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Badsey Archaeology

Archaeological finds around Badsey tell us about the history of the area going back many thousands of years The Roman period in Badsey is described on a separate page.

Arthur Jones

Badsey market gardener Arthur Jones (1863-1950) spent most of his life studying the archaeology of the area. A large part of his collection is at the Worcester Museum including flints, coins and other archaeology. Although he does not appear to have written any articles himself, the following archaeological publications mention his work:

Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeology Society for 1944, Vol XXI, 1945, ed by E A B Barnard

Two rare coins have been reported, the first Anglo-Saxon sceattas recorded from Worcestershire: one from Sedgeberrow and the other from Badsey Fields. The latter was found by our member, Mr Arthur E Jones, who has presented it to the Worcester Museum, there to take its place among other interesting coins which he has found on the same site and thereabouts. These coins, less than half an inch across, are of base silver, stuck at, or imitated from those struck at London, the remains of which name are preserved in the ONIOIU of the obverse. The reverse shows a figure (? An ecclesiastic, possibly Mellitus, Bishop of London, c 604-616) bearing two long crosses and clothed in a long robe with a chequered upper part. The head on the reverse is derived from the Roman coinage.

The Archaeological Newsletter, October 1949, Vol 2, No 6
One of the most interesting areas of occupation, dating from this period and as yet unexplored, is centred in the black alluvial soil of the Lower Avon. Here in the Badsey-South Littleton district, and almost within the shadow of Bredon Hill, lies a rich area of cultivation which may have been farmed as early as the second century BC. Rising slightly above the dark fen-like cultivated fields are ridges an low hillocks on which there is evidence of intensive settlement over a period of some centuries and including the whole of the Roman occupation. Indeed it may well be that the inhabitants of Bredon, who appear to have left the hill fort after the dramatic engagement, settled in this area from the early years of the first century AD. The find, now deposited at Worcester Museum, include much Iron Age and Roman material with coins dating from Claudius to Arcadius. The discovery is due to the active interest taken by Mr A E Jones of Badsey over a period of three-quarters of a century (!). He has been responsible for saving many of the objects and recording them, and it is to be hoped that full-scale excavations on scientific lines may be undertaken at one or more of the settlement sites in this district.

An article in the Cheltenham Chronicle from 1944 tells us that some of Arthur Jones's finds were also given to the Cheltenham Museum.

Foxhill near Badsey

This description of Foxhill is from A Descriptive History of the Town of Evesham by George May, published 1845.

At about a mile's distance eastward from the church, upon a farm occupied by Mr. Gibbs of Knowle Hill, and seated on a gentle slope, is a field now called "Foxhill." Here pieces of coarse, dark, gritty pottery are widely strewn, intermixed with fragments of finer quality, colored red. Human bones in beds, and those of animals, apart from the former, intermixed with antlers of deer and the horns of small cattle, have also been recently disturbed. Rude slabs of stone, occasionally laid kiln-wise, and bearing marks of fire, have likewise been exposed. These at first regarded as places where the ware was baked; but Mr. Gibbs remarks that the soil being wholly on gravel, there is no material for pottery any where near. No coins appears to have been found here, with the exception of one of those small copper Constantines that elsewhere commonly occur; but what is perhaps earlier than our Roman coinage - a rude bead or annulet, of pared bone, one inch in diameter, and a fourth of an inch thick, has been preserved. As soon as the present crop will permit, Mr. Gibbs intends to open the ground for careful examination. Meanwhile, from what we have hitherto seen, we are disposed to regard the site as that of a British settlement; but whether so occupied before the Roman invasion we are not at present to assert.

Rifle bullet

A spent bullet found in the ground along Sands Lane by Peter Stewart in September 2012 has been identified by one of the world's leading authority on weapons and ammunitions, Anthony Williams, as being fired from a Martini Henry Rifle and dates from 1875 (give or take a few years). This rifle was in use from 1871 to 1888 and used in the British colonial wars, second Anglo-Afghan wars, Anglo-Zulu wars, and the Boer Wars.

