Broadcast 18 March 2007
Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Videotext Communications Ltd to carry out archaeological recording and post-excavation analysis on an archaeological evaluation by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ at Chesham Bois House in Buckinghamshire, centred on NGR 49680 19970. The evaluation area comprised the garden of Chesham Bois House and the Church Field, the field adjacent to St. Leonard’s Church, which contains several earthworks, some 80m to the north-east.
The manor of Chesham Bois can be traced back to the Saxon period, transferring into the ownership of Odo of Bayeaux after the Norman Conquest. The manor later passed through several owners including the du Bois, the Cheynes and in the 18th century, the Duke of Bedford. An estate map made for the Duke of Bedford in 1735 shows an extensive house, outbuildings, a bowling green and formal ornamental grounds. After a period of tenancy the house appears to have been allowed to fall into decay and was finally demolished in the late 18th or early 19th century. The present Chesham Bois House was probably built in around 1820.
The objective of the evaluation was to investigate the occupation and development of the site, particularly the structural evolution of medieval and post medieval buildings, and evidence of any early domestic and craft activities. This continues the work of the Chess Valley Archaeological and Historical Society Field Group, who carried out limited geophysical and topographic surveys at Chesham Bois House and the Church Field and excavated a number of hand-dug trenches in the garden of Chesham Bois House in 2004.
Medieval features and deposits were encountered in one trench to the south of the present Chesham Bois House and in two trenches in the Church Field, along with post-medieval and modern remains, which were recorded in almost all trenches. A series of hearths and associated structures and deposits excavated to the south of Chesham Bois House appear to be of later medieval and early post-medieval date and probably represent a kitchen or bakehouse either within the manor house, or in a separate, auxiliary building. The large boundary ditch, examined in the Church Field, which appears to surround the present house and garden, and presumably the earlier manorial complex, was probably constructed some time in the medieval period and eventually backfilled in the early postmedieval period.
The structural remains recorded in trenches to the west and north-west of Chesham Bois House are of post-medieval date, and may represent parts of the buildings depicted on the 1735 Bedford estate map.