Barrow Excavations Published!

We’re pleased to announce the publication of ‘The deserted medieval settlement at (?)Barrow, Odcombe, Somerset: trial excavations in 2014′ by James Gerrard and Andrew Agate (with contributions by Berni Seddon, Kevin Hayward, Don O’Meara and Kevin Rielly) in Volume 32 of Medieval Settlement Research, pages 60-69).

Publication is an important part of the process of archaeological investigation and this article marks the dissemination of the results of the 2014 season of excavation.

Post-ex: the never ending process

There’s quite a lot going on at the moment.

First of all Andy and James are working hard to put a project design together for this season’s work, We’re asking Historic England for permission to reinvestigate the villa’s bath block. We’d hoped to do this in the 2016 season, but resources didn’t permit. Watch this space for further developments.

In other news various bits of post-excavation analysis are progressing. GeoFlo are just about finished processing last season’s soil samples (greatly helped by James’s production of a stratigraphic matrix for the site). Once the samples have been processed they’ll be heading up to Newcastle for sorting.

Naomi (a third year undergraduate) is working for the project and part of her role will be to sort the sample residues. Until then she’s been busy doing some data entry, quantifying tesserae and doing other bits and pieces.

Mark Hoyle, a fantastic archaeological illustrator, has also been busy drawing some of our finds. Many of these are from our 2014 excavations of the deserted medieval settlement of Barrow (in Odcombe). We’re especially pleased with his drawing of the seal matrix. We hope to submit our report on these excavations for publication in the near future.

Medeival Seal Matrix from Barrow

Medeival Seal Matrix from Barrow

He’s also drawn a few finds from the villa. These include the hairpin James found on the tessellated pavement.

Late Roman  hairpin from the villa

Late Roman hairpin from the villa




BAR14: A Blast from the Past

Way back in 2014 (seems like it was ages ago) we investigated the deserted medieval settlement of Barrow in Odcombe.

The digging at Barrow is long finished but the analysis of the finds is still ongoing. Rather excitingly we’ve just received the pottery report from Berni Seddon at PCA. We found 600 sherds of pottery weighing about 4.5kg. Most of the pottery dates from around AD1175-1300. The big pit in Trench A that Lucy excavated contained pottery dated to AD1250-1300.

This is all interesting stuff and will help us to complete the report we’re writing on the excavations.


Lucy with some thirteenth-century pottery from her pit in Trench A




Congratulations to all the Lufton veterans who graduated on Monday.

James H, James St-A, Kimberley, Flora, Elliott, Hayley and Jess all did exceptionally well and have their eyes on the future.

Some of the team  are heading to jobs or postgraduate courses in archaeology, others are heading off in new directions. Except for Elliott and Hayley both of whom have four weeks digging in Somerset ahead of them!

September Update

There’s been quite a lot going on recently.

In Newcastle James has been busy writing applications to raise funds for next year’s proposed excavation of the villa. Meanwhile Andy and James have also been busy writing the application for Scheduled Monuments Consent – a legal requirement of any excavation of a nationally important monument like the villa.

We’re also very pleased to announce that the Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society has agreed to make a financial contribution to next year’s excavation! This local archaeological society was set up by Leonard Hayward – the excavator of the villa – and we’re very grateful for their pledge of support.

Our friends in the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group are also busy carrying out some more geophysical survey for the project. This is excellent news and we’re all very pleased and grateful for the SSARG members’ continuing efforts to support the research. Keep an eye on the blog for further updates about this work.

Holly, who dug with us this year, has been busy over the Summer preparing the archives from the previous four season’s of work for deposition in the Somerset Heritage Centre. Holly has been employed on a Newcastle Work Experience bursary funded by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and the University’s Career Service.

Hayley (a veteran of two season’s digging) has also been carrying out some research for the project as part of a University Vacation Scholarship.

Beyond the Villa: 5000 years of human activity at Lufton, Somerset



 The Archaeology Committee of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society 




 Dr James Gerrard

Saturday 28th March 2015

10am – 4pm

Westland Conference & Leisure Complex, Yeovil


 The morning will feature a panel of speakers on recent archaeological discoveries in and around Yeovil, including: 

The Bunford Hollow excavation

The archaeology & history of the Westlands site

Archaeological recording at St John’s Church

After lunch our keynote speaker, Dr James Gerrard will talk about new archaeological discoveries in the Lufton Villa Landscape over the past five years.

 Admission: £12.00

 Tickets available on the door.

To book in advance visit the SANHS Online Shop at

email:  or  Tel: 01823 272429.

 Ploughmans lunch available for £5.50 with advance booking only.



Lufton 2015 – updates and the like

After much plotting and planning we’re pleased to announce that we will be digging again this Easter!

Even as we write Nigel, Liz and the gang in Somerset are working to re-survey our target excavation area.

