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.

Two days in the Park…

… Page’s Park, Leighton Buzzard, this time! CAGG teamed up with members of the Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and Historical Society to undertake a survey in Page’s Park which is next to the light railway.  Why here?  There is an early reference to the find of a “Roman well” in the Park which is marked on the OS maps.  Here is the description from the Bedfordshire HER:

A supposed Roman well was found at Stonhill (Page’s Park) in the mid 19th century. The structure was lined with sandstone. Red deer antlers were found in the well, but no datable finds. Other depressions visible on air photos of Page’s Park are likely to be the results of quarrying.

We spent two days in the Park and managed to survey nine grid squares on the first day and twelve on the second.  Quite a feat to cover so much ground.  It was a challenge for me too as I was trying to lay out the 40m grid using  UCL’s nice new shiny dGPS but not aligned on the OS grid this time. The layout of the park made it more sensible to rotate the grid about 30 degrees anticlockwise.  I’m glad to say it worked, but I am painfully aware I need to learn how to use QGIS for the data processing.  It helped that there was a good ‘phone signal for a change, but the nice mature trees were a problem around the edges.  The Park also has a surprising amount of topography. The NE side where the cricket pitch lies is quite flat but the SW side is surprisingly hilly.  Even the football pitch lies in a hollow.

Pauline Hey heads for the goal.

Pauline Hey heads for the goal.

As one might expect, there was considerable modern interference: two goal mouths, a mast for a CCTV camera, manhole covers indicating the presence of utilities…

Page's Park magnetometry survey.

Page’s Park magnetometry survey.

A first glance at the results of the survey shows these features quite clearly. The vast majority of strong readings, shown as black or white in the plot, are modern features: the gas pipe which runs along the northern edge of the park, the utilities for the cricket pavilion, as well as some other unknown ferrous items.  I have plotted some of these in the next figure.

Some of the modern features in the Park.

Some of the modern features in the Park.

Two of the questions which arose from looking at the plot of the first day’s work (the area to the left of the line of trees) were: what are the two curving lines in the top-left corner and more centrally (both marked as ‘edge of slope’ above); and why does the depression near the approximate location of the well have such a strange mixed but strong signal?

To answer the first question I decided to use the new dGPS to undertake a rapid topographic survey of the area to the west of the trees (another first for me!).  The next three images show the results: firstly the topo survey, secondly the mag survey of that area and lastly the two overlain but with the topo survey made moderately transparent.

Topographic survey of the Park.  Green is low, white is high.

Topographic survey of the Park. Green is low, white is high.

The western half of the mag survey.

The western half of the mag survey.

The topographic survey overlain on the magnetic survey.

The topographic survey overlain on the magnetic survey.

As you can clearly see, some of the curving features are clearly the result of the topography.  Most probably they are the result of the magnetically enhanced topsoil accumulating at the bottom of the slopes.

What about the funny “depression”?  This could be clearly seen on the surface.  I have boosted the colour and contrast in the next image to make it clearer on the photograph.

The depression in the park.  The colours and contrast have been boosted.

The depression in the park. The colours and contrast have been boosted.

The depression can be clearly seen in the topo data, and on the ground.  It is near the approximate site of the well as far as we can tell from the 19th century records.  This could be the well, but why does the survey show such a busy strong pattern?  Towards the end of the first day some of the workmen stopped to chat.  One told us they had dumped two foot or so of material from the old car park in the hole!  This could still be the well, but the results from the mag are more modern noise.

Having discounted slopes, pipes, rubble and goal posts, did we find anything?  There are a number of features which merit more attention.  I have marked some of them in the next image.

Possible archaeological features in the survey data.

Possible archaeological features in the survey data.

These are only a few of the possible features.  There are also a number of potential pits.  Sorting this out in detail will require much more time to go through the data carefully.  Of course, we cannot date these features and further interpretation will require a careful look at any historical or map data that might be available, or even the excavation of some carefully targeted test trenches.  The value of a survey such as this is that any test trenches can be placed precisely in order to examine the potential archaeology, rather than being placed randomly with the hope of hitting something interesting!

