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News items from the past couple of years are shown here. For older items please see the news archive.  

February 2017: Exploring the Past at Missenden Abbey

 A small team of CVAHS members have been revisiting the archaeological investigation of Missenden Abbey. This was originally led by Peter Yeoman for Bucks County Museum in 1983-1985 when further buildings were planned in the Abbey grounds. At that time excavation revealed numerous remains of early archaeological features dating from the 11th to 16th C and beyond. Although much basic information was secured and a few specialist reports prepared, lack of funds prohibited completion of this important study. CVAHS recovered the archive from the Resource Centre at Halton and undertook to review, complete and publish this work, so that the early life of this important, but little known, medieval abbey will now be accessible to everyone.

During the past few years we have worked on all of the areas not recorded previously and improved those where information was minimal. All of the text is now written up and completed, the non-text data are also assembled, together with drawings prepared in the past and many new additions have also been made. We are planning to submit the complete document in the next month or so.

Meanwhile, to give you a small flavour of the finds made in the 1980’s and in the recent CVAHS studies, a few photographs are shown below. One is of Peter Yeoman and his team are relaxing at lunch time (love the hats!). Another is of architectural stone finds, some of which is on view in the present day Missenden Abbey. Our new study has investigated these in more detail. Finally, we show a few of the many Penn tiles that were found both in the early Abbey and the nearby St Peter and Paul church (it seems likely that some of these were moved from the abbey to the church at the dissolution).

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June 2016: Resistivity Survey at Sarratt Bottom

Magnetometry at Cress farm

 

 At the end of June we carried out a resistivity survey at Sarratt Bottom on land belonging to the Watercress Farm. The objective was to look for evidence of Romano-British buildings, as we have previously found traces of such buildings in the fields of adjacent Valley Farm.

We were not expecting great results as the survey site is now unused scrubland that contains a number of small pits resulting from gravel extraction in the past. The weather was generally fine, and we completed a total of eleven 20m by 20m grids.

As expected, the results were variable, with the gravel extraction areas clearly standing out. However there was one zone with possible signs of a building. To investigate further, we plan to extend the survey slightly with two additional grids adjacent to this zone.

Many thanks to all who helped make the survey a success.

   

February 2016: Common Wood Excavations

Trenches 1 and 2

 

CVAHS members made an early start to the 2016 digging season with a two-week spell in Common Wood near Penn during February. The dig was advertised by posters in the wood and we were joined in our efforts by a number of keen local residents.

CVAHS member John Gover made initial investigations of the wood in 2015 using publicly available Lidar data. This aerial survey revealed a significant structure lying to the eastern side of a known Romano-British earthwork excavated by CVAHS in 2005-6. It was this extension that we excavated in February.

Although the banks and ditches of these new earthworks were less prominent than those of our earlier earthwork, they were still clearly visible on the ground. We dug three long trenches across various points of the bank and ditch, and another across an associated large, shallow depression. Excavation showed that the ditches were not particularly deep, in fact we reached a solid clay surface level at their centres within about half a metre. The shallow depression yielded no information.

The most obvious finds from the trenches and the general surrounding area were numerous pieces of slag, some of which were 10cm across. Much slag was also found in our previous dig in 2005-6, confirming that this was an area of extensive metalworking.

A separate rectangular bank lay between the ‘extension’ described above and the previously identified Romano-British earthwork. The layout here was suggestive of a possible wall base, but excavation revealed only a shallow blackened surface followed by solid clay surface at 12cm depth.

During the final three days of the excavation, we took the opportunity to further explore the original Romano-British site and to place trenches across the inner ditch in two separate areas. Both trenches uncovered quantities of Romano-British pottery at the 40-60 cm level. The pottery is currently being examined and identified.   

July 2015: LIDAR in the Woods

In the Woods

 

CVAHS have been working hard on the assembly of the LIDAR data for Penn Wood and this is now almost complete. A number of interesting features have been identified including a rectangular bank and ditch enclosure, about 90metres square, with various linear ditches nearby. Numerous other banks and quarries have also been located in the wood.

We aim to organise a walk for members to take a look at some of these features and this may be best done in the late winter/early spring when there is little foliage to contend with. Recent walks around Penn Wood and research into its history has shown that the planting and replanting of trees in the past 200 years has probably destroyed many early man-made surface features, so these remaining features are of particular interest.

