Saturday, 2 August 2014

Research article

Here is some research for our site by Richard.

Nether Compton in Antiquity
A short introduction to the area before excavations to be carried out by Dorset Diggers
Richard Hood June 2014

The name Nether Compton is Saxon and means the lower settlement in the valley (Comp as in Coombe).  The village lies in North Dorset close to the Somerset border, where the Trent Brook flows down to the River Yeo. It is first mentioned with Over Compton as Contone in the Doomsday book as held by Sherborne Abbey. Reference to the Victoria History of Dorset, Hutchins History of Dorset and other Dorset histories do not give much information about early Compton, providing more on the Church, interesting buildings and landowners. However there is mention of ‘Lynchets on a SW slope 1 ½ miles NE of the Church with six terraces’ and ‘Lynchets in Home Copse 600 yards S of the Church’. A passing reference to Athuros may relate to nearby South Cadbury and the Arthurian legend of Camelot.

The records of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society mention surface finds of worked flint, Romano-British and mediaeval pottery being made on Charlock Hill one mile to the NE of Nether Compton.   Other similar finds were found SW of Charlock Hill in the parish of Nether Compton, Romano-British finds being found at the marl pit map ref. 61541832.  A child’s skull was excavated from the face of the of the marl pit by Mr C E Bean. Coarse Romano-British pottery along with iron slag was also found indicating possible smelting of local iron bearing ore having taken place.  A hand made bead-rim pottery sherd found in the marl pit indicates pre-Roman activity in conjunction with a settlement site a few hundred yards to the N excavated by Mr J Fowler.  For more details the Society records can be inspected in the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

In 1989 a metal detectorist discovered a hoard of 22,670 Roman coins in a field adjacent to Kitton Lane in the parish of Nether Compton. The coins were mainly of bronze and from the time of the Constantine dynasty, 4th century AD, with the earliest being Aurelian. Following the find, Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society became involved and carried out a geophysical investigation of the area. A detailed report of their findings can be found on a 2011 publication by Mr John Oswin available online as a PDF file.

The findings indicate traces of buildings that may have been a Roman fort and associated buildings. From 2014 onwards Dorset Diggers, an archaeological excavation group, have permission and funding to excavate the fields in the area to reveal what has been indicated by the geophysical survey. Should the excavations  reveal a Roman fort, its date and period of use would be of great interest, and hopefully explaining whether it was an invasion fort of Vespasians 2nd Agusta Legion on their way to Exeter, or a later fort built to pacify the local Durotriges tribe who had resisted the Roman invasion from nearby South Cadbury hill fort.

These and other questions will be answered on completion of the works to be carried out over the next few years.       

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