Archaeology

Yellow Flags with a Royal Connection?

By the pond, Aldbourne – May 2020

Look out in May for yellow iris around the pond in Aldbourne. They make a real splash of colour, together with the pink blossom of the horse-chestnut trees. This year at about the time they first appeared, I spotted a fascinating article by Karen Andrews (aka ‘Botany Karen’) setting out some other common names for this flower; including ‘Yellow Flags’. You can read Karen’s full article here. Karen connects to a 14th century tile in the Louvre, which reminded me of six tiles of a similar age found in Aldbourne and now in the British Museum. I’m not sure when these tiles were found, but it may have been sometime in the 19th century. There’s a mention of ‘medieval tiles’ as part of Mr Walter Lawrence’s collection, proudly displayed at the Crown to visiting members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1894. Possibly the first instance of a ‘pop-up’ Museum in the village. The six tiles found at the Court House were acquired by the British Museum in 1947, are just a tiny part of the huge collection belonging to the 9th Duke of Rutland (1886-1940). We’ll probably never know if Mr Lawrence discovered his tiles at the Court House, or if the newspaper article refers to other discoveries; or (if they were the Court House tiles) how they found their way to the Duke of Rutland. Dating tiles is a mystery to me. At least one of the six in London is listed as ‘made in Clarendon’; how do they know that? Mind you, I’ve seen an article that speaks of tiles from the mosaic at Littlecote House having been made at Minety, which is fascinating, but that’ll be another article for another day!

Devizes Gazette Cutting July 1894 in the library at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

Returning to the Yellow Iris, or Fleur-de-Lys, there was an interesting display during 2018 at the Aldbourne Heritage Centre, researched by Warwick Hood and reproduced in part here with his very kind permission.

THE COURT HOUSE TILES

The four decorated floor tiles shown here are the best examples from six medieval tiles that were found in the garden of Court House. The six date from between about 1280 and 1412 and are now held by the British Museum.The tiles form part of the Rutland Collection, assembled by the 9th Duke of Rutland (1886-1940) and originally kept at his family seat, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.  The collection was sold to the British Museum in 1947 by his son, the 10th Duke.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Two of the six tiles date from before 1300, evidence that a substantial house or hall existed on the site at that time.  The pattern of one of the other tiles, dating from the 14th century, resembles a fleur-de-lys.  This was a prominent feature of the coat of arms of the Dukes of Lancaster in the 14th century, as can be seen in the tunics of Henry of Grosmont and John O’Gaunt, both pictured below

The Hall, the oldest part of the present house, has a fine fireplace into which have been carved a rose and a fleur-de-lys.  Both the Rose of Lancaster and the fleur-de-lys are closely linked with John of Gaunt. The presence of these carved symbols has therefore been cited as evidence for the link between John O’Gaunt and Court House.

The puzzle is that the fireplace dates from 100-200 years after John’s death in 1399! Maybe the symbols were added later to celebrate the earlier link with John?  Or perhaps they mark a later connection with the Crown, which held Aldbourne Manor for much of the Tudor and Stuart period up to 1627?  All of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs used the fleur-de-lys and the rose – by then the Union Rose combining the roses of Lancaster and York – as important symbols.

Warwick Hood

The yellow flags by the pond, and the fleur-de-lys have also made their way into the exquisite ‘Awborne Gospels’. a current illuminated manuscript project by Jenny Greaves, inspired by the beautiful works of Medieval scribes and artists.  The manuscript initially set out to present John Wycliffe’s fourteenth century translation of the Four Gospels into English – this unauthorised translation enabled Aldbourne’s Medieval residents to hear, for the first time, the Bible in their own language. The challenge of these “Awborne Gospels” is to illustrate each page with something to do with our village. As Jenny’s project progresses, the breadth and depth of our village’s history and culture are proving to be near infinite.

Copyright Jenny Greaves

With thanks to Karen, Warwick and Jenny

Digging for Britain (in Aldbourne!)

