has a rich archaeological and historical background. There are finds or
structures ranging from the Palaeolithic to post-Medieval times. Within a 1 km
radius from the central point of the proposed project area (the public car park
between the village and the river) there are 83 find spots, many with multiple
finds (SMR database, January 2008).
The project is mainly intended to discover more about the
Romano-British activity in the valley along with the nature and extent of the
numerous features seen as crop-marks in aerial photographs. It will attempt to
relate these to the multi-period activity which is no doubt represented by these
features. In short, it will help us to understand the use and development of the
Romano-British landscape for this area as a whole.
Two Romano-British villas are already recorded at close
proximity (only 670 m apart) in the
– Yewden and Mill End. The majority, but not all, of the Yewden villa has
been excavated by Cocks in 1912 (Cocks, 1921) which revealed a large collection
of artefacts and information on the villa structure and layout. However, there
is a great need for a re-evaluation of some of the artefacts (e.g. metal, bone,
pottery and a newly acquired photographic record against excavation notes). Also
required is a re-evaluation of some of the recorded structures (e.g. the 14
‘corn-driers’ on site).
The second villa at Mill End has never been excavated, but
is known from crop marks. The proposed non-intrusive geophysics survey will
confirm the villa plan and indicate the nature of other crop marks associated
with the villa.
Archaeology of the valley
In the Hambleden Parish there are only two Palaeolithic flakes,
both found in the stream bed. Maybe Palaeolithic people were not present for
long in the valley - or maybe people just do not recognise their stone tools?
There is more prolific finds related to Mesolithic activity –
with 19 find spots of a variety of tools from tranchet axes to microburins,
scrapers and cores. These are concentrated in the banks or close to the
and Hamble Brook. Hence they may reflect ‘visibility’ of the finds.
There are numerous Neolithic
artefacts (58 find spots with multiple objects in many), which are very likely
to be a true increase in activity during this period. They include axes,
scrapers, cores and flakes and in a variety of locations, on hillsides and not
solely close to the stream or River Thames. These tools show people were cutting
trees, living and making their tools in the valley.
In contrast, the Bronze
Age finds are represented by only two reported items – a socketed axehead
and a Palstave, both just north of Yewden. Similarly, the Iron Age is
represented by only three finds – a bronze razor, 2 strap unions (near Yewden)
and ‘metalwork’ in the
. This is unusual, as cropmarks seem to indicate that the Romano-British villa
complexes are closely associated with seemingly earlier (Iron Age) structures.
archaeology is discussed in full below as it is the focus of this initial phase
of the project. For the folowing Anglo-Saxon
period there is only one record of a potential barrow (outside the valley on the
County boundary with Oxfordshire). The Medieval period only boasts 3 find sites
although one is hoard - a beautiful collection of 59 annular brooches (which is
at the Bucks County Museum).
Hambleden is well-known for its two Roman villas. The famous Yewden villa was
excavated in 1912 and a description and interpretation was written by the
excavator A. H. Cocks (1921). The villa was shown to be in use from the 1st
to the 4th centuries. It is an intriguing site with a villa complex
and surrounding boundary wall, tessellated pavements, bathroom suites, a well,
26 pits (interpreted as refuse pits), 14 kilns (interpreted as corn-drying
ovens), several adult and 97 infant burials, and a wealth of high status finds.
Coins are numerous and include a hoard of 294 coins, at present being
re-evaluated. Pottery is also abundant and includes plain and decorated Samian,
, Sandford, Belgic and much coarse pottery. Some of the finds are unusual such
70 styli indicating literacy and a recording role or manufacture of these items
on site. More detailed information can be obtained from Cocks (1921) and a
detailed assessment of the importance of this site within the Scheduling
documentation (English Heritage SM27160).
A second villa at Mill End is known from parch marks which
appear in times of drought. They have been traced and interpreted by Farley
(1983, Britannia 14, 256-259). However, these can be verified and enhanced by
geophysics surveys during this project.