The Search for Stathern Hall
On Saturday 22nd April 1993, with the kind permission of the landowner; a collective of Field Detectives and local people, carried out a geophysics survey on two paddocks at Stathern, Nottinghamshire. It was the first phase of an investigation re-visit, to discover the site of Stathern Hall following the excellent initial research and excavations conducted by R.M. Muraille and his team back in 1999. Although those earlier investigations proved to be inconclusive, we are hopeful that a broader view of the landscape, with the support of local landowners and fellow heritage sector colleagues, will help us unlock this more than 300-year-old mystery.
Why is it so important to find this lost site? Because it was the home of Colonel Francis Hacker, and one of the most significant documents in British history resided at Stathern Hall from the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 through to Francis Hacker’s trial of 15 October 1660. Charles was tried in the House of Commons and executed outside Banqueting House in Whitehall. Following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the Death Warrant was used to identify the commissioners who had signed it (the 'regicides') and prosecute them for treason. It was brought to London from Stathern. Not only that, as our friend, author, mentor and fellow detective Philip Yorke elaborates - Francis Hacker is a name that continues to evoke deep emotion within anyone who explores the events that unfolded during the bloody and brutal period in British history known as ‘The Protectorate’ – when Oliver Cromwell ruled supreme and a King lost his head.
The Search for Stathern Hall Presentation of our findings to date took place at St Guthlac’s Church, Stathern, on Saturday 7th October 2023 from 11:00 am -1:00 pm.
A copy of the full report can be downloaded here
Owthorpe Historic Landscape Study
The Owthorpe Historic Landscape Study focuses on ten fields to the north of the village. The stories that are emerging, five appendices into the study, relate to three distinct periods in time.
The first one is Romano-British, as it leads us down the hill from St Margaret’s church towards a spring-fed pond, through the small, wooded area and into the next field. The second one is of a group of Knights Hospitallers, who resided here in a large walled enclosure during the 13th and mid-14th century. Finally, and not surprisingly, it is the story of the landscape that was once home to Parliamentarian John Hutchinson and his wife, Lucy.
All Trackways Lead to the Field Chapel
Cropwell Butler, Nottinghamshire
The ancient Cotgrave to Saxondale trackway investigation focuses on three periods of history that could potentially help us unlock a growing list of uncertainties relating to our historic landscape study findings at both Cropwell Butler and Owthorpe. The trackways that appear to originate from the medieval chapel of St Nicholas at Cropwell Butler (demolished) have produced early medieval and Romano British artefacts.
The purpose of the investigation is to carry out a methodical field survey on the fields adjacent to the line of the ancient Cotgrave to Saxondale trackway, the Cropwell Butler parish boundary, and related landscape trackways.
The question is, do they all have a landscape connection to the Cropwell Butler field chapel?
Maps showing location of the field chapel
Click to enlarge
Long Clawson, Leicestershire
Family History plays a huge part in our off-the-field research activities. The Mill Farm historic landscape study is built around the Shilcock family, who lived and worked at the mill in the 19th to early 20th century. Another aspect of the investigation keys into our 10-year research and survey plan (2020-2030) focusing on the broader Romano-British and medieval landscapes.
One of the highlights to date was finding a ring bearing the initials, FGD. Incredibly, the current landowner was able to identify the owner of the ring as Frederick Garth Doubleday. Click here to read the full story.
A broader aspect of the study is to investigate the hypothetical existence of a trackway that ran from the ironworking Romano-British settlement at Goadby Marwood to Margidunum, which was situated near modern-day Bingham, on the Fosse Way (A46).
Another interesting feature of the study involves the route of the Grantham Canal. During the mid to late 19th century, there was an increase in the amount of night soil arriving onto the land that ran adjacent to the canal's route, courtesy of the Nottingham privies.
Click here for more on the Night Soil Men.
"I think I've got something in my field."
On 18th February 2023, we were asked by a farmer to investigate a field, adjacent to Hoveringham church. It was excavated in the 1950s by the son of a neighbour who was studying to be an archaeologist at the time. The excavation was minimal (a small amount of turf was removed), but it did reveal evidence of building footings.
We have agreed to carry out a geophysics examination of the field and to report our findings back to the landowner.
The Odd Shaped Bullets
The Field Detectives came across an unusual design of lead shot while carrying out a field survey in South Nottinghamshire in 2018. The unusually designed lead projectiles represent an interesting and almost forgotten branch in the development of small arms ammunition. For the last five years, a fellowship collaboration has been busy studying these artefacts and in 2024, Justin Russell will present his findings to the research group at the National Civil War Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire. The presentation will include a study report, and the bullets will be on show for further examination and discussion.
Click image to enlarge
Witch Bottle Analysis
Catherine and fellow Field Detective, Steve, are currently working with Dr Alan Massey who is publishing a book about his life's work on the scientific study of witch bottles and their contents. Alan has scientifically analysed the urine, hair, fingernails, pins and other intriguing objects placed in bottles and hidden, usually under fireplaces, during the 17th and early 18th centuries. These bottles were carefully put together by believers that a witch had cast a spell on a loved one to make them ill and that the witch must be 'killed' to break the spell and cure the sick victim.
Many of these 'witch bottles' are discovered during renovations of old buildings and provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of our superstitious ancestors.