Doing the dig

Today we are looking back just 25 years, but also 1000 or more years. But let’s start with the summer of 1990. The first new houses have been built on the Grove Farm estate. An early resident, with a knowledge of archaeology realised he was finding Saxon items in the garden. Building work was temporarily halted and Wessex Archaeology were called in to carry out a full investigation. And here we see one of their team working on what is clearly a very hot day. A skeleton has been uncovered on what is now thought to be a rather high status Saxon burial ground.

Archaeological dig at Grove Farm, Market Lavington - 1990/91

Archaeological dig at Grove Farm, Market Lavington – 1990/91

This archaeological dig transformed our knowledge of the old history of our area. Let’s quote from http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getcom.php?id=154 .

Large quantities of Romano-British coins and other artefacts have been found in excavations to the north of the church, and although the occupation site was not excavated the indications are that it was of relatively high status, with quantities of high quality pottery remains found. Finds date from the third and fourth centuries and the indications are that the building was 4th century. It would be reasonable to suppose that this was the centre of a farming estate, similar to the one recently found at Bradford on Avon.

If this was the case then the estate was taken over by the Saxons as excavations in 1991 uncovered an Anglo-Saxon estate of the 5th century that was situated on the then western boundary of Saxon territory in this county. The economy seems to have been based on large flocks of sheep kept for their wool, but there is also much evidence of cattle kept for meat. The estate dates from the early occupation of the 5th century and there is a Pagan Saxon cemetery with burials from the 5th to the 7th centuries. A total of 42 graves were excavated but the indications are that there were more and other, probably later, cemeteries. Large amounts of pottery shards were recovered, indicating occupation in the early, middle and late Saxon periods. From evidence of the grave goods, and the fact that horses were kept, we know that this was a prosperous community of reasonably high social status. Bone finds indicate that cattle, goats, pigs, fowls and geese were all kept for food, while wild deer were hunted. Saxon settlement was on the brow of the greensand ridge and seems to have moved along it at different times. The areas of the churchyard and the garden of the Old House are settlement sites. There could well have been a wooden Saxon church on the site of the present one and it is also likely that there was a Roman building in this prominent position

Along with other evidence it was realised that the area we now call Market Lavington had been continuously settled by people for thousands of years. Our oldest existing buildings, the Church and the Old House are really quite modern in the overall history.

Most of the artefacts from the dig are kept at Devizes Museum which is the archaeology centre for our area. We think (and so do our visitors) that Market Lavington Museum is fantastic but some of these archaeological remnants need care and conservation by professional experts. We do have a cabinet containing finds but when it comes to human remains we have photographs.

Why not pay us a visit to see just what a superb collection we have from millions of years ago to the modern day.

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