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Transactions Volume 95 2021

Hon. Editor Jill Bourne, M.A., Ph.D.
Hon. Editor (Archaeology) John Thomas, B.A., M.A.
Hon. Editor (Reviews) Peter Walker, LL.B., M.A., Ph.D.

“The effects of rough pavements to tender-footed passengers” by Isaac Cruickshank (1797)

“The effects of rough pavements to tender-footed passengers” by Isaac Cruickshank (1797)

Front cover, prelims

Andrew Simmonds, Steven Teague, Carl Champness, Alex Davies, Michael Donnelly, Lauren McIntyre, Julia Meen, Cynthia Poole, Ruth Shaffrey, Ian Smith

A Middle Iron Age settlement at Hilltop Farm, Melton Mowbray

Oxford Archaeology excavated a middle Iron Age settlement at Hilltop Farm, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. An initial phase comprising a boundary ditch, with adjoining rectilinear enclosures, was superseded by a settlement situated within a square-ditched enclosure, which contained a sub-enclosure and evidence for a single roundhouse. Unusually, the enclosure had its entrance at the corner and was linked to a trackway by means of a short, ditched passageway. Evidence for the farming regime that was practised here was limited due to the small size of the animal bone and charred plant remains assemblages, but the community evidently cultivated both wheat and barley, and reared sheep/goats and cattle – with smaller numbers of horses and pigs. The excavation produced a moderately large pottery assemblage that belongs to the Scored Ware tradition, dated to the third to first centuries BC, and radiocarbon dates were obtained with ranges of 365–200 cal BC and 360–120 cal BC (at 95 per cent confidence). The latter date came from a human skull fragment that was recovered from the enclosure ditch, and which may be evidence for the deliberate manipulation and ultimate deposition of defleshed human remains within the settlement. Two quernstones placed at opposite corners of a subsidiary enclosure adjoining the trackway, one of them associated with a jar that was apparently smashed in situ, may also represent evidence for ritual deposition. A single pit of Roman or later date was also recorded.

Helen Sharp

The Hallaton Helmet and Militaria – 20 Year Review

The discovery of a pit at the first century AD ritual site, at Hallaton, south-east Leicestershire, was the catalyst for a surprising conservation project spanning 20 years. Micro-excavation under laboratory conditions at the British Museum led to the reconstruction and conservation of a silver-gilt and iron Roman cavalry helmet, multiple cheekpieces, decorated and undecorated silver sheet, coins and animal bone. This rare find of high-status Roman militaria, featuring overtly imperial iconography on a rural, hilltop site, leads to many questions surrounding the circumstances of deposition, the symbolism of armour and invasion-period politics.

Owain Scholma-Mason

An Early Roman Farmstead and Building at Glebe Farm, Lutterworth

Headland Archaeology undertook an excavation of approximately 0.64ha at Glebe Farm, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, between February and March 2020, revealing substantial elements of a small early Roman farmstead. This comprised a system of enclosures and the remains of an L-shaped timber-built structure. Current dating evidence suggests that the site did not persist into the third century AD. In light of the relative paucity of finds and environmental data, the site is tentatively interpreted as having been occupied seasonally, perhaps by livestock herders.

Martyn Allen, Carl Champness, Leigh Allen, Paul Booth, Michael Donnelly, John Giorgi, Robert Perrin, Cynthia Poole, Ian R Scott, Ruth Shaffrey

A Romano-British Enclosed Farmstead at Leicester Road, Melton Mowbray

Excavations in 2018 by Oxford Archaeology at Leicester Road, to the west of Melton Mowbray, revealed the remains of a double-ditched rectilinear enclosure. Pottery dated occupation at the site to the second and third centuries AD, and it was probably abandoned around the turn of the fourth century. The plan of the enclosure is highly distinctive and fairly unusual in a regional settlement context, although there was no evidence of a ritual/religious function. Features within the enclosure were fairly limited, although the analyses of charred plant remains and animal bones suggested that the site was a small farmstead focusing on mixed agriculture, with local arable cultivation expanding onto the less-fertile heavy clays nearby. There were also signs that hay meadows may have been managed for livestock husbandry.

