Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Some Roman slave shackles and figurines recorded from Britain by the PAS

The following post shares a handful of interesting recent finds relating to slavery in Roman Britain that have been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, along with two updated distribution maps of the artefact types in question.

The distribution of Roman-era iron slave shackles in Britain and western Gaul, based primarily on Henning, 2008, and data from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (drawn by C. R. Green)

A Roman iron slave shackle, discovered near to Winchester, Hampshire (image: PAS)

The first two finds are Roman-era slave shackles, found by metal-detectorists in Norfolk and Hampshire. Such items are found predominantly on rural sites both in Britain and on the continent and are thought to be indicative of at least a proportion of the rural workforce having been shackled during the Roman period. Certainly, there appears to be plentiful written evidence indicating that shackles and chains were regularly used as a punishment for slaves in the Roman era, with it being said that a slave lived in fear of offending his master 'lest he order him to be whipped, to be put in shackles, to be imprisoned', and also that a slave might be identified by the black marks on his ankles. The distribution map of such finds that is included here shows that while a few shackles have been found in the north and west of Britain, the vast majority come from lowland Britain, where they were presumably associated with a villa economy making use of physically coerced labour. 

With regard to the practical functioning of these items, a pair of shackles linked by a padlock bar is exhibited in Norwich Castle Museum (see the image below) and F. H. Thompson has the following to say on the matter:
in use, the shackles were placed round the captive’s ankles, the bent loops passed through their counterparts, and the protruding ends of the former then slipped over the padlock bar. It was evidently a device intended to give greater security in that it prevented the forcing apart of shackle terminals.

A pair of slave shackles linked by a padlock bar, on display in Norwich Castle Museum (image: Murdilka)

The other finds noted here consist of a number of small figurines of 'bound captives', usually dated to the second or third century AD. A survey of these items by Ralph Jackson in 2005 recorded sixteen examples, all from Britain and the Rhine/Danube frontier region, and further recording by Emma Durham and the Portable Antiquities Scheme has raised the number known from Britain to twelve (the PAS's examples come from Hampshire, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire, and Lincolnshire again). As to their imagery and use, it has been argued that these figurines are very likely to depict and represent slaves, and that they may consequently have some connection with the Roman slave trade in Britain. In this regard, it can be observed that the figurines were clearly meant to be mounted through their perforations, though whether this would have been via iron fittings or cords remains unclear. It is also interesting to note that these Roman symbols of slavery and/or the slave trade have a less concentrated distribution in Britain than do the Roman slave shackles, suggesting that these two artefact types may perhaps reflect different aspects of Roman slavery and the slave-trade.

The distribution of Roman 'bound captive' figurines in Britain, after data recorded by Durham, 2012, and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (drawn by C. R. Green)

A Roman figurine of a bound captive, with a flat back and a vertical & horizontal piercing for mounting; found in Broxholme, Lincolnshire (image: PAS)

A Roman figurine of a bound captive, with a flat back and a vertical & horizontal piercing for mounting; found near Andover, Hampshire (image: PAS)

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2015, All Rights Reserved. Non-original images used here are sourced from the PAS and Murdilka's Livejournal (the Norwich Castle shackles); if there are any objections to me using these pictures in this post, please contact me and I will remove them.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Roman mosaics from the Greetwell villa-palace and other sites in Lincolnshire

The following post collects together a number of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century illustrations of Roman mosaics found in Lincolnshire, starting with the mosaics found at a major complex discovered during mining at Greetwell Fields, Lincoln. 

Plan of Greetwell villa-palace, drawn in the late nineteenth century; click image for a larger view (from Green, 2012, fig. 3)

Detail of the bath suite and the western end of the main east–west corridor at the Greetwell villa-palace (from Green, 2012, fig. 3)

One of the corridor mosaics from the Greetwell villa-palace; click image for a larger view (image: The Collection: Art and Archaeology)

The Greetwell mosaics were found in approximately the area of the current Lincoln hospital during ironstone mining from 1883–94, with their discovery commemorated by the modern street-name 'Roman Pavement'. The mosaics discovered here have been described as being of 'palatial scale and quality' and were part of the decorative scheme of an exceptionally large Roman villa-palace, which occupied a magnificent position on the hilltop overlooking the Witham valley, probably originally in the form of a very large courtyard surrounded by four immense corridors, off which were located the main accommodation, baths suite and the like. It has been argued that this villa-palace is likely to have been the official residence of the governor of the Late Roman province of Britannia Secunda, the capital of which was Lincoln, with the villa-palace appearing to have been occupied right up until the end of the coin sequence in the early fifth century and maintained to a high standard. 

