Thursday, 11 August 2022

Henley Archaeological and Historical Group

THIS summer we had two interesting outings.

On May 17, we visited historic Kelmscott and Buscott Park.

We were welcomed at Kelmscott with tea, coffee and scones and divided into two groups which took turns to tour the house and garden.

It was a beautiful day with a bright blue sky and, as we listened to our guide describing the lives of William Morris and his friends, the actual birds mentioned in the poetry arrived. It was quite magical.

The tour of the house was equally fascinating and our guides were superb, leading us up a set of stairs which had one-and-a-half steps and showing us the most important features of the house and its contents.

Lunch was a ploughman’s with cheese or ham or soup and a bread roll, all cooked freshly in the manor kitchen.

Buscott Park was very different from Kelmscott with such a contrast between a comfortable, cosy home with the emphasis on age- old skills and craftsmanship to a stately home where money was no object with beautiful furniture and elegant rooms decorated with the paintings of Burne-Jones, Murillo and Rembrandt.

The gardens led down to a lake and we were free to explore and enjoy refreshments before boarding the coach for the journey home. Everybody had enjoyed the day.

On June 16, 16 members enjoyed a walking tour through Blewbury and a visit to nearby Blewburton Hill.

We met our local guide Audrey Long at the Red Lion pub in the centre of historic Blewbury.

We were greeted by a bright sunshine and gardens full of flowers as well as a very knowledgeable metal detectorist who gave us a brief account of numerous recent finds, which had led to the discovery of some Roman habitation in the area.

Despite some infill deveopment to accommodate newcomers to the village, especially 19th century farm workers, there is still an amazing amount of open green spaces within the village, although it lacks a traditional green.

The early farmers must have erected their farmhouses, barns and stables on good-sized tofts/crofts with paddocks for grazing.

All were well watered by numerous springs which now form a network of streams with pedestrian paths throughout the village, giving access to many timber- framed medieval and Tudor period dwellings, the medieval church, the early 18th century school, almshouses, a mill and moated manor house.

The location on the spring line below the Downs must have attracted early farmers away from the dry Blewburton Hill.

By the time the Anglo- Saxons arrived and gave the village and hill its name (ton meaning farmstead) the Bronze/Iron Age hill fort was only used as a burial ground. Excavations have found some evidence of early settlers.

We have secured a talk for May 2019 by Dave Carless, who is a Blewbury archaeologist and chairman of the South Oxfordshire Archaeological Group (SOAG).

On October 25 SOAG will be given a lecture by Peter Warry called “The evolution of Roman ceramic building material in southern England” at Whitchurch Hill village hall.

For more information, call Andrew Allum on (01491) 578993 or Ruth Gibson on (01491) 572271.

Our group’s autumn lecture series is as follows:

October 2 — Jill Eyers on “Boudicca: warrior queen or rebel?”

Who was Boudicca? What precisely happened during and shortly after the Roman invasion of Britain, and how did we get to the rebellion of some British tribes in AD 60? This talk goes into the hard evidence.

Dr Eyers was a professional geologist who undertook research projects in the UK and abroad.

More recently, she has been director of Chiltern Archaeology. She has been a lecturer for the Open University since 1987.

November 6 — Phillada Ballard on “Culham Court”.

The lecture will cover the history of the Thames-side estate of Culham Court from medieval times to the early 21st century.

Like many Berkshire estates, Culham has been in the ownership of a succession of families. The present villa was built around 1770 when the estate was owned by Richard Michell, a London lawyer.

The house still enjoys what has been described as a “glorious and unspoilt setting as can be imagined”.

Its escape from development will be discussed at the lecture.

The lecturer is a historian specialising in the landscaping and history of suburban and rural estates.

Lectures are held at King’s Arms Barn, off the King’s Road (Waitrose) car park in Henley, at 7.45pm. All are welcome; entry for non-members is £4.

The annual meeting will take place on December 4 with members’ brief contributions and refreshments.

Chairman Pam Syrett will stand down after four years. We are facing a critical situation and if we cannot resolve our problems then the group will fail.

It would be so sad for a special town like Henley not to have a group interested in history and archaeology. We require volunteers to join the committee and take over some of the tasks. Importantly, they must have basic computer skills.

We have had a number of younger people joining our group, which is very encouraging, but we do need more people to be involved.

For more information about the group, visit www.henley-on-thames

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