UPDATE: Site Excavation Report on the Band of Brothers dig 2019 by Operation Nightingale. A great effort by all the team, the villagers of Aldbourne and everyone sustaining the memories of those American lads who spent months living in rural England (PDF on Google Opens in new tab)

Operation Nightingale, in partnership with Breaking Ground Heritage, aims to use heritage based projects to promote physical and physiological well-being among those who are, or were, members of the armed forces.  It was my privilege to assist with their visit to our village in 2019.

Archaeology in Aldbourne with Operation Nightingale appeared on national television on Wednesday 11th December 2019, a WW2 special. (Still available on iPlayer as at March 2020).

Digging for Britain follows a rich variety of excavations working to unearth some of Britain’s most unusual and exciting finds.

Professor Alice Roberts follows a year of British archaeology, joining up the results of digs and investigations the length of the country.

Digging for Britain BBC Four

In Aldbourne, Wiltshire, the search is on for the most famous American unit of the US army, ‘Easy Company’, who were stationed there in 1943 and 1944. Archaeologists are particularly looking for any personal items of this renowned regiment to gain insight into their lives in the months and days leading up to the D-Day invasion.

Digging for Britain Wednesday 11 December 2019 9pm BBC Four

Before a shovel hit the turf back in May 2019, there were visits to Ramsbury and Aldbourne with Archaeological Surveys Ltd, research meetings at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and prolonged scrutiny of aerial photos in the Historic England archive. Exercise Digging Band of Brothers gave locals the opportunity to work with professional archaeologists and service veterans.  It all came together with the excavation on the football field in May 2019. (See The Dabchick issue 173 August 2019 for a full report by John Dymond).

Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (Archaeologist of the Year 2019) and his team would like to say a special thank-you to the people of Aldbourne.

The men of Easy Company, 506 PIR, 101 Airborne were given warm hospitality during their stay at Aldbourne in 1943-4 and this welcome continued 75 years later when an archaeological team of veterans sought to investigate the ‘Band of Brothers’ camp site on the sports pitches. In glorious weather the team looked for any trace of their American predecessors beneath the turf. And did they find anything? Well watch Digging for Britain on BBC Four on 11 December to find out (though safe to say that the excavation wouldn’t be on had it drawn a blank!). It was wonderful to welcome local villagers, schools, scouts, and the general public to site in that week and we really hope to return in 2020.

Richard Osgood November 2019

The Aldbourne Community Heritage Group have confirmed that the artefacts uncovered have been returned to the village and work is starting on their conservation.  All finds (including those shown on TV) will be on display in the Aldbourne Heritage Centre throughout the 2020 season. Find out more: http://aldbourneheritage.org.uk/band-brothers-finds-arrive

Some links for more information

Aldbourne Village Gallery. The story so far – long may it last!

I started a Flickr Gallery in 2008. It now has just over 4,000 photos in it. Flickr has been acquired by something called Smug Mug, and I’ve decided not to add any more photos since there seems to be a risk that the Gallery might disappear; free accounts being a bit vulnerable to that, it would seem.

So here’s a link – enjoy! https://www.flickr.com/photos/aldbournevillagegallery/albums

Many aspects of village life are represented; particularly Carnival and the Beating of the Bounds. If there are any photos or albums you’d like to chat about, please drop me a line, aldbourne.archive@gmail.com

Jo Hutchings – August 2019

Stonehenge and Avebury: An Avebury landowner avows to protect the stones

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre @HeritageWSHC on Twitter 150819

A recent tweet/FB/Instagram by Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre reminded me of this article (2013 The Heritage Journal), featuring the redoubtable George Brown of Avebury. Shared here as I get stuck into thinking about research for the #RidgewayHistoryTrail.

https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/stonehenge-and-avebury-an-avebury-landowner-avows-to-protect-the-stones

