Foxcotte, a Deserted Medieval Village (1979-81)
According the Domesday survey of 1086, the estate of Foxcotte was held as two manors: one of them was the now deserted settlement of Foxcotte, possibly then comprising about twelve families. Lying to the northwest of Andover, its south end was bounded by the Portway Roman road and it was crossed both by the River Anton and the Harroway, an ancient trackway.
Excavations took place from 1979-81 as part of the Test Valley Archaeological Committee Medieval Project, and evidence was also recovered of activity in the Mesolithic, Bronze Age, Roman, and Saxon periods. The earliest buildings found belonged to the 13th to 14th centuries with expansion taking place into the late medieval period. Although the growth of the hamlet slowed in the succeeding centuries, the desertion of the settlement occurred well after medieval times. A series of wills from the 16th century give information about the property and achievements of independent villagers: at this time the estate included at least 13 households. A beautifully drawn estate map of 1614 shows a village with chapel, manor house and other dwellings. By the 1841 census only seven households, including the Manor House, remained: five of these were headed by a labourer.
The structures of the earliest medieval phase were timber-built. A series of stakeholes, for instance, were interpreted as a long, centre-aisled building. This had been partitioned, perhaps for the purposes of stabling animals or storing agricultural produce and tools. The pottery from this area was heavily eroded suggesting that the land had been ploughed after the building had been abandoned. Excavation revealed structural evidence of only one other building of the 13th to 14th century but fragments of sandstone roof tile suggest that a substantial, high-status building existed nearby.
The remains of a building dating to the late medieval period (15th – 16th centuries) indicate the existence of a fairly wealthy household up until the end of this period. Flint wall footings rested on the chalk, reaching a maximum of 0.5m above the floor. It is probable that they supported a timber frame with wattle and daub infill. At the centre of the building was a room which was probably open to the rafters. This contained a hearth constructed of pitched roof tiles, later given a hearth-back of malmstone (Upper Greensand) blocks. In another room an oven had been constructed from mortared roof-tile fragments. A nearby building containing an oven and cisterns was probably used as a bake-house or brew-house.
The 1614 map was drawn up for the benefit of Sir Edward Barrett (Lord of the Manor). Some of his land was held in tenure by such as ‘widow Joanna Hellier’. Her holding was of over 53 acres with a house which was included in the excavation area. In the mid-17th century the house was demolished and the site was later occupied by a granary. A sickle-blade was found in the demolition debris of the house.
The excavation did not include any areas occupied in the 18th – 19th centuries, but a number of interesting metal finds of that period were recovered. These include three complete copper alloy rumbler bells or ‘crotals’, each decorated on the lower surface and containing an iron ‘pea’ which created a jingling noise. One of the bells, marked ‘W’ was probably made at the Well’s family foundry in Aldbourne, between the 17th and 19th centuries. These bells were worn by cows, sheep or horses. A smaller, incomplete one may have been for a pet or used for personal decoration.
Image: The southern structure unearthed in ‘Area G’.
A1984.40 Archive deposited with the Hampshire Cultural Trust
Russel, A.D. 1985, Foxcotte: The Archaeology and History of a Hampshire Hamlet, Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc, Vol 41, pp. 149-224. Online: < http://www.hantsfieldclub.org.uk/publications/hampshirestudies/digital/1980s/vol41/Russel.pdf>
Series by: Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone