The Stourhead LiDAR

Whatever next?

When Archaeology takes advantage of new techniques, whole new landscapes of information emerge.

One of the most exciting developments in recent years has been Light Detection and Ranging or LiDAR for short. Using a drone or an aircraft, pulsed light signals are sent using a laser. When linked to a scanner and a global position system (GPS), It can create an ultra-fine 3D record of the ground surface over wide areas.

The boundary of the National Trust’s Stourhead Estate in South Wiltshire. Whitesheet Hill is on the edge top right. Stourhead Park and mansion, garden, lake and Stourton village are lower centre. Park Hill Camp hillfort lies in woodland centre left.

In large surveys, millions of light points are plotted and tied to existing mapping with the GPS. Each point has its unique XYZ position… latitude, longitude and height above the datum level.

The total Stourhead survey area tilted slightly to show the contours covering roughly the same area as the map above. Whitesheet Hill on the right The hillfort faintly visible on the lower right hand edge. To the left, two valleys separate a ridge which has Park Hill Camp hillfort near the middle.

The Environment Agency has been using this technology for years and have made their data freely available. A quick visual link can be seen here https://houseprices.io/lab/lidar/map. This survey data was collected mainly to predict levels of flooding and consequently it tends to be concentrated along valleys and coasts. It has given good results but the detail tends to be at 1.0m resolution or in the better areas 0.5m. The best quality is 0.25m density of coverage.

There are still large gaps in the land area currently covered by LiDAR and therefore the National Trust is commissioning its own surveys at 0.25m.

In the South West, there are new surveys for the Bristol and North Somerset properties, the Bath and Dyrham properties and most recently the data has arrived for the Stourhead Estate in South Wiltshire. Bluesky collects the data and it is analysed by ArcHeritage who provide the baseline digital imagery in various forms as well as the core GPS files.Their report picks up many new sites which have now been uploaded onto the NT Historic Buildings Sites and Monuments Record. This is not the end: new archaeological sites can still be discovered by further manipulation of the data combined with other information sources.

The LiDAR data can be uploaded into the digital mapping system and then it can be overlaid as a layer on digitised historic maps, onto geophysical surveys and onto aerial photographs. It is so easy these days to zoom in an out of maps and also to fade one layer of information and then see another in direct relation to it.

Detail of Whitesheet Hill causewayed enclosure. Four round barrows can be seen along its bottom edge all with little dimples in the top where the owner of Stourhead Estate, Richard Colt Hoare, excavated them in he early 19th century. One at the lower left hand edge of the plot was cut by a chalk quarry in the 19th century. Close examination of the plot shows phases of trackways and faint embankments.

A great ability of LiDAR is to fell forests and woods (virtually) to see the ground surface beneath. Something impossible with air photography.

Imagine the light pulses from the aircraft like rain falling on the ground. Some will bounce off the tree tops (the first returns) but many will hit the ground below the tree canopy (the second returns). There are systems to filter out the first returns so that only the ground can be seen. It is why I always ask for surveys to be done in the winter when the leaves have fallen from the trees and the ground surface can be most clearly surveyed.

Park Hill Camp from the air surrounded by conifer plantations. In the last 10 years the National Trust has gradually removed the trees from the scheduled monument. The LiDAR defines the earthworks in a better way than can be seen by aerial photography when trees interrupt the view (see below)

Stourhead’s Park Hill Camp Iron Age hillfort has been covered in trees for many years making it difficult to see. Over a number of years, gradually, the National Trust has been clearing the woodland and bringing it back to grass. The LiDAR survey has enabled the ramparts and ditches to be clearly seen as well as showing its strategic position on the ridge top unimpeded by the conifer plantations that surround it.

The ramparts and ditches of Park Hill Camp Iron Age hillfort revealed by the LiDAR survey.

Another great thing: the LiDAR light point cloud is three dimensional and this enables a digital terrain model to be created. This can be viewed on its own or it is possible to drape aerial photographs and/or historic maps across it…as though the map or photograph has become a gigantic cloth thrown over the contours of the landscape. There is now the ability to screen- fly through the Stourhead landscape switching on or off other layers of information while weaving up the valleys or skimming over the hillfort ramparts.

Stourhead Lake (bottom) and the position of Park Hill Camp Iron Age hillfort clearly revealed on the ridge top between two valleys. This area is planted with trees and this vantage point of the fortification would not normally be appreciated.

During a bright winter day, low sunlight will traverse the landscape bringing different shadows in sharp relief and revealing new details. LiDAR analysis can introduce its own light source and the survey plot can be re-generated.. with the light source at any angle and direction. This shows up very faint archaeological earthworks when the light source is beamed from a particular direction.

The LiDAR survey shows the quality of surviving archaeology and reveals where conservation should be concentrated across the Stourhead Estate.

This image looks down to the arable land from the hillfort and causewayed enclosure on Whitesheet Hill. On the lower land, the earthworks have been almost levelled by modern ploughing but old quarries can be seen clustered, where stone outcrops on a low hill, and faint traces of prehistoric ‘celtic fields’ can be seen.

The Stourhead farmland, ploughed for many 100s of years, has lost much of its archaeology but the survey still shows traces of medieval and prehistoric agriculture and traces of buried enclosures suggesting settlement remains below the ploughsoil….(though much worn down buried pits and ditches will survive).

However, there is fine earthwork survival in Stouhead Park and on Whitesheet HIll.

The prehistoric earthworks on Whitesheet Hill show up very clearly: the Iron Age hillfort to the south, the Neolithic Causewayed enclosure in the middle and the other enclosure (also probably Neolithic) to the north and in between Late Bronze Age cross ridge dykes, Early Bronze Age round barrows and medieval pillow mounds all crossed by banks, trackways and quarries of various periods.

Whitesheet Hill: LiDAR shows the ramparts and ditches of the Iron Age hillfort (c.300BC) at the bottom. The three rectangles are modern reservoirs just east of the National Trust boundary. A cross-ridge dyke (c.1000 BC) divides the narrow downland ridge separating the hillfort from the Neolithic causewayed enclosure (c.3600BC) which has a Bronze Age round barrow (c.2000BC) built over its southern edge and across its north side runs the old cattle drove road from the the west towards Salisbury and then on to London. Further along the down to the north (the upper edge of the plot), is another faint enclosure (c.3000 BC) of similar size to the causewayed enclosure (this site has been ploughed in the 20th century but can be seen clearly on the LiDAR).

The parkland is a very precious survival. The ridge and furrow of medieval open field furlongs was fossilised when the park for the mansion house was created. This must have happened before 1722 which is the date of our earliest map of the park.