Simon Atkins

A Walk Through Leicester in the Age of Austen: an Exercise in Microhistory

A Walk Through Leicester is a guidebook, published in April 1804 by a local author, Susanna Watts (b. 1768). She was a contemporary of Jane Austen (b. 1775). Like Austen, few personal traces remain and biographical details are sparse, mainly accrued indirectly and from the subsequent writings of others. Like Austen, her work was published anonymously, and she used her education to navigate a precarious path of respectability as a single woman. Like Austen, her literary style is full of modesty, wit and irony. The voice of the Guide, our narrator, is realistic, fluent, companionable. This essay seeks to use traces within the text – a microhistorical approach – to illuminate her underexamined and underappreciated intellectual and cultural life. At first glance, the guidebook is simply a 200-year-old description of a long-lost townscape. A closer reading of context and text, however, demonstrates her achievements both as a historian (beyond simply salvaging and recording the past as an antiquarian) and an author (writing in a novel form at the birth of a new literary genre, the Town Guide). The text provides an invaluable insight into a particular class and culture between the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. Her society – her social circle who were also her audience – is that of Austen’s ‘Sanditon’. She wrote for a new and rapidly growing social class, confident in the power of enlightenment reason, driving the redevelopment of the urban landscape and making a new world.

Penelope Harris

Birmingham or Hinckley? Launching the Career of Joseph Aloysius Hansom

Joseph Hansom (1803–82), the architect who specialised in work for the Catholic community, was able to take advantage of the opportunities offered both by the more tolerant attitude towards British co-religionists in the wake of the French Revolution, culminating in Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and the rapid growth of the Industrial Revolution. The diversity of projects Hansom worked on was the hallmark of the early years of his career. However, the success of the design and construction of Birmingham Town Hall brought him lasting fame but also financial failure, which led him to spend several years working in Leicestershire and north Warwickshire, where his projects included a town hall, two convents, chapels and churches, country houses, a workhouse and two banks. Hinckley, which he made his base, was where the cab that bears his name was invented. This raises the question as to whether it was Birmingham or Hinckley that had the greatest impact on his career?

David Postles

‘Respectability’, Independent Means and Leicestershire’s Victorian 'Gentlemen'

Exploring the National Probate Register in conjunction with White’s directories, an attempt is made to discover who self-identified as, or was accorded the courtesy title of, ‘gentleman’ in late-Victorian Leicestershire. It appears that its deployment replicated Jack London’s general observation of a wide range of men whose unifying criterion was independent means. On the other hand, some had acquired assets from an earlier career in business at varying levels, often of modest status as well as industrial entrepreneurialism, rather than inheritance or annuities which London implied. Their capacity to be diverted to landed life was circumscribed.

Robin P Jenkins

Luxury galore: The Officers’ Prisoner-of-War Camp at Donington Park, 1914–1919

In 24 November 1914, readers of the Leicester Daily Post, eager for the latest war news, would have been intrigued to discover plans which would bring the forces of the Central Powers rather closer to home than the Ypres salient or North Sea. Although German or Austro-Hungarian prisoners had been taken, and civilians interned, it wasn’t until the end of 1914 that serious consideration was given to the housing of thousands of enemy soldiers, sailors or citizens in the UK. The newspaper was able to report that the arrangements were being made to create a camp for captured officers at Donington Park, near Ashby de la Zouch.

Gavin Speed

Archaeology in Leicestershire and Rutland 2020

Jill Bourne


Pamela J. Fisher, Ibstock (The Victoria History of Leicestershire, 2020), ix + 145pp, 27 b/w illus., ISBN 978 1 912702 46 6, paperback, £14-00

Jill Bourne

The Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society 165th annual report 2019–2020

Jill Bourne

Officers of the Society & Obituaries

Jill Bourne


Trojan mosaic from Transactions 2022 front cover