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TVAS Update - Autumn 2001

Iron Age Horcott

At Totterdown Lane, Horcott, near Fairford in Gloucestershire, a large area excavation has revealed extensive Iron Age and Roman settlement and land-use.

The archaeological remains cover 5.5 hectares. Ditches (each perhaps accompanied by a bank or hedge) marked out fields which were devoted either to the living (round-houses, rubbish pits), to the dead (clusters of cremation burials and inhumations), or to farming (blank areas!).

Glass bead

Although the site does not appear to have been especially rich, it was probably occupied over a long period and so the excavation produced considerable quantities of finds, mostly animal bones and pottery, with only the very occasional fine piece, such as a single brooch or glass bead (left).

Sole of a leather shoe complete with hobnails

The sole of a leather shoe (left) was retrieved from a waterlogged pit with some wood and Roman pottery. It comprises several layers of leather with hobnails, most still in place. It would have had a separate leather upper and have been laced with thongs. The shoe was worn by someone with a foot as small as a modern child’s size 11 (19cm long). It has been conserved by The Leather Conservation Centre, University College, Northampton.

Commissioned by Hanson Aggregates

King's Arms, Amersham

The Kings Arms, in the High Street, was surveyed to record the history of this important Listed Building. The inn was first mentioned in 1756 when a licence was granted to the innkeeper, James Wilson, but the main part of the building dates to the 15th century, with extensive 16th-century modifications.

Old Amersham lay a day’s ride from London on one of only two old roads to Buckinghamshire. In 1637, this road carried the greatest volume of traffic into London, with 33 carriage services a week. The first stage coaches appeared in the early 17th century, bringing yet more custom for innkeepers. However, the heyday of the coaching inn came in the 18th century and it was later in that century that the Harness Room (on the right in the photograph above) was constructed, to provide facilities appropriate for stage coaches, including stabling and a hayloft.

Building survey commissioned by Mr John Jennison

National Archaeology Day

Saturday the 21st of July saw TVAS participate in National Archaeology Day, in conjunction with the Museum of Reading. The Council for British Archaeology devised this to encourage public interaction with all aspects of archaeological activity.

TVAS and Reading Museum designed a series of activities for both children and adults. A mini-excavation was prepared with real objects. Once this material was ‘excavated’ it had to be washed and marked, as it would be from true excavations. Most of this material was pottery, therefore the sequence culminated in the making of pots following prehistoric techniques.

The day was a great success, attracting over 250 people in five hours, with feedback from parents and children demonstrating a great deal of interest in archaeology.

Mystery find from Oxfordshire

Brighthampton mystery find.

This intriguing find was discovered whilst excavating a medieval pit at The Orchard, Brighthampton, in Oxfordshire. It is a strap distributor and would have been used to attach three straps, either on a horse harness or on a man's belt.

The date is more ambiguous. This type of fitting has been found in Saxon and Viking contexts but has been used since the Iron Age. Opinions have been sought from museum curators and specialists around the country and all have agreed it is a fascinating piece. And does it show a man's face or a horse's head?

Commissioned by Bower Mapson

Medieval Reading

At Castle Street, in the heart of Reading, medieval tenements have been uncovered. Traces of buildings and rubbish pits have provided informaton illustrating the everyday lives of the 12th- to13th-century occupants of the town.

One of the conclusions to emerge is the distinct difference in lifestyle between the townsfolk and the monks, by comparison with the evidence previously unearthed by excavations on the site of the Abbey. The Castle Street site has yielded a much narrower range of pottery types, for example, indicating less frequent trading contact with areas beyond Reading. Evidence also appears to suggest a different balance to their diets: the Abbey sites produced more pig and sheep bones (pork, bacon and mutton) compared to more cattle (beef) at Castle Street.

Most intriguingly, at the rear (south) of the site, a wide, deep channel represented the ancient course of a river flowing parallel to Castle Street. The first signs of silting in this channel can be dated to the late 11th or early 12th century. Later, perhaps in the middle of the 12th century, it was more deliberately filled in. This may have been the previous course of what became the Holy Brook, which is known to have been diverted and culverted by, at the latest, AD 1164 when the Abbey was consecrated.

Traces of a medieval building (mainly beaten-earth floor layers) lay on the land reclaimed after the infilling of this channel.

Commissioned by Leadbitter Construction

Medieval tanning pits found at Morland Brewery, Abingdon

Excavation at the site of the former Morland Brewery in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, discovered complex deposits representing medieval (11th–15th century) occupation on the south side of Ock Street. This adds to information from the north side of the street, at Enock’s Coal Yard (no. 75) and the Mr Warrick’s Arms Hotel and The Crown public house (nos 83–88). Together, these excavations have revealed that medieval occupation extended further along this main street of the town than was previously thought. This suggests a westward growth in the early medieval period (11th-13th centuries), by comparison with the preceding Saxon settlement. The first trench, near the roadside, revealed two substantial buildings represented by a series of earthen floors and massive limestone walls. One was constructed in the 13th century and the other was probably in use until the 17th or 18th centuries. Later phases included further walls, brick and flagstone floors, a well, a fireplace and a chimney-stack. A number of large, earlier medieval storage or rubbish pits were found beneath the lowest floors.

Other trenches, further back from the road, uncovered large numbers of pits that had been backfilled with rubbish. The majority of these were medieval and later, but one was filled with Roman material.

Quantities of horns and foot bones from cattle and sheep were found, suggesting that some of the pits had been used for the processing of animal products, possibly the tanning of leather.

A trench next to the river Ock included 14th-century pits with the remains of a delicate timber and mortar lining, and others contained offcuts of leather preserved in the waterlogged conditions.

The earliest discoveries on the site were flint tools from the late Mesolithic period, c. 5000 BC.

Commissioned by Berkeley Homes (Oxford) Ltd

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

This photo shows the darker soil that fills a circular gully, marking the position of a typical Iron Age timber round-house, at Horcott, Gloucestershire. This photo shows the stone-lined foundation of a corn drier found at Horcott.

Detail of the 16th-century timber frame at the King's Arms, Amersham. The King's Arms, Amersham, Buckinghamshire,

National Archaeology Day activities - making pottery using prehistoric methods. National Archaeology Day activities - digging for finds in the mini-excavation.

Section through a deep rubbish pit, showing different layers of fill at Castle Street, Reading. A finger-ring, made from copper alloy, with a glass setting.

Taking samples from a hearth for dating at Castle street. Excavating buildings on the road front on the Morland Brewery site at Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Painstaking excavation underway in Abingdon.