Tidenham Historical Group
The parish of Tidenham is well known for its rural beauty and stunning views of the Wye Valley and River Severn.Less well known is its history, dating back to prehistoric times. The Tidenham Historical Group was founded in January 1990 by its current Treasurer, Liz McBride, and Chairman, Keith Underwood. It was always envisaged that it would be a working group of like-minded members keen on the Parish of Tidenham’s history and heritage. Its aims are to research, collate and create an archive of information on the history of the parish and surrounding areas.
It was hosted initially at nearby Chepstow Museum and many of the early monthly meetings took place there, using microfiche readers to scour the pages of the 19th- century Chepstow Weekly Advertiser for references to activities in Tidenham Parish. This led to the creation of an archive of information on parish houses, histories, families, architecture and archaeology, which is still ongoing.
Gradually the membership expanded and outgrew the museum, resulting in a new home at Sedbury and Beachley Village Hall, whose WW1 centenary we celebrated in 2018. The membership widened to include all those keen on local history and the activities broadened to include speakers for monthly evening meetings between September and April.
Tidenham Historical Group Committee members, representatives of the Parish Council and Friends of the historic Tidenham Church at the launch of the Group's latest book commemorating the centenary of the World War 1 Armistice. This was one event of several Historical Group partnership parish activities during the World War1 Centenary years culminating in a gathering of over 400 people for a Remembrance Day ceremony.
The group was awarded an HLF grant for research on buildings of worship, which resulted in the publication in 2014 of its first book, The Churches and Chapels of the Parish of Tidenham: Their History & Architecture. In 2017 the Group partnered with a local publisher to produce an in-depth study entitled Beachley and the First World War, the almost forgotten story of the eviction of an entire community to build a National Shipyard and its subsequent impact on the parish. This was followed in 2018 by Tidenham Remembers, a record of the lives and deaths of the men from the Parish who fell during the Great War.
In the late spring and summer months there are walks and excursions, including exchange visits with other groups. We have hosted several day schools, most recently regarding Offa’s Dyke, a substantial length of which lies within the parish. An on-going partnership project, this may well result in another publication. We are also currently working on the history of education in the parish.
The Gloucestershire Local History Association will be holding its annual Summer Afternoon meeting at Tidenham, hosted by the Group, on Saturday, June 29th. Details of the meeting and a booking form may be found on the GLHA website, www.gloshistory.org.uk
Further details of the Group may be found on its website, www.tidenhamhistory.org.uk or by contacting Carol Clammer (Secretary, tel: 01291 623736) or Liz McBride (Treasurer, tel: 01291 623736).
Victoria County History
Maintaining progress across three areas of the county – Cheltenham, Cirencester, Yate and the Sodburys – relies on continual fund raising, so that we can employ experienced researchers to work alongside our valued (and valuable) volunteers. In February we were lucky enough to be able to hold an event at Cheltenham Town Hall, thanks to the generous support of the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire. Around 50 people bought tickets to the event. John Chandler, our former County Editor, described the background to the VCH and talked about our work in Cheltenham. He was followed by our Cirencester editor Katy Layton Jones, who used the example of the post-war Polish resettlement camp between Daglingworth and Baunton to demonstrate how a significant recent event in a community's history can leave little visible evidence on the ground.
Sadly Katy has now left us to take up a role with the Open University.
We're continuing to post drafts of our Work in Progress on the VCH Central website www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/counties/gloucestershire/work-in-progress. We welcome comments on these, so do please have a look and let us know what you think.
If you are interested in finding out about volunteering with the VCH, do contact me.
Jan Broadway, VCH Co-ordinator
Update about Dr Jenner’s House, Museum and Garden
We are delighted to announce that our fundraising appeal has now raised £22,000 and so Dr Jenner’s House, Museum and Garden will be able to open for the 2019 season.
In September 2018, we broke the news that the former home of vaccine pioneer Edward Jenner faced closure unless we could raise £20,000 by March 2019. Thanks to the support of visitors, friends from around the world, and businesses and organisations both from the local area and further afield we are very pleased to have reached our target in good time to plan for the forthcoming season.
Although we will enjoy celebrating the success of this campaign, we are aware that there is still much work to do. The momentum generated has been huge and has given us a fantastic opportunity to start discussions with potential partners and funders to secure the long-term future of a site that so many people locally and around the world hold dear. £20,000 will allow us to continue as we are for another year, however to enact lasting change and to grow our work we must keep fundraising.
Our plans for 2019 include the return of Discovery Day, our flagship science festival which was attended by 244 visitors last year, significant improvements to our education programme and a full strategic review of our operations. We are still not in receipt of any ongoing public funding and we are now asking our friends around the world to consider making regular donations which will help us to inform these plans.
Please continue to support our work as an independent charity preserving Jenner’s house as a continuing memorial to his remarkable life and legacy. One-off and regular Direct Debit donations can be made online at https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7132, or for cheque, standing orders or more information about partnering with us to deliver a project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01453 810631.
