All posts by John Laker

Warren Wood Investigations – September 2013

In September, 16 AIM members and visiting volunteers visited the trench at Warren Wood on the 1st, 15th and 29th to help with the continuing excavations.

During these visits, a total of 7 pieces of pottery were uncovered, along with 4 pieces of burnt and worked flints from Squares ‘B’ and ‘E’. Intriguingly, 106 stones with black deposits on them have been located in Square ‘B’, weighing in at 1.571kgs (see photograph of examples below).

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On the 15th of September, we held an all-day session and decided to extend the trench two metres east into the inner enclosure. The two new squares are numbered ‘A1’ and ‘A2’ (see graphic below for location of squares). We made this decision in the hope that ‘natural geology’ will be encountered within 10/15cms in these new squares. If this is the case, we should be able to follow a line descending down to natural geology in the adjacent squares.WW12 T9 Extension plan rev

The top soil (context one  –  7/10cm) was removed from both Squares A1 and A2. No artefacts were located in either context one. However, context two in Square A1  revealed 1 piece of worked flint and context two in Square A2 revealed 4 pieces of pot (see photograph of three pieces below), 6 pieces of Burnt and worked flint and, intriguingly, 7 pieces of red tile (see photograph below). The tile appears to be Medieval, but, if so, it seems to be out of place!

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Pottery Sherds
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Medieval Roof Tile (?)


AIM’s 10th Anniversary Celebrations

AIM marked the Society’s 10th Anniversary at their meeting on Thursday 19th September with a specially designed cake and sparkling wine.  The Garden Room was decorated with brightly coloured anniversary balloons and there was a display illustrating the Society’s work.

John Laker gave a short speech, remembering the founding of AIM by twenty five people, all of who were still members, many of them present that evening.  Peter Ricketts (AIM member number 2) then cut the cake (see photograph).

Since 2003 the Society had grown and there were now 40 members.  Over the decade about 80 talks and over a dozen visits had been arranged.  Three archaeological investigations had been completed at Happy Valley, one at Emmetts’ Farm, one at the SAS Institute, a project to date the bricks of Marlow buildings of unknown date, an investigation into and the recording of ’burgage plots’ in Marlow  and ‘possible Roman roads’ had been researched.  The ROMADAM (Recording of Marlow and District’s Ancient Monuments) Project had been conducted, sponsored by the Local Heritage Initiative, and its results published in a book (on sale in Marlow’s TIC and WH Smiths).  Since 2010 investigations had been ongoing at Warren Wood, Little Marlow.  Around 60 newsletters had been produced and six leaflets.  Two articles had been published in Records of Bucks.  It had been a busy ten years!

John thanked members for their support, Burgers for donating a wonderful cake (see photograph) and Sainsbury’s for their gift of Cava for that evening’s celebration.

Andy Ford thanked John for all he had done for the Society and was delighted to report that John had been shortlisted for a Wycombe District Council Community Volunteer of the Year Award for his work for AIM.


Warren Wood Investigations – August 2013

We visited the site twice in August, on Sundays the 4th and 18th. On the 4th it was sunny, warm and dry. Conditions for excavations were good. Six members attended on the 4th and three on the 18th.

Note – For plan of site, see blog for November 2012 and the graphic below, specifically showing the seven 1m x 1m squares marked G (ditch) to A (top of bank).

On the 4th excavations took place in Squares ‘B’, ‘F’ and ‘G’.

A few cms of light orangey sandy material was excavated from all three Squares (all contexts two) and then sieved.

Three pieces of charcoal (1gm) were found in square ‘B’. One sherd of pottery (2gm), one burnt stone (18gm) and one possible worked flint (8gms) were found in square ‘G’. No artefacts were found in square ‘F’

A selection of photographs were taken of those conducting the excavation work and some of the trench looking west to east (see photographs).

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‘The workers’
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Trench 9 Looking east to west

On the 18th, excavations took place in Square ‘B’ and Square ‘C. More sandy material was extracted from contexts two from Squares ‘B’ and ‘C’ and sieved. Up to 37 cm in square ‘B and 12 cm in square ‘C’. As we descend more pebbles are unearthed. These measure about 3cm, up to more than 5cm, in diameter. Squares ‘B’ and ‘C’ were then photographed.

Two pottery sherds (23gm) were found in square ‘B’ and 3 sherds of pottery (23g) were located in square ‘C’ (see photograph). These sherds look suspiciously like Iron, or Bronze, Age pottery! The spoil heaps and the seven squares were metal detected, but no metal artefacts were found.

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Pottery Sherds – Square ‘C’ Context two



Warren Wood Investigations – July 2013

We visited the site twice in July, on Sundays the 14th and 28th. On the 14th it was hot and dry and difficult to excavate, After rain, on the 28th, excavations were much easier. Seven members attended on the 14th and three on the 28th.

