The finds relate to all periods of the past in Hampshire, from the Palaeolithic to the present day, and are accompanied by archives providing various levels of supporting information. This can range from simple labels and letters, to a full technical description of the work carried out.
There are substantial displays of archaeology at several of our sites. The remainder of the collection is in store, where it is available for research and reference purposes by prior appointment.
Although many sites have been published as excavation reports, detailed documentation of the collections, to SPECTRUM standards, is an on-going process. The total of ‘significant archives’ held by the Trust, is now in excess of 1600 and it is by referring to these that students, researchers, or local people looking for local information, can tap into a valuable historical and archaeological resource.
The collections contain flint tools, stone artefacts, pottery, early metal objects and significant assemblages of stratified animal bone that fully reflect the existence and industry of our prehistoric ancestors. They themselves are represented by a range of skeletal evidence and a number of cremation burials. The largest single archive is the collection from the Iron Age hillfort at Danebury, near Stockbridge, subject of excavation and research from the late 1960s onwards.
For the Roman period the collections reflect the existence of two tribal capitals, Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) and (Venta Belgarum) Winchester, as well as high status villas and more lowly farmsteads. Finds range from mosaic pavements at Rockbourne and from Sparsholt (on show at Winchester City Museum) and Fullerton (displayed at Andover) to personal items such as jewellery and coinage.
Rockbourne Roman Villa has a particularly fine range of material, including what remains of a hoard of 7,717 late 3rd century coins, but is eclipsed by the finds from the tribal capitals. Venta Belgarum was the fifth largest town in Britain and is particularly renowned for the finds and skeletal remains from its extramural cemeteries. One particular burial featured in a 'Meet the Ancestors' programme and the reconstruction of his face, kindly donated by the BBC, is on show at Winchester City Museum.
Calleva Atrebatum has produced the wealth of evidence that one would expect from a Roman town site excavated in detail over the past forty years. Personal items, building materials, military gear and waterlogged deposits all contribute to a remarkably detailed picture of five centuries of occupation.
Other Roman finds reflect industrious crossroads settlements, isolated shrines, pottery kilns and high status rural burials which have produced striking finds such as the Selborne enameled cup, or a gaming board and a complement of over fifty pottery vessels.
Hampshire is particularly well-blessed with pagan Anglo-Saxon cemeteries and these have produced some remarkable finds. The Alton buckle was made in Kent, long before being buried in the grave of a young male furnished with sword, spears and shield, while the Breamore bucket began its journey to the banks of the Avon from Antioch, in Turkey. The Winchester Hanging Bowl is another spectacular find from a young male grave, whereas the Monk Sherborne Frankish buckle turned up in the top of an ancient rubbish pit.
From 850 to 1150, Winchester was the birthplace of the English nation state, capital of England under Alfred and his successors. Its importance is demonstrated by the coins from the Winchester mint and the examples we hold of the celebrated Winchester art style.
Norman and Medieval
After the conquest, the city lost political and economic ground to London, but there are still many items of importance in the collections relating to its medieval occupants. Other smaller, but equally significant medieval collections exist from sites like Odiham Castle, and small towns such as Alton, Andover, Basingstoke, Romsey and Wickham.
Ecclesiastical sites are well-represented, particularly in Winchester, but there are also finds and archives from Selborne Priory, Beaulieu Abbey and Romsey Abbey. From more rural locations the ‘lost villages’ of ‘Hatch’ (Brighton Hill South), Popham and Foxcotte, have produced a wealth of material including, from the former, the burial of a 13th century priest, complete with pewter chalice and patten.
Tudor to 20th century
Investigations on sites covering more recent history have also added significantly to the collections. Basing House, once a spectacular Tudor mansion, was destroyed during the English Civil War but excavations have produced an array of fine, if fragmentary material. Work in Winchester and many of the towns throughout Hampshire, has also produced quantities of building material, pottery, glass, metal tools and personal items that add to the picture of how these settlements developed.