All posts by AnnPitwell

Dovecotes of Berkshire

Andrew is a member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists and a Geophysics specialist, who has published a book, Iron Age in Berkshire and has another to be published soon called The Romans in Berkshire.

Andrew explained that BARG (Berkshire Archaeology Research Group) had carried out a project, of which he was the project leader, surveying pigeon and dovecotes of Old Berkshire and his talk was based on this project. The survey had established there were no dovecotes before the Normans and there were three phases of pigeon/dove keeping:

Medieval – up to the dissolution of the monasteries

Post dissolution period to 1619

Around 1793 they became uneconomic and went out of fashion

Andrew explained that Esme Few in the 1960s went out looking at Dovecotes and her research was handed over to BARG  whose members would then go out in a car recording these buildings, this was happening from 2002 to 2005.  Andrew explained that BARG managed to save the medieval dovecote in Marcham, which is now a listed building. As for the surveying methods, they used Rodwell’s Church Architecture and Brunskill’s illustrated book of Vernacular Architecture as guides.

With regard to the doves, there are 6 species of wild birds and 350 species of domesticated birds.  They mate for life and have two chicks, called squabs, 8 – 10 times a year.

Pigeons have been used through the ages, the Egyptians used to trap them; there are images of this happening at Saqqara where caged pigeons are depicted on tomb walls. The Romans are recorded by Varro in Rerum Rusticarum as keeping doves for food, birds to sell and for manure; there is a pigeon on a mosaic at Chedworth.  Pliny the Elder describes pigeons carrying messages in war.

The earliest example of a Dovecote is Great Coxwell Barn, built in the 13th century; the Dovecote is in the roof of this barn.  The Dovecote at Hurley Tithe Barn dates from 1308. Andrew also showed us slides of Dovecotes at  Bisham, Marcham (late medieval)  and of alighting ledges at Peasemore Manor, also the Dovecote at Coley Park, (1553) which is now in the middle of a housing estate. Then Andrew showed a picture of the Carswell square dovecote, the dovecote in Cookham is also square and there is a 4 storey dovecote at Coleshill.  Swallowfield boasts an octagonal dovecote from the mid-18th century.

Now there are only fancier’s dovecotes, a modern example was built in 2000 in Remenham

To sum up, Andrew said the project found 90 dovecotes during their search 31 were still in a good state, 10 were lived in, 4 have had the pigeon holes removed, and 1 is in ruin.  Twelve have been demolished since 1966, 1 is scaffolded, 3 are undergoing repair.  Only one is on the SMR/HER record.

Our thanks to Andrew for coming to Marlow and for his interesting talk.  I had not realised we had so many dovecotes of such an age in the area which were providing food and a living for people for several hundred years.



Roman Archaeology in South Bucks

On Wednesday 7 November 2012 at the Denton Rooms, Marlow Methodist Church Allan Wilson visited AIM to give a talk on Roman Archaeology in South Bucks. Allan has tutored courses in archaeology, is an expert on Roman Archaeology and has written a book recently on Roman and Native in Scotland. He said that this talk would be his personal perspective on the subject, as a great deal of excavations had either not been published or the finds lost, so not all may agree with his thoughts.

Allan explained he would look at the Iron Age, the Roman Military Advance, Communications, Urbanisation and the Rural Economy including Roman villas in the area.

He firstly defined the territory of the Catuvellauni in which South Bucks lay.   Their territory was bounded by the Rivers, Lea, Nene, Cherwell and Thames.  The capital of this large area was Verulamium (St Albans) and there were other towns in their area, e.g. Towcester and Water Newton, and nearby was Silchester, the capital of the neighbouring Atrebates.

He showed us slides and talked of various Iron Age hillforts including Ivinghoe Beacon, Cheddington, Boddington Hill, Pulpit Hill, and Dyke Hills and mentioned that as recently as this summer it was reported that  a Claudian Roman fort had been found in London.

He then showed slides of Roman roads and possible Roman roads and discussed these and mentioned that in Henley, at an excavation in Bell Street, Roman levels had been found.   He also mentioned a report in Records of Bucks in 1970 that suggested that there was a Roman road near the line of the A40 running from Uxbridge to West Wycombe and beyond.

Allan had drawn outlines of some of the Roman Villas he would then discuss, Latimer, High Wycombe, Saunderton Lee, Saunderton, Yewdon, Mill End, Cox Green and Harpsden

Latimer had 3 periods of Roman, 4 post Roman and 5 modern periods of occupation. At Sarratt, Chess Valley Archaeological Society had done extensive field walking.

The villa at Little Missenden has been taken sufficiently seriously for the HS2 to be rerouted because of it.  When the Amersham Bypass was created, there were many finds from the sizeable villa at Shardloes, Mantles Green and Old Amersham.

With regard to Marlow, Allan said that 2 Roman figurines were found in 1870 and it was also reported that tiles and wall plaster of 1 – 4th Cen. AD were found.  It has been suggested that there might be a shrine at Marlow but without further information he couldn’t really comment.

The next villa he mentioned was The Rye at High Wycombe, saying there was controversy here. There were references to a fortress at Holywell Mead following finds made there between 1722 and 1724 but although a villa, bathhouse and other buildings have been identified, Allan said there is no evidence of a fortress.  He said that there is a just published report which identifies parch marks which could indicate another villa on the site.

He then came on to the areas along the Saunderton gap and the Chilterns including Little Kimble which has been excavated but no reports published.  At Hambledon, the original excavation report on Yewden Villa mentions 70 styli, 40 corn dryers and 97 infant burials.  Peter Salway suggested it may have been the site of a rural female slave trade.  At Mill End there were 4 periods of occupation.  Bix had been excavated but not published and at Harpsden, excavations showed a small winged villa built in the 3rd Cen. AD, part of which is underneath the 16th hole of Henley Golf Course

Allan also touched on Romano British cemeteries, the most important being at West Wycombe, alongside the A40. Apparently when the lakes were drained on the West Wycombe estate more material was found.

Our thanks to Allan for an interesting and informative talk.

by Ann Pitwell