Our lecture series takes place from October to April and showcases research and projects which investigate the archaeology of Birmingham and Warwickshire – with some notable exceptions!

Lectures normally take place on the first Tuesday of the month* at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham, with the exception of our January lecture which takes place at 1pm on the second Tuesday of the month.

* some April lectures may be on the second Tuesday, depending on the date of Easter Monday

Programme of Lectures 2016 – 2017

dsc_0317-wall-image-againTuesday 4 October 2016, 7pm  Mansio, Medieval Pottery, M6 Toll and Museum: a personal perspective on Wall Roman site (Letocetum), Staffordshire

With Dr. Mike Hodder

Wall originated as a series of 1st-century Roman forts on a hilltop overlooking Watling Street. A small town which developed outside the forts included a bath house and mansio (an inn). At the end of the 3rd century a walled enclosure or burgus was built astride Watling Street.  Excavations along the line of the M6 Toll motorway near Wall revealed a Roman cemetery and a pottery kiln.

In addition to a summary of the Roman sites in and around Wall as part of the Roman West Midlands, this lecture will consider Wall before and after the Romans, interpretation and display of the site and finds, and some questions for future research.    

Mike dug at Wall in the 1970s and he regards it as a formative site in his career. He was involved with the M6 Toll when he was Birmingham City Council’s archaeologist, and he is now a member of the Friends of Letocetum who man Wall museum and promote the site.

This lecture forms an introduction to the Society’s excursion to Wall on Saturday 29 October (meet at Wall Museum 2pm) which will consist of a visit to the Museum and a guided walk.

Tuesday 1 November 2016, 7pm-8pm    The Recording and Identification of Barns

With Ken Bonham

kh-leigh_court-3264x2448-15A paper by Francis B. Andrews, a former President of the Society, for BWAS in 1900 described a number of major barns which had been lost and some which were still in existence. He talked about their importance and the need to preserve them. Francis B Andrews  was in fact the president of BWAS.

Horn & Born were two American researchers who did major work on Medieval European Monasteries and produced a monograph “The Barns of the Abbey of Beaulieu at its Granges of Beaulieu St. Leonards and Great Coxwell”. They used the structural details of the existing barn at Great Coxwell plus archaeology to hypothesise the structure of the great barn at Beaulieu St. Leonards.

F.W.B Charles had recorded details of the barn at Bredon just before a fire destroyed most of the roof. He was able to use his research to reconstruct the barn using new timbers spliced into the surviving ones.  Another barn at Pilton in Somerset suffered a similar fate and was also restored through the use of local research.

Cecil Hewett researched the structural joints in the barns of Essex from the 11th to the 11th century to posit a chronology of the development in carpentry and thus date other timber-framed barns. S.E. Rigold did similar work in Kent. There is still much to learn, particularly in the origin and development of cruck-framed barns and the raised-cruck roof.

A number of previously unrecorded barns have recently been excavated, from possible Roman and Saxon ones to later stone foundations as at Southam in Warwickshire. Problems in identifying and dating such finds are: for timber ones the fact that early barns were probably earthfast and so have rotted away completely except for post holes and for both timber and stone barns, the fact that they were used for storage and processing of crops and unless they burnt down, all the organic evidence has gone and there are usually no domestic small finds. The surviving ones were also constantly repaired and modified, but whereas in the case of the manor house, this was probably done for reasons of comfort, fashion and convenience so that alterations can aid in dating, in the case of barns they were pragmatic, ad hoc and responding to the agricultural needs of the time, of which, in the absence of farm records, there is no evidence.

The recording and identification of barns is important archaeologically because it has been estimated that we have lost between 50% and 70% of the barns in England yet for 900 years they were one of the most important buildings in the rural economy. Being able to locate their position, size, structure and date is important to understanding the economy and infrastructure of any community from the Anglo-Saxon period to at least the middle of the 19th century.

The talk will be illustrated but Ken will also be bringing some scale models of some of the barns to view after the lecture.

