A newly discovered Roman villa at Stoke Gifford, South Gloucestershire

In the autumn of 2016, Cotswold Archaeology excavated a site on land previously owned by Dings Crusaders Rugby Football Club, Stoke Gifford, prior to development of the site for housing by Redrow Homes South West. The excavation revealed remarkable evidence for a Roman villa and many associated features. While many of the villa’s walls and floor surfaces had been removed once the building fell into disuse, in some areas intact walls and floors survived, allowing us to get a good understanding of the layout of the villa. Well-preserved features included the remains of hypocausts and evidence for a courtyard or garden, as well as a series of outbuildings, external to the main courtyard and house.

Plan of the main villa residence
Plan of the main villa residence (green)

The complete, modern excavation of a Romano-British villa is immensely exciting as it provides us with a rare opportunity to consider the function and socio-economic status of such sites in detail. Many Roman villas were excavated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the advent of modern archaeological techniques. The excavation of the main villa building, courtyard and ancillary buildings has provided us with the chance to gather exceptionally important information about the development and organisation of Romano-British villa estates. While we will only gain a proper understanding of the site through full post-excavation analysis, we are already able to say a good deal about the development of this villa over time.

3D model of the villa prior to excavation (links to further 3D models can be found at the bottom of the page)

Early Origins

The site began during the Late Iron Age or Early Roman period as a sub-oval enclosure, which contained a roundhouse and a scatter of associated pits and postholes. During the early Roman period, perhaps during the 1st to 2nd centuries AD, fields, paddocks and trackways were laid out over part of the site, replacing the earlier enclosure.

Between the 2nd and late 3rd/early 4th centuries AD the site was occupied by a timber structure with at least two rooms, along with a broadly contemporary rectangular stone-built building. This seems to have been a barn, and it produced good evidence for industrial or agricultural processing.

The Villa

The settlement was completely remodelled in the later Roman period, during the later 3rd or 4th centuries, when a substantial residence, a walled courtyard and a range of ancillary buildings were built over the remains of the earlier buildings. This later complex evidently developed over time, with at least three phases of construction identified.

Channelled hypocaust system in the south range
Channelled hypocaust system in the south range
Extension at the front of the north range
Extension at the front of the north range

The main house originated as a simple rectangular building containing three rooms, but over time projecting wings were added to the north and south, while the north wing was sub-divided into three rooms, including a kitchen. In the south wing there was a large living room, heated by a channelled hypocaust system. A further development included the addition of a range of rooms to the rear of the building, one of which contained a hypocaust system. At this stage a portico was also added to the front of the house, extending between the projecting wings. The main house had now reached its maximum extent, c. 29m long and c. 21m wide.

In the post-Roman period the floors and wall foundations were robbed out, presumably for use elsewhere, although it is unclear when this robbing occurred. There is little evidence for activity between the Roman and later post-medieval periods. A number of ditches and furrows attest to the agricultural use of the site during the post-medieval period, until it was developed as the rugby club in the 1940’s.

Finds from the site

The excavations produced a wide range of evidence, which may be of use for telling us about the function of the villa and earlier buildings (and whether this changed over time), along with insights into the social status and perhaps even some of the beliefs of the settlement’s occupants. Discoveries included an inhumation burial, probably dating to the late 2nd or 3rd century AD and a human cremation, buried within a small pottery vessel.

The site produced a rich finds assemblage, including dress accessories, a coin hoard, and, most interesting of all, an extremely rare bronze hanging lamp. This exciting object has been examined by Anthony Beeson, and will be the subject of a further website story in the coming weeks!

Mark Brett, Senior Project Officer

More 3D models of the Roman villa features are on our Sketchfab page


Andover’s outcast dead: exploring an Anglo-Norman execution cemetery

Current archaeology awards logo wit the link to voteThe 2019 Current Archaeology Award nominations have been announced, and we are excited to share with you that our investigations on Weyhill Road, Andover, have been nominated for Rescue Project of the Year!

Projects nominated for this award are those where the archaeology was threatened by human or natural agencies. In this instance, a brownfield site was chosen as the planned location of a new Aldi store on the western edge of Andover. Supported and funded by Aldi, we began working on site in 2016 with a watching brief which later developed into an excavation due to the discovery of the remains of cemetery containing the graves of at least 124 people.

person in yellow ppe and a hardhat excavating two skeletons with a trowelAnalysis of these individuals has indicated that the majority were those of younger males, and many of the bodies and their burial rites (including decapitation, bound hands, being laid in the grave face down etc.) suggest that they died subject to punishment under a legal system.  A few examples of this sort of special ‘punishment cemetery’ have been found before from late Anglo-Saxon times with occasional hints that they may have continued after the Norman Conquest. Our radiocarbon dates have shown that this happened at Weyhill. It has previously been thought that in the medieval period most criminals would have been buried in normal cemeteries, but our dates provide by far the most comprehensive evidence yet that in some places at least punishment cemeteries continued in use well into the medieval period.  This makes the site rare and of national significance.

We need your support!

All nominations for the Current Archaeology Awards are based on articles and books featured within Current Archaeology over the last 12 months. We are grateful for the nomination and for the recognition  that this project has received. It is a great investigation to be part of, and we have enjoyed every minute so far. We hope you do too!  Voting for the awards is live (until 11th February 2019) and is open to everyone. We, and the project, would be very grateful for your vote!