Rifle bullet

We must ask who in Badsey served in any of the listed conflicts, brought home his rifle and discharged it over Badsey?

Woad grinder

Woad grinder
Woad Grinder 1st Century BC – 1st Century AD found in Badsey in the 1960s.

Peter Stewart has recently put a name to a bronze artefact that was found by Seymour Smith back in the 1960s in Badsey. This is a Woad Grinder, also known as a Cosmetic Grinder. It was used to grind up the plant known as Woad.

Also known as a cosmetic grinder, this would have been the mortarium half of a two piece set worn a round the neck and much used, like a small pestle and mortar, for grinding up the small blue flower that produced the distinctive dye known as 'woad' . Made of bronze, it measures 65 mm in length.

Celtic warriors used to paint elaborate patterns on their faces and bodies in order to make them more terrifying and fearsome going into battle. Carrying a small shield and a big sword, sometimes naked and with his hair spiked up with mud, he would present a very scary sight as he charged at you screaming like a banshee. Although I think these days he could easily fit into any Saturday night town centre at turning out time and no one would notice.

A very early find:  Flint blade from Badsey

During a recent field walk on one of his study sites in Badsey, Peter Stewart found a flint flake. He forwarded photographs of the find to landscape consultant Paul Whitehead who believes the flake to be Neolithic or later. He states that it appears to have been roughly blunted all round with one side retaining a small clearly-defined hemispherical impression - where the tool-user has passed it to and fro (like a spokeshave) over a hard material, possibly bone, or during bone pin manufacture. The flake measures 35mm x 15mm but its butt and tip have been removed by the blunting so that it is impossible to estimate its original length.

Flint blade
Found in 2012, this stone age flint blade is likely to be at least 6000 years old.

This flint blade predates all of the other artefacts Peter Stewart has so far found at this site though past surface finds in the same area indicate considerable prehistoric and Romano-British occupation. They include Bronze Age pottery; Iron Age Coins; Romano-British pottery; querns; fibulae; coins and human burials. (Turner. J.H., 1974. Register of Countryside Treasures. Worcester County Planning Department). The present whereabouts of these previous finds have yet to be determined.

Silver penny

This silver penny was found by Peter Stewart in the middle of a ploughed field in Badsey in 2011. In an article in Cotswold & Vale Magazine (April 2012), he tells the story revealed by the find.

Silver penny 1Silver penny 2

The coin appeared to be a penny from the time of Edward I (1272-1307). But when he showed it to coin expert Mike Edward, they agreed it did not look quite right. Further investigation showed it was an imitation produced in France by the Duke of Lorraine using poor quality silver. Despite attempts to ban them, the coins infiltrated English currency. The coin has also been clipped. Peter comments 'One cannot help but feel sorry for the poor individual whose coin it was. He not only lost the equivalent of half a day's pay but was not aware that he had been paid in imitation money.'

Anglo-Saxon Sceatta

This sceatta coin was another find by Peter Stewart at Badsey in 2012. Arthur Jones also found two examples in the 1940s, but they are much less common than Roman coins.

Sceatta 1Sceatta 2The sceatta is a small hammered silver coin from the Anglo-Saxon period. From about 675 to 740 AD they were the only coins in circulation. They were minted in England, Frisia and Jutland. There are quite a number of different designs. The pattern here is given the name 'porcupine'. Peter found the coin with his metal detector and has registered it with the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Ancient Erotic Phallus Amulet

Phallus AmuletThis amulet made of bronze was found alongside Badsey Brook in 1976 and is believed to be of Roman origin.