Note – For plan of site, see blog for November 2012.

On the 14th excavations took place in Squares ‘A’ and ‘C’.

Light orangey sandy material was excavated from Square C (context two) and then sieved. We have now excavated over half a metre of materials from this square. One possibly worked flint was found in this square.

6cms of hard baked sandy material, containing a few small pebbles, was removed from Square A, context two. No artefacts were unearthed from this Square.

A selection of photographs were taken of the excavation work and the laser level recording (see examples below), as well as some video film.

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On the 28th, excavations took place in Square ‘A’ and Square ‘G’ was cleaned up for drawing and photographing.

More sandy material was extracted from context two from Square ‘A’ and sieved. 3 sherds of pottery (10g) and one burnt stones (2g) were located and the largest pottery sherd (see photograph) and burnt stone were photographed.

WW12Finds T9 (A) 2 130728 Pot Sherd  (4)

Square G (context two) was drawn and then photographed.

On both days, AIM’s ‘laser level and staff’ were used to good effect to record the profile of both sides of the trench. These recordings will be transferred to graph paper, so that the context depths can be clearly seen.



Warren Wood Investigations – June 2013

The site was visited three times in June, on Sundays the 2nd, 16th and 30th. On all three days the weather was cool and dry, but mostly overcast. Three members attended on the 2nd, five on the 16th and five on the 30th.

Note – For plan of site, see blog for November 2012; and the graphic below, specifically showing the seven 1m x 1m squares marked G (ditch) to A (top of bank).

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On the 2nd, excavations took place in Squares ‘C’ and ‘E’.

Light orangey clay like material was excavated from Square E (context two) (see photograph) and then sieved.

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We may be nearing the end of this context. No artefacts were located in this square.

A large quantity of compacted sand was extracted from context two in Square C. Excavations here proved beyond doubt that this bank is man-made and not natural geology, as a 38cm animal bone (probably a femur from a cow) was unearthed 45cm down inside the bank (see photograph). A Flint flakes was also found in Square C (1g), along with 5 pieces of charcoal (total 2g) (see photograph).

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Animal Bone
WW12Finds T9 C 2 130602 Charcoal (4)rev
Charcoal Pieces

Squares C and E were photographed, along with the animal bone.

On the 16th, excavations took place in Squares ‘B’ and ‘G’.

A great deal of sand (10cm) was extracted from context two from Square B, but more is still to be removed. 4 burnt stones (41g), 1 piece of metal (2g) and 2 pieces of charcoal (1g) were found in Square B. The burnt stones and the metal artefact were photographed (see photographs).

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Burnt stones
WW12Finds T9 B 2 130616 Metaldrev
Metal artefact

In Square G (context two) a quantity of light orangey clay material was removed and sieved. A burnt stone was found in Square E (2g).

In addition to excavating, a training event was conducted, using AIM’s Optical Square to record the profile of the trench. Ranging poles were positioned at the corner of each square on the north side of the trench and the optical square was positioned on top of another ranging pole. Readings were taken, but as a degree of inaccuracy was likely to be present, due to uncertainty of the ranging pole holding the optical square being always exactly vertical, it was decided to repeat this operation at a future date using AIM’s Laser Level and Staff.

On the 30th, excavations took place in Squares ‘B’ and ‘F’.

In Square B, context two, orangey coloured sandy soil, with a few small pebbles, was excavated to a depth of 30/32cm on north side of the trench and 24/27cm on the south side. One pottery sherd (2g), a piece of metal (1g) and a possibly worked flint (1g) were located in this square.

12cm of compressed dark orange soil with stones and small pebbles was removed from and sieved from Square F.

Both squares B and F were photographed on the day.



Extracting the Past

Kingsmead Quarry lies immediately to the west of the M25 near Heathrow, 3 km south of Horton and 2 km from Wraysbury.  A large gravel quarry, measuring 1 km from end to end, natural clay lies on top of gravel terraces.  Archaeological excavations, started in 2003, are development funded by Cemex UK.  Wessex Archaeology Site Director, Gareth Chaffey, gave AIM an illustrated talk about finds on the site, covering around twelve thousand years, going back as far as the late glacial period.

Finds from the earliest period include a 300,000 year old hand axe found by a quarry worker, flint blades, scrapers, arrow heads, polished bone points and pottery.  A barrow excavated in 1990 by Thames Valley Archaeological Services is early Neolithic; finds included antler picks, pottery and birch bark bowls.  Wessex Archaeology dug the last 20% of the barrow in November 2011, unearthing animal  bones, antler picks, flints, arrow heads and pottery, including a 5 ½ thousand year old Middle Neolithic Mortlake bowl with swirling patterns, a very rare find in this country.