Needless to say, the last points above are of considerable interest in light of the hints of possible post-Roman provincial continuity discussed previously, and in this light it is also important to note the recent suggestion that the villa-palace's estate was actually preserved intact throughout the whole of the Anglo-Saxon period and into the medieval period, with its reconstructed boundaries matching those of the later Monks Leys estate almost exactly (the latter is first recorded just after the Norman Conquest, but has been considered to potentially have its origins in a pre-Viking minster estate). A case has also been made for the early medieval and later tenurial arrangements of a large region to the north of the Witham and east of Lincoln and Ermine Street to have had their origins in two large territories dependent upon the Greetwell villa-palace and a more modest, but still significant, villa at Scupholme.

Two fragments of painted wall plaster from the Greetwell villa-palace, on display in The Collection, Lincoln (photo: C. R. Green)

Unfortunately, the remains of Greetwell villa-palace and its mosaics were completely destroyed by the mining operations of the late nineteenth century, with the result that all that survives of this important site are a few finds, some fragments of painted wall plaster, a plan of the site made by the manager of the ironstone mine (pictured above), and some contemporary reports. The following excerpts are from one of these reports, published in Scientific American Supplement, Vol. XXXII, No. 821, in 1891, which describes the site, its destruction, and the making of the surviving plan:
For some weeks past, remains of a Roman villa have been exposed to view by Mr. Ramsden's miners in Greetwell Fields. From, the extent of the tesselated pavements laid bare there is hardly any doubt that in the Greetwell Fields, in centuries long gone by, there stood a Roman mansion, which for magnitude was perhaps unrivaled in England... What a pity it is that the inhabitants of Lincoln have not made an effort to preserve these precious relics of the grandeur of the Roman occupation, an occupation to which England owes so much...
Although these relics of a remote age are being dug up and are being destroyed, it is not the fault of Mr. Ramsden, for he not only preserved them as long as he conveniently could, but he also had the soil removed from over them, and had them thoroughly washed, in order that people might have an opportunity of seeing their extent and beauty... Mr. Ramsden, the manager of the Ironstone Works, is keeping a plan of the whole of the pavement, which he is coloring in exact imitation of the original work. This, when completed, will be most interesting, and he will be quite willing to show it to any one desirous of inspecting the same.

A contemporary plan showing the location of the Greetwell villa-palace (image: The Collection: Art and Archaeology)

Although the Greetwell villa-palace is almost certainly the most important villa in the Lincoln region, it was by no means the only one, and the second half of this post brings together and shares a number of antiquarian illustrations of mosaics found at some of these other villas, all of which were drawn and/or published by William Fowler of Winterton (1761–1832).

The first set of images consists of the mosaics that were discovered at the well-known Winterton Roman Villa in North Lincolnshire, including its famous mid-fourth-century Orpheus mosaic, along with a plan of the site in c. AD 350:

An illustration of mosaics found at the Winterton Roman villa, published 1798; click image for a larger view (PD image via the BL/SPL King George III Collection)

Detail of the mid- to late fourth-century Orpheus mosaic at Winterton Roman villa; click image for a larger view (PD image via Wikimedia Commons)

Plan of Winterton Roman villa in c.AD 350; red squares indicate rooms with mosaics (image: Wikimedia Commons)

The second set of images are of the mosaics that belonged to the Roman villa at Horkstow, North Lincolnshire. The plan of this villa is now unrecoverable due to the disturbance the site has suffered over the years, but the mosaics survive and are currently housed in Hull Museum; they again include a (fragmentary) mid-fourth-century Orpheus mosaic, as well as the well-known 'chariot race' mosaic:

