Recent Events
Last EDAS Lecture
Our last EDAS lecture of 2005 was "Shillingstone Roman Villa", given by Peter Cox of AC Archaeology, who is well known to EDAS. Peter stepped in at short notice for the scheduled lecturer, Jon Valentin, also of AC.

The site was discovered by geophysics in the archaelogical survey which preceded the land being converted to housing. AC Archaeology led the dig, and were assisted by some EDAS members. The discovery was important, because it filled a ‘gap’ in the Roman landscape where some form of occupation might have been expected.

Excavation revealed a long building, which consisted of a single line of rooms with an external corridor. A bath house was also found at one end, which had a furnace room with stoke hole. There was some evidence for, but no actual remains of, mosaics in some of the rooms. Although obviously Roman, the building plan was not very typical of a standard Roman villa. Also, the bath house was thought to be too large for the number of rooms found. Peter discussed the possibility of this being a Mansio, which provided overnight accommodation for Roman officials who were travelling on business. This possibility was strengthened by a very straight trackway nearby, which could have been a minor Roman Road.

The situation was then confused when an additional set of Roman buildings was found nearby by trial excavation; these had not shown up at all on the original geophysics. This opened up the possibility that the villa had a more standard arrangement, with only part of it being seen at first. It was also discovered that the site had been known many decades ago, but the site had not been officially recorded, and was then forgotten.

About 60 people attended the lecture, and afterwards we were treated to mince pies with our coffee. Thank you to all members who brought food along.

Peter prepared his lecture at short notice using Jon’s slides and unfamiliar ‘high-tech’ display equipment. We thank Peter very much for a very interesting and enjoyable presentation.


Dorset Local History Day School.  February 4th. Saturday 10am - 5pm.

"Getting about in Dorset". Transport and Communications in Historic Dorset. Dorchester Museum. Tickets £15. Booking essential.


On behalf of EDAS, Sonia Ellingham presented James and Julia Mallett, the farmer and his wife, with a framed drawing that she had made of the excavated henge. This was a token of our appreciation of their permission to dig on their land and their constant support, interest and kindness during the excavation last September.

A number of volunteers have expressed their wish to return to the site this year. There is a difference of opinion as to whether any further excavation of the monument is archaeologically justified. In any case, as a Society, we cannot afford to return in 2006 to carry out a similar exercise to that done last year. The General Committee has expressed its wish that we should put our efforts, and available funds, into writing an Interim Report this month (to be published this year) and an Assessment Report later this year (to be published in 2007). There is a considerable amount of post-excavation volunteer work to be done, including finds marking, processing of environmental samples, illustrations, etc.

However, it may be possible, this year, to field-walk the remainder of Higgins Field and to carry out some geophysical surveying of the field. We could then, perhaps, return to Higgins Field to investigate any findings from this work and to revisit the henge site to address any outstanding archaeological questions. This would, of course, be subject to the Mallets' permission and to satisfactory prorgress being made in the post-2005 excavation work.

I would be most grateful if members would let me know if they would be prepared to help with post-excavation work at Down Farm at weekends, starting on 14/15 January. It is somewhat incumbent upon those who had the pleasure of digging this amazing site to volunteer! However, any martyrs to the cause would be most welcome! Please 'phone me on 01929 400507 or e-mail me on: to discuss arrangements.

Phil Roberts


As EDAS representative on the DCF, I attended a meeting on 9th December at the RNLI Training Centre to discuss 'Coastal and Marine Management - The Future'. There follows a necessarily brief synopsis of the day's discussions.

The DCF has a proven track record of delivering effective coastal management, particularly the designation of the Jurassic Coastline as a World Heritage Site, and the building of a marine archaeology data base by Gordon Le Pard. This forum was an opportunity to assist, input to,and influence DEFRA in the production of both the National Coast Strategy and the UK Marine Bill.

The meeting was divided into two sections, the first being spearheaded by Jim Knight, Minister for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, who gave an overview of DEFRA's coastal objectives. Following from his address, very senior DEFRA officers made presentations and took questions on an UK Integrated Coastal Zone Strategy and Marine Bill.

The second session focused on the major government agencies, in particular English Nature and the Environmental Agency and their agendas for coastal management and marine policy.

