The PAGE website

2016 November Website Update

Familiar website but a new .org.uk domain

The Campaign has had to move its website to a different domain. The 'old' site at www.pagecampaign.org is, unfortunately, still live but we no longer have access to maintain or update it, so our website now lives here at www.pagecampaign.org.uk.

This also means that previous .org email addresses may not be received, so please make the necessary changes to your contact lists, adding a '.uk' to the end after the '.org'.

The website has been rebuilt retaining the familiar visual style of the previous site but you may come across some errors or hiccups for a while – so please report any issues to our webmaster by using the link at the foot of the page.

Please for inclusion on the site via our new comments@ email address.

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Our Local Heritage

The Dorchester - Stadhampton - Benson - Warborough area of the Thames Valley is a rich, diverse and internationally important archaeological resource.

There is significant evidence of archaeology dating from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic / early Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Roman period and the Anglo-Saxon period.

The areas around Dorchester and Warborough contain substantial numbers of Scheduled Ancient Monuments. And within their landscape context, the archaeology in the PAGE area has a number of special features which make this part of the Thames Valley internationally important:

  • the rarity of some of the monuments
  • the value of the monuments when grouped together
  • the diversity of the monuments and the periods represented
  • the scientific and cultural significance of the sites
  • the educational value of the archaeology throughout the area

Gravel extraction in the PAGE area threatens to destroy this local heritage forever.

Cropmarksoverlay
Location of cropmarks and other land demarcations indicating sites of archaeological interest.

The Palaeolithic

The Palaeolithic (or Old Stone Age) is one of the most enigmatic of archaeological periods. Lasting from the dawn of humanity until the end of the last ice age its remains have been subject to extensive erosion and natural destruction.

Hand axes and other flint tools have been found in the Berinsfield area, with a scattering of other similar finds from Dorchester to Stadhampton.

The Neolithic / early Bronze Age

The henge monument to the north of Dorchester, known locally as the "big rings", was lost to aggregates extraction in the 1970s. The Dorchester henge was one of 8 henge monuments known in the UK, similar to Avebury or Stonehenge. This henge monument and the surrounding cursus and ritual complex demonstrate an important concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age activity.

Dorchester henge - artist impression
Artists impression of a Bronze Age henge monument.

The henge spawned a network of sites in two distinct corridors - one running north-east towards Stadhampton and one running south-east towards Benson and beyond. Within these corridors there is a concentration of other Neolithic monuments including a causewayed enclosure, long mortuary enclosures, other settlements, stretches of cursus and a range of associated ritual and funerary sites.

Many of these monuments are easily recognisable from aerial photography, which manifest themselves as cropmarks and other demarcations in the land.

Dorchester Big Rings
Aerial photograph of the Dorchester "big rings."

Professor Roger Mercer from Edinburgh University, an expert on the Neolithic and Bronze Age described our stretch of the River Thames as "an area of quite extraordinary richness in terms of prehistoric activity not only in its British context but when compared with an equivalent area in North-West Europe."

Professor Alasdair Whittle, from Cardiff University, also an expert of the Neolithic, described the area under threat as "a complex prehistoric landscape, with a startling concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, among other features, which collectively constitute an archaeological resource of national significance, comparable in importance for example to those around Avebury and Stonehenge."

Humphrey Case, former Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and an expert both on the Neolithic and the archaeology of the area, has pointed to the importance of the monuments in the PAGE region: "This is one of the few remaining cropmark complexes undestroyed by gravel quarrying in the Upper Thames region, and every effort should be made to preserve it."

Drayton St Leonard crop marks
Flickr Slideshow of aerial photographs near Drayton St Leonard & Stadhampton, indicating underlying archaeology (thanks to George Farrant and Charles Dickerson).

The Iron Age

The hillfort at Wittenham Clumps and the Dyke Hills at Dorchester provide a visible focus of Iron Age activity and are good indications of sites of human settlement.

The combination of these monuments bears direct comparison with the oppida or town-like conglomerations known elsewhere in western Europe at this period.

These sites were one element of a network of settlements and farms across the area which produced a dynamic Iron Age society in the region. An example of one of these settlements was an Iron Age farmstead which was excavated in the Warborough area in 2003 during work on a Transco gas pipeline.

Many Iron Age artefacts have been found in the Drayton St Leonard area - during the 2003 PAGE Campaign, the fieldwalking investigations uncovered a gold Cunobelin stater coin, one of only 66 in the UK.

Cunobelin
Drayton St Leonard Cunobelin stater.

"This area constitutes a very rare example of what archaeologists refer to as a 'preferred location.' That is a landscape which has, for a variety of reasons, been used as a central location for communal activity over a very long period of time. Such locations are exceedingly rare in Europe and it could quite reasonably argued that the Dorchester region is unique." Professor Barry Cunliffe, University of Oxford

The Roman Period

The Roman town of Dorchester provided a hub for the settlement and commercial activity for the region in the Roman period.

The extent of the hinterland to this town can be seen in the large associated cemeteries. The most impressive of these is the one at Church Piece, Warborough. Archaeological excavations here led to the discovery of a lead and stone coffins. There is also the Scheduled Ancient Monument in the large, open field between Warborough and Benson (SMR 8580) showing the presence of Roman agriculture with archaeological finds of animal burials and a Roman corn dryer.

The extent of the Roman occupation of the Berinsfield area can also be seen through field systems and pottery production at several Scheduled Ancient Monument sites.

The Anglo-Saxon Period

Occupation at Dorchester clearly continued well beyond the Roman period. In 635AD, Bishop Birinus arrived from Rome to preach Christianity to the West Saxons and to baptise King Cynegil, giving him Dorchester as an episcopal seat.

The size of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Wally Corner, Berinsfield illustrates the extent of the settlement in this area.

Early Saxon material has been found at Berinsfield, Long Wittenham and Benson.

The proposed gravel extraction in the PAGE area threatens to destroy the environment of this local heritage forever. Join the PAGE Campaign to protect this internationally important area of outstanding historical value.

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