What a difference a day makes

Our second day was much nicer than our first. We even ended up taking our coats off!

Grahame Spurway, Stuart Henderson, Dave Minty and Jim West push the cart at Great Buttway.

Grahame Spurway, Stuart Henderson, Dave Minty and Jim West push the cart at Great Buttway.

We had another very successful day completing 11 grids of which five were partials and, more importantly, completing the area I was hoping to cover.  We have now covered all the area where we knew there were archaeological remains as shown by Mark Noel’s previous survey.  Many thanks to Ivor, Nigel, Dave, Grahame, Jim, Ellen, Stuart and Peter for an excellent couple of day’s work.  Even bigger thanks go to Sam Sheppard for allowing us access to the land once more.

The Ashwell End / Great Buttway survey at the end of day 8.

The Ashwell End / Great Buttway survey at the end of day 8.

The final area we surveyed is very quiet indeed, lying within the curved feature, possibly a ditch, that comes across the field from the east and then turns north until it hits the road.  Outside of this feature there are stripes which are clearly cultivation marks either running east-west, or north-south.  I had been ignoring these assuming them to be modern, but now I am wondering if we have the remnants of ridge-and-furrow, especially the north-south marks to the west of the clear north-south ditch.  I decided to look at old field boundaries and had a look at the 1888 first edition map.  Unfortunately, I cannot post it here, but I did trace off the field boundaries using Google Earth, as well as adding in the modern footpath.

The Great Buttway survey showing field boundaries from the 1888 map in orange, and the modern footpath in blue.

The Great Buttway survey showing field boundaries from the 1888 map in orange, and the modern footpath in blue.

The precise location of the boundaries is not totally accurate due to the way the OS first series maps were made, but we can see that the east-west part of the curving ditch follows the boundary until it turns north.  There is no marked boundary where the ditch can be seen clearly on the plot.  I need to look-up the tithe map. The boundary which heads south from the dog-leg in the road matches the curves in the data.  We do, therefore, seem to have some remnant of the earlier cultivation pattern.  I’m surprised that modern ploughing has not obliterated the evidence for this.  The footpath originally followed the line of the long east-west field boundary and has clearly migrated south onto the straight line across the field which it now follows.

The process of coming up with a detailed interpretation of all the features in this field is going to be long as there are a great many of them.  Just as a taster, here is a detail of some of the features in the Roman part of the site.

Detail of the Roman site in the NW corner of Great Buttway.

Detail of the Roman site in the NW corner of Great Buttway.

We will take a break from this site for now.  It would be good to return once the silage has been cut.  It is unlikely we’ll get into the field to the NE — Prycem’s — this year as it is going to be planted with oil-seed rape once the wheat has been harvested.  Next year, however, we should have a good window of opportunity to extend the survey into that field in which Roman buildings are known.

Quick update from Ashwell

As we are going out again tomorrow I am not going to give much comment but I thought it would be good to post the image from today. The grids we did today began to complete the northern edge of the Iron Age site, and we have finished all we can of the Roman one.

The survey at the end of day 7.

The survey at the end of day 7.

Hopefully the lazy wind (it cut right through us!) will have dropped tomorrow.  It was bitter today.  Check in for tomorrow’s update to get more details.

A grey day in Ashwell

The weather forecast wasn’t great, but we took a chance and headed up to Great Buttway, Ashwell End, to continue our survey before the grass starts growing and we have to take a break until after the first silage cut.  Great Buttway was surveyed ten years ago using a single sensor machine by Mark Noel.  The survey was excellent, showing all sorts of Iron Age and Roman features.  The only reason for re-doing it is that we are now able to survey at a higher data density allowing us to create sharper, clearer pictures..

A grey day surveying in Ashwell.

A grey day surveying in Ashwell.

Luckily for us, the rain held off and we managed to survey the equivalent of about 11 grid squares: eight whole ones and four partials.  An excellent day’s work.  Many thanks to Dave Minty, Nigel Harper-Scott and Jim West who joined Ellen and I today.

The dGPS I have been using has had its SIM card changed to another service provider.  What a difference that made, and laying in the grid was a breeze.  Amazing technology, really, and revolutionizes how easy it is to georeference surveys.

The survey in Great Buttway after day 6.

The survey in Great Buttway after day 6.

The survey has linked up the Roman settlement in the NW corner of the area with the Iron Age settlement in the middle of the plot.  A road, presumably Roman, runs NW–SE across the area past the inevitable modern services.

The Roman site at Great Buttway / Wayman's field.

The Roman site at Great Buttway / Wayman’s field.

The detailed view of the Roman site shows more enclosures either side of the proposed road.  We can even see post-hole buildings in the eastern enclosure.  A very pleasing result.

We are hoping to go back to the site next week.  Hopefully, it’ll be a little warmer!  Also look out for further postings about Verulamium and a survey in the Candover valley.