The 1722 Stourhead Estate map (Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office). The newly built Stourhead House is centre right. The north-east corner of the park is Spencers Mead. The strip fields and curving enclosure ditch shown on the LiDAR lie within this field and Slade Mead below. Buildings in red between these fields were demolished in the late 18th century, the building sites lie where there are earthworks shown on the LiDAR image below.

Near the Stourhead House and near the landscaped garden obelisk are two turbulent areas of earthworks, outside the areas of agriculture and therefore places already occupied ….before the open fields were created it seems.

One of these, east of the House, is likely to be the site of the medieval Stourton Castle..demolished when the present mansion was created in the early 18th century. The other area near the obelisk is a mystery… the LiDAR raises many new archaeological questions…. wonderful.

Next year the Cotswolds and Hidcote NT properties will have LiDAR We await the results with anticipation…what new Roman sites lies beneath Chedworth woods……

The site of the present Stourhead House is lower centre. The buildings show as triangles. Top right is the NE corner of the present park where a large oval enclosure (prehistoric?) underlies the regular furlong blocks of strip fields divided by trackways (this is just grass not visible on the ground). Centre right and NE of Stourhead House is an area of earthworks likely to be the site of the medieval Stourton Castle. At the left edge of the picture is another grouping of mixed earthworks, perhaps an early settlement to the right of the mound with the 18th century obelisk monument on it.

The Wessex Hillforts & Habitats Project

Early morning last week…a drone took off over Hambledon after light snow. Perfect conditions, the snowflakes had settled into the valleys of the great encircling hillfort ditches… and streets of round house platforms became visible as rows of hollows outlined in white.

Hambledon Hill light snow shows the dimples where Iron Age round houses once stood.

These photos help illustrate the majesty and awe of this vast archaeological site and has helped us launch the National Trust’s Wessex Hillforts and Habitats project. With the help of Marie, our project officer, the People’s Postcode Lottery have granted over 100,000 pounds to get the project started.

The primary purpose of the project is to enhance the conservation of 13 NT Iron Age hillforts scattered across Dorset and South Wiltshire …but it will also inspire people to get involved and to carry out monitoring and research. It will also create new interpretation to bring these grassy hill top earthworks to life as places to be appreciated, valued and better understood. Alongside this.. to highlight nature, particularly the plant and insect life. Each hillfort’s unique topography nurtures precious habitat undisturbed by agriculture for over 2000 years.

Purple spotted orchids growing on the sheltered slopes of a hillfort ditch

So.. where are these places. I’ll list them out for you…. and as some have featured in previous blog posts I’ll reference these while we have a quick tour.

We’ll start in Wiltshire and from there head south and west and eventually end at the Devon border.

Figsbury Ring, north-east of Salisbury. A circular rampart and ditch with a view back to the great cathedral spire. Strangely, Figsbury has a wide deep ditch within the hillfort ..potentially Neolithic but there is no rampart.. where did all the chalk go?

Figsbury Ring from its rampart top showing the wide deep ditch inside the hillfort.

South of Salisbury, Wick Ball Camp above Philipps House, Dinton.. NT only owns the outer rampart.

Then there is the icon of Warminster, Cley Hill (blog posts “Upon Cley Hill’; Upon Cley Hill 2”), a flying saucer shaped chalk outlier with two round barrows on the summit..a strange hillfort.

To the south west, at the source of the mighty River Stour, is the Stourhead Estate with its two hillforts. These are Park Hill Camp, its views hidden by conifer plantation and Whitesheet Hill  (blog Whitesheet Hill Open at the Close) with wide prospects across the Blackmore Vale towards Hambledon and Hod. We’ll follow the Stour to reach them.

Hod is the largest true hillfort in Dorset, the geophysics has shown it full of round houses…a proto town… and there are the clear earthworks of the Roman 1st century fort in Hod’s north-west corner (blog post Hod Hill Camp Bastion)

Hambledon is close by, just across a dry valley, perched high on a ridge, surrounded by the Neolithic, you feel like you’re flying when standing there. (blog post Archaeology SW day 2014, Hambledon Sunset)

Follow the Stour further south and you reach the triple ramparts and ditches of Badbury Rings on the Kingston Lacy Estate. From here you can see the chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight (blog post Badbury and the Devil’s footprint)

Now from Badbury take the Roman road west to Dorchester and keep going beyond the county town, glancing at Maiden Castle as you pass(Duchy of Cornwall, English Heritage).

The Roman road continues straight towards Bridport but branches from the A35 road before you reach the village of Winterbourne Abbas.

It has now become a minor road.. a couple of miles on… it branches again..still straight but this once arterial Roman route to Exeter has dwindled to a narrow trackway with grass sprouting from the tarmac.

Don’t lose heart…keep going…and you will break out onto the chalkland edge and the multiple ramparts of Eggardon Hill.

From Eggardon, the other hillforts emerge as sentinals ringing the high ground overlooking the Marshwood Vale, and, to the south, the cliffs of Golden Cap.. and beyond, the sweep of Lyme Bay and the English Channel.

Winter woods at Coney’s Castle

Next to the west is Lewesdon Hill, a small fort but occupying the highest land in Dorset, nearby is the second highest, the flat top of Pilsdon Pen, surrounded by double ramparts and enclosing Iron Age round houses, Bronze Age round barrows and the pillow mounds of  the medieval rabbit warren.

The last two in the Project guard a gap through the Upper Greensand ridge at the Devon border. Coney’s Castle has a minor road running through it and on its south side are wonderful twisted moss covered oaks… and beneath them the deep blue of bluebells in the Spring. Lambert’s Castle was used as a fair up to the mid 20th century, remains of the fair house and animal pens can be seen there ….but once again the views are spectacular, particularly in early morning after frost with the mist rising from the lowland.

Lambert’ s Castle after frost.

A baker’s dozen of hillforts of the 59 the NT looks after in the South West.

One might imagine that these huge works of humanity look after themselves… but they need to be cared for.. we must have farmers willing to graze the right number and type of stock on them….at the right times;  NT rangers and volunteers to cut regenerating scrub and fix fencing and gates…

If not, these nationally important scheduled monuments and SSSIs will deteriorate. The earthworks will become overgrown and grassland habitat will be lost, archaeological knowledge locked in the layers beneath the soil will become disrupted… and the views into the landscape and across and within the hillforts will become hidden.

The Wessex Hillforts and Habitats Project promises to be an exciting time of conservation and discovery. The work has now begun!

Stourhead? Where’s Stourton Castle?

In south Wiltshire, on the border with Dorset and Somerset was built a great and ancient house. It lay at the centre of a large estate and was known as Stourton Castle..

but there is a problem…

We don’t know where it is

We have a picture.

