Medieval and Post-Medieval


By far the most significant assemblage of Medieval material in the Museum’s collections is that excavated by Peter Addyman and his students between 1964 and 1972 at Ludgershall Castle (Ellis 2000). These excavations produced a varied, well-preserved and well-recorded finds assemblage which includes architectural fragments, fixtures and fittings, dress accessories and an exceptionally well-preserved assemblage of vessel and painted-window glass. Significantly, the excavations produced a huge assemblage of 47,000 sherds (570kg) of pottery, with the assemblage dating from the tenth century to the end of the medieval period and beyond. The ceramics are dominated by local coarse wares, but fabrics from across Wiltshire are represented, although imports are relatively rare. In addition to the ceramics and wider finds assemblage, the Museum also holds a substantial collection of animal remains from Ludgershall Castle, although these were not discussed in the eventual publication of the site. It must also be noted that the museum does not hold the complete archive, which is divided between the Wiltshire Museum and Historic England.

The Museum holds two significant comparably dated assemblages, although in neither case is the scale comparable to that at Ludgershall. The first was excavated at Chapel Meadow, Ramsbury (also referred to as Membury), by Grimes in 1941. The excavations have never been published, but revealed a complex of building foundations beginning in the twelfth century and originally interpreted as a castle (Grimes in O’Neill 1948), but now thought to represent a fortified manorial site (Creighton 2000). Around 9,000 ceramic sherds are held by the Museum, with a relatively small collection of small finds and animal bone also attributed to the site. Grimes’ site records are still held by the Museum, and an attempt was made by Hilary Heally to publish the site in the 1990s, although she sadly passed away prior to the project’s completion. The second assemblage was excavated by Thompson at Huish parish church, and in the field immediately to the north (Thompson 1967; 1972). These excavations revealed evidence of buildings and workshops dating to the twelfth to fifteenth centuries and produced a stratified assemblage of c.1000 sherds as well as an interesting collection of ironwork and other finds, including multiple tools, locks and keys, and a well-preserved steelyard weight and balance arm with surviving mechanism (Shortt 1968). The original site records were similarly reportedly deposited with the Museum (Thompson 1972), although they have not been located at the time of writing.

Other assemblages dating to the Medieval period mostly comprise of small collections of material, largely derived from small-scale excavations and evaluations from within modern settlements. Such sites include: Wooton Bassett High Street (Currie 1995), Postern Mill (Currie 1993) and the Old Cinema (Hart and Holbrook 2011), both Malmesbury. The excavations at New Park Street, Devizes, by UCL (Russell 1993) uncovered just 300 medieval ceramic sherds, from badly disturbed deposits, however the site represents the Museum’s principal collection of Post-Medieval ceramics, with c.1200 sherds attributed to this phase. The assemblage from this site is otherwise fairly limited. Additionally, the Museum holds a relatively large quantity of material from various excavations around Cricklade carried out during the second half of the 20th century, where the ceramic sequence probably dates to the ninth to thirteenth centuries. Aside from the Late Saxon ceramics (Jope in Radford 1972), the pottery has never been discussed in detail, and indeed does not appear to have been retained in the case of Haslam’s 1975 excavations. An assemblage of metalwork attributed to the latter excavation was not described as part of the eventual publication (Haslam 2003).

In addition to the settlement evidence, the museum also holds the archives from the excavations of two Medieval or Post-Medieval tile kilns. The first, and more significant, site is that from the Naish Hill Kilns (also called Nash Hill), near Lacock (McCarthy et al. 1974). These excavations revealed a stratified sequence of tile and pottery kilns dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and recovered an assemblage of over 9,000 pottery sherds. The assemblage includes an exceptional dragon- decorated jug, as well as a large assemblage of both decorated and undecorated tiles, and more utilitarian pottery. At the time of excavation, the British Museum attempted to scientifically link the tiles to those from Stanley Abbey, but their results were inconclusive. Stamps from the kiln are present at both Stanley and Lacock Abbeys, whereas some of the tiles produced at Naish Hill have no local parallels, but are recognised at sites such as Glastonbury Abbey. By contrast, the non-ceramic finds assemblage was described by the excavator as ‘meagre in the extreme’ and was mostly unstratified (McCarthy et al. 1974: 106); it doesn’t appear to have been retained.

A second kiln site, as well as associated buildings, was excavated at Langley Burrell, Chippenham, by Dr. Ron Wilcox and Chippenham Technical College students in 1978-9 (HER: ST97NW459). These excavations produced an extremely large assemblage of artefacts which are now in the Museum’s collections, although the site has never been published and the finds have never been described or even given basic quantification. The assemblage includes a large quantity of pottery relating to the kilns, but also a wider assemblage of animal bone, small finds, worked flint and iron working debris. Vince (1984) has briefly described the fabric and suggests that the kilns can be dated to the late fifteenth to early sixteenth century based on analogy with the nearby Musty industry, although he also notes a mid/late-fourteenth century archaeomagnetic date from one of the kilns, and suggests that many of the forms from Langley Burrell are known in other fabrics from the fourteenth century. Unfortunately, no original records from the excavation survive in either the Wiltshire Museum or Historic Environment Record archive (although some material may be present within the Chippenham Museum).

The Museum also holds a small representative sample of material attributed to the Minety Kilns, although the majority of material from Musty’s (1973) excavations are now in the collections of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. The identification of a ‘kiln’ at Hunt’s Mill, Wooton Bassett, based on a small assemblage of sherds found in the late nineteenth century is described as dubious by Vince (1984).

Human remains

The Museum holds only an extremely limited collection of Medieval and Post-Medieval human remains, from just two of poorly dated chance finds. They are noted due to their potential to contribute to studies of Medieval health. The first, from Spittlefield, Marlborough, was buried in a stone coffin and may relate to a fourteenth century leper hospital on the same site (Annable 1965), the second is a group of at least five individuals buried ‘without special care’ in a trench in Ramsbury (Burchard 1966).

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