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.

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