Return to the SAMSAS Home Page


2013 The First World War 1918 Messines Ridge model on Cannock Chase

The Brocton and Rugeley camps on Cannock Chase were constructed 1914 - 1915 (NOT by German prisoners of war, but by contractors) at a frenetic pace, and provided accommodation and training facilities for 40,000 men for four years. Towards the end of the First World War in 1918 the Messines Ridge model at Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase was constructed by German POWs under the control of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, from NZRB experiences during the actual battle of Messines Ridge 07 – 14.06.1917. The New Zealand Rifle Brigade (Earl of Liverpool's Own), affectionately known as The Dinks, was formed on 01.05.1915 as the 3rd Brigade of the New Zealand Division, part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The 5th Battalion was transferred to Brocton Camp in September 1917 to train fresh drafts. This was to be their home and headquarters until their return to New Zealand in May 1919. Their Harlequin Great Dane Freda died and was buried on the Chase, but her collar was taken back to New Zealand.

Archive photos: 1918 German prisoners of war help construct the model

The caretaker's hut with the Messines Ridge model in the foreground

The model showing roads
(indicated by linear mosaics of small Bunter pebbles), trench lines, and contour lines (filled with weeds)

A test trench showing the Messines Ridge trench lines modelled in concrete

The site cleared ready for excavation in 2013. The viewing platform may be clearly seen as banks forming three sides of a rectangle.

Field walking find (a piece of concrete with an embedded brick representing a building)

Excavation Photos:

The 1:25 model Features: Contour Line

Road and contour line


Messines town square


Trench railway with wooden sleepers and telephone wire rails

The area of the Curator's hut: a small find was a sixpence

The whole site was photographed with reference lines

LiDAR recording:

LiDAR spherical target

LiDAR spherical targets

LiDAR rectangular target

LiDAR tripod

Survey: Electronic survey and GPS

Electronic survey and GPS

Backfilling: Black plastic layer partially covered by sand

10cm of sterile sand, then a layer of chicken wire

Topsoil backfilled

A 2012 YouTube video of the BBC/Staffordshire County Council news report concerning the excavation of the Messines Ridge model may be seen here.

2010 Acton Trussell Roman site, 25.07.2010

The water supply for this site was traced from the local stream. Hydrological investigations by John Wilcock.

2003 Medieval Water Mill, Environment Agency

The site of the 13th Century Stafford Mill beside the River Sow at Mill Bank (SJ 92142296) south of the town centre was established sometime during the late-Anglo-Saxon period, as it is mentioned in the Domesday record of 1086. Other mills are documented in the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries but the last building on the site, a water-powered corn mill built in 1834, was demolished in 1957, the wheels being left visible on site. The site was excavated again in 2003 by the Environment Agency as part of a flood control scheme. The remains of an eel trap, probably post-Medieval in date (AHDS), were reburied at the site of the Saxon Mill.

Hislop, M.J.B., E.J. Ramsey and M. Watts (2001) Stafford Mill: An Archaeological Excavation 2003, Transactions of the Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society, XVI (2006). pp. 1-44.

1990 - 1992 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson supervised the excavations at Stafford Castle.

1988 King's Low, Gary Lock & Dick Spicer

Members took part in the King's Low (Blackheath) excavation directed by Gary Lock BA,PhD, MIFA and Dick Spicer BA
01.05.88 - 31.07.88

1985 - 2004 Saxon Pottery Kilns and Earthworks (November/December 1994), Martin Carver

Following the burhification of the town in 913 urban and social benefits were bestowed upon Stafford, which soon housed successful potteries along the west bank of the Sow producing a particular form of hard-wearing quartz-tempered pottery known to archaeologists as Stafford Ware.

This type of pottery was based upon an earlier type produced in Shropshire and Cheshire during the 9th Century known as Chester Ware, from which it is almost indistinguishable, making it very difficult to use as a method for dating an archaeological context. The main production period of the Stafford potteries was between the 10th and 12th Centuries. The pottery produced in Stafford has a sandy, hard-fired fabric. Small jars and bowls with convex bases were the main forms.
Carbon-14 dating has been used to date other artefacts and excavated features from Stafford: radiocarbon dating conducted at the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxford, on charcoal, grain and plant remains from the interior of one of four kilns uncovered during excavations in 1985 at St Mary's Grove (SJ 9223) confirmed that these structures represented a major Anglo-Saxon industrial site active during the 7th Century.

