Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Henley Archaeological and Historical Group

DURING a recent walk along the Thames from Hurley to Temple a long fence made entirely

DURING a recent walk along the Thames from Hurley to Temple a long fence made entirely of tall, Welsh slate slabs was discovered along the footpath, separating it from a property which may have been, or maybe still is, part of land belonging to Temple House. The house had been acquired by Thomas Williams in 1790.

It transpires that the water mill at Temple had been part of the copper works at Marlow, which belonged to the Welsh copper king.

Temple Mills were engaged in rolling copper sheets and bolts for the navy and tanks for distillers.

The copper supplies would have come from Anglesey, where most of Williams’s business interests lay (The Copper King by J R Harris).

In the 19th century Welsh roof slates began to make a serious impact on local roof- scapes. There are many examples in Henley.

Thirty members and guests walked from Bix Common to Bix Bottom in search of the medieval churches of St James’s and St Michael’s this summer.

Bix is a large, dispersed parish and the two manorial lords of Bix Brand and Bix Gibwyn each had a church built along the valley bottom road, once the king’s highway but now a dead end leading only as far as the nature reserve and then continuing as a footpath.

Both churches were eventually abandoned as the population first dwindled and then moved towards the newly improved toll road on higher ground in the late 18th century.

St James’s of Bix Brand survived until it was replaced by the newly built and consecrated church next to Bix Common Field in 1875.

St Michael’s was completely lost, only vaguely remembered in a field called Little Chapel located in a bend of the road and shown on the 1725 Stonor estate map.

Thanks to recent archaeological investigations, part of the churchyard of St Michael’s was rediscovered in the back garden of Keeper’s Cottage, Bix Bottom. The church probably stood in the centre of its graveyard, where the modern houses are.

One long trench excavated in 2009/10 showed 16 skeletons, all laid out facing east and without grave goods — clearly Christian burials.

Dates obtained from bone samples showed that this churchyard was used from the 12th century to about 1600. On August 3, 30 members enjoyed a visit to the Houses of Parliament.

They joined official guided tours, visiting the Lords and Commons chambers as well as less familiar areas, including the Queen’s robing room, the Royal Gallery, lobbies and St Stephen’s Hall before finishing in Westminster Hall.

The next lecture will be “Excavations at Marcham — a big Roman and Iron Age site” by Gary Lock at King’s Arms Barn on November 3 at 7.45pm. All welcome. Members free, non-members £3.

The annual meeting followed by refreshments will be held on December 1.

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