HAHG Lecture: The Blewbury Big Dig

Dr David Carless of SOAG (the South Oxfordshire Archaeology Group) spoke to Henley Archaeological and Historical Group at their monthly meeting on 7 May about the archaeology of Blewbury and especially about the excavations done by SOAG with the Blewbury Historical Group.

The first historical mention of Blewbury was in a Saxon charter of 944AD, where it was already referred to as ‘ancient’. There were certainly Bronze Age barrows and an Iron Age camp on the neighbouring hills. Aerial photographs show a rectangular double-ditched enclosure near these features, which proved on investigation to contain a mysterious deep shaft and appeared to be Roman. The antiquity of the present village remained uncertain, although Anglosaxon burials have been found in the village.

The area of Blewbury has changed little since the medieval period, until the development which took place in the early 20th century and later. The archaeologists dug a series of 42 test pits at various points around the village. Many of these yielded pottery sherds, some dating back to the early Anglosaxon period (5th to 8th centuries, supporting the ‘ancient’ description of the village in the Charter), but nothing earlier than this.

The most interesting discovery was made on the site of a new house development. Excavation of an intriguing-looking rectangular patch of dark-coloured earth revealed the presence of a ‘sunken-featured building’ – a typical early Saxon structure (like the reconstruction shown in the picture).

Next month’s talk will be on 4th June, when Robert Heath-Whyte will tell us about Chalgrove church and its internationally important medieval wall paintings.