Excavations have uncovered a pit dated to the 13th Century containing Anglo-Saxon and Medieval pottery at Earl Street (SJ 92042308). The Anglo-Saxon and Norman settlement of Stafford uncovered during excavations in Tipping Street (SJ 92372321) included the footings of a late-Saxon building and palisade, evidence for iron-working dated c.1170 and a street frontage dating between the late-12th and 13th centuries. Also on the site were the kilns and wells of a small pottery business which produced pottery vessels of Stafford Ware, including wheel-thrown cooking pots, pitchers and bowls, operational between the 10th and early-12th centuries. Another pottery kiln together with associated pits had been recorded during rescue operations in Eastgate Street (SJ 92442315) in 1977. Again, the pottery kiln produced Stafford Ware, including cooking pots, jars and bowls, and remained in production from the 10th to the mid 12th century. Excavations at Clarke Street (SJ 9223) uncovered Roman and Early-Medieval deposits which had been waterlogged, a Saxon midden and pit, and Norman building footings all overlain by Post-Medieval plough marks. Further investigations close by failed to locate anything Medieval, only uncovering post-Medieval buildings. Evaluation and assessment of land at Salter Street (SJ 9223), in advance of proposed development, revealed Saxon and Medieval remains including more pottery works and kilns. It was recommended that development be postponed in favour of more detailed archaeological investigations. Another archaeological assessment in advance of proposed development on land between Tipping Street and South Walls (SJ 9223) found further evidence for the existence of extensive Saxon potteries and again recommended that further archaeological investigations be performed prior to development. Investigations conducted at Yates Wine Bar, 25-27 Gaolgate Street, both within the building and in the rear yard, recorded surviving deposits from Medieval times and earlier, including a Saxon road, Medieval post-holes, wells, gullies and pits and post-Medieval pits, wells, boundary walls, paths and cess-pits. (AHDS).
The excavations were paid for by Marks and Spencer consequent on their new store on the site of the old Leisure Centre. Finds were Medieval rubbish pits and structures, a stone cellar that was probably destroyed in the 15th Century, cess pits, Medieval tiles, a bone die, a 17th Century shoe, a 17th Century two-pronged fork, and large quantities of Saxon (Stafford Ware), Medieval and Post-Medieval pottery.
The archives have been assembled by Charles Hill, John Darlington and David Wilkinson (1999) during their times as Stafford Borough Council Archaeologists, and some artefacts have been deposited in the Stoke-on-Trent City Museum.

David Wilkinson

1983 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson took part in excavations at St Michael's Field, Cirencester.

1978 - 1991 Stafford Castle (Monetville), Charles Hill

The first castle on this site was constructed around the year 1100 and was a motte and bailey wooden castle that was built ‘on the mound’ 2 miles west of the town centre.
The first stone castle was started in 1347 on the instructions of Ralph de Stafford. In 1348 he was given licence to crenellate his ‘dwelling place in Stafford’. The castle was completed in 1368. The castle design was rectangular in plan, measuring about 40m by 16m, with an octagonal tower at each of the corners and a fifth tower in the centre of the west side. The walls were 2m thick at the base and the towers were 3m higher than the main body of the building. There were three chambers in each tower, each with a chimney.
Among the outbuildings were barns, stables and a mill house. A very deep well was situated slightly north-east of the castle, said to date from the time of Henry IV. Within the castle there was also a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas. The castle mound was strategically placed to give 20 or 30 miles of uninterrupted views towards Wales, as at the time that was the direction from which there was the greatest threat.
During the Civil War the defenders were Royalists, but on 22nd December 1643 the Parliamentary Committee at Stafford ordered the slighting of the castle.
After the castle was demolished Sir William Jerningham succeeded. He had the whole site cleared and his son Sir George William Jerningham started to rebuild the castle, in order to substantiate a claim to become Lord Stafford.

