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Roman finds in Winchester

Update! We now have a project homepage for this site with more detailed information.

The latest discovery at Jewry Street has been a row of up to 8 Roman cess pits, running in a line north to south through the middle of the site. They lie half way between two Roman streets and either served a public building or, more likely, lay to the rear of the houses which fronted the two streets. The pits are cut 5-6 metres deep into the underlying chalk and only one other like them has been found in Winchester.

The pits are an exciting source of evidence: as well as degraded human waste, they contain fragments of pottery, building materials and many animal bones.

Small items have been found: bronze finger rings, a fine bone pin, tweezers and coins accidentally dropped into the pits nearly 2,000 years ago.

The most valuable information may well come from the smallest finds of all - the remains of mineralised seeds, fruit stones and insects, which will give us more evidence of the diet and way of life in Roman Winchester.

Lifting of Historic Building postponed

The proposed lifting of a Victorian granary in the Dorset village of Sutton Waldron has had to be temporarily postponed due to technical difficulties. A new lifting date has yet to be confirmed, but once the new date is set it will be posted here on Wessex Archaeology’s website.

Excavation continues in Winchester

Update! We now have a project homepage for this site with more detailed information.

Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology continue to uncover evidence of Winchester’s past at 19-20 Jewry Street before the start of building work later this month.

Apart from the medieval cellar which extends the full width of the property, numerous pits and wells dug in the 16th-18th centuries have largely destroyed evidence of earlier periods.

Historic Building to be lifted by crane and to new site

This entry was authored in 2005, and while it will no longer be updated, is left here for general interest.

On: Thursday 20th October 2005, 10:30-15:00

At: Vale Farm, Sutton Waldron near Shaftesbury, Dorset

A 150 year old building will be picked by a crane and carried to a new location this Thursday.

The building is a type of granary which was once common across Wessex, but which is now rare. The granary is to be moved to a new site and converted into a holiday cottage.

This challenging piece of engineering needs a mobile crane to move the delicate 2.5 tonne granary from its current location to its new home.

Instead of having normal foundations the granary, which was built in 1856, sits on top of large carved stones that resemble mushrooms, known as staddles. These support the building above ground level and were shaped to prevent rats getting into the building where they could eat the stored grain. They were once a common sight around farms, but this is no longer so with only the staddles remaining as garden ornaments.

Owners, John and Sarah Drake said ‘we are commercial dairy farm and also have holiday cottages, but these are so popular that we need more space. This is an excellent way to preserve our heritage by finding new uses for a building that is otherwise redundant and starting to fall down. All it takes to move it is a big crane!’

Bob Hill, a Senior Project Manager with the Conservation Management Team at Wessex Archaeology who has managed the whole process added ‘moving the building in one piece may sound odd, but it really makes life a lot easier and helps to ensure it is brought back into use as soon as possible.’

NOTE TO EDITORS

Filming Opportunities

The granary will be;

� airborne for approximately 30 minutes in the late morning

in transit for approximately 60 minutes around midday

airborne for approximately 30 minutes in the early afternoon as it is lowered into its new position.

High resolution images (300 dpi)

Images of the granary in its current location, including one showing the timber beam with the date 1856 and the initials of the builder carved into it, are posted here, for free download.

Briefing Notes

Farmers Sarah and John Drake run Vale Farm at Sutton Waldron, a small village on the edge of the Blackmore Vale south of Shaftesbury in Dorset. Their main farm activity is a 150 head dairy herd that they run over 250 acres of the rolling countryside.

Along with many other farmers, Mr & Mrs Drake have added new enterprises to their business to provide extra income. Over recent years they have converted several late 19th century redundant cattle buildings into three holiday cottages. These cottages attract visitors to the area from all over the UK and Europe and this in turn helps bring additional income into the local community. Details can be found on www.valeholidays.co.uk.

Because of the popularity of their cottages, they need to provide additional accommodation to meet demand and to achieve this they have recently obtained planning permission to convert two further buildings to holiday cottages. Both are former granaries where one is late 19th century and brick built whilst the other is timber framed, sits on staddles and was built in 1856. It is this building that is going to be moved to a new position on Thursday 20 October.

This staddle granary is a traditional timber framed building, but instead of having normal foundations it is sat on top of large carved stones that resemble mushrooms and are known as staddles. These supported the building above the ground level and were shaped to prevent rats getting into the building where they could eat the stored grain. They were once a common sight around the farms of Wessex, but this is no longer so with only the staddles remaining as garden ornaments.

In its original position the staddle granary is not re-usable because of the need to separate adequately the farm’s guests from everyday farming activities. It will also allow a more efficient use of space within the main farmyard. In the new location the staddle granary will compliment an historic timber framed barn, which it is hoped will be repaired and possibly re-used in the near future.

