The Open Day’s this Saturday!

The Open Day is this SATURDAY (20th August). We’ll be happy to show you the excavations – please note that tours will be on the hour from 10am to 4pm.

In the evening there will be a talk given by James G at Abbey Manor Community Centre in Yeovil, starting at 7.30pm (although you might want to get there a little early).

For more details have a look at this Brympton Parish Council’s website, which carries full details of the event.

Paddling with the Romans

Today was another scorcher on site but our team battled through the heat and sun to do some great work!

The day kicked off with Elliot and Tom finishing off Elliot’s work from yesterday, cleaning up the robber trench before recording it and taking some levels.

Meanwhile, Matt, Jeff, James, Becca and Pete were working with Andy to remove the top layer clay from Room 4, revealing the sandy, mortar-filled context beneath (and also finding some great pottery sherds along the way!)


Hayley was working with Lucy today, investigating what could perhaps be a Roman oven – skillfully identifying colour change around the cut feature.


This ‘oven’ feature produced an interesting sherd of burnt BB! yesterday (below)


On the north side of the trench, James G took charge of Josh, Freddie, Tom and Sue in trying to see where the heated apsidal room leads and found another wall of the villa wall in the process.


At the end of the day the team were incredibly surprised to see that Maggie had bought us all a paddling pool to help us cool off at the end of a hot day’s work – thanks again to Maggie for the gift!

The team all enjoyed a dinner of fajitas prepared by Tilly and Frankie before settling in for the evening.

Round 2

Today was the first day on site for our second team of diggers and was a trial by fire for the new team.

The day kicked off with Elliot drawing plans of an in situ pottery deposit as well as the squatter wall in Room 4.  After giving Jeff and James B a crash course in how to take levels, he finished off that little job and moved on to lifting the deposits and hunting for more of the squatter wall (unfortunately to no avail).


Meanwhile, Hayley worked with Becca and Sue in order to investigate Hayward’s excavation of the partition wall between Rooms 3 and 4.

Doug and Frankie were working on the extremely exciting apsidal heated room on the north side of the trench, cleaning it and following the cut of the room around to see where it leads.  By the end of the day, and with a bit of help from Elliot, the apsidal room was sparkling clean, ready for its photo shoot with Andy.


Tilly and Lucy were working hard all day on the hunt for colour change in Room 4, and were lucky enough to have the star find of the day – what appears to be some mid fourth to fifth century pottery (on which James G has written a few words in his time)!


Josh and Freddie were reverse roofers today, and engaged in hard work removing the large roof slate deposit.

Elsewhere in Room 4, Jeff, James B and Pete were searching for the areas of the room which remain unexcavated by Hayward.

James G continued his mission, recruiting Tom and Matt to his service in the North-Eastern corner of the trench, investigating the robber trench connected to a wall and perhaps a conduit for a waterpipe.


At the end of a hard day’s work, the team returned home to a delicious meal of cheesy pasta prepared by Tom and Matt.

The Weekend

There’s not much to report this weekend. Most of the team left for Newcastle yesterday, leaving just the James, Andy, Hayley and Elliot to hold the fort and await the second team’s arrival tomorrow.

We spent a quiet day relaxing. Hayley and Elliot went to Bridport, Andy enjoyed the hospitality of the Masons Arms and James caught up with family in Yeovil.

Barbara Sutton (Leonard and Nora Hayward’s daughter) has kindly lent us some photos of the excavations. This is one of the 1961 team with Leonard Hayward in the hat.

Hayward and Lufton Villa team 1961


As the first team of diggers left Lufton throughout the day, it was up to Hayley, Elliot, James G, Andy, Sally, Min and Pete to do some last minute work on site before the weekend and the arrival of the second team.

The day started with everyone recording some contexts and drawing some plans,while Andy used the Total Station and the GPS to double check all the grid points on the site.

Meanwhile, Sally and James G got the planning frames out to draw some complex masonry and deposits on the Eastern and the Northern end of the site.


Towards the end of the day we did a bit of gentle digging to excavate a robber trench for the corridor’s external wall. Close to home time Dan, James I and Chris dropped by site before heading off back to the north east to say goodbye and Andy treated the team to some ice lollies before we packed up for the weekend.

