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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Dave Allen, Keeper of Archaeology at Hampshire Museums service writes…

A current project at Basing House is the provision of a ‘viewing platform’ on the crest of the Norman ringwork and during a recent visit to look at the foundation pits for the platform supports I was ‘presented’ with a splendid example of a Palaeolithic handaxe, found in the associated service trench. 

When the works project manager called me to say it was a good time to take a look he mentioned that one of his team had found a flint handaxe.  As lumps of flint are common at Basing and handaxes are rare in northern Hampshire I had my doubts, but it turned out to be an absolute peach of an example (see photo). It’s a roughly hand-sized tool about 13cms long and the working edge, around most of the circumference, is still very fresh. The whole axe has a white ‘patina’ from being buried in chalky soil but the flint would originally have been grey in colour.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Handaxes like these belong, of course, in the Old Stone Age or Palaeolithic.  They were the multi-purpose tools of our earliest ancestors and can date back as much as half a million years.  There have been a few Middle Stone Age flint finds at Basing before, but they go back only 10,000 years, so this new discovery is a fantastic reminder of a time when small groups of humans roamed the landscape hunting woolly mammoth, wild horses, reindeer and aurochs.

 And then….

A couple of weeks after the handaxe discovery at Basing House, the call came through that another unusual find had been made at the site.  Those familiar with the place will know that what is missing at Basing is the ‘House’.  When Oliver Cromwell and his forces took Basing in a final assault in October 1645, and trashed what had once been ‘the greatest of any subject’s house in England, yea larger than most of the King’s palaces’ Parliament compounded the episode by declaring that anybody could take away brick and stone from the ruins ‘and keep it for their pains’.  This invitation to treat the site as a quarry was taken up with gusto, and only the Great Barn survived intact.

Most of the foundations remained, however, and many of these were revealed during the excavations of the 1880s to carved stone head1910.  In exploring floor levels and cellars, Lord Bolton’s gardeners found numerous architectural fragments, some of which – like the stone corbels featuring sculpted human heads  (see photo) – were actually built into the walls of the ’Bothy’, the small house constructed at the time as the site museum.  No detailed study of these fragments has yet taken place, although it is hoped that this omission will be remedied soon.  

Tudor fireplace

The news that an in situ fireplace had come to light was therefore of considerable interest.  Brickwork conservation is a constant theme at Basing and the ravages of the two hard winters we’ve experienced recently have required a good deal of remedial work.  This particular section of loose brickwork was near to the location of the viewing platform and it had clearly been built against an interior wall – a plastered wall – although it’s difficult to be certain just when.  Some modifications took place during the life of the building, some at the death, when the defences were strengthened, some after the Restoration, when the area was probably turned into a garden, and some following the excavations a century ago.  The fact that the wall removed was very ‘rough and ready’ make it a candidate for the most recent of those potential episodes, but it is built on firmer foundations that may well be of 17th century date.  Be that as it may, the fireplace is undoubtedly of 16th origin, probably of Caen stone.  We will be looking through the fragments we have in store to see if there is anything to compare.

Another mystery is just what did the fireplace serve?  The perimeter wall, the plastered wall, has quite definite returns to both east and west (putting the fireplace at the centre).  It also has a series of fixing holes suggesting that it was originally covered with oak panelling, but there is no clear indication of how far the room extended into the interior.  We may well be able to investigate the area in a little more detail during the summer.  If any of the floor level associated with the hearth remains in situ, then perhaps a basic sequence can be established.

Forthcoming Excavations

From 22nd July to 11th August the University of Southampton Archaeology Department, working alongside Hampshire County Council Museums Service and volunteers from the Basingstoke Archaeology and History Society,  will be running a training excavation at Basing House for undergraduate and postgraduate Archaeology students.  The team will be expanding on a recent geophysical survey of the grounds, as well as re-excavating trenches not investigated since 1962  and carrying out an extensive building survey of the remains of the Old House.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during the excavation, the archaeologists will be running free drop-in sessions (normal admission charge applies) including: An Introduction to Osteo-archaeology, Geophysics for Beginners, and New Recording Techniques for Archaeology, and lots more! Why not come along and see how the dig is going, and try your hand at archaeology?

For more information about the work of  University of Southampton Archaeology Department at Basing House see their blog.

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The Battle of Basing

Saturday 28 to Monday 30 August

From 10am-5pm

Join us to celebrate the reopening of Basing House with an exciting event, bringing our Civil War history to life for all ages.

More details on our website: www.basinghouse.org.uk

 

Civil War Soldiers (members of the Sealed Knot) clash in battle
Civil War Soldiers (members of the Sealed Knot) clash in battle

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Cabling in the Great Barn

Building works

Main contractor to the project, Durtnell & Sons, continue to maintain good progress.

Highlights are the completion of the extensive repairs to the Orchard Wall (which is really the remains of at least 3 successive walls dating back centuries!), and the stripping of the old corrugated metal roof of the Little Barn at Basing Grange, which will be replaced with handmade tiles. Work is well advanced, too, on adapting the little store building which will become the ‘gateway’ from/to Basing Grange, on refurbishing the WC block near Garrison Gate, and on the new accessible toilet near the museum.

