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Archaeology Somerset UK Walking Cycling

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No arts; no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and

danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and

short.' Thomas Hobbes English Philosopher 1588-1679


Would this statement apply to our forebears, who lived in the hill-forts? What

evidence can be found of the quality of their lives? One thing that we can be sure of is

that our ancestors needed food, warmth and shelter. Occupation of caves close to here

bears witness.

Banwell Earthwork

Location GR 402588


VHCS II p471 describes cross as 2 ft high 12 ft broad, arms North 61 ft, East 56 ft,

South 57 ft, West 72 ft. Dobson p212 whole earthwork 165 ft by 135 ft entrance East,

ditch/vallum cross 2 ft high 10-12 ft wide. What I found was a single bank, aligned

North to South 2 ft high 10-12ft long.

Page Two

Banwell Camp

Location GR 410590

Description VHCS is on the top of a hill about half a mile southsoutheast of the

church and the defence was a bank of earth and stones around the inclosure.

Rutter p145a severe battle was fought near this hill, between the Saxons and Danes;

the memory of which is preserved by the appellation of Wint Hill, which, in the

Saxon language implies the name of a towerThe situation is well adapted for the

enjoyment of a rural repast, by any parties, who are induced to explore the varied

scenery, which this elevation situation commands, and which the Rev. W. Lisle

Bowles has celebrated in his recently published poem on Banwell Hill


Location GR 336576

Description VCHS p522 The so-called camp on the slope of the hill to the north of the

village contains low banks and ridges, most of which run down the slope of the hill

from north to south, but some run east and west.

Burrington Camp

Location GR 479584

Description VCHS p483 is on the lower slope of the Mendip about half a mile south

of Burrington churchThe inclosure is oblong, with rounded corners, its length north

by east to south by west being about 120 yds., and west by north to east by south

about 80yds.

Page Three

Cadbury Camp Congresbury

Location GR 442650

Description Vince Russett

Demolished Roman temple at Henley Wood, GR 443651 with a fine view over North

Moor and Severn Estuary. Building painted white, visibility 50 Miles. It would have

been possible for the Romans to use signalling fires across the estuary. River Yeo

navigable to Congresbury villa Wemborough 5 Congresbury Place Names St Conger.

Two clear post-Roman phases. Second group mediaeval Mediterranean. Material late

antique collection. Wine in pottery Mediterranean. Celtic pottery from South West

France. There was a trading network across the Western Roman Empire. Byzantium

genetic connection. Western seaboard of Europe. Oblique entrance with D shaped

guard chambers. There was an excavation in 1959. There were post Roman postholes

of a large rectangular hall. Welsh speakers might understand Old British. Weaving

tools, bone, glass, lead, iron ore. Dishes from North Africa had crosses on them.

Conger son of prince of Byzantium people living here until 7th Century. Calcareous

grassland. Why did the occupation end? Arabs conquered North Africa and Spain.

Sherds found at Congresbury church. There was a Celtic monastery and Roman

pottery industry 3rd to 5th century. People looked back at the Roman period until the

11th Century, much as we do towards the British Empire. There are remains of

buildings. There was a plague in the 6th Century that persuaded people not to stay.

Was a weird thing in sky' a volcanic eruption? It caused tree rings to grow very close

together for three years.

Page Four

Dolebury Camp

Location GR 450589

Description Its form is a parallelogram, open at each end, and it has been supposed to

have been the work of the Britons; but Roman and Saxon coins have frequently been

found in it, as also have spear-heads, pieces of swords, and other warlike weapons'

Collinson Vol III p579

Rowberrow Bottom

Location GR 460586

Rowberrow valley runs for 3km/1.5 miles in an East-South-Easterly direction from

Rowberrow church towards Burrington Combe.


I have passed a plot of land in Rowberrow many, and been puzzled why it has not

been built on. I spoke to a resident one day, and he told me that it is a burial ground

and remains of a chapel GR 452583). Further enquiries led me to Derek Venn, who

does research for the Shipham History Society. He told me about the history of

mining in the area, and gave me some material including a map of Rowberrow valley,

details of residents from the 1841 census and three leaflets: The Village and Industry

of 18th Century Shipham, Shipham Parish Accounts 1785-1822 and Edith's Letter

Home. The latter being from Edith Day, On the 6th of February 1828 Edith wrote a

letter home to her family in England, pleading with them to come and join her. It was

addressed to Mr Charles Pitman, Shipham, Somerset the husband of Edith's sister

Phoebe.' 1 Edith and her husband had emigrated to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania).'

