HAHG Lecture: Excavations in Market Place, Henley

Leslie Capon, assisted by Catherine Edwards, of AOC Archaeology gave the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group a presentation on their recent excavations in advance of Murphy’s development in the Market Place in Henley.

This excavation covered burgage plots (tenanted town land) behind buildings in the Market Place and Bell Street. About 80% of this area proved to be of archaeological interest. The plots – originally open and possibly shared dated from the 12th or 13th century and were used for growing food and for domestic animals; later, as the population became more prosperous, they became more enclosed, private and used for leisure purposes.

Particular features included walls separating the plots, wells, cess pits, floors and working areas – some with hammer scale, showing smithing activity. Most of the small finds were ceramics – including clay tobacco pipes (which can be dated by their shape), and an attractive (but broken) 16th to 17th century charger (food serving dish).

Excavation is now complete, although analysis of the findings is still ongoing. A particular objective is to trace the development of individual plots through their history. The completion of the report is planned for later in 2020 – it should make interesting reading.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, 4 February, when John Painter will talk to us on Reading Abbey and its relationship with the town.