Of only 15 Early Neolithic houses found to date in the UK, four are on this site.  Hazelnut shells and charred cereal have been found, for which radio carbon dating is being carried out.  It is likely that the houses were constructed of wooden posts, wattle and daub and inhabited by early pioneer farmers.

From the late Neolithic period twelve pits contained sherds of pottery, broken flints, a broken flint knife, sloes and service berries.  A very rare and well preserved human burial from this period was also found.

In 2011 Wessex Archaeology discovered an extremely rare early Bronze Age Beaker burial with unique finds.  The burial was clearly of a woman of importance, holding a beaker vessel.  Amber beads from the Baltic, (which it is thought may have been fasteners) decorated tiny gold beads from Cornwall, (which may have come from a necklace) and 70 lignite beads from East Anglia, (which it is speculated may have formed a bracelet) suggest a woman of wealth and high status.  Two barrows, a ring ditch, scrapers and a cow skull also date from this period.

Three and a half thousand years ago, in the Middle Bronze Age, the landscape was divided up into land holdings and farmsteads.  Seven roundhouses, field systems, a barrow, a large timber circle and both inhumations and a cremation cemetery on the site date from this period.  A particularly interesting find is a human skull showing probable evidence of leprosy, which would make it the earliest known case of the disease in this country.  In the settlement area of one farmstead an infant inhumation and eight buried cows were found.   A beautifully decorated bronze ‘Picardy’ pin of French origin was probably a clothes fastening.  An unusual u-shaped enclosure contained deposits of dead animals, leading to speculation that this may have been a sacred site.

The Late Bronze Age period included a huge ditch which forms a physical boundary, possibly a meader cut-off.

From pit clusters alongside the river, near Iron Age roundhouses, come finds of pottery and an example of the earliest coinage.  A buried horse skull with a puppy wrapped round it was an unusual find.  There is evidence of industrial activity on the site, including nails and other metalwork, loom weights, a spindle whorl and vitrified clay.

Roman farmsteads and pottery from the whole of the Roman period have been found, as well as Roman boundary ditches, drove ways, enclosures, water holes and animal pens.  Roof tiles, Samian ware from southern Gaulle, a piece of intricate metalwork with barley twist effect, thought to be a support for a cauldron, four leather shoes, a hammer, chisel, axe head, hippo sandal, ear scoop, brooches, a signet ring, various vessels and an iron cauldron from the late Iron Age found in a late Roman ditch strongly suggest a Roman settlement on the site, and it is hoped that excavations in 2014 may uncover more of this.

There are fewer finds from post Roman times, although a Saxon burial on the edge of the parish boundary is thought likely to be that of a criminal.  There is a small Medieval enclosure and pits and post- Medieval field boundaries.   A 1799 map shows field boundaries and names, including a field called Mill Meadow, which would suggest the presence of a mill in that area at some time.  Post- Medieval brick and tile unearthed indicate the location of the manor house and farm shown on the map.

Further information about Wessex Archaeology and their excavations at Kingsmead Quarry may be found at their website:


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.



Warren Wood Investigations – May 2013

The site was visited twice in May, on Sundays the 5th and 19th. On both days the weather was dry, but a little cold. Five members attended on the 5th (see photo’ below), and four on the 19th. See ‘November 2012 Investigations’ for graphic of site layout and trench position.

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On the 5th, excavations took place in Squares ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’.

A good quantity of the dark earth from Square E (context one) was gradually removed and sieved, but the next context is still to be revealed. Two pot boilers/burnt stones were found in Square E (21g in total). More compacted sand was extracted from context two from both Squares C and D. 3 Flint flakes were found in Square C (20g in total), along with 6 Pottery sherds (total 7g).

A drawing was made of Square C, context two. The excavators and the Pottery sherds were photographed.

On the 19th, excavations took place in Squares ‘C’ and ‘E’.

The dark earth from Square E (context one) was removed and sieved, revealing context two; a light orangey clay material. Two worked flints were found in Square E (3g in total).

A great deal of sand was extracted from context two from Square C, but more is still to be removed. 3 Flint flakes (41g in total), 5 Pottery sherds (17g), 2 burnt stones (21g), 1 flat stone (3g) and 1 broken (possible) Hammer stone (233g), were found in Square C.

Square E, context two, was drawn and it was then photographed, along with the excavators, a selection of bluebells, plus the Pottery sherds and Burnt stones from Square C, context 2 (see photo’s below).