An enhanced drawing based on John Aubrey's original sketch.

An enhanced drawing based on John Aubrey’s original sketch.

Drawn from a 1670 sketch by the antiquarian John Aubrey.

The place was massive and must have looked a bit like Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey in north Wiltshire. Stourton Castle was arranged around two courtyards like this and would have been of similar scale and outward appearance.

Lacock Abbey in north Wiltshire. Stourton Castle was arranged around two courtyards like this and would have been of similar scale and outward appearance.

but it’s gone.. apparently without trace.

The story of the removal of Stourton Castle and the creation of Stourhead House has a touch of Poldark about it.

The Stourtons (old money Poldark) and the Hoares (new money Warleggan)

The Stourton family had taken their name from the village of Stourton (the farm by the River Stour), a place recorded in Domesday and at least Saxon in origin. The Stourtons claimed that their line went back to a mighty Saxon lord… Botulph.. and William Camden, writing in 1607, saw a ‘monstrous bone’ displayed in Stourton Castle… a leg of their legendary ancestor.

The surviving records trace the family back to the 12th century but the Stourtons only emerge as lords of the manor in the 13th century documents. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the family did very well and built up cash reserves via good marriages and military service in France.

Their manor house blossomed and flourished. Aubrey’s picture shows that it was built around two large courtyards and had a tall tower and shows parapets with military style battlements.

Things fell apart for the Stourtons in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the early 16th century, William Lord Stourton was working for Henry VIII in France and left the care of his estate to his trusted steward William Hartgill…he also looked after Lord Stourton’s  wife Elizabeth.

When Lord Stourton died in 1548, his hot-tempered son Charles inherited the Estate. He rode with a band of henchmen to Kilmington near Stourton and found his mother living at Hartgill’s house. A feud grew up between the men and eventually, in 1557, Lord Stourton kidnapped William and his son John, murdered them and buried their bodies in a cellar within the Castle.

As a catholic, with Queen Mary on the throne, Charles believed that he would get away with the murders. However, William Hartgill had friends and they made sure that the Castle was searched, the bodies found and Lord Stourton arrested. He was convicted and executed in Salisbury. His wife was forced to pay for her husband’s property which had been forfeited to the Crown following his trial. She was also separated from her eldest son John, who was only a child at the time.

The family backed the wrong side in the Civil War. In September 1644, Parliamentarian forces set fire to one of the gates, captured the house, ransacked it and made it untenable.The eldest son John was killed at the battle for Bristol and when the Royalist cause was finally lost, the estates were confiscated and heavy fines were imposed.

The family fortunes continued to decline and by 1686 the impoverished Stourton family had mortgaged their ancestral home and by 1704 it was for sale.

Enter the Hoare family who had made a fortune through banking. In 1720, they purchased the whole estate, demolished the castle and built a new flashy Palladian villa… quite the latest thing. They changed the name to Stourhead. The house at the source of the River Stour.

The Hoare family made sure the transformation was carried out quickly. They paid for a survey of their new property in 1722 and the Estate Map shows the new house completed… Stourton Castle was gone.

The 1722 map shows the new Stourhead House with its garden intruding slightly onto the courtyard of the stables and outbuildings below and to the right. Was this a retained part of the old house?

The 1722 map shows the new Stourhead House with its garden intruding slightly into the top left hand corner of the stable courtyard. The courtyard is below and right of the house. With a large gateway facing south. Was this the outer courtyard of the old house?

Finding the site has been difficult, the normal techniques have proved to be inconclusive and the quest for the Castle has become a great archaeological challenge.

It seemed simple at first. The 1880s 25 inch OS map marks a cross about 100m east of Stourhead House with the legend ‘site of Stourton Castle’ So we geophysed it and the results were very disappointing. Since then, year by year, we have surveyed around the house but nothing has been revealed.

When Meg did her student placement for the National Trust, I asked her to find the Castle and her MA dissertation tracked down the documentary references and descriptions of its chambers and halls and its chapel, which included a decorated tiled floor inlaid with the initials WS for William Stourton. Documents in the record offices of Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset and nearby Longleat House were examined. These built up the background: the estate, the farmland, the deer park and hunting lodge, the warren and the warrener’s lodge… bits about the repair of the great house and its approximate location… but nothing to pin it down.

We looked at the fabric of the stone-lined cellars of Stourhead House. Had they built the new house on the old?

The cellars of Stourhead House. Some reused stone but nothing to indicate that these were once the cellars of Stourton Castle.

The cellars of Stourhead House. Some reused stone but nothing to indicate that these were once the cellars of Stourton Castle.

We examined the stableyard to the south. This includes in its walls great chunks of reused? stone and a 16th century? doorway. Was this the remodeled outer courtyard of the Castle?. We dug a trench on its north side, hoping to find medieval walls leading to the inner courtyard.. just 18th century pottery above deep soil.

Our fieldwork in Stourhead Park. Earth resistance meter against the railings and our trench beside the stables courtyard to the left. The Hoare family's 1720s mansion Stourhead House can be seen top right. The site of old Stourton Castle lies somewhere to the right of this picture.

Our fieldwork in Stourhead Park. Earth resistance meter against the railings and our trench beside the stables courtyard to the left. The Hoare family’s 1720s mansion Stourhead House can be seen top right. The site of old Stourton Castle lies somewhere to the right of this picture.

So where is it hiding? A LiDAR laser survey of the parkland ground surface might help or more sensitive geophysics… perhaps ground probing radar. Everything seems to point near the cross marked by Ordnance Survey. A line of pre-Stourhead House chestnut trees are aligned north towards this point where there is a mound in the park. From the east, an old drove-way passes through Drove Lodge and runs as an earthwork into the park.

Our site is most likely to exist where these two alignments meet. Surely the backfilled cellars and extensive robbed out walls lie there or thereabouts.

We’ll keep looking.

Sewage and the Infirmary at Lacock Abbey

Sorry to have to mention this but there has long been a problem with sewage at Lacock Abbey.

Looking north. Lacock's 2008 south park and monastic church resistivity survey in action . Meg and Tony are standing on the church site which became a Tudor garden beneath Fox Talbot's ornate 19th century windows.These windows were built into the monastic church cloister wall. The T junction of paths in the photo can be seen as blue bands on the resistivity plot (next image). The narrower path leads through a door beneath the smaller window into the cloisters.

Looking north. Lacock’s 2008 south park and monastic church resistivity survey in action . Meg and Tony are standing on the church site which became a Tudor garden beneath Fox Talbot’s ornate 19th century windows.These windows were built into the monastic church cloister wall. The T junction of paths in the photo can be seen as blue bands on the resistivity plot (next image). The narrower path leads through a door beneath the smaller window into the cloisters.

