One of our most frequent enquiries at the History Centre is along the lines of ‘I’m trying to find out where my great aunt is buried; her death was registered in Salisbury in 1923…..’ We can usually help them track down the place of burial, but what they really want is to find the plot to visit. People assume that all churches have a plan of their burial ground, when the reality is that most don’t.
My interest in this subject began as a small child when I accompanied my father, who mowed the grass in our village churchyard. While he was busy mowing I was busy wandering around looking at all the grave stones. Who were these people, where did they live, what did they do? Horningsham also has a number of listed tombs which are bigger and grander than a headstone and often commemorate whole families. I was fascinated by all these people and wanted to find out more about them.
Many years later I found two friends who were happy to help me survey the churchyard and this was the beginning of my project. Horningsham is a challenge geographically, as the church is on a hill and the burial ground is divided into three sections, all on different levels. I soon realised that this was not going to be straight forward! However, with the help of my friends (I couldn’t possibly have done it on my own), and countless visits to check my drawing, I have at last finished. It has taken me years and five attempts at drawing a map I am happy with, but it is a huge sense of achievement to have finished at last. Along with the map I have also transcribed the inscriptions and photographed all the stones.
Is this something that might interest you? There are countless parishes still to be done and the staff here are always happy to help you. The archaeology team will be able to provide you with a large copy of the ordnance survey map, to give you an accurate ground plan to work from. The first thing I did was to draw an outline of the church, as I used the row of pillars on the south wall as fixed points from which to measure the stones. The scale I used was 1:100. The graph paper was marked in millimetres.
From here I began plotting each stone from two fixed points.
On a 1:100 scale, 145cm and 130cm reduce to 14mm and 13mm. You then draw two arcs (using a compass), and where the two arcs meet is the centre of your headstone. A cross will probably suffice to mark a headstone, but a tomb will need a square.
Fortunately, I had the church on one side of the square and a wall on a second side which gave me a straight line of graves that were easy to plot. Together, these gave me two sides of fixed points that helped me plot the remaining graves.
Earlier this year archaeologists discovered an extensive Roman settlement in the northern part of the airfield of the former RAF base. This all happened because a few months earlier, planning permission had been granted for the development of this area into a solar farm. Following an archaeological evaluation in which 60 machines dug trenches in January where about the third of them had evidence of Roman features, full scale excavation was undertaken in February and March.
Two large areas, totalling just over a hectare, were opened up for excavation and because of the tight timescale for the building of the solar farm, two teams were employed British Solar Renewables to excavate: Wessex Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology. Between them the teams excavated hundreds of features indicating extensive occupation through the Roman period and a hint at earlier Iron Age occupation too.
The most exciting features were two round house dwellings. They were both around 12 metres in diameter and had well preserved internal features. The earlier one was Late Iron Age and was superseded and partially overlapped by a slightly larger Roman one. This hints at continuous occupation on this site for a few hundred years.
In 2010 and 2011, some geophysical and trenched evaluation was carried out at a site near the Woodbury Iron Age Settlements Scheduled Ancient Monument. This revealed some undated pits and an extension of the prehistoric field systems that are known to be present in the area, which are thought to relate to the Woodbury settlement. Although the initial results were unpromising, a fragment of human bone in one of the fills from the pits suggested that there might be more to this site than met the eye. Wessex Archaeology undertook the work for this site.
Once the site had been stripped of the topsoil, it became clear that there was more here than had been thought initially. The first and most obvious feature was the remains of a round barrow. The barrow was only now visible as a circular brown ditch cut into the white chalk. This picture shows the barrow, with the later Iron Age ditch running through it. This suggests that, unlike many other contemporary barrows, the mound for this one had been levelled before the Iron Age use of the land had started. In the base of the ditch was a a placed layer of flint pieces and part of an antler time, which may well have been used as a pick when the ditch was dug out.
An archaeological excavation was undertaken by Wessex Archaeology on an area that was proposed for a new magazine store (planning number S/2010/1865) at DTSL Porton Down. The fieldwork is completed and the initial post-excavation work has been done, so I thought it would be interesting to talk about some of the results. Readers should be aware that some of this blog will talk about and have pictures of human burials, including those of infants.
There had been previous work on this site to evaluate the archaeological potential, so the site had results for geophysics and trenched evaluation. The main features identified through the evaluation and the excavation were two long ditches, one a ‘Wessex Linear’; a small barrow with associated cremation and inhumation burials and a further inhumation burial associated with the smaller ditch.