The phallus (or symbolic male genitals) represented masculinity and virility in Ancient Rome. These amulets where worn to ward off evil, increase a soldier’s strength in battle and perhaps to titillate a prospective sexual conquest. Many hundreds of different shapes and sizes have been discovered over the last three hundred years. The Phallic amulet was worn in Ancient Rome to pay homage to a number of different Gods depending upon the wearers desires and background: Mutinus Mutunus (Greek - Priapus); the Roman God of fertility. Eros; the primordial god of lust, love, and intercourse. Cupid (Latin cupido); the god of erotic love and beauty. Roman women seeking to bear children invoked these Gods, as well as Roman Men who sought to increase virility, sexual performance or attraction. Also in some parts of ancient Rome, people believed that phallic charms and ornaments offered protection against the evil eye. A phallic charm was called fascinum in Latin, from the verb fascinare (the origin of the English word "to fascinate"), "to cast a spell", such as that of the evil eye.

Celtic Gold Coin

Found in Badsey by Peter Stewart in 2018. The coin has been recorded by the Small Finds Officer of Worcestershire, and has since been has since been presented to the land owner. This is the fifth Celtic coin to be found by Peter Stewart in Badsey, and his first gold coin.

Celtic gold coin 1Celtic gold coin 2

Celtic gold quarter stater. weight 1.17 gm, measurements 11 x 14 mm.  It is believed to be a south Thames Selsey Dahlia type, struck by the Regini & Atrebates tribe. References: Ancient British Coins 500, 503, Van Arsdell 220, 222, British Museum Catalogue 478-94, Spink 48.

The Atrebates were perhaps one of the most successful tribes in Britain during the Iron Age, their territories appear to have been a peaceful place until the departure of Verica in 42 AD prompting the Claudian invasion the following year. From the natural border that is the river Thames in the North all the way down to the south coast including the Isle of Wight which would have been connected to the mainland in those days the people of the Atrebates tribe lived in and farmed a fertile, peaceful land with great success shown by the diversity of coinage. Silchester (Calleva) is thought to have been the capital of the Atrebates, a good contender as it is mentioned on both gold and silver coins of Eppillus. The Regini were a sub tribe occupying land close to the south coast, possibly centered around Chichester and must have had a good relationship with their much larger neighbour as they lived side by side for many years.

Worcestershire' own ancient coin expert Dr. Murray Andrews commented, 'these coins were probably made in the Sussex/Berkshire area, but it's not entirely unprecedented to find one so far away from home; gold coins seem to have travelled quite far in the Iron Age, with an example of this type of coin turning up at Pershore in the early 1990s and, more recently, at Cleeve Prior in the late 2000s.'

Celtic Ring Money

This ancient Celtic ring money was one of the earliest forms of currency. Dated from approximately 500 BC – 100 AD, these ancient artefacts were worn as a sign of wealth and traded as currency amongst the Celtic tribes. Today many of these rings which come in all sizes are cleaned and polished and sold as pendants online.

Around 2000 BC, barbarian Celtic tribes invaded Europe.  They first inhabited regions across Eastern Europe now known as Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans.  During the Bronze Age, they move westward and by the Iron Age in the 8th to 5th centuries BC, these tribes make their homes in what is now southwest Germany, eastern France and parts of Switzerland and Austria.  This era is known as the Hallstat period named after a Celtic archaeological type-site in a lakeside village in Austria.  After that, in the La Tene period, Western Europe becomes heavily occupied by the Celts as they invade much of Germany, France, the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), the British Islands and Ireland.  After this time, Celtic tribes spread eastward again, moving into northern Italy, Bohemia, Silesia, the Balkans and even into present day Turkey with a tribe called the Galatians establishing a Celtic city called Galatia.  During the 1st century BC, the Celts were at the height of their power and were the dominant ethnic group in much of Europe, even ruling over the Germanic tribes.  Among the many military victories the ancient Celts can lay claim to are the sacking of the cities of Rome and Delphi.

The Celts were largely a decentralized military aristocracy made up of independent chieftains ruling various geographical regions.  They were famous to fight just for the sake of fighting and often, they were employed as mercenaries of the great armies of ancient times.  Along with their reputations of chivalry, courage and maniacal bravery, their more aggressive tendencies were offset by a great sensitivity to the arts and philosophy.  Highly unusual at the time, the Celts viewed both men and women with equality, holding women in high regard with their matriarchal religion. According to my own finds of coins the Dubunni tribe were active in and around Badsey. They occupied territories encompassing the modern counties of Gloucestershire, Avon, west Oxfordshire, north Somerset, along with parts of Hereford and Worcestershire and Warwickshire. They were a non-Belgic people occupying impressive hill forts with some Belgic influences. The principal tribal centre was Cirencester.

