Karen Nichols's blog

Churchdown Lane, Hucclecote


An excavation by Wessex Archaeology West in Hucclecote, Gloucester sought to establish whether a site at the Hucclecote Centre, in Chuchdown Lane had some relationship with a known Roman villa to its north. The villa, excavated in the early 20th century, was dated to c. AD 150 but was probably still occupied in the early 5th century, and appeared to sit within a well-established Romano-British landscape.
Our excavation identified two phases of coaxial field system, one pre-dating the villa, the other, incorporating a metalled road or trackway apparently leading towards the villa, contemporary with it. Extensive remains of ridge and furrow cultivation were also identified, the alignment of which appeared to respect the earlier ditches, suggesting that vestiges of the Romano-British  landscape were still visible in the medieval period.
To find out more about this site read the project page here.

Unique Prehistoric Find From Chisenbury?


This tiny but enigmatic object was found in late September 2016 during excavations undertaken by Wessex Archaeology working with Operation Nightingale and Breaking Ground Heritage, supported by Defence Infrastructure Organisation. It came from the base of the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age midden at East Chisenbury on the Salisbury Plain Training Area; a site remarkable for the quantity of late prehistoric ‘rubbish’. The surviving mound (approximately 3 m high) was apparently enclosed by a substantial ditch and had many postholes indicating associated structures.
Made of copper alloy and weighing just 3 g, the loop on the object may indicate it was worn as a pendant of some type, while its overall form is, perhaps, in some way reminiscent of a human figure. A 3D photogrammetric model has been created of the object in order to fully appreciate its delicate shape and form. Due to its size of only being just 24 mm high, a macro zoom lens was used to take the required photographs needed for the photogrammetry software.
The object is currently thought to be unique – it has not been claimed by Romanists, and prehistorians have, so far, failed to come up with any parallels. If anyone has seen anything similar we would love to know – a zipper pull has been suggested several times … it isn’t!

Water Fort, Bristol


During the English Civil War new defences, comprising a bank and ditch interspersed with forts and bastions, were constructed around Bristol, running from the River Avon to Brandon Hill. At the western end of this defensive loop was a fortified promontory, now known as Water Fort, which guarded the seaward entrance to the Avon. Wessex Archaeology West has undertaken a topographic survey of Water Fort, and a desk-based assessment, for Bristol City Council. Although the fort is ascribed to the Civil War period, it does not actually appear on reliable historic maps until 1883.
To find out more about this site read the project page here.

St Edith’s Well


Wessex Archaeology West monitored restoration work on St Edith’s Well, Castle Park, Bristol. The well is located in what was probably the late Saxon settlement of Brigstowe, which later became the centre of the medieval town of Bristol. The well was found to be stone-lined to a depth of 10 m, below which the shaft was cut directly through the bedrock. Evidence for the well having been fitted with a pump mechanism was also recorded during the works, which were funded by the Parks Projects Team of Bristol City Council.
To find out more about this site read the project page here.
By Tracy Smith, Archaeologist

Badgers Field, Chipping Campden


A recent excavation in Badgers Field on the south side of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, has provided the first archaeological evidence from the town for Saxon settlement. The excavation, undertaken by our Bristol Office in advance of a proposed residential development off George Lane, also provided evidence for prehistoric activity in the form of flint debitage, some of it Mesolithic, and pottery dating to the Early Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The main features on the site were a series of ditches defining more than one phase of field system, including a trackway. Although poorly dated, at least one of the phases of field system is likely to have been Romano-British on the basis of the recovered pottery, tile and animal bone.
Although only one Saxon feature – a small pit – was identified, it contained 35 sherds of 6th/7th-century AD (Early Saxon) pottery, one body sherd being stamp-decorated with quartered circles. There was also fired clay, animal bone (part of a cattle skull and several sheep bones including a complete horn core), and charred grains of barley and wheat and fragments of hazelnut shell. Together the evidence suggests the presence on the edge of the town of a small rural Early Saxon settlement practicing a mixed agricultural economy.
To find out more about this site read the project page here.
By Andrew Powell, Technical Specialist

Bath Quays Lecture Success


On Wednesday 25 January 2017, Cai Mason from our Bristol office gave a public lecture on our recent excavation at Bath Quays, at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. The talk was very well attended, with over 160 people crammed into the hall; many more were unable to get in due to the wide interest in the excavation.
The talk focused on Bath’s medieval defences, the development of its 18th-century quayside, and the city’s notorious Avon Street slum district, which by the late 19th century was known for its poverty, disease, crime and prostitution. Bath has a great collection of historic photographs and maps, and these have been of great use to us in interpreting parts of the site, as well as really helping to bring the archaeology to life for the audience.
There was a lively Q&A at the end of the talk, and people were particularly interested in hearing more about the quayside industries, and how living close to a flood-prone river would have affected the area's 18th- and 19th-century residents.
To find out more about this site read the project page here.

