All posts by John Laker


We resumed excavations this year with visits on 12th and 19th April. On 12th April we removed our protective membrane covers from trenches 10 and 11 and cleaned both trenches before restarting excavation. A number of large flints were removed from Trench 10 and added to those previously extracted. A few small pieces of pottery were found including one with a decorative groove. Trench 11 yielded quite a large amount of broken tile and a few pottery sherds, but very little flint. All the broken roof tile that had been previously excavated was reweighed. The total weight of al tile excavated so far is: Trench 10: 28.7kg Trench 11: 38.5kg On 19th April we excavated Trench 10 further and found a concentrated patch of broken tile in one corner. This was photographed (see below) and will be investigated further as a potential feature.

WW14 T10 Conx 2 150419 (1)_1

WW14 T10 Conx 2 150419 (3)_1

We started taking measurements for the profiles across the inner enclosure bank and ditch. The positions of the 10 profiles were marked in March with the advice of Phil Andrews of Wessex Archaeology. Profile P1 was measured using the laser level and further profiles will be taken during forthcoming visits. WW14 150419 Profile 1

Warren Wood Investigations – March 2015

On the 1st of March Phil Andrews of Wessex Archaeology visited us at Warren Wood and took us around the surrounding area to try to understand the local landscape. After our tour, Phil advised us as to where to insert metal and plastic pegs in the inner enclosure to mark a series of profiles we intend to measure during future visits. We also marked out the location of the test pit to be dug across the bank and ditch of the inner enclosure.

On Sunday morning on the 22nd of March, we gathered to conduct both Resistivity and Topographical Surveys. We contacted Andrew Hutt of the Berkshire Archaeological Research Group (BARG), who kindly conducted the Resistivity Survey for us to try to locate the ‘flint wall’ depicted on graphics from 1978 (see graphics and photo’   below).


WW 150322 (2)lge

WW14 150322 Topo survey 2a + AHrev

See below for explanation of the red crosses

We used our Total Station to record the geophysics 10m x 20m rectangle, the profile positions and the location of the bank and ditch trench. These recordings were all overlaid on our site maps and graphics (see photo’ and graphic below).

WW 150322 (91)MF

WW14 150322 Topo Survey 0rev

The red crosses situated within the blue rectangle indicate where trees are growing, the red cross in the circle is where the Total station was set up, the two groups of four red crosses depict Test Pits 10 and 11 and the groups of two red crosses indicate where we intend to record profiles. The two red crosses  at 0m and 65m on our base line were recorded at the locations of our two Temporary Bench Marks (TBMs).

We now have a programme of visit dates for Warren Wood on the following Sundays:- April 12th and 19th, May 10th and 24th, June 7th and 21st, July 5th and 19th (and beyond).

On these days we intend to recommence our excavation work in Test Pits 10 and 11, to start work on the bank and ditch trench (Test Pit 12), to record the profiles and to consider other excavation options, once the results of the resistivity survey have been evaluated.

Warren Wood Investigations – October 2014

The site was visited twice on Sundays in October with 11 volunteers attending over these two days.

Excavations continued in Test Pits 10 and 11 (see photo’ example below) and 5.6kgs and 6.6kgs of Roof Tile were excavated from each respectively. A few pieces of worked flint and pottery sherds were unearthed, plus one small metal object (probably ferric).

WW14 T10 Conx 2 141012RT res

Photo’ courtesy of Roland Tillyer

Drawing were made of both the extended test pits (see example below).

WW14 141026 Drawing T10 Cont 2 res

Another attempt was made to locate ‘the wall’ on Arthur Boarder’s 1978 drawing of the inner enclosure. Although some largish flints were observed in the middle north section of the inner enclosure, it is difficult to believe that they are the remains of a wall. Photographs were taken of this area and a peg was left in the area observed, to mark the location of a couple of medieval pottery sherds.

To conclude the 2014 season, a semi-permeable membrane was deposited in each test pit and these were lightly covered with soil from the relevant spoil heaps for protection over the winter.




How old is Marlow?