Ring Money 1Ring Money 2Ring Money 3

Some of the many bronze rings found in and around Badsey since the early 1960s and in the Peter Stewart Collection. Some of the rings shown may have been worn on the fingers, and many other such rings have no connection with the Celts and possibly more to do with horse harnesses.

Medieval horse harness pendant - could this find at Badsey be related to the Battle of Evesham?

Horse PendantDuring the Medieval period horses harnesses were often elaborately decorated with studs, bosses and heraldic pendants. Evidence for this use is can be found in various illuminated manuscripts from the 12th century onwards. These medieval pendants were suspended from various straps on the harness across the chest and the brow band across the forehead. The pendants served two distinct purposes. The first is heraldic in which those entitled to bear arms, emblazoned the harness with their colours. The second purpose is one of pure decoration of the harness.

One can only speculate that the horse harness pendant (pictured right) described by a leading authority as a 'Medieval quarto foil horse pendant and heraldic' belonged to a knight who was involved in the battle of Evesham. The enamel heraldic design is worn but could represent either a 'bird' or a 'griffin'. Measuring just 38 x 30 mm and made of copper-alloy it was found by Peter Stewart in June 2011 where the bridle path from Willersey crosses the brook at Badsey.

Why and by whom was this Roman coin defaced?

Roman coin 1
Defaced coin of Emperor Domitian
Roman coin 2
Found in Badsey August 12th, 2015

Close examination of a Roman coin found recently in Badsey has established that the coin has been deliberately defaced rather than worn by movement by the plough over the c.1900 years it has been in the ground. There are parallels from southern England recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme for defaced coins in antiquity, but this is currently the only known such example from Badsey where many coins have been found over the years.

Domitian was a Roman emperor from years AD 81 to 96 who was to order himself to be styled the "Lord and God" and was worshiped with divine honours. Christian were murdered in great numbers during his reign and he was known for the reign of terror members of the Senate lived under in his last years. He surrounded himself with spies and informers and put to death the noblest  men of his time. Small wonder he was hated, and it seems that cruelty and ostentation were the grounds of his unpopularity, rather than military or administrative incompetence. He is said to have invented a new method of torture which involved burning the sexual organs of the his victims. To retain the loyalty of his soldiers he doubled their pay, while he won over the people of Rome by spectacular games at the Coliseum. Meanwhile confiscating the property of the richer citizens to maintain his expenditure. No mans wealth was safe from an accusation of treason. Domitian was the first emperor since Claudius to campaign in person, and a conspiracy led to his murder, after which his memory was officially condemned, and his name erased from public buildings. Can it be that this silver denarius of Domitian was deliberately defaced by some person glad to see his demise, a spontaneous act, expressive of discontent with the overthrown emperor and support of the new regime. In Roman culture it was vitally important to be remembered after one's death through one's actions and monuments; to destroy a monument or a portrait, then, was to attack the person's very being. (In modern scholarship this Roman practice of destroying or defacing an image, whether material or literary, is called damnatio memoriae). The totally erased reverse of this coin would have shown Minerva, whom Domitian made his patron goddess and had a shrine of her in his bed chambers. She was the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools and commerce. It is also interesting to show the first Roman coin I ever found was in Badsey, back in the 1970s. This was also a denarius of Domitian but as the photographs shows was in good condition and probably lost quite early in the reign of this tyrant.

Roman coin 3
Coin of Emperor Domitian found in Badsey in the 1970s showing a clear bust of the Emperor.
Roman coin 4
And of Minerva with a spear and shield.

I am most grateful to Worcestershire's leading authority on Roman Coins, Dr. Murray Andrews who has examined this coin and indeed all of my coins from Badsey for his valued comments. A second totally defaced Domitian coin from Badsey is currently awaiting examination.

