The following reports of meetings in the 2019-20 season are available:
Sep 25: 40th Anniversary Meeting: "Littlecote: Before and what came after" – Bryn Walters
The 40th Anniversary of Hungerford Historical Association was celebrated on Wednesday evening with a wonderfully interesting talk by Archaeologist Bryn Walters who gave the inaugural talk in 1979. Bryn returned to his original theme recounting his excavation of the Roman Villa at Littlecote. This time, however, he also discussed his earlier archaeological work and revealed his investigations and findings following the uncovering of the Littlecote Villa.
To a full house of 147 members and guests, Bryn regaled his audience with tales of rescuing artefacts from the appalling destruction of major Roman Sites and a Saxon settlement during construction of the M4 motorway around Swindon in the 1970s. He also discovered the giant hill figures at Foxhill. It was in 1977, whilst still a student, that Bryn and colleague Bernard Phillips located the site of the Roman Villa at Littlecote.
In 1978 work was initiated to excavate the site with the patronage of the owner of Littlecote, Sir Seton Wills. They discovered evidence for Saxon activity as well as early agricultural activity on the Roman site. Among the buildings an early 2nd century bakery, brewery, large fish tank and smokehouse were also discovered. During the 4th century agricultural activity was phased out and the buildings converted to more mysterious purpose. The villa had five towers, an impressive gatehouse and a tri-conch chamber housing the now famous Orpheus mosaic with pagan iconography. Bryn subsequently compared the villa with many others from the Roman Empire in Britain and abroad. He believed the structural evidence revealed that sometimes the buildings were more likely to be small water sanctuaries or health spas. This challenged earlier identifications of ‘farming villas’. The villa at Littlecote, Bryn theorised, had undergone a religious transformation possibly inspired by the success of the great Roman spa at Bath and was in effect a place of ritual rather than a domestic building.