Work has now begun too on the museum in The Lodge, and Museum Service staff are well advanced with their plans for the new exhibition.

The Little Barn minus roof!

Ecology
The works on the barns at Basing Grange began after Easter, following the granting of a “bat licence” by Natural England. This “European Protected Species Licence” is a permit to carry out such work but also safeguards the bats resident on the site. The licence application was prepared by consultants Thomson Ecology on behalf of the County Council. Thomsons carried out extensive surveys in 2009 to identify the presence of any protected species and then went on to identify the roosting bat species found to be present and to advise on measures that should be taken to protect them during the works and after.

The surveys found roosts for Brown Long-eared, Soprano Pipistrelle, and Common Pipistrelle bats at Basing Grange. Measures being taken now, under licence, seek to ensure that bats are not left without a roost during the works and that, once works are complete, enhanced roosting opportunities will be available.

Education and Interpretation

PLB Projects Ltd, Interpretation and Exhibition Design specialists, are now finalising their graphic designs for the information points, and are about to begin recording for the podcast and the Great Barn audio-visual presentation. Construction of 2 specially-commissioned site models is also under way.

The Museum Service’ education team have been busy consulting with primary schools and secondary schools across the county. Responses have been very positive and bookings are starting to come in.

Events programme

A programme of events for August and on into next year is being put together. To mark the re-opening of Basing House a spectacular Civil War event is being planned for August bank holiday. Watch out for news on that on that soon.

Staff and Volunteers

A new Operations Manager for Basing House has been appointed and will take up post at the beginning of June. Other members of the team will be recruited soon.

It is great to see so many people putting their names forward as volunteers. On May 8th from 2 – 4pm a special meeting for potential volunteers will be held on site. If you wish to find out more about sort of activities that you might become involved in as a volunteer and the training that we can offer please send in your details via the form on our website.

Traffic management

The design for a pedestrian road crossing outside Garrison Gate has now been finalised by the council’s Transport team and a start date for the works will be announced soon. A scheme for tourist road signs has also been approved. These news signs will direct visitor traffic from the ‘A road’ network to our public car park off Barton’s Lane, avoiding Old Basing village.

Coming next…

Recruit remaining staff
Sign up volunteers for training
Sign off final Interpretation designs and begin production
Finalise marketing and communications plans
Receive on-site services – telecoms, gas and electricity
Finalise scheme for The Bothy Tearoom and commission work to begin
Obtain Scheduled Monument Consent for new footbridge over bailey ditch (west side)
Announce date re-opening and admission prices
Finalise and announce plans for launch events

Shooting video for the new museum display

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New Events Programme and Learning Sessions at Basing House

Basing House is such a fascinating site and there are many topics that can be covered in education sessions that can be offered to schools, families, adult lifelong learning groups and local interest societies that it’s hard to know where to begin telling you our plans!

School Education Sessions

We are working hard to redesign the schools education programme that will be on offer at Basing House from September 2010. This involves consulting with schools to make sure that we are offering the best service possible to our local schools. New sessions for Primary and Secondary schools will look at topics such as:

• The differences between lives for the rich and poor in Tudor times at Basing House.
• The visits to William Paulet at his home Basing House by Queen Elizabeth I.
• The events during the siege of Basing House during the Civil War.
• Archaeological investigations at Basing House and the huge variety of objects that have been found here.

If you are a teacher and would like to contact us to discuss the new Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3 offers at Basing House, please visit our website where you will find more information about the planned sessions and contact details: www.hants.gov.uk/museum/basing-house/basing-house-news/basing-house-schools.htm

Provisional Events Programme

From the end of Summer 2010 there are going to be some great new family events being offered:

• There are going to be some archaeology pits that children can ‘excavate’ with finds and features to discover under the sand.
• Basing House is home to many bats and we have a resident barn owl; there will be an opportunity later this year to come and find out all about our shy wildlife.
• In October 2010 we will be inviting families for a spooky dusk walk around our historical site. Who knows what you will find walking around the grounds of Basing House!

The Basing House team will also be offering some great weekend events such as geo-caching and treasure hunts, as well as providing a varied programme of talks, lectures and tours throughout the year. Civil War re-enactment groups will continue to visit Basing House and re-enactment days will be offered. The community archaeology excavation will be taking place again this year, and the newly refurbished Basing House Museum will be showcasing the results of these excavations.

    Look out for some national events as well!

The Big Draw will be visiting Basing House in October 2010 and we will be supporting National Science and Engineering Week in March 2011 and, as always, site tours will be available as part of the nation-wide Heritage Open Days in September 2011.

Full details of all our events will be published in our What’s On leaflets and on our website.

Of course, you don’t have to come along to one of our events to enjoy Basing House. The site is going to be the perfect venue to have a family picnic, explore the ruins, or to just sit and soak up the atmosphere.

For now let us finish with two images:

This great photo appeared in the Basingstoke Gazette following a visit to Basing House by more than 80 Year 3 pupils from St Mary’s Junior School in Old Basing. Pupils learned how to collect and identify insects as part of National Insect Week:

National Insect Week at Basing House

The second photo was taken during the community archaeology excavations in May last year (2009). You can read more about the excavations on the Basing House website, under ‘Basing House Excavations’, www.hants.gov.uk/basing-house :

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