We have also extended the LIDAR survey to cover parts of Common Wood, including the Romano-British enclosure investigated by CVAHS in 2005. Remarkably, this has revealed further structures that appear to be extensions to the enclosure.

Next year, it may be possible for CVAHS members to survey and excavate both the Penn Wood enclosure and these additions to the Common Wood enclosure.

 

June 2015: Trial Trenches in Latimer Field

 

Recording the Finds

 

In early June, CVAHS carried out trial trench excavations at Latimer, not far from the original Roman Villa site. This work was to follow up on last year’s resistivity surveys, that had highlighted a number of features worthy of investigation.

Over the course of a week, five exploratory trenches were dug, all of which encountered scattered finds of 17th- 19th C fragments of tile, pot, glass and pipe stems in the upper layers. One of the Trenches (No 3) showed three parallel linear features cutting across the trench at a depth of c. 30-35cms. The size and shape of these grooves suggested that they marked the occasional traverse of a cart, whose wheels sunk into soft ground.

Two of the trenches (No 2 and No 5) yielded good numbers of fragmented Roman finds at lower levels (40-55 cms depth). The finds included fragments of tegulae, tiles, box flue tile and various domestic items.

In order to establish whether the finds were associated with a constructed feature, such as a wall, pit or trench, Trench 2 was doubled in size but no evidence of man made features was found. It appears that Trench 2, and perhaps also Trench 5, uncovered dumping areas from the Roman period. More details on the excavation and finds will appear in this year’s CVAHS Journal.  

May 2015: Whelpley Hill Round House

Recording the end of the trench

In May, CVAHS members were busy once again at the Whelpley Hill site, where we conducted surveys and digs in 2013 and 2014.

This probable Iron Age site has already revealed several interesting features. In Spring 2014, we excavated a linear trench across one of the four identical circular, high resistance, features located on the east side of the Whelpley Hill enclosure. The excavation team uncovered several surface levels, the uppermost of which were cut by what were apparently ploughing grooves. At lower levels we encountered clusters of small postholes and two larger holes, each surrounded by closely packed stone. The large holes may have been cut to support roof posts while the small postholes may mark the site of structures for drying and preserving food, a feature of life from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age.

During May this year we extended this trench to the south in the hope of uncovering further features associated with this circular structure. Not surprisingly extensions of the ploughing grooves were uncovered. Further down, more groups of small postholes, the positioning of which varied between levels appeared, perhaps associated with changes in the hut interior over time. In addition, at the deepest levels a number of interesting larger features were uncovered, including two apparently contemporary, short ditches at the west end, running across the trench. Both features were marked by stone edging and were filled with greyish crumbly clay. At the east end, a ditch about 60cm wide and a with maximum depth of about 30cm was uncovered. This feature crossed the trench from south to north, diminishing in width towards the north.

We plan to combine the data from the 2014 and 2015 trenches, level by level; this should provide an overview of a good portion of this circular structure. Charcoal was recovered from a number of features, some of which is suitable for radiocarbon dating. Now we need to raise funding for this!

An admirable team of diggers worked for the ten days of the excavation, including our president Stan Cauvain who trowelled away and also gave us some very good advice.  

 

November 2014: Missenden Abbey Project

Missenden Abbey Stonework

Many of you will already know that a CVAHS team have been working on the unpublished data, finds and maps etc., from excavations at Missenden Abbey which took place in the late 1980’s. The work is well underway and almost complete. We are planning to publish the fascinating history of the Abbey and the wealth of excavation findings; such an important volume will add considerably to knowledge of the Chiltern area.

We will need to attract funding in order to publish the Missenden Abbey Book. As it happens the Institute of Archaeology at UCL asked if they could use this work, along with two other projects, to test their first foray into an on-line "crowd–funding" project. This can be viewed on the "MicroPasts" website https://crowdfunded.micropasts.org/

It would of course be excellent if you could make a contribution, however small, to the fund. The project will be on-line for contributions until the end of 2014, so please act soon. If you would prefer to make a donation without going on-line please send to CVAHS c/o M. Wells, Holly Bank, 36 Botley Road, Chesham, Bucks HP5 1XG.