Closer inspection of the map revealed a number of Venns. Their occupations were

agricultural labourers, lead miners and a calamine miner. I shall focus upon Farmer

Page Five

Venn. These details are from the ROWBERROW (1841 Census & Tithe

Apportionment) He had three tithes in the valley 169/189/194. A tithe To grant or

pay one tenth of (one's goods, earnings etc.) esp. to the support of the church.' 2

Calamine: Next in importance to lead was zinc, of which the carbonate calamine

was abundant on Mendip, especially in the dolomitic conglomerate. He goes on to say

a man would simply dig a trench forward through the ground until he came upon a

vein, but great faith was placed in the virtue of the divining rod.' 3 This district also

included some of the most important and productive parts of the ancient Mining

Forest, in which, during a long period of years, enormous quantities of lead and zinc

were raised, which at one time provided employment for some thousands of people,

and whose traces in long-abandoned shafts and workings, form one of the most

characteristic features of the hillsAt first the ore was exported as the English did not

have the knowledge of the process for mixing the calamine with copper to produce

brass. However, with the formation of the Bristol Brass Company in 1706, calamine

now came into high demand.' 4

Appendix One

Google Maps showing earthworks

Go to Google maps and enter place names and press Search. Direction and distance of

the earthworks are from red marker. Note that most of them are circular, and show up

as a lighter green than the surrounding area. I found it useful to draw a scale from the

screen, with 200m intervals.

Page Six

Banwell Camp E 1075 mtrs. What looks like a large tree due to phototrophism, are

actually four. (Phototrophism is the action of plants to gain maximum benefit from the

Sun to facilitate photosynthenis).

Bleadon WNW 1200 mtrs.

Burrington Combe NW 750 mtrs.

Cadbury - Congresbury NNE 1150 mtrs.

Dolebury N 800 mtrs.

Rowberrow Valley NNW 600 mtrs.

Appendix Two

How to find earthworks with a map and compass, and a beginners guide to working out grid references

The first thing to do is find magnetic north. The Grid Magnetic Angle in July 2007

was 2 degrees 20 minutes West of Grid North. There is an annual change about 10

minutes. Say, 2 degrees 5 minutes at present. I am going to use the Earthwork on

Banwell Hill GR 402588 as an example. Line up needle and arrow on compass. Move

top of compass 2 degrees 5 minutes West. Re-align needle and arrow and this will

give Grid North. Align compass to grid on map. It helps to have a flat surface to do

this. Stand at the southeast corner of Banwell Castle GR 401587, and obtain bearing

of earthwork. This should show 62 degrees. My eyesight is not what they used to be,

so I had to use a magnifying glass. For distance apply the 1:50000 scale on the

compass to the map. This will show a distance of about 200 metres. This should lead

you to the earthwork.

To measure distance, assume that you are going to walk at 3 miles an hour, or a mile

every twenty minutes. Divide 20 by 8 and multiply by 5. This gives a time of 12

minutes per kilometre on flat ground.

Page Seven

I have chosen a tumulus at GR 457571. How did I begin? The first thing to remember

is to begin with eastings, then northings. Another way to remember this is, along the

corridor and up the stairs. In other words, you start by working along the bottom of

the map until finding the line to the left of the required location. In this case it is 45.

Then work out how many tenths to the right of the line is the tumulus. I have done it

by eye, and guessed 7. Then go up the stairs, and find the line underneath. This one is

57. Do the same as before, and it gives us 1, hence 457571. This map's scale is

1:50,000, thus 2 centimetres (cms) represent 50,000 cms on the ground. Thus, a six

figure grid reference will bring you within 100 metres of the tumulus. An eight figure

reference within 10 metres. Check with Google maps to find out the exact location.

The Human Story

If you manage to reach this place, appreciate the fine view across the Severn Estuary

towards Wales, as the person buried here may have done. Perhaps the settlement

south south east was home, or the one further east. Try to put yourself in the mind of

that person, and imagine how they must have felt. What were their essential needs?

Compare and contrast to your needs today. One clue is to the south, a valley that a

river runs through, thus providing water. Perhaps you could write a play, inventing

different characters. Compare with Middle Ages serfdom VCH. Lake villages, fairs, pheasants. Freedom.


History of Somersetshire Reverend John Collinson 1791

The Mines of Mendip J.W. Gough David and Charles 1967 3 p5

The Heart of Mendip Francis A. Knight Chatford House Press 1971 4 p3

Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 182 Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater and Wells

The Archaeology of Somerset D. P. Dobson MA Methuen & Co Ltd 1931

Page Eight

Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 182 Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater and Wells

Extracts from a talk given by Vince Russett North Somerset Archaeology Service

Deliniations of the North Western Division of the County of Somerset and of the Ante diluvian Bone Caverns with a Geological Sketch of the District John Rutter 1829

Shorter Oxford English Dictionary Oxford at the Clarendon Press 1933 2

Ediths Letter Home Derek Venn 2007 1

The Victoria History of the Counties of England (VHCS in text) Somerset

Volumes I & II The University of London Institute of Historical Research 1969

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