We thought it had been sorted out in 1995 (and there was good archaeological recording then) but the River Avon often floods in winter and at such times the system isn’t up to the job. When the Abbey was built in the 13th century…. it was a lovely setting beside the river but to be honest it’s too low lying. The people who built the village on the higher ground knew that. When Ella Countess of Salisbury came to build her nunnery, the locals may have shaken their heads…good meadow land but don’t you know it’s on a flood plain!

Our resistivity plot is full of detail. Top is north and the blue upper edge of the image is the Abbey with other unsurveyable paths and walls as parallel bands of blue. To orientate you to the last photo, the doorway to the left of Meg leading to the cloisters is the narrow vertical blue line top centre. Below this across the broader blue path is a circular feature,once a 17th century cut at its lower edge by the early 18th century garden wall, a very thin blue line with the Tudor garden paths and boundary wall, now under parkland grass visible further down the plot. The old London Road is the wide feature running from right to left across the bottom of the plot. The sewage pipe route ran along right edge of the plot and curved to run along the bottom edge. It was routed to avoid the detail of the Tudor garden and run along the road but found a Tudor culvert and clipped the corner of the garden wall beside the London Road.

Our resistivity plot is full of detail. Top is north and the blue upper edge of the image is the Abbey with other unsurveyable paths and walls as parallel bands of blue. To orientate you to the last photo, the doorway to the left of Meg leading to the cloisters is the narrow vertical blue line top centre. Below this across the broader blue path is a circular feature,once a 17th century fountain cut at its lower edge by the early 18th century garden wall, shown as a very thin blue line with the Tudor garden paths and boundary wall, now under parkland grass visible further down the plot. The old London Road is the wide feature running from right to left across the bottom of the plot. The sewage pipe route ran along the bottom edge skirting the parkland tree(which is the small blue hole in the lower left of the plot) and then curved round to the right to run along the edge of the plot . The trench was routed to avoid the detail of the Tudor garden.

One of the wonderful things about Lacock is that so much of the medieval structure survives. William Sharrington, who got the Abbey after the 1530s Dissolution, didn’t need the great monastic church so he knocked it down but he kept the cloisters and incorporated much of the dining room, dormitory, chapter house etc. in his new grand home.

The start of the pipeline on the east side of the Abbey where the old sewage works were. A medieval carved stone marking the point were the infirmary wall and drain were found.

The start of the pipeline on the east side of the Abbey where the old sewage works were. A medieval carved stone marking the point were the infirmary wall and drain were found.

The infirmary’s gone though. There’s just a passage from the cloisters into the east park with its name on. This was where the sick and the elderly nuns were cared for somewhere near the site of the modern sewage works.

So, in linking the Abbey sewage plant on its east side, to the village on the west, the new trench had to cross the park and follow the east and south sides of the Abbey. This was a minefield of archaeology ..and one does ones best to avoid cutting through it.. but the trench was bound to hit something.

We knew about the infirmary on the east and William Sharrington’s Tudor garden on the south. Both areas had been surveyed using geophysics and using this and all other available evidence Nathan plotted the route. Closer to the Abbey to avoid the Infirmary and swinging further south to skirt the garden.

It was bound to hit something, Lacock’s archaeologists Jane and Tony watched the work as it progressed and halted the excavation when necessary to record everything that came to light.

Lacock from the south west the trench skirting the parkland tree, the corner of the Tudor garden was just clipped by the trench before the pipeline continued round to the east skirting the 18th century bastion wall which separates Abbey and Park.

Lacock from the south west the trench skirting the parkland tree, the corner of the Tudor garden was just clipped by the trench before the pipeline continued round to the east skirting the 18th century bastion wall which separates Abbey and Park.

I visited before backfilling. Holes in the ground…if they can’t be avoided, are great opportunities to see and touch the story of a place and Lacock’s story is a fine one. A morning walk along the trench from the village and then to the south. Quiet along the line of the old London Road and then cutting behind a parkland tree the trench curved towards the east and clipped the very edge of the SE corner of outer Tudor garden courtyard. Nicely built, it gave reality to the ornate plan we had revealed by resisitivity in 2008. Just beyond this, the digger had clipped the lid of a deep 16th century culvert heading south from the Abbey. I turned the corner marked by the stone wall of the early 18th century garden bastion and followed the trench along the east side.

The corner of the Tudor garden exposed on the south side of the Abbey a couple of weeks ago.

The corner of the Tudor garden exposed on the south side of the Abbey a couple of weeks ago.

There were Jane and Tony in the distance, most of the trench had exposed debris… waste picked over and discarded, that Sharrington had spread out across the park and garden during his great alteration from a religious institution to a grand country home.

Tony showed me the infirmary wall, a wide, fine ashlar stone structure. Here there was much medieval pottery, oyster shells and bones from meals that had once been eaten by the monastic community. One metal object was decorated with curving lines inlaid with silver, perhaps a pendant but Jane is looking for comparisons.

A copper alloy decorated 'pendant' found close to the Abbey Infirmary.

A copper alloy decorated ‘pendant’ found close to the Abbey Infirmary.

Beside the wall, there was another stone structure. To lay the pipe, the top stones had to be moved but there was enough space to send a camera down. It was a beautifully made drain… presumably nobody had glimpsed its interior for 700 years.

Photo along the the 13th century monastic drain revealed beside the infirmary. The last person to see this was probably the medieval builder.

Photo along the the 13th century monastic drain revealed beside the infirmary. The last person to see this was probably the medieval builder.

I went on to the Lacock meeting. I was late.. looking down holes Martin they said. Take the opportunity, I encouraged them, it’s a great hole.

The Rose Garden at Lacock Abbey

7th May 1832
Monday
My Dear Henry
The Urn is up in my garden! Oh! how pretty! Persian lilacs in blow! Horse chesnuts coming in flower!

Long ago, if the day was dragging, we’d engage in conversation over afternoon tea, a nonsense exchange featuring National Trust places with all the wrong facts (yes I know.. we are far older, more sensible and open plan now). It ended with the words.. “of course that’s where photography was invented”. According to the rules that was never Lacock.

Last October, Sue showed me the Rose Garden. It is a 12.5m diameter circular iron trellis work punctuated by four arched entrances to north, south, east and west, and in between – four curving rose beds. To the north is an alcove seat set in a wall under a gothic arch. When sitting here you can see through the north arch of the Rose Garden and appreciate the classic stone Urn on its pedestal.. which forms its centre piece.

The Rose Garden looking east in October.

The Rose Garden looking east in October.

