The Winscombe Project by Theresa Hall

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Teresa Hall is a landscape archaeologist who has worked extensively in Somerset. She and her late partner Mick Aston made detailed surveys on the Shapwick area and also in Winscombe. The aim of the Winscombe Project is to examine, through the use of topographical, archaeological and historical evidence, the previous community of the parish and its  interaction with the landscape. This involved a community effort to dig test pits in residents' gardens which yielded much hard evidence, all of which was meticulously recorded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winscombe lies in a strategic position on a key access route through the Mendip Hills. It was in the Saxon Hundred of Winterstoke, the same as Blagdon, and both are listed in the Domesday Book 1086. In the earliest-known mention of the village, King Edgar (959-975) made a grant of land including Winscombe to the wife of a wealthy Wessex landowner. Later a family connection led to Winscombe being transferred to Glastonbury Abbey. This was disputed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who claimed Winscombe was part of his Banwell Estate. The matter was finally settled by a duel; the Bishop's
champion won the battle and so the Bishop gained Winscombe.

 

 

 

It was mainly
everyday life
which interested
the research
team. A large
number of
documents
survive, which
shed light on life
in medieval

times and these helped mould the project. James Bond, who has given a talk to our Society, carried out a geophysical survey. Some Roman artefacts were found by field walking but the main technique used was digging test pits, one metre square and usually one metre deep. Thin layers of soil are removed one at a time then sieved to retrieve very small items. The exact location and depth of finds are recorded and usually different zones become apparent and often these extend right across a village. Test pits are dug at as many sites as possible to gain the widest possible picture. A lot of pottery was found dating back as far as the 13th century. Glazed pottery was for domestic use whilst earthenware was for storage e.g. grain.

 

The same crew worked on all the pits to achieve a consistency of treatment and landowners were given a report on the pit dug on their property. A number of case studies were made of prominent buildings including Winscombe Court and Woodborough Mill.

The project team also looked at place names, as guides to past activities. For example, one area of Winscombe is Dinghurst, the word "Ding' in Old English (Anglo-Saxon)meaning 'assembly place'.
Mike Adams

 

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Map showing the whereabouts of the test pits sites in Winscombe

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