Tuesday 6 December 2016, 6.45pm-7pm BWAS AGM

Tuesday 6 December 2016 7pm-8pm    New towns in medieval Warwickshire:  the mystery of Bretford

With Prof. Chris Dyer

cd-bretford-2Bretford is a small hamlet in Warwickshire, lying roughly equidistant between Coventry and Rugby. A little to the south, the Fosse Way is carried over the Avon on a medieval five-arch stone bridge.  Although now a very small settlement, Bretford was originally larger, a planned, early 13th-century market town, with the Fosse being diverted from its Roman line to service it. By the 15th century the town had suffered a major decline from which it never recovered.

Prof. Dyer has undertaken extensive field-walking on many medieval settlement sites in Warwickshire, including Bretford. He will present his most recent research in this lecture.


Tuesday 10 January 2017, 1pm-2pm   “I have come after them and made repair”: Understanding Stonehenge through petrology

With Dr. Rob Ixer

ixer-1-100_6641x-polars-correctedImages show samples and a thin section through X-polar light

The precise number, identity, geological provenance and prehistorical significance of the various Stonehenge bluestones have been, and will always remain, contentious, for they provide the stony springboards for speculation. Petrographical re-examination (using ‘total petrography’) of lithic assemblages collected during the last century, plus examination of those from 21st-century excavations, found within Stonehenge and its immediate environs (over 7000 samples), combined with dedicated, geological, in situ collecting has allowed a greater qualification and quantification of the rock types, demonstrated their relative archaeological ‘importance’ and suggested their possible origins. However, the data have also uncovered cryptic questions including: –

Why are some orthostats not represented in the abundant and spatially quite uniform Stonehenge ‘debitage’ …and vice versa?

Why are the geological origins of the non-dolerite bluestone so diverse and often from ‘insignificant’ outcrops?

Detailed rock and mineral geochemistry plus statistical analysis of the ‘debitage’ may answer these and the more straightforward questions.

Tuesday 7 February 2017, 7pm-8pm    Roman Burial in the Upper Thames Valley Region

With Paul Booth

pb-decapitated-burialAberrant burial with skull by knees and pot replacing head!

Work in the Upper Thames Valley in the last twenty years has added considerably to our knowledge of Roman burial practice in the region, with discoveries ranging from individual burials of intrinsic interest to cemetery groups of varying sizes, mostly associated with rural settlements. The new evidence allows us to paint an improved picture of the development of ‘typical’ practice and therefore also enables identification of significant variation from the typical. Radiocarbon has been an important tool for dating burials in the region, with particularly significant results for the late-Roman to early post-Roman period.

Tuesday 7 March 2017, 7pm-8pm    Polesworth Abbey, North Warwickshire

With Nicholas Palmer

pca12-43A nunnery was first founded on the site in the 9th or 10th century. The abbey continued as a Benedictine nunnery until the Dissolution. Today, the ruins of the Cloister and the two storey medieval gateway are all that remain. The Parish Church of St Editha, containing some early 12th-century features,  was originally the  Abbey Church.

Archaeology Warwickshire conducted excavations at the abbey site in 2002-2006, and 2007, uncovering an undercroft and building remains, possibly part of the abbesses’ lodgings or Guest Hall. A community archaeology programme at the abbey was run in 2011 and 2012.

Tuesday 4 April 2017, 7pm-8pm    Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

With Dr. Richard Thomas

rt-deer-herd-and-bradgate-ruinsBradgate Park is located 10km north-west of Leicester and covers an 830-acre recreational park which attracts c. 400,000 visitors each year. The landscape is designated as a SSSI and is described by Natural England as “one of the finest remaining examples of ancient parkland in Leicestershire”. The park was first documented in 1241 but is known primarily as the location of one of the first unfortified brick-built aristocratic houses in England, which was later the birth place and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey: the ‘nine days queen’. The Park is currently the focus of a major University of Leicester archaeological training excavation (2015-2019). The first two seasons of excavation have focused attention upon a medieval moated site, Bradgate House, an enclosure of uncertain date and a late Upper Palaeolithic (Creswellian) open site (c. 15,000 years old). This talk will describe the aims of the fieldschool, details the results of the first two seasons of excavation and set out future plans.

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