish Room.

Now the State dining room. It must be 40 feet square. An enormous massive circular mahogany table in the center would seat a regiment. The walls are oak paneled and the doors are two inches thick plus the carvings which are 3 or more inches bas-relief. Tapestries long on each wall and the most colorful and beautiful I ever saw.

From here we went upstairs again to the bedrooms. About 10 of these have little dressing or sitting rooms adjoining & also a bathroom – but there are no fixtures or tub or anything. The bath was made ready by the servants. All beds are four posters (10 feet). Prints and bric-a-brac of all periods adorn everywhere. Now upstairs again to the nursery and servants quarters. The corner bedrooms are adorned to make them appear as tents. Cords (wood carved) run down the seams from the top from head height they taper to a point. At the head of these top stairs is a low gate (carved, of course) to prevent the youngsters falling downstairs – the servants’ quarters are as nice as ours at home. From here we went onto the roof. The roof is solid sheet lead! The chimneys (4) are enormous and each has 8 big lead rectangular outlets, all of lead. The agent said each weighed 300 lbs.

Now to catch up a few points – a picture in the drawing room – glass encased is worth 1/4 million ($1,000,000). I didn’t hear the name of the author or painter it is Madonna with two children.

The chandeliers (4) deserve a word. Cut glass, very intricate and enormous. Each was alike in drawing room, salon and two dining rooms. They must be 8 ft high and four across. They held I guess 100 candles. How they sparkled.

Now down to the 1st basement where is the room which we would call the den where the gentlemen retired after dinner for their smoking. Paneled walls of Belgian oak, racy and racing prints and prints of beautiful horses, many hunting scenes and such – a wheeled server for liquor and wines and such was beautiful with recessed and carved receptacles for glasses and decanters, all filled with proper glasses. Then across the low ceilinged wide hall to the billiard room with a full sized (not our size) table similarly decorated. The present master has a bed here where he sleeps when he comes here. His sister sleeps in the smoking room.

Now to the kitchen. The original tables and benches and ovens are here! It is enormous, the tops of the tables are 2 inches thick and sturdy as stone. The floor is flagged with large stones. The ovens are built in the wall (new electric stoves stand beside them).

The two obelisks I spoke of previously were brought from Egypt and the cornerstone was laid by the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon’s nemesis.

Some of the doors took 3 years – for their carving – and they look it.

A total of 56,000 acres append the estate. They are taxed all but 6 pence out of each pound of revenue – the gov’t gets $3.90 out of $4.00!

I don’t want to bore you but I wanted to tell you about this. It is all so very interesting to me & I wish you could see it. You would love it. I’d never get you away.

In the library are all the old keys to Corfe Castle, some as long and heavy as my forearm. Many other old relics of Corfe are in the second basement beneath the first but he said he couldn’t take us there. There are 27 bedrooms not counting the servants’ quarters

Here I have done all this writing and no work done so I will have to get busy, my love. If you don’t mind, Mother would probably enjoy reading about these things. I am getting writer’s cramp & can’t make my pen behave – I have been hurrying to get to my work.

How about sending me a couple of pairs of cheap cotton gloves to protect my hands from this coke & coal I have to handle? Did you say you had sent me some nuts? West is going to London next week and will take my film to be developed, then I’ll send it to you.

I love you my dearest, but I wonder if you have read this far. Goodnight and kiss my girls for me – I kiss you in spirit my love – and in person. Again someday I hope – soon.

Always your faithful – servant! and husband,


Thank you once again Grace and family for treating us to such a wonderful insight in to life during the war on an English country estate.



Open the door

The north side of Kingston Lacy House. Designed by Roger Pratt for Ralph Bankes in the 1660s. Revamped for Henry Bankes by Brettingham in the late 18th century and then done over again by Charles Barry for William John Bankes in the early 19th century.

The north side of Kingston Lacy House. Designed by Roger Pratt for Ralph Bankes in the 1660s. Revamped for Henry Bankes by Brettingham in the late 18th century and then done over again by Charles Barry for William John Bankes in the early 19th century.

We often get called in to check everyday repair work inside our great mansions, electric cabling, loose flagstones or finding where water is getting into the building. This kind of watching brief (monitor and record) gives us a chance to look beneath floorboards and behind paneling, it provides an opportunity to see how the buildings were put together and more importantly any changes done through time.

At Kingston Lacy wiring and ceiling checks are being done in some of the rooms with just a few floorboards being lifted. Having found scraps of  original wallpapers and notes left by previous workmen during work like this in the past we were called in to record anything we could see.

Floorboards lifted in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy

Floorboards lifted in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy

In the saloon we found that a lot of the material between the joists had been removed in the past with just a few wood shavings and the odd nail left behind. The most interesting areas were accessible via the doorway, with just enough room to dangle my camera into the void and between the joists. I set it to do 10 shots on the self timer setting and hoped for the best. This technique is a good way to see down and along voids, it had produced good results in the past at Chedworth roman villa when checking for hypocausts and wall alignments.

