DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" ""> Thames Valley Archaeological Services News: TVAS Update - Spring 2004
TVAS (North Midlands)
Tel: 01782 595 648
TVAS (South West)
Tel: 01823 288 284
Fax: 01823 272 462
TVAS (South)
Tel: 01273 554 198
Fax: 01273 564 043
TVAS Head Office
Tel: 0118 926 0552
Fax: 0118 926 0553

TVAS Update - Spring 2004

Thames Valley Archaeological Services is growing! We now have an office in Ireland, where we are currently involved in a large scale road scheme for Clare County Council on behalf of the National Roads Authority. TVAS Ireland Ltd can be contacted at Ahish, Ballinruan, Co. Clare, Republic of Ireland.

Tel: 00353 656 823 533. Fax 00353 656 890 980. Email:

Recent Work

A selection of some of the more interesting sites we have worked on recently.

Middle Bronze Age in Dorset

An excavation carried out at Chard Junction Quarry, Thorncombe in Dorset revealed a roughly elliptical enclosure ditch dating to the Middle Bronze Age. A small quantity of pottery was retrieved from the ditch as well as over 120 pieces of struck chert.

Several features were associated with the enclosure including a pit which contained two urns, thought to be food storage vessels. Several other pits were noted within the enclosure, and what may have been a hearth.

Towards the eastern edge of the enclosure was a possible roundhouse composed of five postholes.

for Aggregate Industries UK

Death and Burial on the Isle of Dogs

At Yabsley Street, on the Isle of Dogs, immediately above the Blackwall tunnel, a skeleton was discovered while monitoring of the removal of a peat layer across the site during an evaluation exercise.

The skeleton was in very poor condition but was identifiable with its head to the top of the picture and its knees drawn up towards the chest. The body (possibly that of a woman) had been placed in a rectangular grave which was lined with wood.

Associated with the burial was a very fragmentary early Neolithic pot and a flint knife.

Other artefacts from the site included small sherds of pottery, a polished flint axe, an arrowhead and several pieces of flint waste, known as debitage, from flint working. A radiocarbon date from pieces of the wooden grave lining gave a date of approximately 4000BC, which makes this, as far as we are aware, the earliest human burial ever found in London.

for St James Homes

Robert de Waudari's Castle?

A small excavation at the former Luton Bus Depot discovered a substantial ditch dating to the medieval period.

The V-shaped ditch was over 6m across and 3m deep, suggesting its main purpose was most likely defensive. A combination of factors -- the scale of the ditch, the dating of pottery from the excavation and documentary sources -- suggest that the feature is part of an Anglo-Norman castle.

Most early Norman defenses took a very similar form, known as ‘motte and bailey’. They would consist of a very steep, artificial mound (motte) surrounded by a ditch, with a larger flat adjoining area, the ‘bailey’, which was also usually ditched. The motte was in most cases a circular structure, with its very steep sides making it a defensive strongpoint. The bailey was usually more rectangular and could house various structures such as stables, smithies and stores.

The majority of pottery retrieved from the ditch dates to the 12th-13th century. It seems no coincidence therefore that a castle is known from history here. Initially a wooden castle was constructed in AD 1139 by Robert de Waudari, a mercenary for King Stephen, for the war against Matilda, and pulled down a mere 15 years later in AD 1154 under the terms of a truce. The motte however had survived long enough to give Castle Street its name.

The evidence is by no means conclusive, and we cannot state for certain that the ditch relates to de Waudari’s castle. However if the ditch was part of some defensive complex it must surely have served its purpose well.

Commissioned by Bride Hall Developments

A medieval Oxfordshire town

An excavation carried out at St Mary’s Street in Wallingford revealed pits and deposits in a sequence stretching back as far as the 11th century. The site is located within the historic core of Wallingford, a town founded as a burh by King Alfred in the late Saxon period. The massive defensive earthworks that still surround the town were erected in the late 9th century as part of Alfred’s system of defence against the Danes. It is likely that the rectilinear street grid of the town was laid out at the same time, and St Mary's Street is thought to be part of this original layout.

During the 11th century the street system was realigned slightly, due to the establishment of the castle and St Martin's Street may have been established as part of this realigned main north-south routeway. The site lies between the town’s two main thoroughfares and therefore is clearly a site of some importance. The excavations revealed landscaping during the medieval period with levelling layers dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, containing a wealth of artefacts, mainly pottery, as well as 16th century structures with associated yards, and later post-medieval pits including a cess pit.

for Pettitts

Some interesting artefacts

Recent finds include this intact Bronze Age urn, used in a cremation burial from Ibsley in Hampshire and this distinctive chocolate-coloured flint arrowhead from Kempsford in Gloucestershire. (See top-right for photos.)

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

Planning in Guildford. Urban excavation at High Street, Whetstone.

Excavating the Roman villa at Hampole Quarry, Yorkshire. Middle Bronze Age enclosure ditch at Chard Junction Quarry.

Excavating the storage jars at Chard Junction Quarry. Excavating the Isle of Dogs burial.

This section across the medieval ditch at Luton Bus Depot shows its massive construction, and tip lines where the chalk bank has been pushed back in during demolition Deep stratigraphy provides valuable evidence of medieval Wallingford.

Intact Bronze Age urn, used in a cremation burial from Ibsley Quarry in Hampshire. Distinctive chocolate-coloured flint arrowhead from Kempsford Quarry in Gloucestershire.