I have purchased an excellent and indispensible book Walking the Ridgeway, by Steve Davison which suggests an alternative start from the centre of Avebury village; and describes the official start at Overton Hill as ‘not very inspiring’. Each to their own. I have to admit that up to a few years ago, I would have agreed; at the Sanctuary – concrete posts – what’s that all about? So disappointed visiting as a child after watching Children of the Stones and hearing about the Avenue and Sanctuary. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to find out what it is really all about, thanks in part to the helpful information boards installed at the site. As a total fan of Trowel Blazer, Maud Cunnington, I find much to inspire me there; so much, that I’m finding it difficult to move away and start the journey exploring the stretch of the Ridgeway Path as it travels away from Overton Hill. Maud will be much on my mind as we journey past Aldbourne, and towards Foxhill.

http://www.steve-davison.co.uk/ridgeway.html https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway https://www.ridgewayfriends.org.uk

Maud Cunninton Digging Women of Power. Cartoon by Gabe Moshenska
https://trowelblazers.com/maud-cunnington
See also: J. Roberts, “‘That Terrible Woman’: The Life, Work and Legacy of Maud Cunnington” Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine (2002): 46-62. and
M. Pitts 2001. Hengeworld. London: Arrow.

Marcus Rouse

During the Festival of Archaeology it was my privilege to share memories about two of our village #HumansOfArchaeology, Andrew Sewell and Howard Gibbs.  Today seems an appropriate day to recall another gentleman in the village, who many will remember, and whose inexhaustible ingenuity supported many projects:  Marcus Rouse.

In the very earliest days of the ‘Aldbourne Archive’, Marcus was kind enough to offer much advice on photographing objects.  This included our original effort for 3D photography.  The Aldbourne Carnival Crown he made, commissioned by the Cheney family, was our very first project (2005).  Marcus explained the symbols in the metalwork.  Dabchicks, The Square, Bells, and the Cross on the Green, the coloured cord around the base of the metalwork represents the sallies or bell-ropes in the Church Tower.  Hours of fun with a turntable, DIY lighting and a VERY DIY background, and a PowerPoint followed.  I can remember long chats when we bumped into each other around the village, once Marcus was inspired by a project his enthusiasm knew no bounds! Much missed.

Marcus contributed a bell wheel for the exhibition in the Memorial Hall during the 2010 Festival.  He made a wooden cut-out of a bell, to show the relative size of bell and wheel.  He also brought along a bell clapper on wheels; so that small people could safely judge the weight.  As I said, a man of great ingenuity.

One of my prized possessions is an acrylic block shaped like a barn which Marcus presented as a memento of a barn dance celebrating my 40th. The year will remain a mystery!

For the first Aldbourne Festival in 1970, Marcus created a bell foundry on the Green.  There was a photograph of this in a fundraising calendar for 2001 and the Aldbourne Heritage Centre have one of his bells, and a model foundry, on display.  I hope to find time to search through pictures in the Aldbourne Photographic Club collection at the Heritage Centre to find a photo of the man himself.  There’s also a fleeting glimpse of the foundry in the film taken by Moya Dixon during the 1970 Festival

Moya Dixon (original cinefilm 1970. With thanks to Ron Morley and Sam Hutchings for their help digitising and publishing this lovely window on Aldbourne history.
Calendar (2001). One of several created by Maureen Albright as a fundraiser for St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne
Bell founded by Marcus Rouse at Aldbourne Heritage Centre
http://aldbourneheritage.org.uk

I’m putting together a collection of Dabchicks (if anyone has a spare number 39 – April 1997) that would be fab!  Today is an appropriate day to publish these reminiscences following this article by Marcus that I discovered whilst sorting through the collection.