For further information on this new venture in archaeological funding, there is an article about Micropasts, including a description of our project, in the November/December 2014 edition of British Archaeology magazine.

July 2014: High-Tech Magnetometry Surveys

Chris Adjusting the Gradiometer

 

 

In July, CVAHS was fortunate to have the use of a wheeled Foerster gradiometer to survey fields at Latimer and Sarratt Bottom, both of which are potential Romano-British sites. The gradiometer is priced at about £40,000 – far out of our league – but has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a project run by UCL.

The project is directed by Kris Lockyear, Ph.D, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, who helped us with the surveys (that's him above, adjusting the gradiometer). The project’s aim is to conduct archaeological magnetometry surveys on a number of Late Iron Age and Roman sites throughout Hertfordshire, in collaboration with local heritage and archaeological groups such as CVAHS.

Two happy days were spent in the sun by a total of about twelve CVAHS members and we are now analysing the results to see if they show features that merit further investigation.

For more information about the UCL-run project, see www.hertsgeosurvey.wordpress.com

January 2014: LIDAR and Archaeology in the Chess Valley

CVAHS is taking another step into the latest archaeology techniques with the use of LIDAR surveys of the Chess Valley. LIDAR uses laser beams fired from a plane or helicopter to map the terrain beneath, and the results can be filtered to remove vegetation and reveal hidden features.

We cannot yet afford an aircraft to conduct surveys, but fortunately the Environment Agency has already carried out airborne surveys along the Chess and Misbourne Valleys for flood control and has made the data freely available to non-commercial bodies (see https://www.geomatics-group.co.uk/GeoCMS/Order.aspx ).

We have downloaded a portion of this data in the Chenies and Valley Farm area of Sarratt Bottom and are in the process of interpreting this for its archaeological potential. The picture below shows the LIDAR image of this area with most vegetation removed and with vertical contours exaggerated. The River Chess flows through the pale strip that runs horizontally across the plot. Several interesting features are revealed, including various circular and rectangular structures, and possible field terracing.

Lidar Image of Chess Valley

Our next step is more traditional archaeology, using maps and field walking to investigate these features on the ground. For instance, towards the top of this LIDAR projection are some dotted ring structures. Are these hut circles or long lost prehistoric henges? The answer lies in the ordnance survey map; they are the foundations of modern radio masts!

 

We intend to extend our LIDAR coverage in the near future to identify areas for investigation and possible digs.

More about LIDAR. The principle behind LIDAR is really quite simple. Shine a small light at a surface and measure the time it takes to return to its source. The LIDAR system pulses a laser beam onto a mirror and projects it downward from an airborne platform, usually a fixed-wing airplane. When the laser beam hits an object it is reflected back to the mirror. The time interval between the pulse leaving the airborne platform and its return to the LIDAR sensor is measured. This is done many thousands of times a second. The data is post-processed and the LIDAR time-interval measurements from the pulse being sent to the return pulse being received are converted to distance.

LIDAR is extremely useful as by special filtering it is possible to penetrate the beam through vegetation such as woods and forests. This allows the ability to measure the height of the ground surface and other features in large landscape areas with a resolution and accuracy hitherto generally unavailable. It provides, for the first time, highly detailed and accurate models of the land surface at metre and sub-metre resolution

July 2013: Update on the CVAHS Intaglio

Intaglio and impression

As some members may recall, CVAHS Field Group found a Romano-British intaglio stone from a signet ring during our 2008 excavation at Valley Farm. The blue stone contains a carved figure and was found in a trench where two Trajan sestertii were excavated.

A PhD student at Leicester University recently contacted us about this intaglio after he saw an account of it on our web site. He is currently trying to locate all such finds from Britain as part of his doctoral research. One of the aims of this research is to map the popularity of various deities across Roman Britain, as reflected in their presence on intaglios. He describes our intaglio as being made of glass paste and the figure appears to be an image of Sol. When viewed in impression, he is standing facing the left with his 'lucky' right hand raised in a gesture of welcome.