2011 Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle (Yale University Press) p. 263-413

2007 Soden, I. (ed), 2007, Stafford Castle: Survey, Excavation and Research 1978-98 Vol. 2: The Excavations (Stafford: Stafford Borough Council, Paperback: ISBN 9780952413639
The honorial castle at Stafford was constructed during the eleventh century by Robert Tosny, who took the title de Stafford. It remained in residential use for over 550 years. The keep was rebuilt from 1348 at the command of Ralph Stafford, first earl. The family who, by 1444, had become the Dukes of Buckingham, implemented further repairs, alterations and additions. The castle was substantially dismantled during the Civil War. With the vestiges of a nineteenth-century sham keep surmounting the motte, the castle is promoted today as a visitor attraction and a park for the people of Stafford.
This is the companion and complementary volume to Stafford Castle: Survey Excavation and Research 1978-98. Volume I – The Surveys. Volume II synthesises the results of the principal excavations over fourteen years, dealing with aspects of the medieval castle in the period c1070-1650 and the archaeological value it still retains some 28 years after excavations began. It deals with the excavated structures of four principal sites within the castle, the finds recovered and examines aspects of their place within wider castle studies.

2003-4, 'Stafford Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 31

2001 Darlington, John, 2001, Stafford Castle: Survey, Excavation and Research 1978-1998 Vol. 1: The Surveys (Stafford: Stafford Borough Council)

Sailer, Mike, 1997, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire p. 42-7
Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge) p 229
Sailer, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p 67-71
Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castle (Batsford) p 289-93
Drage, C, 1937, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p 117-3 (where assumed to be King's castle)
King, D.J C , 1983, Castellanum Anglicanum (London Kraus) Vol 2 p 451 (history mixed with King's castle)
Fry, P.S, 1980, Castles of the British Isle (David and Charles) p 302
Pevsner, N., 1974, Buildings of England Staffordshire (London, Penguin) p. 249-50
Renn, D.F., 1973 (2edn), Norman Castles of Britain (John Baker)
Midgley, LM. and Donaldson, B., 1959, in Midgley, LM. (ed), VCH Staffordshire Vol 5 p 84-83
Salzman, 1952, Building in England (Oxford) p. 438-9 (The building contract of 1348)
Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isle (London: John Murray) p. 211-6 (Believed this to be same as Stafford King's castle)
Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (Methuen and Co)
Lynam, Charles, 1908, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page Wm. (ed), VCH Staffordshire Vo\ 1p 355 (plan)
Mackenzie, J.D, 1896, Castles of England (New York: Macmillan) VoI 1 p 399-401
Timbs, J and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wale Vol. 2 (London) p. 530
Turner, T.H and Parker, J.H, 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol 3 Part 2 p 235, 415

Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia
Chandler, John, 1993, John Island’s Itinerary travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 443
Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Ireland in or about the years 1535-154 (London Bell and Sons) Vol 5 p 19

1903-4, 'Stafford Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol 17 p. 31
Hislop, M.J.B., 1993, 'Master John of Burcestre and the Castles of Stafford and Maxstoke' Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol 33 p. 14-20
Youngs, S.M, Clark, J. and Barry, T, 1937, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1986' Medieval Archaeology Vo\ 31 p. 159
Klemperer, W D., 1986, 'Stafford Castle 1936' West Midlands Archaeology Vol. 29 p 38-9
Youngs, S.M, Clark, J. and Barry, T, 1935, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1984' Medieval Archaeology Vol 29 p. 198-9
Klemperer, W D., 1985, 'Stafford Castle 1985' West Midlands Archaeology Vol. 28 p 15-17
Hill, C., 1984, 'Stafford Castle? The development of an amenity' West Midlands Archaeology Vol 27 p 122-3
Moffett, C., 1983, 'Stafford Castle, Staffordshire' West Midlands Archaeology Vol 26 p. 117, 119
Hill, C., 1981-2, 'Stafford Castle' CBA Newsletter and Calendar 5 p 149
Hill, C., 1980-1, 'Stafford, Staffordshire' CBA Newsletter and Calendar 4 p. 129
Webster, LE and Cherry, J, 1930, 'Medieval Britain in 1979' Medieval Archaeology Vol 24 p 202
Hill C, 1980, 'Stafford Castle, Staffordshire excavation and survey at castle and DMV West Midlands Archaeology Vol. 23 p. 113
Webster, L E and Cherry, J, 1978, 'Medieval Britain in 1977' Medieval Archaeology Vol 22 p 262
Barker, P.A., 1978, 'Stafford Castle' West Midlands Archaeological news sheet Vol. 21 p. 93-4
Palliser, D.M., 1974, The castles at Stafford' Stafford Historical and Civic Society Transactions 1971- p. 1-17
Palliser, D.M., 1972, 'Staffordshire Castles: A Provisional List' Staffordshire Archaeology Vol 1 p 5-8
Cantor, Leonard, 1966, The Medieval Castles of Staffordshire' North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies Vol. 6 p. 38-46
Armitage, E., 1904, The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vo\ 19 p. 2D9-245, 417-455 esp. 430-4
Mazzinghi, T.J., 1387, 'History of the Manor and Parish of Castle, or Castle Church' Collections for a History of Staffordshire Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 71-84