Dr Jenner’s House, Museum and Garden will reopen to the public on Sunday 31 March. It will then be open between Sunday and Wednesday until Wednesday 30 October. This year, the museum will also open on Good Friday and Saturdays in Gloucestershire school holidays. Full visitor information can be found at https://jennermuseum.com.
Reporting our Archaeological Heritage with the Portable Antiquities Scheme
Every year, hundreds of thousands of archaeological items are found by members of the public. On the whole, most items are found by metal detector users but there are still a substantial number found by people walking their dogs or even digging in their back gardens. For instance, one lady found a bronze coin whilst gardening; it was identified as a Follis of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI (Leo the Wise or Leo the Philosopher) date to 866-912 AD. (See Fig 1).
Fig 1. A copper alloy coin of the Byzantine emperor Leo VI Date: 866-912 AD (database ref GLO-D4B576)
Originally, these coins were dismissed as souvenirs that were brought to Britain over the last two centuries but recent studies of these casual loss finds demonstrates a much more complex story. Some may be regarded as souvenirs but the majority recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme were found near the coast in the South Western region of the country. This has led some experts to theorise that these coins, rather than being modern loss, are actually traded items that demonstrate the west of Britain at least continued to have contact to the Eastern Roman Empire long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
Originally, the only mechanism to identify and record these publicly derived archaeological finds was with the help of the museums around the county. However, this service was not only in addition to their core responsibilities, but many did not have the mechanism to help and meant that far fewer than 100 finds could be recorded in a year, far short of the hundreds of thousands that are thought to be found. The solution came about because of a change in the Law of treasure in 1997. The law of treasure is there to insure the most culturally important archaeological finds are protected and stay within the public domain, which will be their local museum, for which the finder and landowner are given a cash reward. However, critics of the original law of Treasure Trove argued that it was vague, ambiguous and not fit for purpose. For example, under Treasure Trove, the gold of Sutton Hoo was not classed as treasure and therefore not protected by law. (Fig 2.)
Fig 2. A 14th century silver seal matrix that shows the Archangel Michael spearing a dragon at his feet and the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus to the left this is surrounded by the inscription S': WILL/I: DE: ST/INTES/COMBE which translates as the 'Seal of William of Stintescombe' (Database ref GLO-F457F2). This is treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act but would not be treasure under the old Treasure Trove.
As a result, experts had been lobbying for over a hundred years to come up with something more suitable but it was not until 1997 that Treasure Trove was finally superseded by the 1996 Treasure Act. Under this new law, objects of more than 10% gold or silver that are older than 300 years or groups of coins, again over 300 years old, are classed as treasure, importantly this also includes the finds associated with them as well, see https://finds.org.uk/treasure for more details.
However, treasure does not cover base metal items such as copper alloy (Fig 3) or pottery, stone and flint (Fig 4), all of which account for the vast majority if items that we see.
Fig 3. Fig 4.
Fig 3. An extremely rare Anglo Saxon brooch that dates to the 6th century. These brooches are found in the Kent area, but Gloucestershire in the early 6th century would have been largely under British control, so its discovery could show trade with the Saxons in Kent or an heirloom that was brought with the Saxons as they conquered this area. (Database ref GLO-4E0EBD)
Fig 4. An extremely rare Palaeolithic handaxe that is about half a million years old and is one of the oldest human made artefacts that can be found in the county with only twelve example recorded so far. (Database ref GLO-325A27)
So together with the change in the Treasure Law in 1997, a pilot Portable Antiquities Scheme started with the aim to record all archaeological finds that were not protected but this new law. These humble beginnings saw 6 finds specialists recording objects in key parts of the country and proved to be so successful that it was expanded in 1999 and 2003 so today we now have 37 specialists called Finds Liaison Officers covering the whole of England and Wales, inputting their data on an online database that has nearly 1.5 million recorded objects see https://finds.org.uk/database The recording of these items is voluntary with everything handed back to the finder when we are finished. We assume that this is the only time an archaeologist will see these items so detailed reports are made of each object which can be added to the archaeological record.
By working with the public in this way, we are able to see some amazing finds that give us a glimpse into past lives. Some of these items can be staggering in their own right.
Gloucester Roman dog hoard, this is an assemblage of copper alloy items that are thought to have been looted from a temple of Diana. The most staggering piece of which is a standing hunting dog that is unique to archaeology. (Database ref GLO-BE1187)
The majority are far more modest.
Badly worn Roman coin often referred to as a ‘grot’ for grotty but these humble coins often prove to be the most important archaeological discovery as they have led us to discovery many new archaeological sites. (Database ref GLO-AE25D8)
The recording and mapping of these more humble items can be much more valuable to archaeologists than the gold and silver objects that are protected by the Treasure Act as these simpler items often help us to discover brand new archaeological sites that give us a greater understanding of our past.
A geophysical survey of a site that shows roman and prehistoric settlement that was discovered as a result of recording poor quality Roman coins nicked named Grots.
Kurt Adams (Gloucestershire County Council Archaeology)