Friends and Romans

Wall is just a few miles south west of Lichfield and is of course the site of a Roman settlement known as Letocetum. Remains of a bath house and a ‘mansio‘ are still visible at the site, and there’s also a small museum in the village displaying some of the archaeological finds from the area, although sadly not the statue of Minerva, supposedly broken into pieces shortly after discovery to mend the bank of a drain (assuming that such a statue actually existed in the first place…)

Since visiting Wall last month, my interest in the place has grown and grown. As well as the occupation of the site by the Romans themselves, I’m also interested in the period prior to their arrival –  several carved stone thought to indicate the presence of a Celtic shrine at the site have been discovered.

Roman re-enactors at Kelmarch 2013 A D, but was the real thing in Lichfield in 300 A.D?

I’m also intrigued by how Letocetum relates to the later settlement at Lichfield.  One of the early medieval buildings excavated at Cross Keys, during work on the car park in 2007/08, was found to incorporate reused Roman masonry and there have also been other stray Roman finds in and around the city. Coins have been discovered near Sandfields and at Streethay. Roman pottery, including an inscribed mortarium, was apparently discovered at a place known as ‘Toad’s Hole Piece’, an area later known as Christian Fields and in 1802, a Roman Cyathus, fragments of pottery and human bones were reported to have been discovered during construction of a malt house on the causeway between Bird St and Beacon St.

Some of the finds discovered at Toad’s Hole Piece, later part of the area known as Christian Fields.

Wall is a fascinating place and a lovely village to visit. What’s more, there is a family open day at the site tomorrow (Sunday 4th August) between 11am and 4pm, organised by the Friends of Letocetum. I understand that as well as guided walks around the site and the village, there will also be children’s activities and replicas of items from the Staffordshire Hoard on display. You can find out more via their Facebook site here.

Sources: https://lichfieldlore.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/lichfieldeusreportfinal.pdf http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=306575 http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=307078
http://www.sahs.uk.net/Volume%20XXXIII.pdf

Treasure Hunt

I love finding bits of old pottery in the lanes around Leomansley. I was told by the archaeologist at the Polesworth Abbey dig last year that there are two types of pottery finds, those that indicate occupation of the land, and those that have been deposited there, through processes such as manuring (1).

Two of my most interesting finds (Disclaimer: interesting to me that is! Don’t get too excited, we aren’t talking Leomansley Hoard here!) were in the lane leading from Christ Church Lane, past Martin Heath hall and ending at the football field on the A51 (I have seen it referred to as Moggs Lane). Judging by old maps, it seems to have existed for at least 180 years.

I found this girl guide badge, and it made me think about the old scout hut behind Martin Heath hall that was replaced by a new one in September 2009. The old hall was a bit of a wreck, and quite clearly needed to be replaced, as you can see from these photos here, but I’m glad someone did document it as it has an interesting history. Apparently, it started life as a WW1 cadet hut at Cannock Chase. It was then acquired by the Electricity Board and found its way to Queen St, Lichfield. In the 1950s, it was donated to the scouts and was relocated to Christ Church.

The lane past Martin Heath hall, off Christ Church Lane.

I also found this piece of pottery. Unlike most of the other bits I find, this had a very distinctive pattern i.e. a dog! and I thought that because of that it might be easier to find out more about what it was part of and how old it was.

Thanks to extensive googling, using phrases like ‘dogs on bowls’, I eventually sifted through the many, many pet feeding related search results to find that it was possibly a Brampton stoneware jug from the early to mid-nineteenth cenutury, featuring a pattern known as ‘The Kill’. Yes, my pottery sherd depicted a dog tearing a fox to shreds. Nice.

I know from reading old newspaper articles that once upon a time, not so long ago, Leomansley was quite the hunting ground. The Lichfield Mercury used to carry reports of the hunts through Leomansley and Sloppy Woods.  This photo is from a 1936 edition of the Mercury, and shows the South Staffordshire Hounds gathered at Maple Hayes. I have no idea whether the pottery sherd is related to this in anyway, but I thought it was an interesting find, especially in view of this past association with hunting. A little echo of the area’s history that managed to worked its way free of the soil.

PS Off to have my own hunt in Leomansley Woods later. This time for bluebells.

Notes

(1) Domestic rubbish such as broken pots was mixed with the animal manure and then spread on the fields to fertilise the soil.

Lost in the Woods

Whenever I see an object out of place it intrigues me.  I’m not talking litter here, I mean the things that are dropped by accident, things that are left behind. Lost property. Things that might (or might not!) interest future archaeologists if they were to discover them in a couple of centuries time.  I want to know the story behind them, who they belonged to & how they ended up lost, but I realise that I might be on my own with this one! 

I’ve put together a gallery of things found on the path past Leomansley Wood to Pipe Green and on the Green itself.

Lost by a horse, found by a friend. Brownhills Bob told me that it's not that old. Still lucky though!

 

 

Dropped by someone in need of a lucky horseshoe? Or on the way home from the fair?

Lost whilst blackberrying?

 

Dropped after an impromptu paddle in the brook?

 

See above!

 

In the rough. Not sure Leomansley Wood makes a great fairway.

Or a great rugby pitch either.

I guess the robber escaped from the cop.

 

The remnants of an overenthusiastic dog's toy?

I would ask people to send me photographs of things they’ve found, but I appreciate that I might be the only person in Lichfield who goes around taking photographs of old socks!