An illustration of mosaics found at the Horkstow Roman villa, published c.1800; click image for a larger view (PD image via the BL/SPL King George III Collection)

Detail of the fragmentary, fourth-century Orpheus mosaic from Horkstow Roman villa; click image for a larger view (PD image via the BL/SPL King George III Collection)

Detail of the chariot race mosaic from Horkstow Roman villa; click image for a larger view (PD image via The Collection)

The third set of images consists of the plan of the important Roman villa at Scampton, Lincolnshire, and its mosaic; this site was excavated in 1795 and described in the following manner in a publication of 1808 (reissued 1810):
In the year 1795, some workmen, digging for stone in a field south-east of the village, and north of Tilbridge-lane, were observed to turn up several red tiles, which, on inspection, Mr Illingworth conceived to be Roman.  This induced him to survey the general appearance of the surrounding spot; and being struck with obvious traces of foundations, he directed the men to dig towards them, when they came to a wall two feet beneath the surface, and shortly after to a Roman pavement.  The result was, that the foundations of nearly a whole Roman villa were traced and accurately examined; and the situation of the place, the nature of the walls, the dimensions of some apartments, the number and beauty of the tessellated pavements, and the regular plan of the whole, leave little doubt of its having been a villa of considerable distinction and elegance.

An illustration of mosaics found at the Scampton villa, published 1800; click image for a larger view (PD image via the BL/SPL King George III Collection)

Plan of Scampton Roman villa, published in 1808; click image for a larger view (PD image via The Collection, also available on Google Books)

The fourth and final set of images are of the Roman villa at Denton, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, which saw the main focus of its occupation occurring in and after the late fourth century. The results of the Ministry of Works excavation here in the 1940s demonstrated that Denton villa was rebuilt in stone sometime after c. AD 370 into a basilican-type structure of at least seven rooms with mosaics (plus a separate bath-house to the south), based on the fact that this rebuilding clearly overlaid a coin of Valentinian I, 364–75, and another of Gratian, 367–83. Furthermore, the excavator suggested that the Denton villa may well then have continued to be maintained perhaps as late as the sixth century, given that: 
  1. there was a subsequent phase of rebuilding in stone and occupation after the one that occurred post-c. 370, with the excavator dating this building phase to probably the fifth century; 
  2. two graves were discovered inside the villa, one of which was associated with a sixth-century 'Anglo-Saxon' pot; and
  3. that these graves were located in central locations within two rooms and their fill contained no roof tile, slate or similar evidence of villa destruction, only tesserae, implying that the villa still stood and had not fallen into complete disrepair even by that late date.

A late fourth-century mosaic from Denton Roman villa, published in 1800; click image for a larger view (PD image via the BL/SPL King George III Collection)

Plan of Denton Roman villa, showing Phase II in white, constructed c.370 or after, and the rebuilding of Phase III (black), dated to probably the fifth century. Click the image above for a larger version of this plan, which is Smith, 1964, fig. 3.

Photograph from the 1948 and 1949 excavation of Denton Roman villa, showing a mosaic pavement on the south side (image: Smith, 1964, plate 7)

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2015, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Ptolemaic coins recorded from Britain by the Portable Antiquities Scheme

The primary aim of the following post is to very quickly share a distribution map of Ptolemaic coins that have been recorded from Britain on the PAS. The coins mapped and briefly discussed below date from the reigns of Ptolemy I to Ptolemy VIII, c.323–127 BC, and were minted in Egypt, Cyprus and Libya.