Sol, or Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun"), was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers. In 274 the Roman emperor Aurelian made Sol an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Sol is fairly uncommon on Romano-British intaglios, especially on those from rural sites. Although it was found with coins of Trajan, it probably dates to the late second-century or early third-century, based on its fairly crude moulding and its similarity to other known third-century examples.

 

 

April 2013: CVAHS Takes Off!

Phil with the Quadcopter

CVAHS Field Group is taking to the skies. At our recent Whelpley Hill dig we were able to see the whole site and individual trenches from above, thanks to a ‘flying eye’ introduced by CVAHS member and professional cameraman Phil Nixon.

 

Phil’s machine is a DJI Phantom Quadcopter, so-called because it has four rotor blades. It can carry a camera capable of taking digital stills and video, yet measures only 330cm square and can fly for up to 12 minutes on one battery charge.

In operation at Whelpley Hill, the Phantom hovered just 10 feet above individual trenches, but soared hundreds of feet into the air for a shot of the whole site. And despite the strong wind that blew for most of the dig, the Phantom could remain stationary over a particular spot because of its in-built GPS and autopilot system.

We expect the quadcopter to become a feature of future digs, and also perhaps assist in spotting crop marks and other features indicating hidden archaeology.

March 2013: Open Evening and 50th Anniversary Celebration

 

 

Some of the celebration cakes
Some of the celebration cakes

 

This year’s CVAHS Open Evening celebrated the 50th anniversary of the society. Past and present members recalled key events in the development of CVAHS and displays of maps, artifacts and publications showed some of our current work.

CVAHS started in 1963 with just 4 members. In 1964 the society was able to play a major role in excavating the Romano-British villa at Latimer and this work continued until 1971. Further major digs followed the start at Latimer, including Stratford’s Yard, Bury Farm and Valley Farm, and membership numbers rapidly grew to exceed 100.

Valley Farm and the neighbouring Mount Wood Field are examples of the continuity of the society’s work, as they were intially surveyed and dug in the 1970s and then further investigated in 2007-11, adding to our knowledge of this fascinating site. Similarly, Great Missenden Abbey was the subject of a dig back in 1983-5, and we are currently analysing finds from the dig and producing a detailed write-up.

The meeting concluded with the cutting of a 50th birthday cake and a good time was had by all. Many thanks to all those who worked to make the presentations, displays and catering such a success.

January 2013: Update on Whelpley Hill Earthwork

We are exploring the possibility of excavation at the Whelpley Hill earthwork, Ashley Green, during 2013.

Ploughing in previous centuries has reduced the visibility of this feature, although the remains of a substantial bank and outer ditch are visible in the eastern and southern areas. We completed geophysics surveys in 2012, so have a good idea of the position of ditches and other features and have written a plan of action which is currently being considered by English Heritage.

The earthwork is currently listed as Iron Age and described by English Heritage as "the visible and buried remains of a univallate hillfort located on a broad plateau in the Chiltern Hills. The hillfort is roughly circular in plan with the interior measuring 120m north west-south east by 100m south west-north east".

However, the shape and size of the earthwork does not fit the common pattern of Iron Age fortified enclosures, hinting that it may be of earlier date, perhaps Bronze Age. There are some similarities with the early Ram’s Hill enclosures at Uffington and with enclosures excavated in Essex such as Mucking and Springfields Lyons.

No archaeological exploration of the earthwork has taken place. If the CVAHS plan is well received we hope to carry out exploratory excavations on this interesting site during 2013. A good reason to join our society!

June 2012: Return to Chesham Bois House

 

Part of the Type Series
Garden Path in Trench 3

Chesham Bois House has provided the society with some fascinating digging and finds over the years. It was the subject of a Time Team programme involving CVAHS in May 2006,  which can be viewed online on the Channel 4 website.

In June 2012 we started further investigations, looking at features revealed by a new geophysics survey. As usual, Julia Plaistowe made us very welcome, providing ample places for undercover work and welcome refreshments. The dig got off to a good start with two days when the sun shone until early afternoon when it poured with rain. Initially three trenches were opened; trenches 1 & 3 on the lawn in front of the house and trench 2 on the south lawn.

