Teffont Timeline

The Late Jurassic Period (c. 170-145 million years ago)

The Chilmark and Teffont limestones used for building in the locality were laid down in Jurassic seas over the area of Teffont and Chilmark. These stones and other Jurassic geology were later brought to the surface in the area of Chilmark and Teffont Evias by tectonic activity. The Chilmark stone was later used for numerous building projects, including Salisbury Cathedral, and Teffont Stone can be seen in many buildings in the village today.

The Cretaceous Period (c.145-65 million years ago)

During the Cretaceous period the Greensand and Chalk deposits were formed that today make up the majority of the geology of Teffont Magna and some parts of Teffont Evias.

The Palaeolithic Period (c.2.6 million years ago to c.8000BC)

There is no evidence from the Teffont area for Palaeolithic activity, although it seems likely that hominin groups would have passed through the area.

The Mesolithic Period (c.8000BC to c.4000BC)

The Mesolithic saw the return of hunter-gatherer groups to Britain after the glacial maximum, and the severing of Britain's land bridge to the continent over the lost land of Doggerland, submerged by the rising seas.

During this period the population would have been highly mobile, travelling around the landscape in small groups. However, certain places in South Wiltshire were significant, such as Blick Mead near Amesbury. This site produced substantial quantities of tools and consumption debris, and communities returned to the site over a period of several thousand years.

At Teffont Evias, Ley Farm was the site of a great deal of flint tool manufacture, producing hundreds of knapped blades. Although such sites have traditionally been termed 'flint industry' sites, the word industry perhaps misrepresents the type of activity that would have taken place at Ley Farm. The site is likely to have had some social or traditional significance to those who used it, as flint was brought from elsewhere to be worked, with groups returning repeatedly to create tools for their own use. Interpretations of such sites vary, and the possibility that the site was used as a 'base camp' for seasonal resource exploitation of some form cannot be ruled out. There is little other evidence for Mesolithic activity in Teffont.

The Neolithic Period (c.4000BC-c.2200BC)

The Neolithic period saw a hugely important transition from a lifestyle based predominantly on hunting and gathering, to one based on arable agriculture and the domestication of animals. This was by no means immediate, and during the greater part of the Neolithic the population seems to have remained mobile. It has been suggested that pressure on limited resources and a changing worldview involving increased social competition were the main factors behind this change.

The light soils of the Wiltshire chalk were ideal for farming innovation, however, at the end of the 4th millennium BC communities in Wiltshire seem to have abandoned arable cultivation and instead developed a pastoral lifestyle. This allowed time and labour to be invested in building huge monuments, such as those Stonehenge, Avebury, and Silbury Hill. Connections with the natural world and with ancestors therefore appear to have been of particular importance during the Neolithic.

In the landscape surrounding Teffont the most significant Neolithic monument was Tisbury henge, although its exact location is unknown. In 1782 its remains were dismantled and several megaliths reused in an ornamental grotto at Old Wardour Castle.

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The ornamental grotto at Old Wardour Castle. Several of the stones from Tisbury henge were reused in its construction. ‘The ornamental grotto in the grounds of Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, UK.’ By Simon Burchell  licensed under CC by 3.0

There are no known Neolithic settlement sites in Teffont, but a variety of Neolithic flint tools have been discovered in the area, concentrated in two main areas. The first is along the top of the slope from the Tisbury road down to the River Nadder, in the area between the southern end of Black Furlong Wood and Ley Farm. The second is at the opposite end of the parish, on Teffont Down, where tools have been found in fields surrounding the ancient earthwork of the Ox Drove. Although this has not yet been dated, the embanked routeway is unlikely to be earlier than Iron Age, but the route itself may be older. The proximity of tools to possible movement routes hints at mobile groups with some permanent ties to the area, but it is impossible to speculate further, as the Neolithic period has been somewhat neglected in studies of the Teffont area.

The Bronze Age (c.2600BC - c.700BC)

Like the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, the Neolithic-Bronze Age transition was a gradual process, with more sedentary settlement emerging, and major changes in society, ritual behaviour, agricultural practice and power relations. The emergence of metalworking was a very significant development, and other technological innovations such as wheeled vehicles emerged during the latter part of the period. The Bronze Age was a time of enormous social, technological and economic change.

The Early Bronze Age may be characterised as showing continuity from the Neolithic in some aspects, such as in the continuing construction of large monuments and henges, the greatest of which, Stonehenge, is perhaps the most enduring image of ancient Britain. Roundhouses were the main form of domestic dwelling, and those who lived in them may have been buried in barrows if they were of suitable social status. There are several barrows in the north of Teffont Magna. The Later Bronze Age saw further significant changes in society, the greatest of which were the cessation of burials, and their widespread replacement with cremation, and the end of the practice of building great monuments. In Wiltshire, with the arrival of metalworking technologies arable farming was resumed in areas where it had previously ceased during in the Middle Neolithic. The landscape was changed through the digging of boundary ditches and field systems. Some of the field systems from this period continued into the Iron Age and Roman periods, and their earthworks can be seen on the Great Ridge, north of Teffont, and as soilmarks or cropmarks on aerial imagery across much of Teffont Down.