Archaeology In Marlow have been keeping tabs on a recent archaeological investigation. The 46 page report has now been published, revealing that two young individuals were buried in Marlow around 4,500 year ago! A summary of the findings follow.

In Spring 2013, Northamptonshire Archaeology, now MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) Northampton, were commissioned by Talmage Homes, to conduct an archaeological excavation on a site to the rear of 90 High Street, Marlow. The investigation was headed by Simon Markus whose team discovered some amazing artefacts during their excavations.

Local historians will know that the earliest recording of the town of Marlow dates from 1015AD, where it is referred to as Merelafan in the Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici.

In March 2013, an area of approximately 200 sq.m. was opened up within which, a pit, dated to the mid 12th century, contained a pile of approximately 250 re-deposited bones, radiocarbon dated to a much earlier date.

90 High St 2

Photo’ courtesy of MOLA Northampton

In addition, amongst the remains was a piece of Bronze Age (Beaker) pottery, which was probably from a pot buried with the bones, as well as medieval finds from the 12th-14th centuries.

When the 250 bones and fragments from the skeletons were examined, it soon became apparent that the remains appeared to be those of two youngish individuals fairly close in age. Those bones that could be assigned as a specific skeleton were recorded as a full skeleton and the individuals were labelled ‘Skeleton 1’ and ‘Skeleton 2’.

Skeleton 1 was an older juvenile (10-12 years) based on the condition of teeth and bones at the time of death. Skeleton 2 was also close to that age (10-11 years). Due to the age of the remains, it was not possible at this time to determine the sex of each individual.

The discovery of Bronze Age pottery raised the possibility that the bones might be from a Bronze Age burial, and likely a barrow (burial mound), which was disturbed around the 12th century AD. Bone samples from the two identified individuals were sent to the USA for radiocarbon dating. The skeletons were found to date from approximately 2030 BC (between 2140 and 1950 BC), making them Early Bronze Age in date.

 The single piece of Bronze Age (Beaker) pottery, weighing 12g, is decorated with bands of multiple horizontal lines of comb impressions, flanking a single surviving narrow zone, 10mm wide, which contains a saw-tooth pattern also formed from comb impressions.

90 High St 3

Photo’ courtesy of MOLA Northampton

An aerial survey (Lidar), around the barrow cemetery at Low Grounds Farm, identified the site as a possible island on the Thames. This would mean that the High Street burials would have been separated from the Farm by a section of the Thames. They are, however, at a similar height (within 2m) and so the High Street burial may represent an outlier to the Low Grounds cemetery. As this cemetery has been dated by form only, it is unknown whether the two sites were active at the same time.

So, it looks like people lived in Marlow well before Anglo-Saxon times and that Marlow was a ‘des res’ around 4,500 years ago!

Many thanks to MOLA Northampton; article written by John Laker for Archaeology In Marlow (AIM) using extracts from the MOLA report.

Warren Wood Investigations – August & September 2014

In August and September, 21 AIM members visited the Warren Wood site on Sundays the 24th of August and the 14th and 28th of September (the visit scheduled for the 10th of August was cancelled due to heavy rain).

The two original 1 metre x 1 metre squares were extended; test pit 10 was extended by 0.5 metres both east and west and test pit 11 was extended 0.5 metres both north and south. See photograph of test pit 10 below.  WW14 T10 Conx 2 140914 (2RevResized)

In context two of Test Pit 10 a mixture of large pieces of flint and much broken roof tile pieces (around 8 kilograms), along with 6 sherds of pottery (21g), were revealed. Tile and flint pieces were weighed, counted and stored on site. All other finds were subsequently cleaned, recorded and stored for further examination.

In context two of Test Pit 11, nearly 11 kilograms of roof tile were located, but very little flint (2 pieces weighing 15g). 8 pottery sherds were also unearthed weighing 79g in total. Again, the tile was weighed, counted and stored on site. All other finds were subsequently cleaned, recorded and stored for further examination.

Warren Wood Investigations – July 2014

In July, 15 AIM members visited the Warren Wood site on Sundays the 6th and 27th.