Distribution of Ptolemaic coins dating from the reigns of Ptolemy I to Ptolemy VIII, c.323–127 BC, recorded from Britain on the PAS through to February 2015 (drawn by C. R. Green)

As can be seen from the above map, the PAS records a small but significant number of these coins from Britain, many of which were found on or near to the coast or major rivers. Jennifer and Lloyd Laing, writing before the PAS came into existence, noted that the corpus of 'Greek autonomous issues' then known from Britain was dominated by Carthaginian coins, rivalled only by Ptolemaic issues, and the finds recorded from the PAS reproduce this pattern, as can be seen from the following map of mint sites of Mediterranean Greek autonomous issues. The varying size of the circles depicted on this map reflect the relative numbers of pre-Roman Greek coins from that mint that have been recorded from Britain by the PAS, with Carthaginian issues (minted in North Africa, Sardinia, Sicily and Ibiza) clearly most common of all, but Ptolemaic issues (minted in Egypt, Cyprus and Libya) a close second, and then coins from other areas and dynasties—such as Marseilles, Macedonia and the Seleucid Empire—being much less frequently found.

Mints producing the Mediterranean Greek autonomous coins that have been recorded from Britain by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (drawn by C. R.. Green)

Needless to say, a key question with regard to these coins is whether they are best seen as modern or ancient losses. With regard to this, several points can be made. First, the PAS coins do not stand alone, but instead form part of a larger corpus of Ptolemaic coins found in Britain over the course of more than a century, which is sufficiently substantial that we would have to assume a quite surprising and arguably implausible number of careless nineteenth- and twentieth-century coin collectors existed in Britain in order to explain it away. As Martin Biddle argued in 1975, when discussing the eight to ten Ptolemaic coins found in and around Winchester (Hampshire) during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 'the proverbial absent-minded college don or cathedral canon, dropping items of his collection here, there and everywhere... has never seemed a very convincing character', and the number of finds and extensive time period over which they have been made means that these coins should probably be seen as genuine ancient losses unless there is obvious evidence to the contrary, rather than modern losses or even hoaxes.

Second, if some of the Carthaginian coins are thought to have been ancient losses that arrived during Britain's Iron Age, rather than in the Roman period, then there seems little reason why the same cannot be true of the Ptolemaic issues too. Indeed, it is worth observing that, for example, the Winchester coins are probably to be associated with the Middle to Late Iron Age oppidum at Winchester.

Third and finally, the map of coin mints included above does not look quite how we might expect it to if the Greek autonomous issues that have been found in a Britain were simply a random selection of losses from modern-era ancient coin collections. As was the case with the pre-PAS finds that Jennifer and Lloyd Laing mention, the PAS dataset is clearly dominated by Carthaginian and Ptolemaic issues, with, for example, notably fewer Macedonian, Anatolian, Syracusan, or pre-Hellenistic (Classical) Greek autonomous coins represented. This differential loss is interesting and might well inspire some confidence that many of the pre-Roman Greek coins that have been been found in Britain are indeed genuinely ancient losses.

The distribution of all coins from the neighbouring Hellenistic Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires that have been found in Britain through to 2015, as recorded by the PAS, Pastscape and Milne (image: C. R. Green). Note, the predominantly coastal and riverine distribution of these coins is of some potential interest in light of the discussion of the possible origins of Ptolemaic coins found in Britain offered above, and it is furthermore worth observing that at least one person buried in fourth–third century BC Kent is now thought likely to have actually grown up in the Nile Delta. Although the majority of the coins plotted here are Ptolemaic, a small but notable proportion are Seleucid, particularly from Exeter; in 1987, Malcolm Todd followed Milne and Goodchild in arguing that these coins may credibly reflect visits by eastern Mediterranean traders to the Exe Estuary/south coast in the pre-Roman period (and note here the Mediterranean anchor and Mediterranean-style harbour of this period recently discovered at Plymouth and Poole, respectively), although the Exeter collection of Hellenistic and later coins has also been conversely subjected to a degree of (arguably somewhat hypercritical) scepticism by George Boon too.

Map of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires in c. 200 BC, drawn by Thomas Lessman (image: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0).

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2015, 2016, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Ketsby DMV: a Roman–Early Modern settlement & pilgrimage site on the Lincolnshire Wolds

Aside from cropmarks, very little now remains of Ketsby, a Deserted Medieval Village (or, more correctly, a Shrunken Medieval Village) that is located in a valley between two ancient trackways in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Nonetheless, the archaeological and historical material relating to Ketsby suggests that this was a place of some local significance, and one which saw notable activity in every period from the first century through until the sixteenth. The following post offers a very brief discussion of the site and the finds that have been made there.