My overall impression of the day was that there are several bodies with similar agendas, which could overlap and which must be co-ordinated by DEFRA. The DCF is one such body which must make its, albeit parochial, voice heard. To this end, the meeting agreed that the DCF 'professionals' should identify "scenarios", or issues, which would be addressed and discussed by working parties of members with opaticular expertise and interests. The output from the working parties would form the bases of submissions to DEFRA. The working parties would, of course, take account of the work of the government agencies. If anyone wishes to discuss any of the issues addressed, please contact me on 01929 400 507 or .

Phil Roberts

Monthly Walks

We are now putting together the walks programme for the year from June 2006 and are looking for volunteers to lead walks. In previous years, the walks have been on a Sunday but if anyone wishes to lead one on a Saturday please feel free to do so. A walk, which should have some historical or archaeological interest, could be a rural ramble, with a maximum of about 5 miles. Alternatively, if you are prepared to do a town or village walk, as for example Karen Brown did in Weymouth in 2005, then please let us know. There are plenty of towns in Dorset and surrounding counties, where we feel sure that members would be interested in having a guided tour. Please contact Peter Walker with your ideas on 01425 471326 or email him at

Early Chemical Industry in Dorset - by Alan J Hawkins

With the production of copperas and alum in the late 16th and early 17th century Dorset can claim to be one of the earliest sites for the chemical industry in England. How and when this industry started and why in Dorset is the subject of an on going project which is of great interest and enquiry. The primary use of copperas and alum is as a mordant in the dying of cloth, but other uses include the manufacture of ink and treatment of hide in the tannery industry.

Alum had been used for the treatment of textiles for many centuries earlier and was imported from Italy; records from the 15th century refer to alum being carted through the streets of Southampton where there was a strong Genoese presence.

While there may be no single factor or event one can cite as to why this industry was established in Dorset there are key developments. The coming of the Tudor dynasty in 1485 followed by the great voyages of discovery and opening up of the New World created opportunities for trade, particularly for the southern ports of England.

The dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and his marriage problems pushed our relationship with papal controlled Europe to it’s limits and great capital was made from supplies of alum – held under the Pope’s control. The dissolution of the monasteries had destroyed the ‘old order’ where great estates supplied much of the Nations produce. Effectively there was a redistribution of this wealth. By the time of Queen Elizabeth 1 there was a new ‘aristocracy’ of adventurers and entrepreneurs rewarded by the Crown and new ventures encouraged. This was a period of great social upheaval.

‘Alum’ had been found in the cliffs near what is now Bournemouth early in the 16th century. In this period of an emerging industry, nomenclature for base material was not well defined, and research by PHHP suggests it is likely this was not in fact alum but native copperas, also known as melanterite, In 1560 a law was passed prohibiting the export of raw wool. This meant processing plants were needed with an increased and regular supply of alum and copperas - alum was made at Kimmeridge.

Dorset was well placed for shipping the processed copperas and alum to dyers around the country. Records from 15th century show that alum was being imported from the continent through Bristol and Southampton and later, shipments from Poole were often bound for London, ports near to centres of the new draperies.

The Poole based industry is often referred to as short lived. There were no doubt hard times and bankruptcies but as late as 1852 there is mention that Col Waugh was building a new chemical and alum works on Brownsea Island. Structures revealed over last summer’s work by Martin Papworth, NT. could be connected to earlier activity, possibly associated to copperas production.

Research continues into this early industry and associated trades, and perhaps this time next year there will be an opportunity to share the results from some of these works with you.


The monthly evening lectures start at 7.30pm.

Walks and field visits usually meet at 10.30 am at the published Grid Reference. Ring the leader if the weather is doubtful or if more details are required.


Wed 11 Jan EDAS lecture: "The Origins and Development of Saxon Wimborne", with Dr David Reeve of EDAS
Wed 8 Feb EDAS lecture: "Shaftesbury and its Abbey", with Dr John Chandler.
Sat 4 Mar Dorset Local History Day School: "Getting about in Dorset". See earlier for details.
Wed 8 Mar EDAS lecture: "Romano-Celtic Religion in Wessex", with Professor Tony King of University College, Winchester

Sat 18 Mar

A series of lectures: "Pits, Pots and People - 10,000 years at Bestwall, Wareham". Book early to avoid disappointment. See earlier for more details.

Sun 19 Mar

Walk. More details in a later Newsletter.

Wed 29 Mar

EDAS AGM, followed by "... to partake of tea ... A glimpse into the lives of Henrietta and Hilary Bankes of Kingston Lacy, Dorset" with Geoff Brown of EDAS.

Wed 19 Apr

EDAS lecture: "The Piltdown Man hoax", with Dr Miles Russell of Bournemouth University.