That was Lady Elizabeth’s alcove Sue said and this is her Rose Garden. Lady Elizabeth Fox-Strangeways was the mother of William Henry Fox Talbot (the inventor of photography). The garden was becoming tired. Sue needed to repair the trellis work and replace the soil in the rose beds.

I looked at the metal edging on concrete and she said: “This Rose Garden was only put up in 1992, the old one, so I’ve been told was taken down in the 1960s but they kept the trellis and stored it in a barn. I don’t think it’s in the right place though. We keep tripping up over bits of metal when we cut the grass.”

We agreed to meet again when the turf was up and the trellis down and that was last Tuesday.

The early 19th century was a massive time of discovery. Researchers did not limit themselves to particular subjects.. they grazed across the broad sweep of science and art. They were often clever wealthy land owners with money and time on their hands and sharp inquiring minds. NT SW has Andrew Crosse at Fyne Court (West Somerset) who engaged in electrical experiments. The locals thought he was acting as God and bringing things to life through harnessing lightning via wires draped in trees around his mansion. Mary Shelley heard him lecture in London.
William Bankes travelled in Egypt brought back the Philae obelisk to Kingston Lacy (Dorset) and helped decipher the hieroglyphs.

In 1832, W.Henry Fox Talbot married his wife Constance and took her to Lake Como in Italy. His frustration at not being able to draw the beauty of the scene led him to experiment and find a way to capture an image. The first photos anywhere. Science to enable art.

I returned to the Rose Garden last week. The metal spikes sticking out of the ground were clear. Sue, Reg and the garden volunteers cleared off the topsoil and they found that each fixing was set in lead within a chunk of dressed stone. The stones were all different shapes and sizes and were probably reused pieces of Henry’s home.. medieval Lacock Abbey.

Sue was right though, it was in the wrong place.. in 1992 it had been built 5m west of its old location. The view from the alcove should not be blocked by the Rose Garden.

There were six stones to each of the four entrances and two intermediary stones to carry the trellis between them. The outer ring was to carry swags of trailing roses. The inner stones carried the arched trellises for each of the entrances. The view to the west between the stone settings framed the spire of Lacock’s medieval St Cyriac’s church.

The view east towards the church through the 1832 east Rose Garden entrance. The site of the old urn pedestal lies in the centre of the photo in front of the 1992 urn.

The view east towards the church through the 1832 east Rose Garden entrance. The site of the old urn pedestal lies in the centre of the photo in front of the 1992 urn.

We measured to the centre and dug down. There was the plinth for Lady Elizabeth’s Urn. Her son Henry (he preferred his second name) took a picture of it for her in ..1840. Sue had relocated the scene of one of the earliest photographs anywhere.

W.H. Fox Talbot's photograph of the Rose Garden taken in June 1840. One of a group of photographs he sent to the Italian botanist Antoino Bertoloni. He wrote back to say that this was the image he liked the best.

W.H. Fox Talbot’s photograph of the Rose Garden taken in June 1840. One of a group of photographs he sent to the Italian botanist Antoino Bertoloni. He wrote back to say that this was the image he liked the best.

Reg brought the garden ladder and I photographed it again.

The Rose Garden from the garden ladder. The turf cut from the 1992 garden but the stones from the 1830s garden and central pedestal 5m left of it.

The Rose Garden from the garden ladder. The turf cut from the 1992 garden but the stones from the 1830s garden and central pedestal 5m left of it.

Bodies in Trenches 2013

A good time to review some of the discoveries of the past year. Much of what we have written here is to do with work that National Trust archaeologists have carried out themselves. However, resources dictate that I usually need to a ask archaeological contractors to carry out recording work.

A typical watching brief situation. This time for a new water pipe at Ebworth, Gloucestershire dug in September this year.

A typical watching brief situation. This time for a new water pipe at Ebworth, Gloucestershire dug in September this year.

Here are some of the discoveries from repairs, developments and service trenches that needed excavating this year. At some places, a trench can be dug where there is a near certainty that archaeology will be affected…even when the location has been chosen to avoid it. At others, we do not have enough information to know what will be discovered. Geophysics can help… but often it is difficult to know what lies beneath the ground.

Montacute, Somerset built c.1600. There are lost garden features and earlier settlement evidence here. Particularly an ornate gatehouse which is supposed to lie between the pavilion buildings shown on this picture.

Montacute, Somerset built c.1600. There are lost garden features and earlier settlement evidence here. Particularly an ornate gatehouse which is supposed to lie between the pavilion buildings shown on this picture.

In January, trenching for a new drainage system and fibre-optic cable line around the house at Montacute, Somerset was watched by Mike and Peter of Terrain Archaeology but nothing much came up there despite the the archaeological potential of the place. Beyond history there is only archaeology to help us understand. A similar trench at Tyntesfield recorded by Jim of Talits (The Answer Lies In The Soil) found the footings of the original entrance lodge for the mansion complete with its fireplace and flagstone floor. Sam of Absolute Archaeology watched a cable trench for the new IT system in Kingston Lacy Park and this revealed a concentration of flint tools evidence for a Neolithic and Bronze Age occupation site here over 4000 years ago.

Bottle Knap cottage, Long  Bredy, Dorset. A new service trench came across 2 burials recorded by Peter and Mike of Terrain Archaeology.

Bottle Knap cottage, Long Bredy, Dorset. A new service trench came across 2 burials recorded by Peter and Mike of Terrain Archaeology.

In May, bodies were found. Bottleknap Cottage in Long Bredy, west Dorset is the only piece of National Trust land in the Bride Valley. Peter and Mike were asked to watch while a new drain and soakaway were dug there. At about a metre deep, the digger bucket brought up bones beneath a pile of rubble. Remains of two human skeletons had been discovered in a completely unexpected place… several hundred metres from the parish church. Probably pre-Christian but there was no previous evidence for an ancient settlement site here.. so we will have to wait for the radiocarbon date to find out how old they are.

The parish church at Long Bredy. The Bottleknap burials were found a few hundred metres from the church yard. The hollow-way to the right leads up to the chalk downland where the South Dorset Ridgeway Bronze Age round barrow cemetery can be found. Perhaps the Bottleknap bodies are pre-Christian like those beneath the burial mounds.

The parish church at Long Bredy. The Bottleknap burials were found a few hundred metres from the church yard. The hollow-way to the right leads up to the chalk downland where the South Dorset Ridgeway Bronze Age round barrow cemetery can be found. Perhaps the Bottleknap bodies are pre-Christian like those beneath the burial mounds.