View along the hypocaust at Chedworth Villa in room 5b

View along the hypocaust at Chedworth Villa in room 5b

We were not disappointed an odd metal concertina like heating system, a large vaulted void, Pratt bricks from the original mansion, (now encased in stone) and an intriguing door mechanism.

The metal heating system on the left

The metal heating system on the left

A vaulted ceiling of a room below the Saloon at Kingston Lacy, the plaster can be seen oozing between the lathes

A vaulted ceiling of a room below the Saloon at Kingston Lacy, the plaster can be seen oozing between the lathes










Two metal bars part of a cleaver mechanism

Two metal bars part of a cleaver mechanism

The Saloon is entered and connected to other rooms  by double doors, the lifting of the floor boards revealed how they opened exactly together, even when just pushing gently on only one door. This would help servants when carrying trays open the doors without putting the tray down or needing someone to help them, also when entering or exiting the room with swishing skirts ladies could move effortlessly through the doorways.

It works by using what look like bicycle chains and smooth cogs, a simple but effective mechanism.

The chain and smooth cog, with a metal rod up into the door

The chain and smooth cog, with a metal rod up into the door

There are more planned surveys to be done at Kingston Lacy in other rooms, I wonder what awaits to be found under the next floorboard………….


Giving memories a voice

We can write down our memories for future generations to read, but we can also hear the past through sound recordings and videos.

Today Alex is visiting from The Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN, an organization set up in response to dynamic threats to our island coastal heritage. It is a community archaeology project and actively promotes site recording and long-term monitoring programmes led by volunteers.

Alex will be soon leading a walk at Studland on the Dorset coast, looking at the WWII sites, and as well as research for the tour she hopes to play snippets from our sound archive of local people talking about what it was like, what they saw and stories of life in Studland during WWII.

Studland played an important part in WWII as a testing area for amphibius tanks and  fougasse (burning sea). In April 1944 Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King George VI and General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and in charge of the military operation) met at Fort Henry on Redend Point at Studland to watch the combined power of the Allied Forces preparing for D-Day.

Alex l listening to the taped memories and working on her tour notes

Alex listening to the taped memories and working on her tour notes


The copies of the small sound archive we hold at the office are all still on original cassette tapes. For younger readers there is a picture below of what one is!

A cassette tape

A cassette tape



Alex has had to come and use our old technology to be able to then record a digitized copy for use in the field. We will need to digitize our archive so the recordings are more accessible. Luckily we have a cassette transcribing machine and a cassette player. The transcriber has extra controls so you can slow the tape down, change the tone and various backspace and counter options. It even has a foot pedal control!

Transcribing machine –  a special purpose machine which is used for voice recording processing, so the recording can be  written in hard copy form.

The Transcribing machine

The Transcribing machine



One day these machines will become part of the archaeological archives. At the moment they are thankfully still available and needed to play the memories from the past.

Back to Badbury

Reconstruction drawing of Badbury Rings, Dorset by Liz Induni for the National Trust

Reconstruction drawing of Badbury Rings, Dorset by Liz Induni for the National Trust

Yesterday I met Radio Solent’s Steve Harris in the car park at Badbury Ring, on the Kingston Lacy estate, near Wimbourne, one of Dorset’s many Iron Age hill forts. We headed towards the large banks and ditches of the fort as the nippy wind blew across the fields to cool our faces. As we walked across the Roman road and stopped to look at the Bronze Age burial mounds a Skylark rose into the air singing its soaring song.

Steve Harris with Badbury Rings behind him

Steve Harris with Badbury Rings behind him

Steve wanted to talk about the hill fort for one of his regular features on his show. He hadn’t visited the hill fort for a very long time so this was my que to show off all the wonderful archaeology under our feet. There are almost too many stories to tell, across the thousands of years of human activity in the area.

Excavating the ditch of a iron age round house, just inside the inner bank of Badbury Rings

Excavating the ditch of an Iron Age round house, just inside the inner bank of Badbury Rings

Apart from the obvious ‘humps and bumps’ of the Bronze Age barrows, Iron Age hill fort and Roman road, we have found evidence of the earlier use of the high ground the hill fort is on. When we excavated on he very top of the interior of the hill fort we found flint tools from both Mesolithic and Neolithic times.

One of the trenches in the interior of Badbury Rings hill fort. Each white tag is a worked flint or waste flake.

One of the trenches in the interior of Badbury Rings hill fort. Each white tag is a worked flint or waste flake

As Steve and I reached the summit of the hill we found evidence of a more modern use of the site, large concrete blocks with iron loops in the top. These were the remnants of fixings for a timber beacon tower which emitted a signal to guide planes back to Tarrant Rushton airfield a few fields to the west during WWII.