Everyone is looking forward to catching up on some sleep and getting some R&R over the weekend before the digging resumes on Monday.

School Dinner Milk

Today on site, the team were visited by Hugh Beamish from Historic England.  The inspection went off without a hitch which was greatly encouraging for our first team’s last day on site.

From the start of the day, Elliot supervised James S, Charlotte and Henry in hunting for slate deposits in the western side of the trench, uncovering some large pockets of slate, interpreted as a roof collapse event.


Meanwhile, Hayley, Holly-Ann, Dan, James I and Chris were investigating some backfill from what may have been a robber trench, while James G may have found a section of robbed out wall.


Our star find of the day came in the form of a milk bottle and two plastic cups (one red, one yellow) which are almost undoubtedly leftovers from the original mid 20th Century excavations led by Hayward.


Later in the day, Holly-Ann took Dan and Chris to do some recording in the South-Eastern corner of the trench, drawing a plan and taking levels, while Henry went on a mission to find a drainage feature.

As our first team of the 2016 season reach the end of their experience, they would all like to share what their favourite part of the excavation has been:

Holly-Ann: “Being the wall whisperer, finding a glass bead and becoming a BBC celebrity”

Imogen: “Enjoying camp life and a pan of pimms!”

Chris: Meeting new people and getting to be on TV

Dan: “Putting up the greatest fence of our lifetime, being on the BBC and getting a Peugeot 107 across a wheat field”

Henry: “Experiencing life in Somerset”

James S; Discovering a genuine Roman tile floor”

James I: “Working out how to detect minute soil colour changes”

Kevin: “Getting to ride on the back of a tractor.”

Antonia: “Getting acquainted with Maggie’s kittens and having a load of new experiences”

Charlotte; “I loved every minute of the two weeks!”

We’ll be incredibly sad to see this team leave us – as everyone has worked incredibly hard, and each and every person has made a hugely significant contribution to this year’s excavation, and to the project as a whole.


A special visitor

Today we had the pleasure of a visit from Barbara Sutton – no other than Leonard Hayward’s daughter, who told us about her memories of the excavation from her childhood. It was great to meet Barbara and to have a connection with the previous excavator!


Elsewhere in the trench, Elliot and Antonia took levels for the plan Antonia had made yesterday while Hayley commanded Kevin, James I, James S, Henry and Imogen with an iron fist to clean up the northern side of the trench.


Meanwhile, Holly worked hard to define and clean up a section of the villa’s wall. This involved removing some of Hayward’s backfill and discovering – wait for it – a plastic cup and a glass bottle. Neither were Roman… but rubbish left over from the previous digging team (!).

Later in the day, Elliot was tasked with clearing away some of the brown rubble layer from the South-Western end of the trench and was able to discover a clear cut feature – almost certainly the visible remains of one of Hayward’s trenches.

On the North side of the trench the team made a huge discovery – genuine, bona fide Roman hypocaust and floor within what appears to be an apsidal shaped room with heated flooring.  It wasn’t long after that Hawkeye Hayley spotted another tiny coin in the ground only a couple of metres away.


James I was then teamed up with Pete to do some drawing and take some levels of the western side of the trench.


In the afternoon we also had a visit from Brian and Moira, representatives of the Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society. They were given a guided tour of the site by James. Moira also revealed why Leonard Hayward was nicknamed ‘Polly’. Apparently it was because he started every grammar school archaeological society meeting with ‘Put the kettle on’… Hence ‘Polly put the kettle on’.

The team returned home to corned beef  hash prepared by Dan and Chris and are looking forward to a visit from Historic England tomorrow!

Under the brown there be a big tile!

Elliot would like to begin with his daily dose of Lufton excavation humour…

I used to work in a clock factory. The job was great but after a couple of months I was fired. I never found out why, but it might have had something to do with all the extra hours I was putting in…

Today on site, we were joined by James’s family, who helped James to do some levels and some drawings of the site while the rest of the team were occupied with a large section of the trench on the north side.

At the start of the day, Elliot was tasked with supervising Charlotte and Imogen in trying to define the deposit of collapsed rooftiles on the western side of the trench. They were partially successful in this mission but things got a bit complicated. Charlotte even found a neolithic flint


Henry was occupied during the morning with the important task of creating a route for wheelbarrows to be pushed onto the top of the spoil heap.