In the summer… and now into their stride, Mike and Peter watched a drainage trench at Thomas Hardy’s house at Max Gate. Although late Victorian, Max Gate sits on a large Middle Neolithic enclosure.. it dates to about 3000 BC (like the earthwork around Stonehenge). Hardy found Iron Age and Roman burials here when his house and garden were created, so a new excavation was bound to hit something ..wherever it was located. The trench was dug carefully.. by hand but sure enough it uncovered the top of a Roman burial. The skeleton was covered and the pipe placed above it and whoever it was.. was left it in peace.

Thomas Hardy's House at Max Gate, Dorchester is built on a Middle Neolithic enclosure like the one surrounding Stonehenge, the stone in the foreground comes from the site. Thomas Hardy found Iron Age and Roman burials here and Peter and Mike found another this year.

Thomas Hardy’s House at Max Gate, Dorchester is built on a Middle Neolithic enclosure like the one surrounding Stonehenge, the stone in the foreground comes from the site. Thomas Hardy found Iron Age and Roman burials here and Peter and Mike found another this year.

Bob of Forum Heritage has been recording historic buildings for us.. the paper mill at Silverton, Killerton Estate in Devon and the Almshouses in Sherborne village, Gloucestershire. He is currently making a record of Hyde Farm in Dorset while it is being refurbished. The walls have subsided over the last 200 years. The reason being that they are sinking into the pits and foundation trenches of an Iron Age settlement.

Jon of AC Archaeology did some archaeological recording while the Knightshayes cricket pavilion, Devon was being built. We thought that settlement remains from the nearby Roman fort might be found but the evidence was limited to the footings for a guardhouse used by the Americans during WWII.

These are all small important fragments, pieces from jigsaws of the past. Trenches are windows. Archaeological layers can only be broken up once. An experienced eye is needed, someone to write the story of what they see.

I wonder what 2014 will bring. On Monday I go to Lacock to discuss the route of a new sewage pipe for the Abbey.The new trench will have to negotiate a lot of buried archaeology.. as we found out when the old one was repaired in 96.

A new sewage treatment plant was needed at Lacock, Wiltshire. The site of the medieval monastic infirmary lies in this area and so AC Archaeology excavated it in 1996. Further work is needed this year.

A new sewage treatment plant was needed at Lacock, Wiltshire. The site of the medieval monastic infirmary lies in this area and so AC Archaeology excavated it in 1996. Further work is needed this year.

Upon Cley Hill 2

Just a quick post today.

Early morning on Cley Hill  with my resistivity meter for scale. Not much use for anything else at the moment.

Early morning on Cley Hill with my resistivity meter for scale. Not much use for anything else at the moment.

I went back to Cley Hill on Wednesday. Balmy warm in September but chillier now. Ben gave me a lift along the track to the stile but then we loaded up with equipment and slogged up the steep hill. Pausing for breath we saw the melting first frost of the season create a mist rising from the fields.

Geophysics is always a race against time. How many grids can we do in a day. First lay out the 20m grids. Dave stretched his 100m tapes across the hill top. He can move fast with his double magnetometer and covers about 40 grids in a day. The resistivity meter is slower and 10 grids is pretty good for it.

I put it all together and placed the probes in the ground. Walked the first row and every reading was completely different. It was bust. The cable had broken somewhere. I cut a bit off and reconnected it. No good.

Paul tamping down the chalk around the OS Trig Station. It attracts a lot of erosion.

Paul tamping down the chalk around the OS Trig Station. It attracts a lot of erosion.

Ben and the other Wiltshire National Trust Rangers began bringing up the chalk in the powered wheelbarrows. The place is popular. When the ground is worn down by many feet it needs a repair to prevent buried archaeological deposits from being worn away.

Ben's erosion repair on the side of the Bronze Age burial mound. In the distance more chalk repair material being brought up the hill with tracked motorised wheelbarrow.

Ben’s erosion repair on the side of the Bronze Age burial mound. In the distance more chalk repair material being brought up the hill with tracked motorised wheelbarrow.

Dave did well. He finished the area we had planned and the results show buried pits and hut platforms from the Iron Age hill top settlement as well as the ditches of the burial mounds there. We have more to do and we’ll go back in the Spring once the resistivity meter’s fixed and it warms up again.

Dave near the end of his survey with the double magnetometer  (thank you Bournemouth University) as the sun starts to cast long shadows.

Dave near the end of his survey with the double magnetometer (thank you Bournemouth University) as the sun starts to cast long shadows.


A beautiful sunny day but the wind, the wind….

View from an ex-bridge at Lacock

On Thursday, I arrived early at Lacock. I needed to check something out before the meeting. I opened the gate and walked down the drive to the Abbey. It was quiet. The lull before opening. Bright sunlight in a clear blue sky.

The view of Lacock Abbey from the bridge site. William Sharrington's early 16th century tower on the left, built while  converting the medieval nunnery into his fashionable new home. The tower occupies the east end of the demolished abbey church.

The view of Lacock Abbey from the bridge site. William Sharrington’s early 16th century tower on the left, built while converting the medieval nunnery into his fashionable new home. The tower occupies the east end of the demolished abbey church.

Good to pick out the stonework on the south side. The light and shadow revealed the various phases of building and redesign of Lacock Abbey from its creation in 1232 until William Fox Talbot’s early 19th century gothic bay windows. I stood on the lawn, where the monastic church used to be and looked up. Yes, that’s the window, the subject of his first pioneering photograph (Lacock, the birthplace of photography).

The south side of Lacock looking across the lawn where the Abbey church used to stand until 1538. The site became a Tudor garden. The smaller Neo-gothic bay/oriel window to the left was William Fox-Talbot's first photographic subject.

The south side of Lacock looking across the lawn where the Abbey church used to stand until 1538. The site became a Tudor garden. The smaller Neo-gothic bay/oriel window to the left was William Fox-Talbot’s first photographic subject.

I said hello to the gardener and jumped over the terrace wall, crossing the meadow to the river. Was there really much of the bridge left?. I’d seen it on an 18th-century landscape sketch of the Abbey.. and that bridge had looked rather flimsy. I pushed aside the nettles and peered through the trees. There it was… and the stone bridge abutment foundations were massive. The river was low so I could see a pile of collapsed stone crossing the width of the Avon.

The view across the river to the bridge abutment on the east side. The river is cutting into the edge of the bank upending trees and cutting away the bridge remains.

The view across the river to the bridge abutment on the east side. The river is cutting into the edge of the bank upending trees and cutting away the bridge remains.

The banks were too steep. The grips on my shoes weren’t good enough. I went back to the Manor Barn for the conservation meeting. Graham the GM agreed to find money to record the bridge remains before the river took it away. I would ask Jane and Tony to create scale drawings, photograph the stonework and report on the evidence.

In the afternoon I went back, this time with my boots on so that I could climb down to the river edge. The stonework looked medieval. The river had cut into the east side of the bridge abutment revealing layers of bridge construction.