To read more about the project, please visit:

Weyhill, Andover – an Anglo-Norman execution cemetery (Cotswold Archaeology website)
Andover’s outcast dead: Exploring an Anglo-Norman execution cemetery (Current Archaeology website)

Committed to engaging and connecting with local communities with their local heritage, several interested local groups have joined us to hear updates about the project. If you are interested in finding out more details, please contact

Dove Lane, Bristol

These household items were discovered in the demolition rubble of urban terraced properties excavated in the St Paul’s area of Bristol. All the items are made of animal bone (apart from the mother-of-pearl button) and were manufactured in the days before plastic became ubiquitous for many household items. They reflect aspects of domestic life, including lace making, which may have been undertaken as piece-work to supplement the household income.

The houses where these objects were found were constructed on open ground during the massive expansion of Bristol’s suburbs in the late 18th or early 19th century. Some of the properties in this area suffered bomb damage during the blitz (WWII) and were cleared during the post-war years, with commercial properties erected in their stead. Parts of the basements or semi-basements survived below ground level and were back-filled with rubble, in which these objects were found.

We are indebted to Places for People for funding these investigations before the redevelopment of the area. A full report of the excavations Dove Lane, St Paul’s Bristol Archaeological Evaluation and Excavation Report no 18336 will shortly be available to download from our Reports Online website.

Mary Alexander

bone tattle shuttle and bobbin
This photo shows a tattle shuttle (above) and a bobbin (below). Both relate to lace making. The green staining on the tattle shuttle comes from corrosion of the copper-alloy rivets.


four circular bone objects - two discs and two buttons
In this photo the two perforated bone discs at the top of the photo are the end sections of thread spools used in textile manufacture or textile working, used to keep thread bobbins on a spool. The other two objects are buttons, the one on the left of the photo is bone and the one on the right is of mother of pearl.


three views of post-medieval toothbrush (with missing bristles)
This photo is of a toothbrush, engraved with ‘Giles, Schacht and Co., Chemists, Clifton’. From historical records dated to 1890 we know that the company was operational in the late 19th century (Richmond et al. 2017*). The green staining on the back suggests the bristles were of held in place with copper-alloy wire The bristles were probably of coarse boar’s hair.

*Richmond, L., Stevenson, J. and Turton, A. 2017 (eds) The Pharmaceutical Industry: A Guide to Historical Records Abingdon, Routledge

Exeter team is moving to a new office!

Wednesday 17 October 2018 was a red-letter day for our Exeter team. After much searching we have finally moved into new larger premises, less than 5 minutes from our old office!

The new office gives us much greater flexibility, space to grow and the ability to deliver a wider range of services.

Fortunately we were able to take on the new office a few weeks before our move date so the process of moving over has been relatively pain free and has allowed us to function as normal through the process.

We will be settling in and making the most of the extra space we now have, there is even talk of buying a table tennis table, so we will all be fitter and have better hand – eye coordination!

Our new contact details:

No 1 Clyst Units, Cofton Road
Marsh Barton, Exeter

Phone number: 01392 573970

Ipplepen Open Day

Throughout the summer, Exeter University have been excavating a site at Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot in Devon. The site is being investigated by the university as an annual student training and community excavation and is part of the HLF-funded ‘Understanding Landscapes’ project. Jerry, from Cotswold Archaeology’s Exeter office, has been working with the university to help train students and members of the local community in archaeological techniques.

This year, the excavations have yielded interesting settlement-related features of Iron Age and Roman date, as well as what may be part of a Christian cemetery: the graves were laid out on an east-west orientation, although they are yet to be firmly dated.

view on the excavation site at Ipplepen

On Saturday 8th September, as the season’s excavations drew to a close, members of the public were invited to an open day at the site. Staff from Cotswold Archaeology’s Exeter Office and Outreach team were on hand during the day to encourage visitors, old and young, to ask questions about what they had seen during their visit and learn more about the history of their village. Plenty of exciting activities were provided, and many families left contently with their own decorated Roman coins and split-pin Roman soldiers. Emily and Zoe went dressed for the occasion, but even they couldn’t match the clothes, weapons and armour of the Roman reenactors who took part in the day.

activities for children

Emily and Zoe dressed up in Roman clothes

The day was a great success and over 600 people took part in the site tour and visited the stalls. We all eagerly await the results of future excavations at Ipplepen, and look forward to learning about what else the site will reveal in years to come!

Zoe Arkley

New Trustees

Our charitable status is an important aspect of Cotswold Archaeology, but we can’t be a charity without trustees who are responsible for setting our overall direction and ensuring good corporate governance. Trustees don’t get paid; they perform the role because they believe in us and care about what we are doing. In September we welcomed three new people onto the Board of Trustees, and it is pleasing in particular that we now have greater female representation at this level. So welcome to Laura Evis, Clare Kirk and Christopher Young. Bob Bewley has decided to stand down from the Board owing to pressure of work, but becomes one of our academic advisors. Thank you for your contribution Bob over the last three years.

new trustees at CA
Left to right: Laura Evis, Clare Kirk and Christopher Young