Nestled in a shallow Wiltshire valley, on land swathed in the typically undulating ridge and furrow of the medieval, is Brandiers Farm. For nearly forty years, Brandiers has been home to the Lavery family – Peter and Kimberley Lavery bought the old farmhouse in Minety, north Wiltshire, while Kimberley was pregnant with their second son, Olly. In the ensuing decades the family, with eldest son Tom, have extensively converted, renovated, and repaired the farm. These renovations have revealed a succession of older structures – whole cobbled yards, long forgotten hearths, and the foundations of a complex of buildings far larger and significantly older than the contemporary farmhouse.
The family’s landscaping and rewilding efforts, however, have begun to reveal secrets about the past lives of the Brandiers land – it’s hard to miss the wealth of fired clay pieces laying liberally on the soil’s surface. Roman in origin, some are clearly stamped or marked with graffiti; they are pottery, brick, and roof tile, and comparable examples can be seen in the local museums.
It’s well known that Minety was an important production centre of Roman ceramic building material (CBM) and, later, medieval pottery. The results of a recent geophysical survey of a pronounced earthwork on the Lavery’s land, along with the lavish scatters of Roman tile and fired clay, make it highly likely that Brandiers Farm is the site of a Roman tile kiln. For two weeks this July, we’ll be leading a team of local volunteers on a research dig at Brandiers, searching for evidence that the site is linked to the clustered industry of Minety’s Roman CBM production. Could it have served Bath? Might it even be the civic kiln for Cirencester (Roman corinium)? We’ll be on the lookout for two particular tile types, known as ‘LHS’ and ‘TPF’, to try to ascertain whether these were made here.
In the longer term, the Lavery family have plans to create a retreat and community hub in Brandiers’ existing buildings, supporting rehabilitation, the arts, education, and ecology. Our archaeological explorations form part of this project, resurrecting some of Brandiers’ past for rural-skills education, artistic endeavour, and experimental archaeology. We’ll be bringing you more information on the significance of the Brandiers site, before we start the dig in early July.