The new team will be James G (Director); Andrew Agate (Co-Director); James H (Assistant Supervisor); Hayley and Chris (experienced excavators) along with Douglas; Elliott; Zara; Mara; Tilly; Josh and Holly-Ann. What a team!

In the meantime James G is on research leave and hopes that be before we return to Somerset the 2013 post-excavation assessment will be completed. Work is also progressing on the 2014 post-excavation assessment and just this morning Don O’Meara was finalising the report on the iron working slag. Apparently we have evidence from Barrow for medieval smithing (the working of iron, but not its production from iron ores).

In other news the paper James, Liz and Ali wrote on greenwaste and archaeological geophysics has been accepted for publication by the top geophysics journal Archaeological Prospection. Once it’s published we’ll add a link to the article.

Early stones

The earliest feature excavated during the Summer of 2014 was a ?ditch beneath a layer, which we nicknamed ‘crunchy red’ on site.

This little ditch produced a handful of fragments of rock. It was immediately apparent that these fragments of rock were igneous and thus were thus imported to the site (the local geology is sedimentary).

Dr Kevin Hayward has examined these rocks for us and believes that this light green medium grained igneous rock, with white feldspar laths may have come from a number of possible sources. He writes:

The first are the dyke intrusions at Cheddon-Fitzpaine, 20km to the NW near Taunton, described as a Lamprophyre and seen at Yarford villa as rubble . Further away in Devon (40km) there are Early Permian intrusions and Volcanics from the Exeter Volcanic Series. These were identified in rubble fragments from the nearby Late Iron Age to Roman excavations at Montacute. Saddle quern in a pinker granodiorite was also recorded from later 2011 excavations at Montacute where a Cornish source is suggested as was a basic spotted dolerite macehead from these excavations. All bear some similarity to the fragments from Barrow.

The stones are likely to be part of a prehistoric object. We need to look carefully at the pottery from the ‘crunchy red’ and other early deposits. Nevertheless the geological report has confirmed that we have a long stratigraphic sequence at Barrow, running from prehistory through to the  medieval period.


News on a Brick…

Dr Kevin Hayward, a specialist in geological materials and ceramic building materials at Pre-Construct Archaeology, is examining the stone and brick finds from the Barrow DMV excavations.

He’s recently completed a report on part of a stamped brick we found in the upper fill of the medieval ditch. The brick probably belonged to a small barn that used to stand in the field and was demolished in the 1970s when the earthworks were bulldozed.

The following is an extract of Kevin’s report on the brick:

The edge of quarter of a kiln brick with a curved incomplete stamp read

…WN   CLA…

Each letter measured 15mm high with a neat stamped suggesting machine impression, typical of late 19th to early-mid 20th century manufacturer.

Consultation of the web site for brick stamps  could not find a match. However it would seem likely that the second word CLA forms part of CLAY or CLAYWORKS

The Crown Clay Company operating in the same district of Bristol (St Georges – Crews hole) on the bank of the River Avon as the Bristol Clay Company (see below) between 1880 and 1887 is a possible candidate given the lettering …WN CLAY


Kiln or refractory bricks were used from the second quarter of the 19th century onwards in response for the demand for building materials that could resist the increasingly high temperatures required in the iron and steel making processes, gas retorts, as well as kiln and glass manufacturing industries to name but a few. They are also associated with boilers, locomotives, ovens and any process that involves high temperatures – even heated greenhouses.

Geological Origin

The clay, derived from high alumina and silica palaeosols from the Upper Carboniferous Coal Measures is not local to this part of Somerset dominated by geologically younger Lower Jurassic sands, clays calcareous limestones and limestones. However with the advent of the railways, kiln bricks were distributed throughout the UK from fireclay manufacturers in the West Midlands (Stourbridge); South Wales, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and Glasgow.

The Somerset Coalfield, some 30km NNE, lies closest to Lufton. With the Bristol Coalfield (further west) also relatively close by. Fireclays from these deposits were worked and manufactured into kiln bricks e.g. The Bristol Fire Clay Company in operation from at least 1876 to 1911 and Crown Clay Works 1880 to 1887 and Crown Brick and Tile Company into the first decade of the twentieth century

November Update

It’s been a while since we posted. Partly this is a consequence of other commitments, in particular the start of the new academic year.

The project is progressing along at a nice pace. A pottery report on the 2013 season has been completed and Andy is busy working on the plans from the 2013 excavation too. All this effort means that pretty soon James will start having to write it up in earnest.

Post-excavation analysis of the 2014 work has been ongoing too. The stone objects have been sent to Dr Kevin Hayward for analysis and the lithics to Dr Rob Young. Reports from both specialists are eagerly awaited. James also wrote a short report on the excavations for the Medieval Settlement Research Group.

Meanwhile James popped down to Somerset recently and spoke at SSARGs Cadbury Day. It’s hoped that we might make some more formal connections with the Tintinhull Landscape Archaeology Project being mentored by Dr John Davey (Exeter).

Finally, Andy and James had a meeting recently about planing 2015’s expedition…