hendred museum

DISCOVERIES IN BERKSHIRE:

EXCAVATIONS ON THE DOWNS

FROM A CORRESPONDENT
(The Times, 23rd of August 1934)

During July and the present month a series of excavations has been carried out on the Berkshire Downs under the auspices of the Newbury District Field Club. The work was conducted during July by Mr. H. H. Coghlan and Mr.C. F. B. Marshall, and this month by Mr.Marshall and Mr. I. M. Birkbeck, under the general direction of Mr. Harold Peake, F.S.A., the president of the Field Club.

The first monument to be explored was a round barrow on East Lockinge Down, called ‘the gemaerbeorg’ in a charter of A.D. 868, where it is mentioned in the bounds of Lakinge. The ditch of this barrow was not visible on the surface, so trenches were dug from north to south and from east to west through the highest point. Near the intersection of these was found a deep hole, some 5ft. across, dug several feet into the chalk, and below this a smaller hole, just large enough to hold a contracted burial, a foot deeper. In the lower hole nothing was found, but above, on the floor of the larger hole, were the fragmentary remains of the skeleton of a dog about the size of a terrier. The trenches showed the presence of a circular ditch, but it was noted that the highest point of the barrow was not in the centre of the circle.

On digging farther at the central point a small hole was discovered, about a foot in diameter, dug to the same depth in the chalk; in this were burnt human remains without any accompanying grave furniture. It is believed that this is a cremated burial dating from the closing years of the Early Bronze Age or the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age. The hole was dug subsequently, towards the edge of the barrow, and in filling this the remains of the dog, originally buried elsewhere in the barrow, were thrown in, and the earth piled high above the hole, thus altering the shape of the barrow.

The next work was the exploration of Cuckhamsley, better known as Scutchermer Knob and sometimes as the Scotchman's Knob. This is a large mound, from which much of the interior was removed nearly a century ago, standing in a grove of beech trees, planted shortly after its desecration. it is mentioned as Cwicelmes hlaew in a charter of 984 giving the bounds of Eardulfes lea, and perhaps as rypeelme hlaw in 964 in the bounds of Hennerithe, for it stands on the boundary between East and West Hendred. In Wynflaed's will there is a mention of tha gemote aet cwicelmes hlaewe.

A LARGE STAKE

During the Middle Ages a market was held here; this came to an end in 1620, when James I closed it in favour of a weekly market at East Ilsley that he had granted to Sir Francis Moore. Mr. Wise, writing in 1738, stated that a post had formerly stood here, as the centre of a beacon. Hewett, writing in 1844, mentioned that excavations had been carried out here shortly before, but that little was found but an immense oaken stake, bound with twigs of willow and hazel, and showing traces of the action of fire. About this time the proprietor, believing that the mound had contained the bodies of the soldiers of King Cwichelm, and that the soil contained valuable fertilizing qualities, carted away the greater part of the interior of the mound, and planted beech trees around it to conceal his ravages.

During these excavations no sign of any interment was found beneath the mound, nor have the explorations this year revealed any evidence of such, or of graves in the chalk beneath. The mound, according to Hewett, was composed of layers of turves, and even in its disturbed condition some signs of this were apparent this year. Trenches have now been dug across the ditch, from the bottom of which were extracted a small number of potsherds, one of finger-tip ware, and others consistent with a fifth-century date. Two feet above were found other potsherds and a fragment of copper or bronze, of foliated design, evidently dating from the La Tene III phase, as well as pieces of what appears to be Roman glass.

The conclusion, as far as can be judged from a preliminary inspection of the remains, seems to be that between 500 and 400 B.C. a large mound was made of turves, skinned from the adjoining down, and that around this was dug a ditch about 5ft. deep, the chalk from which was thrown on to the outside of the mound, which was ultimately raised to a height of about 54ft., if we may accept the estimate of Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Though the recent excavations have determined the date, and have shown that it is neither a Bronze Age barrow nor the burial place or monument of a Saxon king, the purpose for which it was erected still remains a mystery.

A little to the cast, in the parish of East Hendred, lies an irregular round barrow, much honeycombed with the burrows of rabbits, which had recently thrown up fragments of Romano-British pottery and a small bronze bracelet. Excavation showed that the barrow had had no ditch, but was made up of layers of soil, possibly turves, brought some distance. Two feet below the surface were found the skeletons of two horses, and beneath these small objects of Roman date.

Some of the things found will doubtless be submitted to specialists at the British Museum for their opinions, but the bulk of them will ultimately be placed in the Borough of Newbury Museum.

IRON AGE HORSES

SKELETONS FOUND ON THE BERKSHIRE DOWNS

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
DIDCOT, AUG. 12 1934 (The Times)

Mr. C. F. B. Marshall, of Newbury, and Mr. I. M. Birkbeck, of Woodland St.Mary, after five weeks' search have found some interesting relics beneath a tumulus on the Berkshire Downs, near East Hendred.

The principal find is that of the skeletons of two horses buried with their legs intertwined. One of the skeletons is in a remarkably good state of preservation, with head, body, and legs almost complete. The other has the head missing, this having apparently worked down into a hollow filled with soil, while the body remained firmly planted on the chalk.

The animals were of a peculiar build, having large heads but short necks and legs. The teeth are as large as those of the ordinary cart-horse, but each bone of the leg falls short by an inch or so of the length of the corresponding part of a modern racehorse's limb. Experts are of the opinion that, they are of the type bred during the Iron Age, a stock which is now represented by the New Forest and Exmoor ponies.

The method of burial is similar to that of the "chariot burials", examples of which have been found in Yorkshire. There, however, the chariot and harness were found together with the horses, while here no remains of harness have been found. This method of burial was practised at about 200 B.C.

At the same place were found a piece of beaker pottery (about 1,800 B.C.) and a Roman copper bracelet. A few miles to the west the party found the remains of a human body buried with the knees drawn up to the chin, a practice which was prevalent in the Bronze Age (about 1,500 B.C.). With it lay the skeleton of a dog.

Scutchamore Knob, near East Hendred, yielded some examples of Iron Age pottery and a fragment of a Saxon shield ornamented with a fleur-de-lys.

The work is being carried out by the Newbury Field Club under a scheme for relieving unemployment. The finds are to be given to the British Museum.

 

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