Posts Tagged ‘roman’

Doing the dig

June 1, 2015

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 .

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.


Tha Girt Harchaeology

May 3, 2014

My title today is the title of a Wiltshire dialect poem by Edward Slow who was born in 1842. He was, we believe, referring to the large number of visitors who came to see the archaeology of Wiltshire.

Market Lavington would not have been on the archaeology trail back then. Locals always knew that ancient items were found from time to time, but the proof didn’t come until about 1990 when work on the new Grove Farm estate was progressing. In fact, discoveries made brought work to a halt so that ‘tha girt harchaeology’ could descend on the village and excavate Roman and Saxon sites.

Here we have a photo of the archaeologists at work.

Archaeological dig in progress in Market Lavington - Serptember 1990

Archaeological dig in progress in Market Lavington – Serptember 1990

From the shapes dug, I think we can say that graves were being excavated. This dig was going on in September 1990 and items from 2000 or so years earlier were being unearthed.

This skeleton is not that old, dating to the Saxon era, little more than 1000 years ago.

A Saxon skeleton, as found

A Saxon skeleton, as found

We have a few bits and pieces from the dig in our museum, but we are not an archaeology centre so most items have been stored elsewhere.

Ben Hayward and Kestrels

January 7, 2013

Kestrels is a house in Easterton. The present owner is attempting to write up the history of the house. This blog is an appeal for help, information and photographs.

Kestrels is a listed building so we can turn to the listing citation for starters.

House. Early C18. Flemish brickwork with raised stone quoins and dressings on malmstone plinth. Stone tiled roof. Two storeys and attic, 5 x 2 bays ‘L’-plan, front extended to left by further 2 bays. Central 6 x fielded and panelled door with moulded stone architrave and stone broken scrolled pediment on brackets. Stone plinth offset moulding. Windows 12-pane sashes with raised moulded architraves and flat frieze meeting moulded plat band. Timber moulded eaves cornice. Elevation to road has 3-light stone framed windows with arris beading, and similar windows to rear. Re-entrant angle of plan filled with 2-storey flat roofed building containing rear door and kitchen. Roof hipped with 2 gabled dormers to front and stack central to wing.
Interior: Main stair hall has C17 stair, and fine moulded plaster ceiling comprising an oval floral border with putti in angles. Central rosette. Further boldly moulded putti on soffite of stair. Main rooms left and right of hall have moulded panelling and shutters.

But of course, the area was inhabited long before the early 18th century when this house was built. We have already looked at Roman finds from the Kestrels area. Click here for that information.

We know that Ben Hayward lived at the house during the second half of the nineteenth century and we think it pretty well certain that the name Kestrels was his choice.

Our curator recently acquired an old magazine published by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.

Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society magazine

Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society magazine for June 1908

This has an article in it which mentions Ben Hayward and Kestrels although the article is about a dispute regarding small pox victim burials. But here is what the author had to say about Ben and Kestrels.

The first document is endorsed” The King v. Williams on the prosecn of Axford. Case.” And Oil the packet containing both documents, in my father’s (the late Rt. Hon. Edward P. Bouverie) handwriting is written

“These papers were given to me by Mr. Benjamin Hayward, of Easterton, 1876.” This Mr. Hayward, who lived to a great age, and died shortly after this date, was a yeoman farmer and resided in a charming little seventeenth or early eighteenth century house, which still exists with its architectural attractions, on the west side of the lane running north alongside of the Royal Oak Inn, at Easterton. The taste of the later Victorian period has, I think, done the house some injustice by calling it ” The Kestrels,” though it may be that the ornithological researches of the then proprietor justified him in this nomenclature, and I believe the present occupier-Mr.Selfe-adheres to the name which he found recently attached to the house; but there are perhaps few houses of so small a size in the South of England where the architect has been allowed to exercise the style which is associated with Inigo J ones and his successors.

Any further information would be very gratefully received.

New Forest Red Slipped Ware

September 11, 2011

Market Lavington has had continuous habitation for at least 2000 years. Roman remains have been known about for years and large quantities were found in about 1990 when the Grove Farm estate was under construction. Most of the finds are not held by us but are in the museum at Devizes. However, we do have some pieces.

New Forest slip ware at Market Lavington Museum

New Forst slip (or slipped) ware from the Grove Farm site at Market Lavington

These two shards are from pots known (by us) as New Forest red slipped ware. Information here comes from – the on-line potsherd atlas.

New Forest slipped wares

A wide range of fine table wares produced in the New Forest (Hants/GB) and distributed across southern Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

Fabric and Technology

A range of dark- or red-slipped wares.

Hard, fine fabric which may be highly fired, up to a ‘stone ware’ quality; reduced grey or dark grey core with surface varying from pale yellow-red, through reddish brown to dark red or purple (often on same vessel), with high metallic sheen.

Similar to above, but oxidized; reddish yellow or reddish brown slip.

Hard, slightly sandy fabric with granular texture; reddish-yellow core with reddish-brown slip.

All wheel-thrown. Wide range of decorative techniques, including barbotine scales or leaves, white painted, incised, impressed and rouletted.


Beakers, flasks, jugs and flagons and bowls. Many of the red-slipped bowl types follow late sigillata prototypes, but most widely distributed types are beakers, flasks and jugs.

The Wessex Archaeology web site  shows much more complete items of New Forest slipped ware items, including this one which was found not that far from Market Lavington (at Boscombe Down)  in about 2002.

Much more complete pot from Boscombe Down - photo by Wessex Archaeology

Wessex Archaeology maintain rights to this photograph

Roman Easterton

May 5, 2011

Market Lavington’s Roman heritage came to the fore when the Grove Farm estate was under construction although earlier excavations had certainly hinted at a Roman past.

In Easterton, the evidence for a villa estate dates from the Victorian era. Archaeologists may not always agree so you can take your pick from two versions of the same evidence available on line.

The following extract is from Wikipedia at

The rich soils may have been exploited many centuries before the surviving evidence of settlement, but Easterton, unusually among plain-edge villages, is the site of a Roman villa estate, known from stray archaeological finds in the area of Kestrels in Oak Lane, west of the village. This may be linked with a mid 4th century Roman coin hoard, discovered in an urn during the Victorian era and dispersed, although some coins passed to Devizes Museum. Another possible Roman site, deduced from place-name evidence, may lie at Wickham Green on the boundary with Urchfont some 2 km north of Kestrels.

This is from the Wiltshire County web site at

In the middle of the 19th century, an urn was excavated somewhere in Easterton which held Roman coins from around 350 AD. However the coins were sold and where the urn was dug up is not known. In the 19th century a trench was dug in the grounds of Kestrels, a large red brick house which was at that time owned by a Doctor Lake. Within this was found a skeleton and some Roman pottery, so it seems that there was some form of Roman occupation in the area at the start of the 1st millennium.

At Market Lavington Museum we have a piece of Roman tile that was found near Kestrels (named by Ben Hayward who lived there in the 19th century. He was keen on falconry). Our tile is part of decorated Roman blue tile, considered to be associated with Roman wall-plaster  and is regarded as evidence for a high status Roman Building.

Piece of Roman Tile found near Kestrels, Oak Lane, Easterton