Articles tagged with: medieval

Celebrating 5 years with the Wiltshire Archaeology Service

on Monday, 02 October 2017. Posted in Archaeology

At the end of August I celebrated five years with the archaeology team here at the History Centre in Chippenham.  I thought this a suitable milestone in which to reflect on some of the most exciting discoveries in the central part of Wiltshire (the area I cover), discovered through the advice we give on planning applications.

The Government set out its requirements for the planning system in the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012.  Section 12 deals with conserving and enhancing the historic environment.  The advice we give on planning applications follows this guidance which needs to be relevant, proportionate and necessary. It is important to understand the significance of heritage assets impacted by development, which is why we ask for a proportionate level of investigation to be undertaken prior to determining applications.  Various stages of investigation are carried out. To begin with an archaeological Desk Based Assessment (DBA) pulls together existing information, using as a baseline the Historic Environment Record and other sources where available such as historic maps, aerial photographs, field surveys and site assessment.  The DBA helps to establish the potential for archaeological remains to be present within a development site. Sometimes, there is little existing information available because there have been few investigations within the area.  In such cases geophysical survey is a useful method for revealing unknown archaeological remains within a site.  We get greyscale plots and interpretation plans to help understand what potentially is of archaeological origin. In most cases we ask for trial trench evaluation following geophysical survey. Trial trenching enables us to understand the significance of the archaeological remains which will be impacted by development.  Depending on the heritage asset’s significance (to use NPPF terminology) we may ask for a site to be preserved in situ i.e. not impacted by development, or preserved by record i.e. it gets excavated, the remains assessed and then reported and/or published. The following examples show previously unknown settlements which have been found through such methods.

Westbury
Trial trench evaluation followed a geophysical survey in 2015 which discovered a number of features dating to the Romano-British period including a number of trackways and ditches. The site has yet to be developed.

Melksham
Trial trench evaluation followed a geophysical survey in 2014 which confirmed the presence of a Romano-British settlement. The site is currently being excavated, more detail to follow.

 

At another site in Melksham, a geophysical survey identified a number of features and the trial trench evaluation confirmed remains dating to the prehistoric, Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods. The site has yet to be developed.

Trowbridge
Geophysical survey across a large proposed development site highlighted two sites of particular interest.  Trial trench evaluation confirmed a concentration of early Romano-British ditched enclosures associated with trackways and pits and posthole features which appear to represent settlement remains. The relationship between the two sites is of interest. More ephemeral prehistoric activity was represented in other parts of the site which the geophysical survey did not pick up.

Looking for Women in Country Life – Medieval and Early Modern Manorial Records

on Monday, 29 June 2015. Posted in Archives

The phrase ‘Women in Country Life’ conjures up ladies of the manor showing off their stately homes in Country Life, the magazine which published photographs of their marriageable daughters. It also reflects the back-breaking toil of most rural women down the centuries.

In Medieval and Early Modern life women were prized as heiresses because family lands passed through them to the next generation. The custom of primogeniture, the inheritance of family manors and estates by the eldest male heir became established in the century after the Norman Conquest. Women were the glue in the feudal system, giving birth to the next generation of male heirs for their husbands’ families. When their own families died out in the male line, women as co-heiresses – the sisters or daughters of a deceased lord – carried their estates to new families when they married. This was also true for the peasants. By the 16th century farms were generally leased out for three lives. In the absence of male relatives, women’s names were added to the lease to transfer the property down the generations. A new life could be added at any time – for a fee – as births, marriages and deaths changed the family structure.

The manor and its courts organised agricultural labour. Manor court rolls and books record the names of the lord or lady of the manor who received the profits from the land, and the tenants who rented farms and grazing rights on the common fields and pastures. The lord of the manor had the right to prove tenants’ wills and a surprising number are found in court records – a treasure trove for the family historian!

Discoveries from the Deverills Part 1- Setting the Scene

on Wednesday, 03 June 2015. Posted in Architecture

When you drive through the Deverill Valley what do you see? Villages that are strung like beads on the common thread that is the Deverill stream. Last week I gave a talk about some of the wonderful buildings discovered during the Victoria County History investigation into the Deverill Valley, south of Warminster, part of the former West Wilts area. Hitherto-unrecorded historic fabric of good-quality timber-framed houses was found dating from c1500. Prosperity at that time would have translated into lasting assets such as the farmhouses and cottages that made up the villages, as well as the churches.

The villages themselves are made up of low stone and brick cottages, some thatched, some tiled, tucked away in their plots or set in rows along the edge of the road. All have been modified by time to the appearance you now see.

When a building is more than a hundred years old you can bet that it will have undergone a major change at least once a century. By that token can you judge a book by its cover? When buildings are listed the Heritage officer concerned will look at the outside to make a judgement. If they are lucky they might be invited in to see the interior before they do that. In the Deverills there were obviously a lot of people out that day, otherwise they might have changed their minds.

Discovering Historic Malmesbury

on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. Posted in Archaeology

We all know and love the historic town of Malmesbury and plenty is known and has been written about the place. However, there was a flurry of excitement in the Archaeology team, Wiltshire Buildings Record and in the local media in September last year.

We were asked to come and look at a void that had unexpectedly been discovered by workmen during the course of ground works at 7 King’s Wall. This unlisted house dating to 1823, is located close to where the line of the town defenses is known to have been in medieval times. Following an initial visit there was just enough time before the building work was completed for a very brief investigation by Dorothy Treasure from the Wiltshire Buildings Record.

In the void, below the 20th century concrete floor of what had been the kitchen, was a small square room three and a half metres deep and measuring around two and a half metres on each side. Rubble masonry, probably local cornbrash or ragstone set in an earth mortar comprised three sides and but the north side was cut from solid rock.

 

Lacock - A Wiltshire Home for Generations

on Saturday, 17 May 2014. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire Places

Lacock is a village known to tens of thousands of people around the world, but how many people really know it? They visit the abbey and museum of photography, have lunch in one of the pubs, look at houses dating from medieval times to the 18th century, and have tea and cakes in one of the tea rooms. If they’d been one of the participants in our Lacock interpretation day course last week they’d now know a great deal more about the history and development of this village!

 

A roof full of hammers

on Tuesday, 25 March 2014. Posted in Architecture

We were recently called to look at another old pub near Swindon which had closed down. Although it is always sad to hear about yet another community asset disappearing, it will hopefully go on in another guise as a family home.


This particular pub had a very innocent rendered face with mid-19th century windows which gave away nothing about the centuries of history inside. For me an old building is much like an onion. You can peel back the layers, the accretions of history, to the innermost core, or in this case the remains of a once-spectacular medieval hammer beam roof! What a surprise in a building hitherto thought to be 17th century date!

 

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