Primary Sources
Maxwell Lyte, H C (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1348-bQ) Vol. 3 p. 13
Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-142 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p 434

Jecock, M and Corbett, G., 1997, Stafford Castle, Staffordshire, NMR Number SJ92SW2 (National Monuments Record Centre)

1977 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson took part in excavations at Grove Priory (Bedfordshire).

1976 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson took part in excavations at Skendleby Long Barrow (Lincolnshire).

1975 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson took part in excavations at West Whelpington Deserted Medieval Village site (Northumberland), and at the Admirals Walk site in Cirencester.

1974 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson took part in excavations on a Roman building site adjacent to the Roman inhumation cemetery site at The Querns, Cirencester.

1973 David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson took part in excavations at Housesteads Roman Fort on Hardian's Wall, Milton Keynes Iron Age site, Minchinhampton Common (Gloucestershire) Iron Age site, and the Roman inhumation cemetery site at The Querns, Cirencester.

1972 - 1975 Eccleshall Castle, Jack Fisher

Eccleshall Castle moated site comprises a rectangular platform measuring c. 82m x 56m covering an area of c. 4500 m^2. The platform is surrounded by a moat of up to 21m wide and at least 4m deep. The moat has a flat bottom and is now dry, although it was probably once wet. The substantial vertical stone revetments are probably original, and the north-east corner tower also survives. There is a 14th Century bridge of two spans across the moat, with pointed arches, a plain parapet and four cutwater butresses. An impressive 17th Century house with a 13-bay façade and two projecting wings stands on the platform. The house includes Medieval masonry. The castle gatehouse is thought to have been demolished in the late 18th century. At the north-eastern corner of the enclosure wall is a nine-sided tower. The walls are approximately 2m thick and faced inside and out with high quality ashlar, the lower part of which is battered. The tower was originally three-storeyed and contains small, pointed trefoiled window openings. There are the remains of a fireplace on the first floor. The tower is now roofless. A small area of the north-east tower was excavated between 1973 and 1974 by Jack Fisher, locating a latrine shaft which yielded 18th-century material. The pottery was analysed by John Wilcock using statistical techniques. Organic material such as wood and leather were exposed in a waterlogged layer of black earth and silt above the sub-soil. The north-east tower is a Grade II* listed building. It is probable that there was a similar tower at each angle of the enclosure wall.

1972 Greyfriars, Francis Celoria (University of Keele) and John Wilcock (University of Keele and SAMSAS)

The Franciscan Friars of Stafford (1274-1538) Possibly founded by one of the Stafford family resident at Sandon Hall, the first friars of the order were settled in by 1274. The bishop granted indulgence (forgiveness of sins without the need for penance) to any who would stop at the friars' church on certain days and say there the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary for the king, the kingdom, and the faithful departed. The friars secured the friendship of Edmund, Baron of Stafford (d. 1308): a Franciscan became his confessor, and he chose the Stafford friary as his place of burial instead of the Augustinian priory at Stone where members of his family were usually buried. In an official list of Franciscan properties of 1331, this friary is recorded as being under supervision of the abbey at Worcester and thus it remained until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. The friary is never believed to have had a large membership and no striking incidents or outstanding personalities connected with it have come to light. The friary was surrendered by its members to the king in 1538 in order to avoid persecution.