Trench 1 revealed building material and other objects from the old Chesham Bois Manor, dumped probably sometime in the early 19th C. All the bricks were hand made but varied in date, with about 40% derived from a building of the Tudor period. Several large metal objects turned out to be antique boot scrapers. We were also intrigued to find a significant numbers of animal bones in good condition including the complete mandible of a large horse, cattle long bones and girdle bones and several sheep mandibles and long bones.

Trench 2 also seems to have been an area of mixed dumping, but with signs of relatively more recent activity including a large bonfire. The oldest find was the base of a large punted bottle dating to c. AD 1650-1750.

Trench 3 uncovered a substantial garden path made up of reused bricks, several bricks deep and running across the lawn for a considerable distance.

Sad to say, the weather gradually deteriorated during the week and we eventually decided to close the dig two days early.

 

May 2012: Investigation of a 'Holy Well'

We have for several years been interested in the possible existence of a "holy well" in the Sarratt Bottom area. There are records from the 14th C of a spring belonging to the Lord of the Manor at Chenies called Mayden Well and in the mid-16thC to a Holy Well field and Holy Well Lane.

Early maps and records all show these to be associated with Holloway Lane, Mount Wood and what we know as Mount Wood Field. A spring in this area was mapped by CVAHS in the 1970s.

One of our team and a friend from the Chiltern Society kindly undertook to clear the area at short notice on a rainy day in May. Using the earlier CVAHS map and obvious signs of marshy ground, four hearty diggers put in an exploratory trench.

Various challenging levels were first encountered, including a solid layer of nettle roots underneath which lay an even more solid layer of asphalt (which had been dumped over most of the field) together with large old water pipes and lumps of discarded clay. Once these relatively modern layers were removed we came down onto a scatter of small pieces of abraded Romano-British pot and animal bone resulting from downhill wash from the field slope above.

At deeper levels, below a black peaty layer, larger pieces of pot and animal bone began to emerge from wet deposits, including large fragments of a mortarium, a horse mandible and femur, sheep bones and oyster shells. There were no signs of structures, votive offerings or coins that might indicate a site special to the Romano-British community living at Valley Farm. At about 1 meter deep, finds petered out and the trench began to fill with water.

We concluded that this was not a holy well. The spring may have been used as a source of water for livestock kept in the higher level fields on this side of the river, and it also appears to have served as an occasional household rubbish dump.

May 2012: CVAHS builds Romano-British Type Series

 

Part of the Type Series
Part of the Type Series

One of the commonest finds on most archaeological site are pottery sherds, which are extremely resistant to degradation once buried. And this is fortunate, as potentially these sherds can give the age of the site and tell us a lot about the people who lived there and where they traded. The only problem is that you need to know a fair bit about the local pottery throughout history in order to do a proper analysis.

In CVAHS we have two approaches to solving the problem. We often take our pottery to specialists for identification, and we are also in the process of building a local Type Series.

A Type Series is a collection of pottery from the local area that has been identified and dated. When a new shard is found, it can be compared with items in the Type Series to determine its likely date and provenance.

CVAHS has been working for a number of years on a local Type Series for Romano-British pottery, as previously no such series existed for the Chess Valley area. The series now spans a wide range of dates and pottery types for this period and will be added to in the future. We also hope to extend it to include pottery from the medieval period.

April 2012: Making finds available for future reference

 

Some of the bone finds
Some of the bone finds from Chesham Bois House

Ever wondered what happens to all those finds from our digs? Much of the CBM (ceramic building material) is returned to the ground after weighing and counting, but that still leaves an awful lot of pot, bone and other items.

After a variable length of time in storage, these finds are catalogued for reference in the future. This is the task that a keen group of CVAHS volunteers undertook in late April when they sorted all the finds from our 2005-07 digs at Chesham Bois House.

All finds bags were checked and we made sure all were clearly labelled with excavation code, trench and context number as well as a description of the content, e.g. bone or pottery. The bags were then placed in archival boxes and the boxes (seven in total) were then in turn marked with their contents and an accession number given to us by Buckinghamshire County Museum.

And that is where the finds will be deposited, safely stored and available for research by any interested party in the future.

Feb 2012: Whelpley Hill Prehistoric Earthwork Revisited

The prehistoric earthwork at Whelpley Hill has special significance for the CVAHS Field Group as it was the first site we surveyed after the group re-formed ten years ago.