To conclude AIM’s WW12 Project, Trench 9 is being gradually backfilled.

On the 15th of June preparatory work on AIM’s new Project, WW14, had begun. Both the original 2006 base line bolts were located (65 metres apart) and a line of ranging poles was lined up and measuring tapes placed along this line. At 25m and 35m from the eastern base line bolt, ranging poles were inserted and precise measurements were taken using the optical square (see photograph) and then measuring tapes to locate original test pits 5, 6, 7 and 8 excavated during Project WW10 .

WW14 140515 (5)rev L

Once located, the 1 metre x 1 metre squares of test pit 10 (midpoint between test pits 7 and 8 in the inner enclosure) and test pit 11 (midpoint between test pits 6 and 8 in the inner enclosure) were marked out.

Test Pit 10

Leaf mould was removed from the surface of test pit 10 to expose context 1 which consisted of dark brown, loamy soil.  Photos and a drawing were taken before the commencement of any digging.  Some initial excavation work was then undertaken, recovering a large amount of tile and other possible finds.  All finds were subsequently cleaned, recorded and stored for further examination.

On the 27th further work was undertaken on test pit 10 (see photograph) to define a possible structure consisting of heavily compacted flints interspersed with fragments of tile.

WW14 140727 (4) LThis possible structure lies within context 1, which consists of a dark brown loamy soil (see photograph). WW14 T10 Conx 1 140706 (1) L

It was decided to extend test pit 10 by 0.5 metres, both an easterly and westerly direction.  Excavation work was undertaken in the two extended areas, revealing heavily compacted flints interspersed with fragments of tile. This excavation work was undertaken within context 1, which consisted of a dark brown loamy soil.  A quantity of tiles was extracted (see photograph), counted and weighed onsite and then stored in a separate pile near the test pit.  A number of other finds were extracted and subsequently cleaned, recorded and stored for further examination.

WW14 140727 T10 Finds (1) L

Finds from test pit 10

33 pieces of (probably) worked flint weighing 132 g

24 sherds of pottery weighing 112g

1164 pieces of tile weighing 7.806 kg

1 burnt flint weighing 19g

Test Pit 11

Leaf mould was also removed from the surface of test pit 11 to expose context 1 which again consisted of dark brown, loamy soil.  Photos and a drawing were taken before the commencement of any digging. Context 2 was also a light brown soil, but less loamy and more sandy in context.   A considerable quantity of tile and other possible finds were excavated.  All finds were subsequently cleaned, recorded and stored for further examination. Very few large flint nodules were identified in test pit 11.  It was clear from the excavation of context 2 that the area had been disturbed in the past through the cutting of tree roots, presumably to assist with the removal of a tree which appears to have been located in the centre of the test pit.

Finds from test pit 11

22 pieces of (probably) worked flint weighing 71g

19 sherds of pottery weighing 122g

847 pieces of tile weighing14.679 kg

2 items of metal weighing 10g

1 burnt flint weighing 5g

3 pieces of bone weighing 2g

1 possible fragment of brick weighing 131g

As with AIM’s Project WW10, much roof tile and pottery sherds continue to appear. This would again seem to date from the 12th the 15th century and are probably mid to late Norman period.

Warren Wood Investigations – June 2014

In June AIM members visited the Warren Wood site on the 1st, 15th and 29th.

Trench 9 was cleaned up and stakes were inserted where archaeology ended and natural geology commenced, along the trench at 1 metre intervals. Measurements were taken at each stake to confirm the exact measurement between the surface of the trench and natural geology.

These reading were combined with previous context measurements to produce two profiles of each side of the trench (see graphics below).

WW12 Profile North 10L

WW12 Profile South 10L

In late June the pottery pieces from Trench 9 were sent off to pottery expert Paul Blinkhorn for identification and analysis. His ‘discussion’ and spreadsheet follow.


 Perhaps the most striking feature of this pottery assemblage is that all the sherds are small and most are abraded, included the medieval wares, suggesting that all the pottery other than the post-Roman material is residual, and even this is at least the product of secondary deposition, and may also be residual.  The overall mean sherd weight for the whole group, c 4g, is very low.