We were also joined by Ski in the morning who was able to turn up some more interesting finds for us, including a few more coins! James G did, however, manage to find a coin without Ski’s aid. Dig team 2; Ski c.26.

Meanwhile, Hayley supervised Dan, Chris, Henry and James S in removing a thick brown deposit. This is basically (115) but seems much thicker  in the northern end of the trench. Under it are elusive, yellow mortary deposits.

It was touch and go for a while, yet thankfully back up arrived in the form of James I, who joined us after lunch, as well as Elliot’s team who joined in after they had finished with their rooftile related activities.

Antonia meanwhile was trained in how to draw plans and helped by Pete from SSARG went about the task of drawing the demolition rubble to the west of the building.

With only minutes before the end of the day, however, Hayley made a huge discovery, in the form of a what appears to be a giant tile (or possibly tiles). Quite what this will be remains to be seen but James G thinks it’s probably part of one of the buildings walls.


The day ended with the team returning to camp to enjoy fajitas prepared by Holly-Ann and Kevin.

Tomorrow the team is looking forward to cleaning up the features on site, in preparation for Historic England visiting on Thursday, as the end of the first two week session approaches rapidly.

I’ve got a brand new combine harvester…

Elliot (who is writing this blog with James G) has received a request to make the blog funnier, so he wants to begin with an anecdote from his childhood:

When I was a young lad, I had a pet snail.  I wanted to make it go faster, so I took its shell off, but it only made it more sluggish.


Elliot (aka Spannerman) at the rear of this photo. He writes blogs, researches late Roman and symmetrical archaeology and occasionally wins open mic competitions.


After a few deliberations over the weekend James G decided that the day should kick off with the removal of the remnants of the mixed rubble / backfill deposit that fills the building. We started by numbering this deposit (115) and proceeded with the whole team to mattock it off of the interior of Room 4.

One of the aims of this task was to reveal a partition or cross wall excavated by Hayward. Holly and Pete (newly joining us from SSARG) found the line of this wall, although there is far less of it than Hayward’s report suggests. We also found what might be the late ‘squatter’ partition wall in Room 4. If our interpretation is correct then this feature is further south than we might have thought.

There was good news on the finds front. For the first time we’ve discovered large, fresh sherds of BB1 pottery. One impressive chunk comes from a jar and other finds were made by hawkeye Hayley who spotted a coin! We also showed these finds to Carol, the landowner, who visited us today.



Due to our pre-emptive sun dancing, the sun was kind enough to stay behind clouds for the majority of the day.  Unfortunately for our team, however, the fields in which we are working were being harvested, and although everyone was excited to see a combine harvester in action, the dust and pollen kicked up by the machine caused intense break-outs of sneezing across the trench.


Meanwhile, Elliot picked up where Hayley left off in the South-Eastern corner of the trench, searching for the corn dryer mentioned in Hayward’s original report.  Despite his best efforts, Elliot was unsuccessful in his quest, ultimately concluding that the corn dryer is either outside of the trench, or had been removed entirely by Hayward’s team.

All the while, Hayley supervised Dan, Chris, James I, Charlotte, Antonia, Imogen and Kevin in the big mattocking exercise.

The end of the day saw James G’s family join him for the week from Newcastle.

The team returned home to spaghetti Bolognese, expertly prepared by James S and Henry. This could only be topped by our TV interview being broadcast on BBC Points West!

Leonard Hayward’s excavations

Leonard (Polly) Hayward BA BSc FSA excavated the villa between 1946 and 1952 and again between 1960 and 1963 with the boys of Yeovil School. He produced two reports on his excavations and deposited his finds in what was Yeovil Museum (they’re now held by the CHAC).

Leonard Hayward FSA

The Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society (who have generously contributed to the current excavations) have their origins in the Yeovil School Archaeological Society established by Leonard Hayward.

The Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society have two accounts by pupils of the excavations published on their website.

Yeovil historian Jack Sweet recounts that “occasionally  when Mr Hayward and the seniors were absent for a short time we juniors enjoyed re-enacting the Western Front in the trenches and on the spoil heaps!!” So it wasn’t all hard digging!