The earthwork is circular with a diameter of some 100m and, in part, a pronounced outer ditch. There are two prominent entrances to the east and south east. It is recorded in the county archaeological records as an Iron Age hill fort, and scheduled by English Heritage.

Our first survey in 2002 revealed a number of puzzling features. The site did not fit the classic range of Iron Age fort shapes, but it did have similarities with Bronze Age earthwork features in Eastern England, especially Essex. Some of these have been excavated, revealing fine ware pottery, domestic activity and extensive bronze smithy working. They are interpreted as Late Bronze Age enclosures possibly belonging to local chieftains, or were important ritual sites. If Whelpley Hill falls into this group it would be the most western one known to date.

In February this year we obtained permission to conduct two further geophysics surveys. For magnetometry, we used a Bartington Gradiometer, a much more technically advanced and sensitive instrument than that used in 2002. We hoped this would show more details of potential hearths and pit sites. The second survey was resistivity, and was restricted to the eastern exterior where we looked for further evidence of the entrance zone and "track way".

The combined results appear to further support the Bronze Age hypothesis, but only excavation will give us the evidence we need. To this end we are preparing a project proposal for English Heritage and the current landowner, with the aim of getting permission to dig during the 2012 season.

October 2011: Our Dig at The Lee

 

Recording the Clunch Dump
Recording the Clunch Dump

Click on the image to enlarge it

Our autumn dig for 2011 was at the earthwork enclosure at The Lee in the last two weeks of October. This site has long been regarded as the location of a deserted medieval settlement, but no previous excavation had been attempted.

As previously reported, we have carried out both resistivity and magnetometry surveys within and across the earthworks. While neither of these convincingly identified buildings, there were a sufficient number of linear features and magnetometry hot spots to encourage further exploration by excavation.

A report and plan of action was submitted to the landowner Mrs Stewart-Liberty who generously allowed us access to the land. The members of The Lee Old Church Trust were kind and helpful, allowing us to pitch the tent behind the church and to use their lavatory and small kitchen area.

The dig started in weather that was exceptionally good for October - sunny and breezy – and there was a good turnout of CVAHS members. After several days digging, there were no clear signs of significant settlement, although there had clearly been human activity here in the past.

This was marked by:

a) A circular dump of unworked clunch (chalk/clay or soft limestone) blocks. This was used as a local building material and is visible in the walls of the Lee Old Church.

b) Large quantities of iron working slag nodules that represent the unwanted leftovers after the metal fraction has been recovered. One of these were associated with a large dump of huge flints. While small areas of burnt clay were uncovered there was no significant evidence for furnaces on site.

c) A brick feature associated with a low boundary of mortared flints was uncovered. This looks like the remains of a retaining structure, perhaps steps or a wall providing access to the orchard area that can still be identified today. Some unusual post-medieval pottery was found here which might help with dating.

We were particularly pleased that local people were interested in the project, took part in the dig and provided us with a great deal of interesting information about the history of the immediate area.

July 2011: Romano-British Dig

Some of the coins we found
Some of the coins we found

Click on the image to enlarge it

In July we ran a two week excavation at the Roman Villa site at Sarratt, mostly in sun but with odd showers. This year we had the luxury of a double gazebo shelter for finds washing and recording, dining and chatting.

A major objective was to explore in more detail the ‘pit’ which we had partially excavated last year. This feature yielded a number of coins, along with bronze and iron objects. Extension of the trench revealed that the ‘pit’ was a ditch running diagonally down hill. It appeared to be associated with a cut land-surface and nearby posthole. A rich mixture of pot, quern stone fragments, coins and copper alloy items were recovered.

We also took a closer look at a series of ditches and banks forming a partial enclosure near the river in the adjacent wood. These were surveyed in the 1970’s but no excavation carried out. Two trenches were put across the ditches of the earthworks and good ditch profiles recorded. Llittle in the way of finds which might help with dating these features but one or two nice Mesolithic microflints emerged from the fill.

While the excavations were in progress we also managed to complete the resistivity and magnetometry surveys of the field. So, combining all sources of information, we have a good overview of activities during and before the Roman occupation of this area.

