Brandiers Farm, Minety, Wiltshire

A Community Research Project

At the beginning of July 2022, we opened up three trenches in a pasture field at Brandiers Farm, Minety, to start two weeks of community excavations at the site of what was thought to be a Roman tile kiln. The ‘community’ in this case was a mix of local residents, some of our established volunteers and work-experience students, and members of the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group, all guided in the art of archaeological excavation and recording by five of our professional staff. At the end of the fortnight, the results exceeded all our expectations – not just in the significance of the remains uncovered, but also in how the community project developed over those two weeks, bringing together our staff, specialist advisors and sponsors with the community volunteers and the landowners, creating a positive and valued experience for everyone involved.

Site background

Archaeologically, Minety is well known as having been an important production centre of Roman ceramic building material (brick and tile) and, later, of medieval pottery too. Two kilometres to the north-west of Brandiers is Park Farm, Oaksey, where the remains of two Roman tile kilns were excavated in the 1970s and 80s. These were thought to have been the place of manufacture of tiles stamped ‘LHS’ or ‘TPF’, which are well known from Roman sites in Gloucestershire, despite none actually being found during the excavations there.

Back at Brandiers, our field was known to contain another possible kiln site, from the scatters of tile fragments found around a pronounced earthwork mound – could this have been a tile kiln, perhaps the actual place of origin for the stamped tiles? A geophysical survey found that there was widespread magnetic debris around the mound, plus several other anomalies – certainly enough evidence to justify opening up a trench or three to try to find out!

The excavations

The planning for the Community Research Project, and details of its spectacular results, can be followed through the series of stories published on our website (linked below), with further details and interpretations to be found in our ‘Ask an Archaeologist’ Q&A video, which was shot on site during the excavations (again linked below). In summary, the project uncovered the remains of an incredibly well-preserved Roman tile kiln and huge dumps of waste tile and kiln rake-out, from which a total of 36 stamped tiles were recovered that included examples of all the ‘TPF’ stamp categories, and a few ‘LHS’ tiles too. All the evidence suggests that it was the Brandiers kiln, rather than those at Park Farm, that was the centre of manufacture of Gloucestershire’s stamped Roman tiles.

TPFC tile - found during Brandiers Farm excavation (Community Research Project)

Volunteers’ feedback

“I’d like to say a big thank you for giving me the opportunity to play a small part in the excavation at Brandiers Farm.  I enjoyed every minute of my time with your fantastic team, both professionals and volunteers. I have learned so much from you all.“

“I had an amazing time working with Cotswold at Minety and would love to help on future projects if possible, thank you for making me feel welcomed”

“I enjoyed being part of this project much more than I had anticipated.  I learned so much from both professional archaeologists and volunteers. The project was very well organised and managed by your excellent team.”

Social value and public benefit

But it was not just the archaeology that made the community research project at Brandiers such a success, it was also its social value and public benefit, bringing together people from different walks of life, and enhancing their archaeological skills and knowledge of the past. During those two weeks, 34 volunteers gave at total of 96 days (or 576 hours) of their time – more were requested, but we couldn’t physically accommodate any more each day!

We were also pleased to welcome visits from ten of our fellow professionals and academics, all keen to see the results of the community endeavours. And beyond Brandiers, progress on site was tracked by huge numbers of social media followers enjoying our stream of news updates and videos, which attracted around 20,000 post engagements across our social media platforms, and a post reach of over 300,000.

As it the way with successful archaeology projects, the results raised as many new questions as were answered – and we are pleased to say that we will be back at Brandiers for a second season in 2023, to looks for more kilns and tiles, as well as any evidence for ancillary buildings or contemporary settlement.

Martin Watts

Brandiers Farm Kiln Project Q&A Session