Next to one of these blocks we finished the interview and looked out across the landscape, cars traveling along the road between the avenue of Beech trees, people walking their dogs, children running along the banks, birds chattering and the memories of our excavations came flooding back to me. Was it really 12 years since we were here, finding a clay sling shot, part of a small twisted iron torc, and beautiful worked flint tools. I will return when the many and varied wild flowers are in bloom, so long Badbury,  till we meet again.

A very happy archaeologist in a trench at Badbury Rings with a large sherd of Iron Age pottery

A very happy archaeologist in a trench at Badbury Rings with a large sherd of Iron Age pottery

Hearth & Home 545 Kingston Lacy

Buildings archaeology tends to be less straightforward than dirt archaeology. Standing structures in 3D are not sealed beneath the ground. You have to work out whether the thing you are uncovering is an original piece of the building, in its right place, or part of an older building moved and recycled from somewhere else.

Fireplaces are good evidence. Usually the massive inglenook fireplace has been infilled by a nest of smaller and smaller fireplaces as fashions, usage and the technology of heating changed. These days it’s all the rage to open up and expose the original large fireplace again and this unseals evidence of the everyday lives of the families who lived there centuries before.

The centre of a building is the hearth. It’s where the warmth is. Where the meals are cooked. The 4500 year old Neolithic houses recently found at Durrington on the Stonehenge Estate had hearths at their centres.


The dark circle in the middle of the white rectangle is the hearth in the centre of the 4500 year old house excavated at Durrington Walls in 2007

The ordinary medieval cottages at Kingston Lacy would have had open hearths with the smoke seeping out through the thatch, but by the 16th century some would have had two closely set roof trusses to catch the smoke and direct it out through a vent ( a smoke bay). By the early 17th century, when brick was becoming more common in Dorset, cottages were getting fireplaces.

People worked out various ways to use the heat from the fire to get various jobs done. When an inglenook is opened up there is usually more than a fireplace. There may be hooks to hang meat or other things on… A small alcove perhaps for keeping salt dry, perhaps the remains of a mechanism for turning a spit and very often a bread oven and if you’re lucky its iron door, complete with catch still in place.


  • An oven built into a fireplace on the Killerton Estate, Devon. The detached iron door has been left in the oven

I had tea with an old couple in their cottage at Corfe Castle about 25 years ago. They still had their bread oven and told me how their parents burnt the gorse on Corfe Common to make ‘blackstock’ this was harvested by the tenants of the Corfe Castle Estate to burn in the bread ovens. When the oven  was hot enough the ash was raked out and the bread could be baked.

Last week I went to 545 Abbot Street on the Kingston Lacy Estate. This was one of the last cottages on the Estate to be repaired up to modern standards. It has been a long process to find the money to repair all the hundreds of cottages across the Bankes Estates.


545 Abbot Street before work started. The brick infill was probably originally wattle and daub traces of this survive inside.

It is an early 17th century timber framed building, originally infilled with wattle and daub but this was largely replaced with bricks  in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the centre of the building  is a large brick structure containing a massive infilled fireplace. When I first went there in 2014 there was a 20th century range built into the blocking.


The infilled inglenook fireplace at 545 with the range inserted.

When I revisited, the original fireplace had been exposed. Not one but two brick bread ovens side by side but on the left another opening with a circular void continuing up to the first floor. At this level, the blocked entrance to the chamber could be seen cutting through the original wattle and daub screen infilling the roof truss there.

I’d only seen one other of these features at Kingston Lacy: a cottage at Tadden where the void turned out to by a curing chamber. This was a good way to preserve bacon by smoking it next to the fire. The meat was cut up into joints and hung on a rack from the first floor placed on a tray which would allow the smoke to circulate evenly. There are recipes for the smoke, burning ash or oak was usually favoured and perhaps a few juniper berries mixed with sawdust to improve the flavour.


The surviving wattle and daub infill on the first floor  of 545 above the inglenook. Cut into the collar are two inserted posts for a door into the curing chamber which was later blocked.

But was it a curing chamber? It might have been for drying corn either for milling into flour or for seed corn for the next crop. Another possibility  is that it was used as  a kiln for drying barley as part of the malting process to create beer. All these processes have been found in fireplaces across the West Country. Tony is making the archaeological record as the building is repaired and he will hopefully find the evidence that will give us the answer.

So the family living here in the 17th and 18th centuries were small-scale farmers and these tenants would have grown cereals in the open fields and kept livestock in the paddocks around the cottage. It is described as ‘house garden yards and orchard’ on the estate map of 1774 but at that time the land belonged to Sir William Hanham. The Bankes family bought it a few years later. The small farms were uneconomic and during the 18th-19th centuries they were absorbed into larger farms and the multipurpose fireplaces gradually went out of use..

I hope the new National Trust tenants enjoy their new home. They probably won’t be smoking bacon though.