The

The Avon river level is low at the moment so the stonework is visible. The substantial stone footings of the Abbey bridge abutment hidden by the woodland edge.

When was it built?

The road bridge, a few hundred metres to the south, had been on the site for hundreds of years. 250 years ago, even when the old main road was moved to enlarge Lacock park, the new road still used the old bridge.

The medieval bridge that still carries the road traffic to Devizes. The route of the road across Lacock park was shifted in the late 18th century but the position of the bridge remained the same.

The medieval bridge that still carries the road traffic to Devizes. The route of the road across Lacock park was shifted in the late 18th century but the position of the bridge remained the same.

Is the ruined bridge earlier than this one? Was it there before the Abbey or was it built for the Augustinian nuns to cross the river? Perhaps it was built for William Sharrington when he acquired the buildings after the monasteries were closed and sold by Henry VIII. The first map of the park was drawn for John Ivory Talbot in 1714 and the bridge was certainly there then.

A map made for John Ivory Talbot shows that the bridge across the Avon was already in place in 1714. It is probably much older.

A map made for John Ivory Talbot shows that the bridge across the Avon was already in place in 1714. It is probably much older.

Let’s hope Jane and Tony can work it out before the river washes away more of the structure. Of course, rivers like the sea are a non-negotiable force. Archaeological preservation by record is usually the only solution.

Upon Cley Hill

Kim demands a walk after tea. ‘We should go to Cley Hill, there’s time before dark’. Kate and Emma were up for it and we piled into the car, crossed the by-pass and pulled into the empty NT car-park beside the Longleat Estate.

Cley Hill from Warminster  with its distinctive round barrow on the summit.

Cley Hill from Warminster with its distinctive round barrow on the summit.

The days are disappearing fast as we slip into autumn.

We stood by the car and immediately realised that our decision had been good. The drama of the evening was upon us and we, it seemed, would be its audience. The atmosphere was still, barely a breeze and warm for late September. We quickened our pace along the path, Kim running ahead, passing a lone loaded apple tree. Across the stile and up the steep hill across the stepped medieval strip lynchets.

 Cley Hill leading to Little Cley Hill top centre of the photo. The 19th century chalk quarry in the foreground cuts through the ditch and rampart of the Iron Age hillfort and a linear boundary bank which runs over a Bronze Age burial mound hidden by gorse (now cleared). Beyond is the large burial mound with a dimple on the top. The remains of the excavation by Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington in the early 19th century. To the right are medieval arable terraces known as lynchets.

Cley Hill leading to Little Cley Hill top centre of the photo. The 19th century chalk quarry in the foreground cuts through the ditch and rampart of the Iron Age hillfort and a linear boundary bank which runs over a Bronze Age burial mound hidden by gorse (now cleared). Beyond is the large burial mound with a dimple on the top. The remains of the excavation by Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington in the early 19th century. To the right are medieval arable terraces known as lynchets.

We looked back..WOW! A truly bonfire sky. Deep purples over the Warminster houses, shading up to reds, oranges and pink blues.

It kept changing as we looked and to the right a ragged kite tail.. a flight of birds aiming for the hill. Others emerged from the dusk. The atmosphere was such that they seemed to just materialise as we looked, and flight after flight headed for the sun.

We almost missed it. On the summit, we stopped on the small burial mound and saw it sinking fast, a bright yellow-red flash into the hills beyond Frome. We crossed to the large barrow and sat on its west side to enjoy the autumn sunset spectacular. A triumph of light, shadow and mist. Silhouetted slope-lines capped by hedges and trees fading out to the horizon.

Our balcony seat was a 4000 year old burial mound within a 2000 year old hillfort. Cley Hill, the landscape icon of Warminster… the icon of all the residents of this strategic place through history and prehistory. Generations have left their mark on this chalk outlier, guarding the western entrance into the Wylye Valley.

When the Iron Age coins are plotted across this landscape, it seems that Cley lies on a tribal border. The Dubunnic nation dominated the Greensand landscape to the west and north but the Durotriges held the high chalklands to the east. The escarpment edge was a natural rampart guarded by the hillforts of Bratton, Battlesbury and Scratchbury. Cley Hill perhaps acted as a Durotrigan totem and borderland marker. Even today it lies close to the Somerset/Wiltshire boundary.

View of Cley Hill from Battlesbury hillfort looking west across Warminster at the entrance of the Wylye Valley. The valley forms the southern edge of Salisbury Plain and runs east as far as the confluence of rivers at Salisbury. The valley was an important  routeway.

View of Cley Hill from Battlesbury hillfort looking west across Warminster at the entrance of the Wylye Valley. The valley forms the southern edge of Salisbury and runs east as far as the confluence of rivers at Salisbury. The valley was an important routeway.

2000 years before, an important local leader chose the hill top as his monument. His burial mound has dominated the skyline ever since. It was too prominent to be ignored. 200 years ago, local antiquarians Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington dug a hole through the top. Their excavation is still a dimple on the summit. They found little. Unknown grave robbers had beaten them to it long before.

Cley Hill was given to the National Trust by the Longleat Estate and Ben the ranger looks after it helped by volunteers. The balance of nature and archaeological conservation requires careful management. A good grazing regime, scrub control and recently the patching of erosion scars with chalk.

Erosion to the west side of the large bowl barrow

Erosion to the west side of the large bowl barrow

Little is known about the buried archaeology on Cley Hill so it was very worrying when metal detector holes began to appear. We have no idea what has been taken. This week, I wrote to English Heritage to obtain a section 42 licence for the scheduled monument. This will allow us to carry out Cley’s first geophysical survey. I wonder what evidence of past lives is hidden by the turf.

A distinctive cut piece of turf where a metal object has been detected and removed from the ground. What was found ? it is lost from its context now.

A distinctive cut piece of turf where a metal object has been detected and removed from the ground. What was found ? it is lost from its context now.

We were certainly not the first to enjoy the beauty of a September sunset from the burial mound. Many hundreds of thousands of people had been there before us.. but on this particular evening ..we held vigil and stood watch for Warminster for a while.

Sunset behind Cley Hill

Sunset behind Cley Hill

We walked back in deep dusk, picking our way through the long abandoned chalk quarry on the south side of the hill, back across the lynchets to the path, Kim running ahead and wagging his tail in delight.

English Landscape Gardens & Roman Chedworth

I enjoy having a theory and making leaps across time. It may be true, partly true or completely wrong but it feels good at the moment.

Prior Park, Bath. The 18th century Serpentine Lake and Sham Bridge with Ralph Allen's mansion behind. These buildings were inspired by Roman architecture, very fashionable in the 18th century.