The site of Ketsby DMV, showing only as faint cropmarks on this aerial photograph. The church is said to have been located just to the north of the buildings visible here, with the main  focus of the cropmarks lying to the north and east of Ketsby House, where there were still earthworks in the 1940s.  Click here for a zoomable view of this area.

A Late Neolithic–Early Bronze Age flint knife, found in South Ormsby-cum-Ketsby parish (image: PAS)

The earliest evidence for human activity at the Ketsby DMV consists of a Late Neolithic–Early Bronze Age flint knife, dated to sometime around 3000–2000 BC, and a cropmark of a probable Bronze Age round barrow (with a diameter of around 15m). These are, however, the sole representatives of the prehistoric period currently known from the site, with all other finds from here probably dating from the first century AD and after, starting with a Late Iron Age 'dangler' or 'hanger' and a late first-century Roman coin of Vespasian.

With regard to the Roman period, although there are not a vast number of finds recorded on the various databases, there are enough to indicate that there was probably a settlement here from the first century AD through until at least the very late fourth or fifth century. Not only do we have the two first-century finds mentioned above, but the East Midlands Anglo-Saxon Pottery Project (EMASPP) recorded various pieces of Romano-British pottery from the DMV, and there are a number of other items of metalwork too, including a lead-alloy Roman foot in a sandal (possibly a votive piece or part of a fairly substantial statuette), a second-century plate brooch, a late fourth- or early fifth-century Romano-British 'dolphin and bird' buckle, and a clipped silver siliqua of Arcadius, minted 395–402. The last two items are particularly interesting, suggesting that British activity continued at the site into the fifth century.

A clipped silver siliqua of Arcadius, minted in Milan, 395–402 (image: PAS)

Turning to the post-Roman period, the EMASPP recorded a small amount of possible 'early Anglo-Saxon' pottery from the site, and a fifth- to ninth-century loom weight has also been found here, helping to confirm the continued presence of settlement activity at the DMV site in this era. In addition to these, two pieces of culturally 'early Anglo-Saxon' metalwork have been recovered from this site, a fragment of a late fifth- to sixth-century girdle hanger and another of a sixth- to seventh-century small-long brooch. Given both the presence of this probably sixth-century material and the very late fourth- to fifth-century Roman material mentioned above, we would seem to have good reason to suspect that the site was continuously occupied throughout this period, with the former Romano-British inhabitants of Ketsby perhaps having adopted the new immigrant material culture at some point in or around the sixth century. Certainly, such a scenario would find a good context within the general pattern of Anglian-British interaction and acculturation that recent studies have suggested for the post-Roman Lincoln region.(1)

Moving on to look at the Middle Saxon period (the seventh–ninth centuries), there is a notable increase in the amount of material produced by the site. In addition to various pieces of Middle Saxon pottery recorded from Ketsby DMV by the EMASPP, including some eighth- to ninth-century Maxey-type ware, metal-detecting has recovered no fewer than 12 items from the site. These include four eighth- to ninth-century polyhedral dress pins; an eighth- to ninth-century globular headed dress pin; a seventh- to ninth-century dress hook; two or three Middle Saxon strap-ends; a Mid-Late Saxon dress pin, and a possibly seventh-century purse mount/strike-a-light. Perhaps most interesting of all, however, are a silver-gilt mount of the eighth century and an 'Irish' pressblech die of the seventh century. The first of these has its parallels in the St Ninian's Isle treasure and in an eighth-century silver-gilt mount found in Leicestershire. and is a lovely piece. The second of these is a metalwork die for making silver or bronze foil mounts, and is again a very significant find.