Hogshaw, Bucks

A couple of weeks ago CAGG teamed up with members of the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society’s Active Archaeology Group and the Chess Valley Archaeological and Historical Society to do two days survey at Hogshaw.  Peter Marsden kindly sent me the following information about the site:

Hogshaw deserted medieval village

THE VILLAGE of Hogshaw appears in Domesday Book in 1086, when it had a population of about 30 people. Today its site is mainly grassland occupied by sheep – but with two fishponds, an empty moat and banks to show that it was not always just fields.

A project team from the BAS Active Archaeology Group has started work to find out just what remains under the grass. First step was to look at historical records. Second was to begin a measured survey of the remaining banks and ditches. The third step, proposed for 2015, would be a geophysical survey which might identify buried foundations.

The Documentary Record

Hogshaw wasn’t just a village. In 1180 the manor of Hogshaw was given to the Knights Hospitallers, a minor monastic order whose aim was to provide hostels (‘hospitality’) for pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Documents show that Hogshaw was one of the ‘preceptories’. We hope to find out whether this was a hostel for travellers, or just an agricultural village whose rents were sent out to support the Knights Hospitallers’ work in Jerusalem.

But we do knows that there was a church. It is not there today, but the stones found on the site indicate that the church was built soon after 1180, when the Knights Hospitallers arrived. Demolished in 1730, its exact position is now not known.

We also know that the villagers were evicted from their homes in the late 1400s – to make way for sheep. Their houses were pulled down to prevent them returning there. The building a new farm track in 2003 revealed rough stone foundations, probably for timber-framed cottages.

This also happened at the manor next-door – Doddershall.

What next?

Hogshaw is a historic site scheduled and protected by English Heritage. What can be done there is limited. But it has a fascinating history – so follow Hogshaw’s story on the society’s website at www.bucksas.org.uk/aaghogshaw.html

The earthworks at Hogshaw do show in the Google Earth image (Fig. 1) but not as clearly as in some of the oblique aerial photographs which have been taken.

Fig 1: Hogshaw from Google Earth showing the areas of the site.

Fig 1: Hogshaw from Google Earth showing the areas of the site.

Given the historic nature of the site, I was unsure that magnetometry would be the best technique to use here, and so we tried both mag and resistance survey.  Thanks to CVAHS turning out with their resistance meter, we were able to run two machines at the site at the same time, along with the mag.

Fig. 2: Members of CVAHS undertaking the res survey in the southern area.

Fig. 2: Members of CVAHS undertaking the res survey in the southern area.

As always, the resistance survey was slow, not helped by my insistence on taking readings at 50cm intervals.  We did manage four and half grid squares in the southern area, and three in the northern across the platform in the NW corner of the site.  The mag survey was slowed down by the pins in No. 3 sensor breaking but we were able to survey with just three sensors.  Thankfully, Foerster managed to repair the cable very quickly.  We surveyed most of the northern area (Fig. 3) and a 40x40m grid square in the southern area so that we could compare it with the resistance data.

Fig. 3: Pauline negotiates one of the earthworks with the magnetometer.

Fig. 3: Pauline negotiates one of the earthworks with the magnetometer.

The mag data of the northern area was very noisy, as I suspected would be the case with an historic site. The earthworks are, to come extent, visible in the results (Fig. 4), especially the low bank and ditch in the NE corner of the northern area.

Fig. 4: the mag survey from the northern area.

Fig. 4: the mag survey from the northern area.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature was on the eastern side of the surveyed area.  I thought I could see a rectangular area with a cross through the middle of it.  I sent the image to Jarrod Burks just to check I wasn’t seeing things, but he too could see this feature (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Square feature in the mag data.

Fig. 5: Square feature in the mag data.

This feature has us somewhat puzzled.  One suggestion is that we may be looking at a formal garden of some sort, presumably dating after the village was depopulated.  We are speculating that the paths may be edged with brick which is why we are seeing this feature. Another avenue of research for the AAG to follow.

The resistance survey in the northern area consisted of a transect 20m wide and 60m N-S with readings taken at 0.5m intervals.  The survey was undertaken by members of the AAG using a resistance meter kindly loaned for the weekend by the Welwyn Archaeological Society.  The results can be seen in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6: Resistance survey in the northern area.

Fig. 6: Resistance survey in the northern area.

The E-W ditch around the platform shows very clearly in the resistance data which is not altogether surprising as it was quite wet.  The NW corner of the platform has an area of high resistance which may represent drainage patterns.  Although there are hints of something going on here in the form of the faint diagonal lines running across the plot, or the area of high resistance to the south, there is nothing that clearly forms a interpretable feature.  The ground conditions were very wet, and it may be worth repeating the survey later in the year when it has had a chance to dry out a little.

In the southern resistance survey, there are more clearly defined features (Fig. 7).

Fig: 7: resistance survey in the southern area.

Fig: 7: resistance survey in the southern area.

The main N-S and E-W linear features in this plot match the visible ditches which can be seen in the Google Earth image (Fig. 1) and in the setting sun on the second day (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8: ditch in the southern area showing in the late afternoon sun.