Finds from Larkhill


As a part of the preparations for the building of service family accommodation for the Army Basing Programme on Salisbury Plain, Wessex Archaeology has been carrying out archaeological investigations for over a year at Larkhill. During this work a large array of WWI practice trenches came to light. Under the guidance of our client (Martin Brown of WYG) we have recovered many finds from these trenches. There are many objects still to examine, but what we have looked at has already provided a fascinating insight into life on the base at that time.
The diet of the soldiers included tinned sardines and corned beef, jam, marmalade and golden syrup, condensed milk, Bovril and meat paste, with condiments such as HP Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce to make things more palatable.
Many examples of the standard-issue eating and drinking equipment have been found – plates, bowls and cups in enameled tin or plain white pottery, mess tins and drinking canteens, plus the occasional surprise item such as a nest of jelly moulds.
Life was not all about iron rations though, as we have found many whisky, beer and wine bottles, plus containers for soft drinks such as ginger beer, lemonade and mineral water. There are wine glasses, beer tankards and shot glasses and even a tray for carrying the above!
Besides the obvious activities of eating and drinking we have found plenty of evidence for smoking – pipes, cigarettes, tobacco and cigar tins. Some of these have survived in remarkably good condition enabling brand names to be distinguished. One of the clay pipes is of particular interest as it is Irish.
The most poignant finds have been the personal items and the little touches of luxury that found their way into the harsh reality of training for war.
It is well documented that there were Australian troops at the training camp and one recent discovery has been a tin of toffees from Melbourne, alongside the well-known British makes of Mackintosh and Pascall’s.

Introducing Kirsty Nichol


Wessex Archaeology West is delighted to welcome Kirsty Nichol to our Bristol Office as a Project Manager. Kirsty comes to us with over 20 years’ experience, with expertise in field archaeology and historic buildings. She has a broad commercial background that covers consultancy, fieldwork, heritage and post-excavation; her major projects have included urban-based sites and historic landscape management plans. Kirsty has a curious interest in all things concrete and is rarely happier than when she has spent the day in a bunker or two!
Kirsty also has a strong track record in Community Outreach and Education programmes, and has extensive experience of running community historical events and excavations, alongside managing developer-funded projects.

Introducing Jon Kaines


Wessex Archaeology is delighted to announce the appointment of Jon Kaines as a Project Manager within the WA South fieldwork team. After careers in a building society and a department store Jon graduated from Southampton with a BA(Hons) in Archaeology and began his career washing pottery at Wessex.
Jon turned to fieldwork shortly afterwards and, whilst balancing his childcare responsibilities, has worked for most archaeology companies in the South of England (including Wessex), gaining a wealth of experience in the planning and executing of archaeological projects.  He has worked mainly in Hampshire, Sussex and Wiltshire with occasional forays into Somerset, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire.

Excavation on a small scale


My name is Emma Robertson and I have been a member of the field staff since September last year. Through November I was sheltering from the ever colder days excavating urned cremation burials recovered by the Kent office. Excavation in miniature took a couple of days to adjust too but it has been an interesting and useful experience. From dealing with the finer details of formation processes, to adjusting to in-office working, I have gained valuable skills and knowledge, as well as the enjoyment of working with a side of funerary archaeology that most university lectures seem to shy away from. 
Going from the field to the office was not as big a change of pace as expected. Being surrounded by so many specialist minds created a great atmosphere, with conversations and discussions about many different processes, finds, and periods of history. Plus easy access to cups of tea makes a work day that much more manageable. It has been interesting to observe and deal with material and paperwork from a post-excavation position. This has reinforced just how important clarity and ticking the right boxes out on site can be. 
Working in the office has been a different experience, and I am excited  about having further opportunities to work and learn alongside Osteoarchaeologists Jackie and Kirsten. This training has opened up new opportunities to learn and pass on my newly learnt knowledge to others, such as the chance to help Project Supervisor Phoebe Olsen get to grips with urned cremation burials as we swap places. Now it is time to brave the cold and rescue my abandoned trowel from the depths of my tool bag. 
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