Once in its new position the building will be converted into a small two-bedroom holiday cottage with all modern facilities such as central heating, shower room and fully fitted kitchen. The work will be carried out carefully to make it compliant with modern regulations such as safety, energy conservation and also to extend its life. At the same time many of the original finishes and features of the granary will be carefully restored and retained to preserve its overall character.

In this scheme Sarah and John Drake have received assistance from Conservation Management, a specialist division of Salisbury based Wessex Archaeology that is probably Europe’s largest independent commercial archaeological contracting and consultancy organisation. Conservation Management provides a wide range of professional practical and technical assistance to those managing and involved with historic man made structures and landscapes. The project manager for this scheme is Bob Hill who is both a chartered building surveyor and a building archaeologist.

Excavation in historic Winchester

Update! We now have a project homepage for this site with more detailed information.

An excavation is being carried out in Jewry Street, Winchester, ahead of development on the site by Mr M Bakhaty. The site is in the north-west corner of the historic core of Winchester. This area of the town is known to contain archaeological evidence of Winchester’s medieval, Saxon, Roman and Iron Age past.

A large cellar was built in the middle of the site in the medieval period. It was finely built and some evidence of its thick mortared chalk footings remain. The cellar presumably belonged to a substantial property fronting what is now Jewry Street. This was a prosperous area of the town between the late 11th and 14th century, known as ‘Scowrtenestret’ (Shoemakers’ Street), and later ‘Gywerystrete’. Documents from the fifteenth century list the occupants of the three medieval properties on the site. Amongst them were weavers, labourers, poor men, carpenters, a book binder, a tinker and a widow’.

In the northern part of the site we are uncovering very slight traces of late Saxon floors, but these have for the most part been destroyed by deep pits of later date.

Several pits which date from the Roman period (AD43-410) are being investigated and contain pottery and animal bone. The soil from these pits will be analysed for information about the contemporary environment. On the western side of the site we may find traces of a Roman street, linking the south and north gates of the Roman town (Venta Belgarum).

No remains of Iron Age date have yet been found.

Behind the scenes

After the course participants had left, the final stages of the excavation began. These included finishing off the recording and excavating of any archaeological features that were started during the course.

Once this task is done, the archive is complete and the maximum amount of information has been extracted. As any course participant will tell you, archaeology is all about the archive since the paper record, together with any finds, is all that remains from an excavation. In fact many people have commented on the similarity between being an archaeologist and working in an office! There are countless registers, forms, records and indexes to be filled in, checked and cross-referenced.

Once all this had been completed final photographs of the excavated site were taken.

 

Then finally the task of backfilling, the cause of many an aching muscle. All the excavated features were refilled with soil. Those such as the ditch and quarry hollow, which may be continued next year, have been lined with a special fabric to help protect them, and to prevent any cross contamination from the soil of the back-fill.


 

Practice makes perfect?

Jake Keene was operating his iron smelting kiln again today. While last week’s results were “quite good” this week’s were “not wonderfully successful”. As you can see from the picture, this smelt produced hardly any useable iron. Jake’s 98 experiments have shown that the consistent production of iron is very difficult. This is useful information in itself and demonstrates the skill of the Iron Age craftsmen.

Recording and excavating have continued on site, thankfully under kinder weather conditions. The post holes are starting to make sense as ancilliary structures. The two large post pits now appear to be the entrance to a roundhouse. This is just north of the roundhouse found last year. Further post-excavation work may well reveal more information. So thank you to all the participants for adding to our knowledge of the site.

 

 

Rain doesn’t stop play!

Despite the rain, excavation and recording has continued. As wet weather makes the features more visible on the chalk, the numerous postholes are beginning to make sense. We have now established that there are at least three more four-post structures to add to the one found last year. These structures are commonly found on prehistoric settlement sites and are thought to have been grain stores. They would have built as small square huts or sheds supported above ground by posts in order to keep out vermin.

Below are pictures of two of these structures, the posts have been highlighted in red. And yes, the blurred splodges on the pictures are rain drops!

 

 



 

Excavation Podcast!

Wessex Archaeology are pleased to announce the launch of our first podcast. A podcast is just like a mini radio programme, which you download as an audio file to your computer or mp3 player (such as an iPod) to listen to.

The podcast was recorded live from our practical archaeology course on Cranborne Chase in Dorset. You can hear interviews with expert archaeologists, and course participants describing their experiences on the dig.

Visit our Events Blog to find out more and to download the podcast.

Iron smelting - The results

The iron smelting with Jake Keene was a good example of experimental archaeology. For Jake this was smelt number 98 and in his words it went “quite well”. The pictures show that when the bloom had been removed from the kiln it was sawn in half to show how much iron was inside.

The iron shows up as a silvery colour. It was never Jake’s intention to work this piece of iron. However, if it was re-heated and beaten several times it would have produced a small bar of iron that could have been forged into an object or a tool, such as a blade.



 

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