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Burnt Stones
WW12Finds T9 C2 130519 Pot Sherd (5rev)
Pottery sherds with inclsions
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Bluebell (Warren) Wood



The Shottesbrooke Log Boat

A talk By Steve Allen given to AIM at Liston Hall on Thursday 16 May 2013

Steve Allen BA, MA, MIfA is a Wood Technologist at York Archaeological Trust and he came a long way to talk to Archaeology in Marlow about the Shottesbrooke log boat and also some more recent findings uncovered during the Hungate (York) project.

Steve gave us the background to how the log boat was found, apparently the Shottesbrooke estate workers were enlarging a pond on the estate, when they hit with the JCB, what we now know to be a log boat.  They called in local archaeological units for advice and the River and Rowing Museum at Henley subsequently volunteered to fund its conservation.

In December 2003, having won the tender, York Archaeological Trust collected the boat to carry out the conservation work.  Luckily the fragments that had broken when the JCB box hit the boat had been kept. The boat had in the meantime not been allowed to dry out.

As an example of what happens if wood is not conserved properly, Steve handed round two parts of the same medieval wooden stake, one part had been left to dry out and the other had been conserved. (not to worry, apparently there are very many medieval stakes where Steve works). The dried out piece had shrunk alarmingly and seemed to have broken up, whereas the conserved piece was well preserved.

Log boat dimensions

Steve impressed on us the importance of recording everything, citing examples of some Victorian archaeologists who had not kept viable records as a bad example. The boat was recorded first by drawing, Steve showed us a slide of some of the drawings, which showed the boat had straight sides, about 12” deep, was flat bottomed, with two integral cross members to give it lateral stability and was cut from a single log of oak. It was probably used for personal transport. Steve explained that by looking at the pattern of the wood, the grain, the knots etc. he deduced the log was probably from managed woodland.  There had been a nailed repair to the boat, but no artefacts were found with it. Radiocarbon dating showed the tree was cut down in 1075, but it is not known how long the boat was used for. A similar log boat had been found in Warrington.

Steve then went on to explain the conservation process that was carried out at the Trust.  PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) which has a wax texture was used as a preservative and Steve explained with the aid of graphs the solution percentages and times of immersion.  Once it had the PEG treatment, any excess was removed from the surface and then the water was removed from the boat under controlled conditions by spending 3 – 4 months in the freeze dryer at temperatures of -20ºC to -30 ºC.  Very importantly records are meticulously kept and this information is added to the report given to the River and Rowing Museum.

Remedial work

Steve then showed us a picture of the boat on display and explained that as long as the temperature was stable the boat should be OK, it just needs dusting as PEG attracts dust.

cleaning with Mags Felter
Log boat conservation at York

Steve then went on to tell us about a discovery during the Hungate excavation. In 2008 they dug a sondage and found a late 12th century cellared building. The planking used to hold back the sides was found to be from a boat, this planking had been preserved because the site had been waterlogged.  The planks were taken out and peg holes along each side of the plank were found, which suggested a clinker built boat i.e. partially overlapping planks, pinned with wooden (willow) pegs, with moss between the planks providing watertightness.  Dendrochronology told them that the tree was cut down in AD965 and that the planks were from the London area and the boat had been constructed in the South East area before making its journey to York. The boat would have been a minimum of 36ft. If you go to the following web site, there is a YouTube video of the plank removal It is not possible to see the structure in York currently as it is behind hoardings, but it will eventually be opened for public viewing.

Our thanks went to Steve for his fascinating talk, which increased our knowledge of wood conservation and also gave us insight into a local artefact, as well as giving us information on part of an excavation at York.

 Ann Pitwell




Warren Wood Investigations – April 2013

The site was visited twice in April, on Sundays the 7th and 21st. On both days the weather was bright and sunny, but a little cold. Four members attended on the 7th and twelve on the 21st.

On the 7th, this being the first visit of the year, we took some time brushing away all the leaves that had accumulated within Trench 9.

Square D was excavated through much yellow sandy material, but this excavation was not completed. Squares F and G were excavated until context two had been removed. Both squares were then photographed from the south. The participants were also photographed.

Four pieces of pottery and four pot boilers were located in the squares excavated. These were photographed.

On the 21st, twelve AIM members attended Hugo Anderson-Whymark’s flint workshop. As Hugo had been delayed by car trouble, the workshop took place later than planned. So, those gathered were either, given a tour of the site, or helped with excavations in Trench 9.

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Hugo Anderson-Whymark flint knapping

Hugo arrived and began by showing us what man-made flint tools and waste flakes look like and the changes that flint undergoes when heated. Hugo then demonstrated how some of these flint tools were made (see photograph), culminating in him creating a hand

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Hand Axe made by Hugo on 21/4/13

axe from a large piece of flint which he had brought along (see photograph); he then showed us an amazing collection of ancient and modern manufactured flints; from arrow heads, to scrapers, to hand axes.