Fig. 8: ditch in the southern area showing in the late afternoon sun.

There are some other features too.  The strong readings on the northern edge of the plot are probably connected with the building of the drive.  More interesting are the high resistance features which appear to follow the line of the ditches.  This might represent upcast from them.  The diagonal high resistance feature on the eastern side of the plot may represent a wall running across the area at this point.

The mag survey of the same area was very disappointing (Fig. 9).

Fig: 9: Mag survey in the southern area.

Fig: 9: Mag survey in the southern area.

The mag survey has picked up the two ditches we can see on the surface, but very little else.  Most disappointing!

The AAG are continuing their work on the site.  Contact them via their web address.  We may return later in the year to do some more resistance survey when the soil conditions are less saturated.

One piece of news that may interest readers of this blog is that Google have made the Pro version of Google Earth free.  This allows images to be saved at a much higher resolution than before, probably good enough for publication.

Last week we did another day at Verulamium.  Watch this space for the results.

Rain stopped play

We returned to the site near Royston last Friday, with a small team consisting of Kris, Jim West, Sarah Talks and Frankie Saxton.  It was cold and damp and one of the cars got stuck in the mud, but we persevered.

The site near Royston after the third day.

The site near Royston after the third day.

We managed three grids before lunch, and then, as we were drinking our tea and stamping our feet to keep warm, it started to drizzle, so we decided to call it a day.  Typically, the sun came out an hour or so later, but I don’t think any of us regretted our decision.  Thanks for braving the wet and cold everyone!  The three grids we did do (see image above) revealed some more of the enclosure to the NE of the survey area.  Looks like there is more to find in all directions.

Sunday was forecast to have a wet start and sadly, the forecast was correct.  At 8 a.m. I cancelled the survey.  Then the sun came out.  Then it rained heavily.  Then the sun came out.  Oh well, never mind.  I did go walking near Marsden Hall in the afternoon and the light of the setting sun was beautiful.

Winter light.

Winter light.

We are hoping to go out again soon, but with short days, rainy weather and the impending holiday season, we may be a bit restricted in our options.

Best wishes, Kris.

A new survey near Royston

CAGG postings are like buses: none for ages and then two at once.

CAGG was asked if we would be interested in surveying a Roman site near Royston. Many of the sites we would like to work on are not available at the moment, as the wet start to the winter has made many fields too muddy for the cart.  This field is due to be ‘direct drilled’ however, and seemed suitable.  We spent last Friday and Saturday there, and covered most of a square 160m by 160m, which isn’t too bad given the short winter days.

The team on site.

The team on site.

Although the weather was a bit grey and dreary, at least until Saturday afternoon, we had a very successful two days.  Many thanks to Jim West, John Dent, David Minty, Nigel Harper-Scott and new member, Peter Alley for joining in.

The results, shown below, are quite spectacular.  There are clearly some very substantial ditches, especially the straight ones to the north, west and south, as well as a wide variety of more minor ditches, pits and other features.  It looks as though we have picked up a line of post holes pretty much in the centre of the area surveyed.  The quieter area to the NW is where the field dips steeply.

First two days of the survey.

First two days of the survey.

It is one of the clearest surveys we have been involved in, and clearly the site continues beyond the boundaries of where we have worked.  We are hoping to do some more work here, so get in touch if you would like to help.

At the end of two chilly days on site, we were treated to a wonderful sunset.

A Hertfordshire sunset

A Hertfordshire sunset

Follow up to “a Tale of Two Villas”

Jim West of CVAHS writes:

CAGG teamed up with the Chess Valley Archaeological and Historical Society (CVAHS) in July 2014 to undertake surveys near two Roman villas at Sarratt and Latimer. In mid-September the CVAHS did some further work near the Latimer villa site using resistance and GPR equipment; the latter was operated by Ralph Potter (West Essex Archaeological Group) who kindly agreed to make the trek into Bucks,

The results from the surveys using these sensors are shown in the following images.

Composite image showing the results of the magnetometry, resistance and GPR surveys.

Composite image showing the results of the magnetometry, resistance and GPR surveys.

The four GPR images show the reflected radar from progressively deeper distances from the surface.  The approximate depths are 360-420, 540-630, 720-840 and 900-1050mm for images GPR 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively.

Image GPR 2 shows the line of the public footpath running diagonally SW – NE; there is evidence of the path in the first three images but why should it leave a trace more than half a metre down?  One conjecture is that the field surface was lower when the path was established several centuries ago.  The GPR images contain no evidence of Roman structures and neither do the magnetometry or resistance images; the GPR survey are has been overlaid onto them to help comparison.

The magnetometry image does show the path and a few strong anomalies but is otherwise unremarkable. Apart from the path, there is no correlation between the GPR and magnetometry images.

The resistance image does not show the path or any other correlation except perhaps the broad V-shaped feature at the top which echoes an absence of features in image GPR 5.

Many thanks to Jim for sending this interesting update to our earlier surveys.