Articles tagged with: flint

What IS the HER?

on Thursday, 14 December 2017. Posted in Archaeology

After eight years working for the Museums Service at the History Centre, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to change direction slightly and join my colleagues in the Archaeology Service working directly with the Wiltshire and Swindon Historic Environment Record (HER). This was a somewhat daunting prospect – moving from the sunny uplands of the first floor in the History Centre down to the darker, subterranean office with stellar views of the car park. However, my welcome was warm and friendly, regardless of my ignorance in the matters of tree throws, debitage and test pits….

In the august words of Historic England, ‘HERs are an important starting point for anyone interested in the archaeology, built heritage, and history of an area. They can provide information on a wide variety of buildings and sites, from finds of prehistoric flint tools to medieval castles and Second World War pillboxes.

HERs are a primary source of information for planning, development-control work, and land management.’

There are over 85 HERs held in England, maintained and managed by local authorities and often held by joint services such as district councils and national parks. Similar records are maintained by the National Trust.

The Wiltshire and Swindon HER is not only used to advise planning authorities and developers of the implications to the historic environment when a proposed development looms but is also consulted by a variety of different users. They include archaeologists, historians, community groups, students, schools and general members of the public.

One of my favourite queries was in June this year from the 12th Cambridge Scout Group, asking me for the dimensions of Stonehenge, as the troop were about to recreate the monument with cardboard boxes. You can check out some photos of their creation on their Facebook page

Most HERs contain three types of record, Monuments (the archaeology or buildings), Events (fieldwork such as excavations or building surveys) and Sources (the associated documentary source). The records include non-designated archaeological sites and buildings, designated Heritage Assets (e.g. listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks, registered parks and gardens and registered battlefields) and other areas such as conservation areas.

Wiltshire is obviously rich in all of these monuments (apart from the protected wrecks!) and our HER can be used as a signpost to discover further information about them. Something as splendidly evocative as the Amesbury Archer, whose grave was discovered in 2002, a Central European man suffering from an abscess and missing left kneecap who was buried with an unusually large number and variety of objects including pots, arrowheads, two bracers (archers’ wrist guards), flint tools, three copper knives, a pair of gold hair ornaments and a cushion stone (used as a small anvil during metalworking). The gold ornaments are the oldest gold objects yet to be found in Britain.

As the most recent member of the Archaeology team, I found this information fascinating and used the HER database to search for other sites and monuments in the near vicinity of the discovered burial, using the GIS layers on which the data is linked.

Having worked with the National Buildings Record many years ago, I’m also passionate about architecture, quite often post-medieval and dare I say it, 20th century, much to many archaeologists’ bemusement. The HER can also signpost the user to the built heritage and in Wiltshire we have an interesting supply of military building types with evidence at Larkhill of a First World War training battlefield and trench system (including finds of associated bottles!).

(For more information about this fascinating site see first world war tunnels, a blog by my colleague Clare King, Assistant County Archaeologist).

Our HER is constantly being added to and enhanced, with various projects also included into the database including a farmsteads project, an Extensive Urban Survey and the Historic Landscape Characterisation project, which is an overview of the modern and historic processes that have influenced the character of the landscape.

A mystery building in Redlynch

on Friday, 01 September 2017. Posted in Architecture, Wiltshire Places

Redlynch is a very interesting example of a former forested area that has only been populated to any great extent over the last two centuries. The earlier buildings are in local brick, including this interesting example in Slab Lane, next to The Old Thatched Cottage, now known as The Hollies, a remodelled house of the 17th century. The subject of the study, an early-19th century brick and stone outbuilding, is approximately 5 metres to the east of The Hollies.

The outbuilding is of two bays and set at right-angles to The Hollies. It is constructed of local rubblestone and flint dressed with local brick. It is unusual in that the north-west elevation facing The Hollies is entirely fenestrated with 6 large windows, indicating a need for light on both ground and first floor. At this time Redlynch had smithies and a foundry while broom making was a traditional local trade that continued until the Second World War. It is possible that the outbuilding was used in such a way, but with many of these small ancillary buildings we just can’t tell exactly. I suspect that the uses changed over time according to the needs of the person who lived there. A wide original double doorway suggests workshop use.

Mapping of 1822 shows that an outbuilding existed on the present site which belonged then, as now, to the Mitchell family. The later tithe mapping of 1840 is unfortunately torn at that point, but does not show an outbuilding existing on the present footprint. The first real evidence of the outbuilding is shown on the 1901 edition of the Ordnance Survey.

The English Civil War at Longhedge, near Old Sarum

on Monday, 15 February 2016. Posted in Archaeology, Military

I’ve written before about the military on this site, in that case the WW2 remains. This is a feature from a slightly different period.

This roughly square feature, with further squares on the corners, was first seen in the geophysical results when this housing site was first considered for development. At that point, no-one was quite sure what it was. Although a Civil War date was considered, it was also possible that this feature was associated with the WW2 features that surrounded it.

Greyscale of sconce

We had a look at it in the trenched evaluation, but didn’t get much more information, and so an excavation was required as part of the planning permission. This took place in 2015 and the initial post-excavation works are well under way. The excavation demonstrated that the  structure was indeed large and square with square ‘turrets’ on the corner. Its outline was made up of a ditch cut into the chalk.

View of site

There were also the remains of a small building with flint footings, which can be seen in the photo above in the centre of the group of archaeologists.

Roman Structures in South Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 11 November 2014. Posted in Archaeology

Recent works in the south of the county have revealed lots of interesting remains, but I particularly like these two features. The reports are in the process of being produced, so are not yet in the public domain, so I’m not going to say exactly where they are right now. However, I thought it would be nice to share them, if only to show that even below ground archaeology can still be pretty exciting. These are just snaps, so they don’t have all the scales and north arrows that are in the proper site photos.


In the Romano-British period, grain driers (which have also been interpreted as malting floors) are usually relatively small and domestic in nature. We have seen quite a few of these smaller structures in Wiltshire recently, but the ones I’m about to talk about are more substantial. The domestic sized ones typically have a fire pit, a flue and a T-shaped top where the superstructure would have sat over the top with the heat coming up through the floor.


When we found the first of these structures, we were pretty impressed. None of us had ever seen such a big grain dryer before.

A new Bronze Age barrow and associated burials, plus a roundhouse!

on Saturday, 18 May 2013. Posted in Archaeology

In 2010 and 2011, some geophysical and trenched evaluation was carried out at a site near the Woodbury Iron Age Settlements Scheduled Ancient Monument. This revealed some undated pits and an extension of the prehistoric field systems that are known to be present in the area, which are thought to relate to the Woodbury settlement. Although the initial results were unpromising, a fragment of human bone in one of the fills from the pits suggested that there might be more to this site than met the eye. Wessex Archaeology undertook the work for this site.

Once the site had been stripped of the topsoil, it became clear that there was more here than had been thought initially. The first and most obvious feature was the remains of a round barrow. The barrow was only now visible as a circular brown ditch cut into the white chalk. This picture shows the barrow, with the later Iron Age ditch running through it. This suggests that, unlike many other contemporary barrows, the mound for this one had been levelled before the Iron Age use of the land had started. In the base of the ditch was a a placed layer of flint pieces and part of an antler time, which may well have been used as a pick when the ditch was dug out.

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