A Middle Saxon dress-hook of the seventh to ninth centuries from the Ketsby site (image: PAS)

The eighth-century silver-gilt mount and seventh-century 'Irish' pressblech die from Ketsby DMV (images: UKDFD & UKDFD)

Needless to say, the above evidence for a significant degree of pre-Viking activity at Ketsby DMV is interesting given the Scandinavian -bȳ place-name attached to the DMV (Ketsby is Chetelesbi in Domesday Book, which derives from Scandinavian Ketil + , 'Ketil's village'). Such names have often been thought to mainly represent new Viking settlements of the late ninth century founded on previously unused sites, but this is clearly not the case here, just as it is not at the Maltby DMV near to Louth, which has similarly seen Romano-British, early Anglo-Saxon and Middle Saxon finds recovered from the DMV, along with later Scandinavian-era and medieval material. A more plausible scenario is perhaps that this Ketil took over a pre-existing Anglo-Saxon settlement on the site of the Ketsby DMV in the later ninth or tenth century and that the modern place-name records this change in lordship.

Although we can only speculate as to the pre-Viking situation at Ketsby, it is worth noting that only a third of a mile to the north of the site is Walmsgate DMV. Unlike at Ketsby, no Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Scandinavian artefacts have yet been recorded from Walmsgate DMV on any of the available databases, although a small coin hoard of the 870s was recovered from somewhere in the parish in the 1980s. What Walmsgate does have, however, is an Old English name that derives from OE Waldmǣr or Walhmǣr + gāra, probably meaning 'Waldmǣr's or Walhmǣr's triangle of land' according to Cameron and Ekwall. In this context it is worth noting that both Walmsgate and Ketsby are not only extremely close to one another, but are also located in a valley on opposite sides of a stream and between two probably prehistoric trackways (now the A16 and the Bluestone Heath Road) that come together to meet at a point to the south-east of Walmsgate and Ketsby, enclosing a large triangle of land between them. It might be wondered whether this area was originally the 'gore' or triangle of land that belonged to the Anglo-Saxon Waldmǣr/Walhmǣr, with the settlement now known as Ketsby therefore being, in the pre-Viking period, a part of this estate—perhaps an important part—before it was split off to form a separate unit that, at some point, came under the lordship of Ketil?

The location of Ketsby and Walmsgate; for a zoomable version of this image, click here.

A Viking Jellinge-style die found at Ketsby DMV (image: UKDFD)

Whatever the case may be on the above, the Anglo-Scandinavian period (late ninth–eleventh centuries) appears to have seen an even greater degree of activity at Ketsby. Once again, pottery of this era—'Late Saxon' and 'Saxo-Norman'—is recorded from the site by the EMASPP, now supplemented by 27 metal-detected finds recorded on the PAS and the UKDFD, and a very significant cluster of 'Viking coins' noted at this location by Kevin Leahy in 2007. The metalwork found includes multiple hooked tags, strap-ends, lead-alloy disc brooches, stirrup mounts, and pieces of Urnes-style metalwork from this period, along with a fragment of a Viking trefoil brooch. Furthermore, there is once again probable evidence for metal-working from the site, with finds of a Viking Jellinge-style die of the late ninth to mid-tenth century and a probable lead-alloy pattern used to produce copper-alloy strap-ends from clay moulds, both of which are most interesting given the general rarity of evidence for the production of Scandinavian-style metalwork in eastern Britain.

With Domesday Book and the medieval period, Ketsby emerges into the historical record. In Domesday, Ketsby appears as a medium-sized settlement under the lordship of Godric in 1066 and under Hugh in 1086, with one mill, six villains, one bordar and eleven sokemen recorded in 1086, whilst Walmsgate appears only as sokeland of Ketsby in the Domesday Book, with no villains or similar listed there, which is interesting in light of the suggestions made above. Moving forward in time, the Pastscape record follows Beresford's Lost Villages of England (1954) in recording that a fair and market was held at Ketsby in the medieval period, although the market was certainly a new innovation of the early sixteenth century, being instituted in 1524. With regard to the archaeology, the UKDFD indicates that the coin evidence from the site clusters 'around the Conquest period' and the PAS notes a coin of William I found on the site, along with some later medieval issues and an eleventh- or early twelfth-century Italian coin. Non-coinage medieval finds recorded in the various databases include pottery, a lovely silver-gilt brooch of the thirteenth century decorated with lions, a papal bulla of Gregory IX (1227–41), and 30 or so other items including bells, brooches, buckles and strap-ends.