Offa Silver Penny in the Peter Stewart Collection

Offa penny 1Offa penny 2Marion Archibald (1935-2016), a numismatist, author and for 33 years a curator at the British Museum, wrote the following about the Offa silver penny found by Peter Stewart:

The penny is, as you know, of Offa of Mercia (757-796) and belongs to the coinage of the middle period of his reign known as the Light Coinage struck from c.779-792/3. The mint is Canterbury and the moneyer Osmod who is a plentiful moneyer, although there are more common ones, who continued to work there in the final issue of the reign, the Heavy Coinage, struck from 792/3 - 796. He does not appear to have worked in the following reign of Coenwulf (796-821). The letters are in Roman capitals except for the 'd' of the moneyer's name which is cursive lower case. Here it is reversed because the die-cutter forgot to cut it in mirror image on the die; sometimes he got it right, other times not.

Most pennies of Offa are found in southern and eastern England but recently an increasing number are being found in Western Mercia. I am taking my information from Derek Chick's great study of Offa recently published: Derek Chick, edited by Mark Blackburn and Rory Naismith, The coinage of Offa and his Contemporaries, British Numismatic Society, Special Publications No. 6. Spink, London 2010. Chick lists ten coins - Gloucestershire: Deerhurst, Vale of Beverley; Staffordshire: Elford; Warwickshire: Bideford-on-Avon, Coleshill, Shipston-on-Stour, Sutton Coldfield; Worcestershire: Severn Stoke, Woodcote (Chaddesley Corbett), Wadborough. With yours from Badsey the total rises to eleven. Offa coins turn up with amazing regularity. In the latest volume published of the British Numismatic Journal, for 2009, there are eleven coins of Offa and one of Cynethryth recorded in the 'Coin Register' noted in the previous year. Of course, people take more notice of coins of Offa while those of less glamorous kings tend to be more casually treated.

Your coin is a die-duplicate of Chick no.125b, one of seven coins of this type he lists for Osmod. None were found in Western Mercia.

The coin that is the die-duplicate of yours is the one in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, SCBI (Sylloge of the Coins of the British Isles) I (1958), no.393. This volume was written by Professor Philip Grierson. It has no known findspot and was passed to the museum as a loan from Emmanuel College in 1937. That coin weighs 1.13g so, taking account of the slight chipping on your piece, is very similar.

One Osmod in the BM was found in the 1925 Richborough, Kent, excavations; others were found at Ditchling, East Sussex (1993), Norton, Kent (1996) and North Wiltshire (before 2003 when sold at auction). The findspots of the others are not recorded, including one in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The oldest known collection to include one was that of Samuel Tyssen (1756-1800) of Narborough Hall, Norfolk, who owned an enormous collection of coins. It is now also in the BM as the Trustees purchased all his Anglo-Saxon coins in 1802 after an auction catalogue had been published but before the sale could take place.

Chick describes the obverse as +O / FF / AR / EX in the angles of a long cross botonnee over a saltire botonnee and the reverse as O / S /M / O /d in the angles of a long cross botonnee with a large annulet in the centre containing a rosettte, d reversed. 

Offa of Mercia (757-796), Light Coinage, Chick 125, Blunt 19, North 264, Canterbury, Osmod.

Obv. +O / FF / AR / EX

.  O / SM / O / d  (d reversed) 

Weight: 1.00g (chipped)

Badsey, near Evesham, Worcestershire. M/D find, 1978

I am extremely grateful for the excellent images and information about this coin, which I have recorded as no. 2011.0058 in our Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds (EMC).

Dr Martin Allen of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, has added the following:

Marion Archibald's comments on the coin are exemplary and we have nothing to add to them, except to emphasise that finds of coins of Offa are by no means common in the Worcestershire area.  With thanks.

Roman Badsey

Information about Roman Badsey appears on a separate page.

See also

Article compiled by Richard Phillips, 2013, with additions made by Peter Stewart, 2019.