The friary lay on the east side of the main road from Stafford to Stone, north of what is now the junction with Browning Street (SJ 91912394) - note on the map above how the building projects into the road; the main road is still known as Grey Friars in this area. In 1610 a house called Grey Friars stood here on an extensive walled site approached through a gatehouse. Despite its distance from the town walls it was pulled down as part of the demolition of buildings within musket shot of the walls under the order of the Parliamentary Committee in 1644 to facilitate the defence of the town. (Victoria County History Staffordshire (VCHS) 3, pp.270 - 271). .
David Wilkinson took part in an excavation of the Roman inhumation cemetery site at The Querns and Prices Row in Cirencester.

This excavation in 1972, undertaken by the University of Keele, SAMSAS and members of the Research Centre for Computer Archaeology, North Staffordshire Polytechnic, as part of the University of Keele 1972 Archaeology Excavation Training School, recovered the basements of former houses, and about 30 skeletons of the former friars. The site is now covered by new housing.

1971 St Bertelin’s Chapel adjoining St Mary’s Collegiate Church

The wooden remains of the cruciform coffin of Saint Bertelin, along with charcoal and wooden remains found in association with it at St Bertelin's Chapel in Stafford (SJ 919235), were tested at Birmingham University in 1971 and, whereas the single sample of oak wood taken from the coffin itself was dated c.770 (±78), the two samples taken from the associated charcoal remains yielded anomalous radiocarbon dates of 1105 (±90) and 1120 (±120). (Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS))
The site of St. Bertelin's Chapel (SJ 92102318) lies just to the west of St. Mary's Collegiate Church in the centre of Stafford. The church was established in late-Saxon times and was also the site of a 16th century preaching cross. It was later turned into a grammar school, but the building was demolished in 1801..
David Wilkinson took part in an excavation of the Roman inhumation cemetery site at The Querns in Cirencester. (AHDS)

1970 South Walls, Francis Celoria

Excavation as part of a University of Keele 1970 Archaeology Excavation Training School in Archaeology, in which an assemblage of Post-Medieval and Victorian pottery was discovered on the site of a demolished house in North Walls, Stafford (see the remaining fragment of the Stafford town walls in the background). The remaining houses in South Walls were demolished in 2010 for development of a new Marks and Spencer store on the site of the former Leisure Centre.
David Wilkinson took part in an excavation of the Roman inhumation cemetery site at The Querns in Cirencester.

1966 Broad Eye Windmill, Friends of Broad Eye Mill

Broad Eye Windmill by Reginald George Haggar (1905 – 1988)

Broad Eye Windmill was built in 1796 with stone from the early Shire Hall by John Wright, a banker. A date 1709 is inscribed on a sixth floor beam, but probably this was a re-used beam from the Shire Hall. The Mill had two pairs of common sails and 3 sets of millstones (or grinding stones) on the 5th floor. The lease was acquired by the Wrights in 1818. It is unknown who the millers were until Martin John Wright took over the lease. Nor is it known if John and Martin Wright were related, or perhaps even the same person. By 1824 the mill was owned by John Twigg of Weeping Cross.
At some time between 1835 and 1847 steam power was introduced to supplement the sails. By 1847 a second more powerful steam engine had been installed to drive two additional pairs of millstones on the second floor. This engine was on the first floor, not in the engine house built for the first engine that had been of the nodding donkey type.
After previous use for grinding corn, the lower part of the windmill was converted into a shop in 1919. From the early 1920s until 1932 it was a butcher's shop trading under then name of George Foster, and then the Brandon Brothers from 1925 onwards. In 1931 the business was sold to Percy Palmer who kept a general stores, fruiterers and green grocers. In 1932 the tenancy was taken over by John Burrows, shoe repairer. He worked in his cobblers' shop until 1941 during which time the building fell into a ruinous state. In January 1951 the windmill became a listed building.
In 1966 the Friends of Broad Eye Windmill was formed to care for the mill with the intention of returning it to its former glory. Now known as Broad Eye Windmill, the group continue the work of restoring the mill and have opened the renovated ground floor to visitors on special Open Days.
The yard of the mill was excavated by Francis Celoria in the 1970s.

Send all comments, updates and queries for the SAMSAS Sites Page to John Wilcock

Version: 01 06 August 2016 updated by John Wilcock