Marcus Rouse Dabchick Magazine October 1996

Howard Gibbs Remembered

Howard Gibbs (1928 – 2010)
‘Aldbourne Archaeologist’, Howard’s interest in the distant past was kindled when he volunteered during excavations at Littlecote in the 1970s. I had many chats with Howard about his research, and the wonderful model of the villa he created (displayed in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes). His poems always seemed to focus of the heart of our village, and the landscape in which we live. There is also one about a frog that went ‘a-wooing’ – not sure that it should be posted on-line – bit saucy! His archive (possibly including the saucy poem) is now deposited with Aldbourne Community Heritage Group – please contact the Curator for more information)

An obituary for Howard by Bryn Walters and Grahame Soffe can be found in the Association for Roman Archaeology Newsletter (Issue 23)

75th Anniversary of the Council for British Archaeology
ArchaeologyUK #FestivalOfArchaeology #humanofarchaeology

A Boxing Day Discovery

Andrew Sewell (1921 – 2005)
Remembering a gentleman with a life-long love of archaeology, a skill for field walking and a fascination with our village history. Author of many articles and letters, including ‘Aldbourne: the Present Past.’ The highlight of his endeavours being the discovery of the Aldbourne Hoard (now displayed in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes)

75th Anniversary of the Council for British Archaeology
ArchaeologyUK #FestivalOfArchaeology #humanofarchaeology…

Aldbourne Archive

The Aldbourne Hoard.  Discovered on Boxing Day 1980.  Presented to the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in March 1982 by Mr C E Elliott-Cohen and Mr A Sewell.  On display in the Roman Gallery at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes.

A

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Exercise: Digging Band of Brothers

Visiting Aldbourne with local experts and members of the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group in January 2019.

UPDATE June 2019 – photos from the Dig by Harvey Mills, ARPS

75 years after the 506th PIR, 101st Division, including Easy Co, dropped into Normandy, a team of military veterans, service personnel and volunteers from Operation Nightingale/Breaking Ground Heritage are examining the sites where the soldiers lived here in Wiltshire. 

This exercise is already well underway, the team having already undertaken a careful scrutiny of the Heritage Environment Register (Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre) and aerial photos at the Historic England archive; plus geophysics surveys in Ramsbury and Aldbourne. 

Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist at Defence Infrastructure Organisation, and his team would like to say a special ‘thank-you’ to Aldbourne Parish Council, landowners, local experts and the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group for their great support thus far on this project.

Operation Nightingale is an initiative from the MoD to help assist the recovery of injured soldiers by getting them involved in archaeological operations.

If you would like more information about Exercise: Digging Band of Brothers, Operation Nightingale/Breaking Ground Heritage or if you have village history to share about the American presence here in WW2 we’d love to hear from you.

Jo Hutchings aldbourne.archive@thedabchick.org.uk

Hungerford Virtual Museum

Pembroke Dabchick February 2016

Dabchick: January 2016 – read more about the Pembroke and Cox families at the Hungerford Virtual Museum

An early morning visit to the excellent Hungerford Virtual Museum, to re-visit connections to Aldbourne and in particular the War Memorial Hall.

So much of interest on the site, including the history of St Lawrence Church:

In Edward VI’s time the church had three bells and a sanctus bell, and this was the situation when the tower started to collapse in 1811.

As plans were made to re-build the tower, an order for a peal of five bells was made to James Wells in the nearby village of Aldbourne. This small village produced two notable dynasties of bell-founders—the Corrs, who started in 1696, and the Wells.

They were asked to recast the four old bells into a new ring of six bells, with a tenor of 15cwt. Evidently the bell frame was not suitable for these, and required modification. The new bells were cast in 1816 and were hung in the new tower in two tiers. Mr Well’s estimate of 1812 and all fittings amounted to £251 0s 0d.

In Prehistoric Hungerford

Undy’s Farm in 1988-89 revealed what was possibly Berkshire’s only example of a Bronze Age ceremonial site. The seven metre diameter site had seven pits around a large central hearth. The pits held posts which had burned down and been replaced on several occasions. In association with this find was a probable fragment of an “Aldbourne cup”. These small vessels are normally associated with Early Bronze Age (Wessex II) inhumation burials. Its discovery here was considered “most unusual”, but confirms the area was occupied in the Bronze Age.

Links:

Hungerford Virtual Museum

Hungerford Virtual Museum on Facebook

Hungerford Historical Association