A thirteenth-century silver-gilt brooch found at Ketsby (image: PAS)

A very nice example of a lead pilgrim badge depicting St Margaret of Antioch stood atop a dragon, found at Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire; eight pilgrim badges depicting St Margaret have been found at Ketsby, including some with identical imagery to this specimen (image: PAS)

The distribution of pilgrim badges depicting St Margaret of Antioch, based on PAS and UKDFD data (drawn by C. R. Green)

Perhaps the most significant medieval finds from Ketsby are those of a religious character, however. These include a four pilgrim ampullas of the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries, a fifteenth-century St Blaise pilgrim badge, and eight pilgrim badges depicting St Margaret of Antioch, dating from the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. The latter are particularly interesting, representing the greatest concentration of such pieces known from Late Medieval England by a significant margin. Furthermore, the distribution map of such badges recorded on the PAS and UKDFD shows that almost all of these items come from Lincolnshire and that they appear to be distributed around Ketsby. In light of this, it might well be wondered whether this apparently local manifestation of the generally widespread cult of St Margaret of Antioch might not have had its focus and centre at Ketsby itself? Needless to say, this suggestion gains considerable weight from a consideration of not only the potential evidence for the production of these St Margaret pilgrim badges at Ketsby, but also the fact that the lost church of Ketsby was dedicated to St Margaret and actually contained a medieval image of St Margaret that was still attracting notable offerings in 1529! As such, there would seem to be a very good case for Ketsby having been a local pilgrimage centre for the cult of St Margaret in the late medieval period. Indeed, in this context it is interesting to note one final metal-detected find from the Ketsby DMV, namely a fragment of lead openwork frieze, which the UKDFD record notes may be 'of some significance', given the historical evidence for an important image of St Margaret here.

With regard to the decline of the village and its church, only a little can be said here. As was noted above, Ketsby was actually granted a market in 1524 and the image of St Margaret in the church was still receiving notable offerings in 1529, with the implication that Ketsby was continuing to function as a local pilgrimage centre then (with this continued religious activity perhaps helping to explain why a new market was created here in the 1520s). Although the image of St Margaret clearly still existed in 1534—when the parson of Ketsby (John Cocke) stated in his will that he wished to be buried 'in the chancel before the image of St Margaret'—the Reformation must have had a significant negative effect on the village and its church, and 1597 saw the last institution of a priest at Ketsby church. Indeed, by the eighteenth century the church was ruinous and it now only survives through chance finds such as the frieze mentioned above, a medieval cresset lamp found on the DMV, and a lead cross perhaps originally from one of the graves. Similarly, although a few houses remain at Ketsby, there are only cropmarks to tell of the main village that once existed here, with the village earthworks having been bulldozed and levelled in the mid-1960s, around the same time that the surviving medieval barn at Ketsby House (variously dated to the fourteenth century and c. 1500) was pulled down.

A fragment of medieval lead openwork frieze found on the Ketsby DMV (image: UKDFD)


1    In this context, it is interesting to note the tentative suggestion made below that the name 'Walmsgate' may have originally applied to a relatively large pre-Viking estate that included Ketsby DMV within its bounds. The first part of the name Walmsgate, Walmesgar at Domesday, appears to be the name of a pre-Viking owner of this estate or gāra, 'triangle of land', and one possibility is that he was called Walhmǣr, a name that includes the Old English term for a Briton or Welsh-speaker, although it might well be dangerous to press this point too far!

The above post is based on records held by the local Historic Environment Record, English Heritage's Pastscape, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), the UK Detector Finds Database (UKDFD), and the East Midlands Anglo-Saxon Pottery Project (EMASPP). Images from the PAS database are used under their blanket CC BY 2.0 license; those from the UKDFD are used under the 'educational, non-commercial' permission granted by point 2.2 of UKDFD's 'Terms and Conditions'; if there any objections to me using the latter pictures in this article, please contact me and I will remove them.

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2015, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.