Prior Park, Bath. The 18th century Serpentine Lake and Sham Bridge with Ralph Allen’s mansion behind. These buildings were inspired by Roman architecture, very fashionable in the 18th century.

One of the particular things about working as an archaeologist for the National Trust is that it’s difficult to escape garden archaeology. I noticed it when I first arrived, the Trust is full of diversity but gardens are important and English neo-classical 18th-century landscape gardens particularly so. Britain is quite famous for them.

The view out from Ralph Allen's neo-classical mansion across his landscape garden (created 1740s-60s) to the Georgian city of Bath. Placed in an ideal landscape setting between two lakes is the Palladian Bridge, one of only three in the country (the others are at Wilton House and Stowe).

The view out from Ralph Allen’s neo-classical mansion across his landscape garden (created 1740s-60s) to the Georgian city of Bath. Placed in an ideal landscape setting between two lakes is the Palladian Bridge, one of only three in the country (the others are at Wilton House and Stowe).

It was the thing to do, particularly from the mid-17th to mid-19th centuries. One just had to do the Grand Tour and visit the key places of ancient Rome and Greece. Rich young men would have been fluent in the classical texts, say in the letters of Pliny the Younger. In the 1st century, Pliny praised the value of his villas as country retreats for health, relaxation, recreation and seclusion and when they returned 18th-century landowners created such classical landscapes in their grounds.

Very fashionable. Quite the thing and they had loads of money. Ralph Allen made his cash by quarrying Bath stone and supplying it to rebuild Bath in the classical style. He built a massive mansion above the city and on the valley slopes below he had built lakes, cascades, a grotto, an ornate ‘Palladian’ bridge and various garden buildings linked by paths lined with shrubs and statues in Greek and Roman style.

The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead, Wiltshire  commissioned by the landowner Henry Hoare and placed  on a spur of land above the ornamental lake to be seen and to from whic to view other classical garden buildings such as the Pantheon and the Temple of Flora.

The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead, Wiltshire commissioned by the landowner Henry Hoare and placed on a spur of land above the ornamental lake to be seen and to from whic to view other classical garden buildings such as the Pantheon and the Temple of Flora.

Henry Hoare made his money in banking and purchased the old Stourton Estate in Wiltshire. He appointed consultants to create a neo-classical mansion, dam the River Stour at its source and created lakes. Around the lake and on the valley slopes his designer placed classical temples, obelisks and a grotto. The walks and carriage rides enabled each garden building to be glimpsed from the next. Certainly something to impress his mates and his clients.

The source of all this was Greece and Rome. Surviving texts from Ancient Rome describe sumptuous gardens surrounding villas which were the source of the English designed landscape ideal.. so don’t we have evidence of designed landscapes from Roman Britain. Seems reasonable, we’ve got mosaics, painted plaster etc. copied from Rome.. what about landscapes. They’re less easy to see but Chedworth seems a good candidate.

Chedworth is not on its own. It is one of a group of villas surrounding Roman Corinium (Cirencester). The country seats of the rich. Impressing the neighbours/ clients/ boss has always been important.

Chedworth is perched at the head of a narrow valley sloping down to the River Coln. The National Trust only owns the villa ruins which were purchased for the charity in 1924 when the Stowell Park Estate was sold. All the land around the Roman mansion was once part of the villa estate so we wanted to know more about its setting.

The position of Chedworth Roman villa at the head of its valley. The most visible building now is the Victorian lodge built with a site museum soon after the villa excavation in 1864. The Roman building rubble   found by Matthew can be seen against the field edge top right. The photo is taken from the mound which  covers another Roman building. The road to the villa was seen on the geophysical surveys running up the centre of the valley with two parallel linear banks and ditches lying equidistant and flanking the road about 30m from its edge. Perhaps they marked an avenue of trees making a grand approach to the villa. The tradesmans's entrance was probably screened running along the south side of the valley to the left of the photograph. The circular'Capitol' found in 1864 would have been visible on the skyline in Roman times but the footings of this building were removed by the railway after 1889.

The position of Chedworth Roman villa at the head of its valley. The most visible building now is the Victorian lodge built with a site museum soon after the villa excavation in 1864. The Roman building rubble found by Matthew can be seen against the field edge top right. The photo is taken from the mound which covers another Roman building. The road to the villa was seen on the geophysical surveys running up the centre of the valley with two parallel linear banks and ditches lying equidistant and flanking the road about 30m from its edge. Perhaps they marked an avenue of trees making a grand approach to the villa. The tradesmans’s entrance was probably screened running along the south side of the valley to the left of the photograph. The circular’Capitol’ found in 1864 would have been visible on the skyline in Roman times but the footings of this building were removed by the railway after 1889.

These places were usually the centres of farming estates (as were places like Stourhead 1400 years later), though nobody has yet found the farm buildings for Chedworth villa. So last year we asked for permission from the Stowell Park Estate to carry out a geophysical survey of the field east of the villa. No farm buildings but a mound at the bottom of the villa marked the site of a circular building defined by a ring of circular features (column bases?).

This year Matthew met us during the excavations at the villa, Stowell Park Estate had given him permission to carry out a metal detector survey of the whole field.

An early 4th century coin of Constantine the Great found amongst the rubble of the building found this year.

An early 4th century coin of Constantine the Great found amongst the rubble of the building found this year.

We walked down the valley and he explained what he had found. The mound was definitely Roman. He took me to a pile of rubble on the other side of the valley in sight of both villa and the mound. He had found coins and building material there dating from the 2nd-4th century, including window glass and lead.

The spread of rubble against the field edge above the valley floor. Here glass, nails, lead, coins and Roman pottery of 2nd-4th century were found.

The spread of rubble against the field edge above the valley floor. Here glass, nails, lead, coins and Roman pottery of 2nd-4th century were found.

He said that the rest of the field had few metal signals and therefore these were two isolated buildings, perhaps pavilions and/or shrines which served as eye-catchers for honoured guests approaching the villa (I guess the tradespeople used the back entrance. In the 18th century, designers made sure that the lower ranks didn’t spoil the vistas when they made their deliveries). Other buildings and earthworks are known from the surrounding valley sides, including the circular ‘capitol’ excavated in 1864 on the crest of the ridge behind the villa.

Stourhead, Wiltshire, two garden structures, intervisible within their landscape setting. The Bristol Cross in the foreground and the Pantheon beside the lake in the distance.

Stourhead, Wiltshire, two garden structures, intervisible within their landscape setting. The Bristol Cross in the foreground and the Pantheon beside the lake in the distance.

So that’s my leap of imagination based on the evidence, an 18th-century Stourhead or Prior Park type landscape at Chedworth.