Appendix 1 Known archaeological sites and finds associated with the Battle of Roundway Down
I have researched the Wiltshire SMR, books, files in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, Journals and local newspaper accounts for information on gravesite and finds of civil war munitions. I have also been contacted by many individuals including Phil Hancock and Keith Genever and I thank them all for the information they have supplied
Site 1. Two crania were found in 1855
A registered site of 2 human crania were found in 1855. It is recorded in the Wiltshire SMR - Number SU06NW525. Two human crania, one with sword cuts, was found as shown on the map above. Details are found in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine Vol. 02, p37, Vol. 37, p593-602, Vol. 53, p277-9+426-9, Vol. 66, p199 and Devizes Museum 1970.05 1970 Devizes Museum and the Register of Historic Battlefields 1995 English Heritage.
NEW Rob Parkinson of Rowde has contacted Devizes Heritage and has given very interesting information. He lived on Roundway Down for 4 years in the 1950s at a small cottage by Roundway Hill farm He points out that site 1 is also near the site of an ancient U shaped earthwork. He states that in the 1950s he was up on Morgan's Hill and the field with the earthwork was being ploughed - the U shaped earthwork was very visible in white chalk.
He also remembers getting a book from Devizes library - a slim volume - in which a royalist soldier tells how “we chased the infantry down a small valley and we slaughtered them as we went along. We stripped the bodies and put them in an ancient earthwork and pulled down the walls on them". Unfortunately Rob cannot remember the name of the book. So we ask our readers if anybody has seen this quote in a book." On 1930s OS maps this enclosure is clearly shown - see the map below.
It may prove that a number of the fleeing infantry were buried there and that the 2 crania discovered in the 1850s may have been from a larger burial. It may also be possible that that these 2 crania were from an early skirmish of the cavalry as the Royalists were advancing on the Parliamentary positions close to the present day Roundway Covert. It is further suggested that this find has misled many into believing that the main battle site was further to the north east than it really was. The Ordnance Survey maps have also located the battle site as close to this find.
Site 2. Four skeletons were found in the 1840s in RoundwayHill covert.
This account was provided to the Wiltshire Gazette in the 1840s by Stoughton Money (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries) FSA and was provided courtesy of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum. The exact date is not clear yet. “In excavating and turning up the soil preparatory to extensive plantation on the summit of Roundway Hill several interesting relics have been lately brought to light. (This refers to the planting of Roundway covert to make a cover for bird shooting). The operations extend over 12 acres running along the west and south west ridges of the hill. They have been carried out under the direction of E.F Colston of Roundway Park(he bought it in 1840). In the early part of August the first discovery took place. The workmen uncovered 3 skeletons which were found lying close together. They were little more than a foot beneath the surface at the bottom of an old trench which takes a direction east and west across the down immediately opposite Castle Hill (Oliver’s Castle).
On the 3rd of the present month another skeleton was found about 160 yards to the Southwest of the last and at no greater depth underground. The latter was by the most remarkable of the four as the skull exhibited 2 severe sabre wounds one in the front the other in the hinder part. The right arm was severed from the body and had been placed between the legs of the corpse. The bones were those of a strong young man who judging from the thigh and leg would stand upwards of 6 feet in height. Each of the skeletons from the comparative freshness of their appearance may fairly assigned to the period at which the Battle of place and unquestionably are the remains of individuals engaged in that memorable fray. No weapon of any kind was found with them, the bodies having evidently stripped of all military accoutrements before they were committed to their desolate grave. It would appear that the greater part, if not all of the slain, were interred on the spot where they fell; for (as has been before observed in our columns) neither the registers of Bishops Cannings, Bromham, Heddington, nor of the 3 churches in Devizes contain any record of burials connected to the battle. The register of Rowde forming an exception in 1 instance only. Although no relics were found in the immediate vicinity of the skeletons the labourers in course of their work dug up a cannon ball weighing 2.75 lb, a stirrup of curious form and make, a large spur, from 6 to 12 bullets and several fragments of iron, the use of which owing to their decayed and shapeless state it is difficult to ascertain”.
Comment.This area is directly behind site 3. It would have been open down land at the time of the Battle. The canon ball probably came from the captured Parliamentary guns which had been turned on the Parliament's Infantry square and had passed through it. The skeletons are very close to the final action, but the reports does not allow us to know whether they were cavalry or infantry.
Site 3. Grave Pit found on Roundway Down.
Devizes Heritage has been trying to track down a statement in Lorna Haycock’s booklet on “Devizes in the Civil War” that 12 skeletons were found on Roundway Down and 3 skeletons in a Chalk Pit on Bagdon Hill. The source is the book by A.H. Burne “More Battlefields of England” published by Methuen in 1952. He states “As for relics, a grave pit in the form of a trench 30 feet long (shown on the map below about 400m north-east of Oliver’s Castle car park) was many years ago partially excavated by Captain B.H. Cunnington, Hon. Curator of Devizes Museum. He informed me that he disclosed, one foot below the surface, about 12 skeletons laid length ways but irregularly. They had evidently been stripped before burial, a sure sign that they were battle skeletons. Some other skeletons have been found in a chalk pit on Bagdon Hill.”