 These factors, coupled with the small assemblage size, makes any interpretation of the assemblage somewhat tentative, but the fact that the assemblage from the top of the bank, squares B and C, appear to be Romano-British, does suggest that the feature is of such a date, especially as pottery of that period was entirely absent from the excavated features of the inner enclosure. Given the extremely small and abraded nature of the prehistoric material, it seems most, if not all, is residual, although as the inner enclosure is of such a date, the possibility that some of the material is reliably stratified in an ancient ground-surface cannot be discounted, especially in the case of the material from squares A2 and G. The medieval material therefore probably represents later use of the visible earth-works, although it must be repeated that this interpretation should be regarded as very tentative, and further excavation is needed to clarify the chronology of the monument.

Table 1: Pottery occurrence by number and weight (in g) of sherds per context by fabric type


Tr Sq Cntxt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt Date
9 A2 2 4 17 LBA?
9 A 2 3 9 1 4 L11thC
9 B 2 7 27 1 2 3 8 RB?
9 C 2 3 30 1 3 4 12 1 6 2 9 1 1 RB?
9 D 2 4 20 12thC
9 F 1 1 2 RB??
9 G 1 1 5 LBA?
Total 10 57 10 36 4 12 1 6 2 9 3 11 5 24


The Trench was photographed (see below) and on the 15th and 29th of June and into July, Trench 9 was gradually backfilled to resemble its original condition.

WW12 T9 W-E 140601 (7)L

Once all the data and other artefacts have been identified and analysed, a report will be written, which will uploaded to this site.



Warren Wood Investigations – March & April 2014

We commenced our investigations in 2014 on the 30th of March. A total of 13 AIM members and visiting volunteers visited our trench at Warren Wood on the 30th and the 6th of April. Unfortunately our planned visit on the 20th of April was cancelled due to heavy and persistent rain.  

On the 30th of March, we cleaned up Trench 9 and re-measured and missing marker pegs replaced. Excavations took place in squares A2 and C and all the soil was sieved (see photograph). A possible Flint Flake was located in square C and a fossil was unearthed in square A2 (see September blog for plan of squares). 

ww12140330 (4) revOn the 6th of April we were delighted to welcome Phil Andrews a Professional Archaeologist from Wessex Archaeology again to the site. Phil brought along his auger and a series of insertions were undertaken at 0.5 metres north, parallel to the bank and ditch. Extra insertions were carried out 4M and 8M west of the trench. 

It was established that natural soil consisted of a compressed clay texture with a yellowish hue (see photograph).  Preceding that was the orange sandy/clay type material that we had previously excavated in the trench.  It was also established that natural was reached at the following average depths: 

A/B intersection – 40cm, C/D intersection – 45cm, F/G intersection – 40cm

4m Distance – 35/40cm, 8m Distance – 40/50cm

 WW12 T9 140406 Augered Soil 2 rev

Additionally, work continued to excavate squares A1, A2, F and G.  All soil excavated was sieved.  No finds were identified and no change of context was noted. 

In addition preliminary auger tests were also conducted on the bank and ditch at the South West corner of the inner enclosure.  The soil here consisted of dark sand with a progressively greater proportion of clay, to a depth of 1.1m.  Further tests will be needed to establish whether this constitutes the natural soil. 

Following sight of the Lidar Surveys of the area, conducted by the Environment agency, Phil showed us on the ground that there was probably a much larger enclosure, containing the inner and outer enclosures, previously identified. 

Phil returned our large animal bone (see photograph in June blog) following identification as a cattle bone, the right tibia, thought to be a bit large to be Iron Age, and, therefore, medieval. 

Trench 9 will now be cleaned up ready for profile recording (drawing and photographic), using AIM’s laser level and staff. The trench will then be filled in. 

Future augering, landscape investigations and excavations will take place during future visits.

