The English Civil War at Longhedge, near Old Sarum

on Monday, 15 February 2016. Posted in Archaeology, Military

I’ve written before about the military on this site, in that case the WW2 remains. This is a feature from a slightly different period.

This roughly square feature, with further squares on the corners, was first seen in the geophysical results when this housing site was first considered for development. At that point, no-one was quite sure what it was. Although a Civil War date was considered, it was also possible that this feature was associated with the WW2 features that surrounded it.

Greyscale of sconce

We had a look at it in the trenched evaluation, but didn’t get much more information, and so an excavation was required as part of the planning permission. This took place in 2015 and the initial post-excavation works are well under way. The excavation demonstrated that the  structure was indeed large and square with square ‘turrets’ on the corner. Its outline was made up of a ditch cut into the chalk.

View of site

There were also the remains of a small building with flint footings, which can be seen in the photo above in the centre of the group of archaeologists.

The trench that made up its outline was quite narrow and not very deep, as can be seen in this photo. The original trench would have been much larger, but ploughing on the site had reduced the levels very significantly.

Sconce ditch section

At this stage, the shape of the structure was suggesting an English Civil War date, but we still had no evidence. Then one of the sections of ditch revealed part of a candlestick. This shows the torso of a figurine holding a candle-holder. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it definitely dates to the 17th century.      


The post-excavation process is still ongoing, but at present there doesn’t seem to be any record of a fort in this area from that period. If that continues to be the case, then this archaeological work – undertaken in advance of development and paid for by the developers – is the only way that this fort would ever have been known about. It would have remained buried, slowly being eroded by the plough, until it eventually disappeared.

Clare King, Assistant County Archaeologist


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