Unfortunately the Cunningtons of WANHS were not in the habit of publishing or recording all their digs adequately. In addition they showed little interest in archaeology after the Romans. So a precise location or date for the excavation is not known, the best we can do is the sketch map provided in Burne’s book. We have no indication about any other evidence that Cunnington may have had for the possible size of the grave. Was is it in fact a small part of a much larger grave that he did not investigate? The position of the grave with 12 skeletons is interesting in that it is much further south than the site of the battle identified in many accounts. It seems to be in the general area of site 4 discussed below.
Burne also quotes Cunnington as saying “Some skeletons were found in a chalk pit on Bagdon Hill.” The name Bagdon Hill is a source of confusion. On Speed’s 1724 map and Andrew’s and Drury’s 1773 map of Wiltshire Bagdon Hill is the high point on Roundway Down at 242m. Roundway Hill is the Down above the Leipzig plantation and running towards Oliver’s castle. However it is known that for residents of Bromham Bagdon Hill is the earlier name for what has been known as Beacon Hill since maps have been made. In the context of Burne’s book it is clear that he places Bagdon Hill as the high point on Roundway Down (242m high). There was an operating chalk pit in the 18th century near the present Stone pit quarry on the Bishops Cannings side of Roundway Down. This is the second potential burial site that was identified by Phil Hancock and Alan Carter a few months ago before we appreciated the 3 skeletons find. This find is possibly there. There is also a chalk pit on the White Horse car park side of Roundway Down. It is surrounded by beech trees and looks to our eyes to be much more recent than the Civil war. It has been suggested to us that there was historically a chalk pit and lime kiln in what is now the Leipzig Plantation. Perhaps the bodies were there.
Site 4 12 lead canon balls found near Oliver's Castle car park in 1975
Keith Genever is an experienced metal detector from Devizes. In 1975 he found 10 lead cannon balls which were smaller in diameter than the 2.5 lb iron ball noted in 5 below. He found 3 lead cannon balls that were 4.5 lb or 2.1 kg weight and 7 cannon balls that were between 2.5 and 3 lb 1.1 to 1.4 kg weight. The balls are shaped roughly spherically but some what flattened. This suggests that they were made by the men themselves from salvaged lead. We know that lead was taken from church roofs for musket balls and cannon balls
The location of the site is in the small field south of the unpaved road leading to Oliver's castle as shown on the map above. They are in the field between 15 and 45 m from the fence line in the car park and 10 m in from the access road on the north side and 10 m in from the wood on the south side.. Note that this wood was not there in 1643. It is interesting that the ball found at site 2 is directly "behind" - south of site 4.
Below: Seven of the 12 cannnon balls found in 1975 by Keith Genever, Devizes.
From the left; the 2.05 kg (4 lb 8 oz) lead ball found at site 4, the next five are lead cannon balls between 2lb 7 oz and 2 lb 10oz, the smallest one bottom right is 0.92 kg ball (2 lb) lead ball found at site 6. The right hand cannon ball is the 1.12 kg ( 2 lb 7 oz) iron ball found at site 5.
This find is extremely significant. The canon balls can only have come from the north of this site, as the slope to the south is very steep. They are unlikely to have come from the east or west from what we know of the battle. Given the evidence in 5 below they can only have come from the parliamentary guns to the north of this field.
Below civil war era finds; left found at site 5; musket powder holder, right a dagger chape with an intact wooden insert ( this would have fitted at the bottom of a leather scabbard for a dagger or sword.
In 1974 Keith Genever, a Devizes metal detector enthusiast found a rich source of metal finds with the permission of the farmer Mr Coade. They were in the field to the north of the site 4 as shown on the map above. The site is a rough square some 50 m long (parallel to the access road to Oliver's Castle ) and 25 m wide, north to south. he foiund metal buttons, buckles, 100s of musket and pistol balls, and a 2.5 lb or 1.1 kg iron cannon ball. This cannon ball was smooth and looked professionally made.
Site 6. A 2lb 1 oz or 0.95 kg lead canon ball roughly shaped was found here in 1975
This, given the information above, is possibly a Royalist cannon ball fired at the Parliamentary horse; this is consistent with the troop disposition shown on the maps above.
The implications of this new Archaeological synthesis
The author is not aware of any evidence that the Infantry square moved during the battle, they were not really involved until the royalist army came back after chasing Waller's cavalry along the Bath road and until their own guns were captured. It is for this reason that the map of the initial deployment of the troops is as shown on the map above.
Thus sites 3 and 5 on the above map is the position the Parliamentary Infantry took up during the cavalry battle, and for an hour and a half whilst they succesfully repulsed the Royalist cavalry and where finally they were gunned down by their own captured guns. Many were buried where they fell. Given the small and disinterested excavation in the 1920s that discovered 12 skeletons it would be appropriate to locate the 30 foot grave and to see if there is indeed is a more massive grave.
This scheme differs quite radically from the account put out by the Battlefields Trust, Wiltshire Council and Natural England on their information sign, ironically situated not more that 40 m from the site occupied by the Infantry Square!
Keith Genever is to be congratulated on coming forward with his finds and maps. He has made a very significant contribution to defining the battle site in more detail and providing artefacts that are 367 years old.