Warren Wood Investigations – October & November 2013

Since September, a total of 12 AIM members and visiting volunteers visited our trench at Warren Wood on the 27th of October and the 10th of November to help with excavations (our planned visit on the 13th of October was cancelled due to heavy and persistent rain).

We were delighted to welcome Phil Andrews a Professional Archaeologist from Wessex Archaeology to the site on 27th of October. Phil took a good look at our activities and practices and seemed pleased at what he saw. He also familiarised himself with the site by making a tour of the general area.

Phil suggested that we might try some auguring close to Trench nine, in the outer enclosure, to ascertain where the natural geology begins. Auguring across the bank of the inner enclosure may also prove to be useful.

Phil also scrutinised our finds/artefacts and said that the 106 stones with black deposits from Square ‘B’, (see photo’ in September blog), were, in fact, naturally occurring stones. These stones were deposited onto the relevant spoil heap on the 10th of November.

Phil took away our large animal bone (see photo’ in June blog) for identification. The experts at Wessex Archaeology think it is a cattle bone, the right tibia. They think it may be a bit large to be Iron Age, so it may be medieval.

During the two visits we excavated in the two new squares, A1 and A2, (see graphic below) and in square G. We were excavating at both ends of the trench to try to identify natural geology.

WW12 T9 Extension plan rev

Some burnt flint, and worked flints were found, mostly in Square A2.   Although we are gradually creating a good trench profile across our bank and ditch, it is taking time, as large amounts of earth have to be removed from the trench. We are not certain whether we have reached natural geology yet, but, no doubt, in 2014 we will locate it.

Phil Andrews has offered to bring along an auger to the site, which should give us much quicker stratigraphy of our banks. The site is now closed and protected until Spring 2014 (see photograph of trench and volunteers).

WW12 131110 (7)rev

Many thanks for all the help everyone has given during 2013, it has been greatly appreciated. Also, many thanks to Richard, Jan and the Mash family for allowing us onto their land and for their generous and helpful support.

A visit to RAF Halton’s Museum and WWI Training Trenches

RAF Halton Museum

A group organised by Mike Hyde under the auspices of Marlow Museum visited RAF Halton in October. This huge base near Wendover originated from a gift of land immediately prior to the First World War by Alfred Rothschild whose 19th century mansion, Halton House, is now used as the Officers’ Mess.

Our tour party first visited the Trenchard Museum which traces the story of RAF Halton from the time when Rothschild first invited the Army to use his land for its summer manoeuvers in 1913 to the present day. The soldiers were soon joined by a squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). By 1916, Halton was accommodating up to 20,000 infantry troops. In 1917 there was a pressing need to expand technical training in the RFC and Halton became the main training unit for aircraft mechanics with 14,000 men trained there in WWI.

On Alfred Rothschild’s death in January 1918, the estate was purchased for the Royal Air Force which had been formed on 1st April that year from an amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Halton went on to become the gateway to the RAF’s Apprenticeship Scheme. The first entry arrived in January 1922 and Halton went on to host this scheme for 73 years, training 40,000 apprentices who become the RAF’s ground crew and skilled tradesmen. The base continues to train specialist roles for all three services.

WWI Training Trenches

The other objective of the group, a number of whom are involved in Marlow Remembers Word War I (MRWWI) which is planning to commemorate the centenary of the Great War, was to visit the system of training trenches at RAF Halton. Extensive evidence can still be seen of the military activity that was undertaken in the area between 1914 -1917 when learning to dig trenches was an important part of a soldier’s basic training before being sent to the Front. There are original remains in the form of now shallow ditches – similar to those at Pullingshill Wood which were surveyed by Archaeology in Marlow – but which had once been deep excavations.

A sizeable portion of the trench system was then restored by RAF apprentices in 2009 using Field Engineering Manuals from the period. The results are impressive.

To walk these trenches, as our party was able to do, is to gain insight into how soldiers on the Western Front lived, albeit without the threat of being under fire.

Anyone can visit the Trenchard Museum and special conducted tours of the trenches can be requested. Such visits must be pre-booked and identity documents must be produced to satisfy security requirements at this working armed services base.

For more details see: