Leatherhead & District Local History Society

Archaeology News

The Surrey Archaeological Society [SyAS] to which our History Society subscribes has a very interesting and useful website www.surreyarchaeology.org.uk which provides a full range of countywide activities in Surrey on Archaeology, Industrial History, Local History and Village Studies Group, Prehistoric, Roman and Medieval Groups and access to archives in the Society’s Collections.

ARCHAEOLOGY NOTES by NIGEL BOND, Archaeology Secretary - from our May 2016 Newsletter

First to introduce myself. I am the Society’s new Archaeology Secretary and I was appointed in January. I am a retired chemical engineer with a lifelong interest in archaeology. On retirement I studied for a graduate diploma at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology. I am a member of the Surrey Archaeological Society and have enjoyed participating in excavations at Ashtead Roman Villa and tile works, Cock’s Farm, Abinger villa and Iron Age site, Flexford Romano- British site, Woking Palace and in Lyn Spencer’s garden searching for the medieval Bookham Courte.

Excavations are fine weather activity and so in recent months my archaeological activities have been restricted to finding out about my role as Archaeology Secretary, attending Surrey Archaeological Society (SyAS) talks and symposium (all held in our area), and giving the January talk on Leatherhead’s Anglo-Saxon Minster. The talks included two organised by SyAS’s Roman Studies Group, the first by Sam Moorhead of the British Museum and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) on Roman Coins, and the second by SyAS’s Nikki Cowlard and Emma Corke on Excavations at Ewell Church Meadow and Cock’s Farm.

Sam told us that there are now over 220,000 Roman coins in the PAS database, many found and reported by responsible metal detectorists. These finds are distributed over virtually all parts of England and Wales. A notable exception in the South East is the Weald, which was very sparsely populated in Roman times although extensively worked for its iron. Surrey’s contribution is 2,400 coins, with 240 from Mole Valley. SyAS’s Medieval Studies Forum ran an interesting one-day workshop, Towers in Anglo-Saxon England. These are thought to have been originally built by lords as a status symbol. More than 30 survive as church towers including at St Mary’s, Guildford, where the Saxon tower is now incorporated within the later medieval church.

The discussion made me wonder whether this might be an explanation for the strange alignment of Leatherhead’s parish church tower. Is the current 15th century tower built on the foundations of a 10th or 11th century Saxon tower?

Please do not hesitate to contact me [via the Museum] if you wish to discuss anything relating to the archaeology of our area and particularly any concerns about the protection of our historic environ­ment. The Society can make an important contribution to conservation through influencing planning decisions, as well as to local history research and education.

Surrey Archaeological Society Annual Symposium

The Surrey Archaeological Society (SyAS) held its 2016 Annual Symposium at the Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall on 27 February. The L&DLHS was represented by a display in one of the exhibition rooms with information on the Society, Leatherhead Museum, slides from our January lecture on Leatherhead’s Anglo-Saxon Minster, and a selection of books for sale.

Fred Meynen also brought his collection of mystery objects for people to identify. These stimulated considerable interest with visitors puzzling over items such as his World War 2 ARP Warden’s fire extinguisher, his periscope from a Russian armoured vehicle (not a local find!), and a device for stretching boots to accommodate a bunion.

The talks covered a wide range of topics and historical periods. Rob Poulton of the Surrey County Archaeological Unit presented Country Life at Woking Palace from its earliest development by Alan Bassett (supporter of King John and named on Magna Carta) to Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son, King Henry VII. It was much used by Henry VIII and invested in by Queen Elizabeth I before being disposed of by James I in favour of nearby Oatlands Palace.

Martyn Allen of the University of Reading gave a quite technical talk on zoo­ archaeology in Surrey, showing us what can be learned from animal bones recovered during excavations. This includes insights into diet, farming practices, use of animals for traction, hunting, feasting and long-distance droving.

SyAS’s own research work was covered in presentations on the excavations at Abinger and the village test pitting programme. This has been running since 2002 using methodology developed by Carenza Lewis of Time Team fame. A notable recent discovery is the boundary ditch enclosing the Saxon minster at Old Woking with a ritual deposit of a pig, radiocarbon dated to the seventh century.

The Margary Award for the best display in the exhibition rooms went to Jan Spencer of the Surrey Industrial History Group for his fascinating collection of working models of Archimedean screw pumps and conveyors (giving plenty of opportunity for getting wet). Jan also gave a presentation on the application of these technologies from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to modem small-scale hydroelectric schemes, as well as in agriculture and in Dutch windmill-powered flood defence schemes.

All in all it was an extremely interesting and varied day, right on our doorstep.