March 2011: Open Evening 2011

Admiring some of the year's finds
Admiring some of the year's finds

Click on the image to enlarge it

The CVAHS annual Open Evening was held on 18th March 2011 8pm in the grand surroundings of the council chamber in Chesham Town Hall.

Around 80 people - members and non-members - gathered to hear presentations on recent society activities. For the Field Group, Yvonne Edwards and John Gover described our digs and finds in 2010 at Mount Wood and Lowndes Park, while Marion Wells outlined the results of a comparative study of pottery from the Mount Wood and Colemans Wood sites.

For the Records Group, Garry Marshall drew on extensive research to paint a picture how Chesham and its surroundings developed from Roman times up to the Middle Ages.

Attendees were then able to enjoy a range of finger food and drinks while looking at posters and displays of recent finds, while a rolling audio-visual presentation by Phil Nixon showed the Field Group in action during last year's digs.

A big thank you to everyone who contributed to making the evening such a success.

February 2011: Analysis of the Glass from the Lowndes Park Excavation

As previously recorded here, during the summer of 2010 CVAHS excavated the mound in Lowndes Park and uncovered a large number of broken glass bottles. We then had the daunting task of analysing these glass fragments - 3960 in all - to determine their ages and dates.

Firstly, 3706 of the fragments were body sherds that were deemed too small to be useful for dating purposes, and so were discarded. Of the remaining 254 fragments, five body sherds could be dated to the post-medieval period, but more accurate dating was not possible. A stopper, thought to be from a pharmaceutical bottle, was dated to the early 19th century.

Five glass seals bearing the coat of arms of Welbeck-Pyrmont and the words 'PYRMONT WATER' were also recovered. We discovered that mineral water was imported in sealed bottles from Germany in the 18th century, and the seal type indicated that the seals had a date of c.1745-70.

This left us with 243 fragments consisting of 86 bases and 157 necks of what we assumed were wine bottles, although no wine bottle seals were found. Since no complete bottles were recovered, dating of the bases and necks proved difficult. All appeared to be handmade which, again, made dating a challenge.

For bases, the body shape, diameter, and kick-up height can give a clue as to the date. Similarly, for the necks, the shape, width of lip, and type and position of the string-rim, can be used to give a rough date. We measured all the fragments, grouped them, and allocated tentative dates.

We then visited Will Phillips, Keeper of Social History at Buckinghamshire County Museum's Resource Centre with a selection of 25 bases and necks. There we were able to view the museum's collection of complete bottles and Will very helpfully confirmed our dating, which we were relieved to find was not too far out. The majority of the glass bases (69 of the 86) and necks (124 of the 157) have now been dated to c.1770-80. 11 bases and 25 necks have been given earlier dates, the earliest being c.1650-60, and 6 bases and 8 necks have been given later dates, the latest being c.1800-20.

So, in conclusion, all we can say at present is that a large number of broken bottles, dating mostly from the 18th century, were buried in the mound. But the mystery remains as to where the bottles came from, whether they were deliberately smashed, and why they were carried to the top of a hill in Chesham and buried.

January 2011: Update on Excavations in Lowndes Park

The mound in Lowndes Park is scheduled as a possible Bronze Age burial mound but excavations by CVAHS in July 2010 uncovered no evidence to support this idea. There was no signs of encircling ditches and all the finds made in the three trenches placed on the mound found only post-medieval items.

The trench on the upper flat surface of the mound uncovered part of a pit where large quantities of tile, glass bottle fragments, pot and bone dating from late 17th century to early 19th century had been deliberately dumped. The dates suggest that some or all of this material may have come from Bury Hill Manor, the home of the Whichcote and Skottowe families since 1656, which was demolished in the early 19th century.

The majority of the glass came from wine bottles, but there were also fragments from bottles of Pyrmont mineral water imported from Germany, which was highly fashionable in the 18th century. There were bones from cattle and sheep showing signs of butchery, presumably the remains of hearty meals; in addition there were the remains of a young cat and a tortoise(?) Perhaps these were pets at the Bury Hill Manor?

At the base of the pit were rough rectangular brick foundations for a small building. These may be the base of a gazebo/look-out pavilion from which the Skottowes enjoyed views along the Chess and Pednor valleys. From the mound, Chesham people and visitors still enjoy these views today.