Many thanks to all that helped including Pauline Hey, Bernard Jones, Richard Gleave; Trudi Ball, Miranda McGarry and Jeff Langdown.

 

A tale of two villas

CAGG teamed up with the Chess Valley Archaeological and Historical Society to undertake surveys near two Roman villas: Latimer and Sarratt.  Latimer (Bucks) has been known since the 19th century, was excavated by Keith Branigan in the 1960s and was published by him in 1971.  The Sarratt (Herts) villa site is less well known . However, in 1907 the remains of an apsidal building were uncovered by the local farmer.  Field walking the area in the 1960’s by CVAHS found large quantities of scattered building materials and pot.  The present day CVAHS team has worked on this site since 2006, and assembled evidence for a large Roman settlement present from the late Iron Age though to the 4th century (CVAHS Journals 2006-2012).

The survey at Latimer

The survey at Latimer

Two areas at Latimer were available for survey.  The first was a strip of pasture between two arable fields to the south of Latimer Road.  This strip has quite mature trees on it and had not been ploughed within memory. The second area was a small pasture to the north of the road leading towards the river, which at this point has been dammed to form the lake for Latimer House.  We managed to finish both these areas on Monday 14th July 2014.

As can be seen from the results, we didn’t find much.  The southern area has some linear stripes, which may be old plough features.  They line up nicely with the fence line to the south-west.  The northern area is very noisy indeed.  It rather reminds me of the excavated areas at Verulamium and my guess is that there is a certain amount of building debris left over from the demolition of a nearby building.  Of course, we must remember that negative evidence just means there were no magnetically enhanced features to find, it does not mean there is no archaeology present.

The survey at Sarratt.

The survey at Sarratt.

The following day we moved further down the valley to the site at Sarratt, just south of the river, and adjacent to fields where Roman features have been uncovered.

Downloading the data at lunchtime. Photo: Phil Nixon CVAHS.

Downloading the data at lunchtime. Photo: Phil Nixon CVAHS.

Unfortunately, we failed to locate any archaeological structures here either which was a great shame.  We did, however, have the fun of watching CVAHS member Phil Nixon flying his quadcopter over the site to take photos and video of the work in progress and the site in general.

Many thanks to everyone who helped on the survey and especially to Yvonne Edwards and David Hopkinson for putting us up for the night and Jim West for returning the equipment.

The next survey will be in Leighton Buzzard!

Two sunny days at Ashwell

We had a short window of opportunity between cuts of silage to return to the site at Ashwell and extend the survey we started last year.  Although the Iron Age site had been surveyed previously by Mark Noel, the Foerster allows us to take many more readings per square meter which gives a clearer picture.  Many thanks for Sam Sheppard for allowing us access to the field.

The Institute of Archaeology, UCL, now has a dGPS to which we have access.  The site grid should have been easy to lay out as a result.  Unfortunately, the phone signal was a little weak so it took longer than I had hoped, but it did the job eventually, and the data matched the previous survey perfectly which was a big relief.  We managed six grids on Monday and an excellent ten grids on Tuesday.

Combined plot of the survey's at Ashwell.

Combined plot of the survey’s at Ashwell.

The first image shown above shows the Roman cross-roads site we surveyed previously on the top-left.  The main survey area is a composite of the previous three days of survey plus the two new days.  Luckily, no sign of a join!

The Iron Age site.

The Iron Age site.

This second image focuses in a little more on the Iron Age site.  As you can see, there is a whole mass of ditches and pits in this area, some very strong and some more subtle.  Disentangling and phasing these results is going to be quite difficult, if not impossible without some excavation to test the relationships.  It does, however, clearly show a multiphase settlement with trackways and enclosures.

Many thanks to all who turned out to help on two beautifully sunny days and contributing towards this excellent result.