Bronze Age settlements have not yet been discovered in Teffont, although recent work has suggested that a ditch and bank system along the Upper Holt Ridge may originate in the Bronze Age, and it seems that Grim's Ditch in the north of the area may also date from the Bronze Age due to its landscape context. A variety of individual Bronze Age finds have been discovered in Teffont, including a rapier, a dagger, an arrowhead, a socketed axe and flint tools. There does not yet seem to be a pattern in the distribution of these artefacts in Teffont.

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A Bronze Age flint arrowhead from Teffont

The Iron Age (c.700BC - 43AD)

The Iron Age began with new metal-working techniques being introduced to Britain from Europe, resulting in many changes to the technologies of daily life. Social hierarchies appear to have gradually increased in complexity, and across Britain hillforts were built, initially in quite simple forms, but later developing into elaborate sites such as Maiden Castle and Danebury. The Iron Age saw a significant expansion in agricultural use of the landscape. Both the quantity and diversity of cereal crops grown increased in many parts of Britain, especially in the lowlands of southern, central and eastern Britain. Field systems were enlarged or elaborated in many areas, and new areas of heavier soil were sometimes brought under the plough. The scale of pastoral agriculture similarly increased in several regions, including the south and east of Britain, developing as part of a closely integrated suite of agricultural practices.

The Iron Age is the first period in which we can see permanent settlement in Teffont. Recent survey discovered a single Iron Age roundhouse in the south of Teffont Evias, and Wick Ball Camp, a large hill fort in the east of Teffont, is believed to date from the early Iron Age, although this is based on a single poorly documented antiquarian excavation. It is also likely that the settlement in the Glebe field had its origins in the late Iron Age in the form of a D shaped enclosure. These settlements, although a highly incomplete sample, serve to illustrate the increased social complexity and stratification of the Iron Age in comparison to the Bronze Age. By the late Iron Age, and certainly by the period of contact with the Roman Empire across the Channel in Gaul, archaeological and documentary evidence shows that Teffont was on the very northern edge of the tribal kingdom of the Durotriges, which was based in Dorset. It was also very close to the boundary with the Belgae, who occupied a sizeable area of southern central England to the north-east of Teffont, and also close to the boundary with the Dobunni, who occupied land from north of the Wylye valley towards the Severn. Beyond the sites mentioned above, there is evidence for significant Iron Age settlement in the Teffont area. An Iron Age burial was excavated in the 1940s from the spring-head in Teffont, and a variety of other Iron Age finds have been made from the area, including two locally minted silver staters, and a coin from the Roman Republic dating from 137-4 BC.

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An Iron Age coin find from Teffont- A stater of the Durotriges tribe

Slightly further afield, at Hindon a hoard of artefacts was discovered dating to the first half of the first millennium BC at the time of the Bronze Age- Iron Age transition (WILT-A573B6). The hoard comprised 33 copper alloy axes as well as iron spearheads and an iron sickle. These objects exemplify both older and newer metalworking technologies, and this collation of valuable metal objects is demonstrative of great economic power. By the Late Iron Age there were also flourishing settlements at Stockton Earthworks, Grovely Wood and Hanging Langford Camp on the Great Ridge to the north of Teffont, and these are likely to have been the places to which Teffont's inhabitants went to barter or trade.

The Roman Period 43AD - c.410AD

In 43AD the Roman Empire invaded southern England, and within a few decades controlled the entirety of present-day England and Wales. The Roman impact on Wiltshire was very significant. The invasion greatly accelerated the adoption of a new set of material culture, and the trickle of prestige goods imported by Late Iron Age elites quickly became a steady flow. New styles of housing and dress were adopted by some, and towns were established with various degrees of success, linked by roads imposed across existing landscape boundaries. At least as significant to most of Teffont's inhabitants would have been the imposition of a new tax system, and new social distinctions between Roman citizens and non-citizens, with the legal differences these entailed.

Some local settlements flourished - in the Roman period the settlements of Stockton Earthworks and Grovely Woods seem to have greatly expanded, perhaps stimulated in part by the establishment of a Roman road through them along the Great Ridge to the Mendip lead mines. Interestingly though, settlement at these sites does not seem to have moved towards the Roman road, perhaps suggesting an ambiguous attitude towards this imposition of the colonising power. The transition wasn’t all peaceful; the nearby hillfort at Ebsbury was slighted, with a field system developed over its former ramparts. The nearby Fonthill estate also provides evidence of settlements and burials, as well as many coin finds, thereby demonstrating the intense occupation of the area. In the later Roman period the southern part of this site also saw the extraction, smelting and working of iron ore along with the development of an associated settlement and temple. This temple is of particular significance due to the presence of miniature votive iron objects and curse tablets, therefore implying use as a pagan temple by literate and wealthy members of society.

Teffont also saw settlement in the Roman period. The Glebe site has produced evidence of a monumental well, alongside a D shaped enclosed within which was situated a building comprising a series of small rooms. This site also shows evidence for the import of prestige goods, whilst some elements of pre-Roman rural life were maintained at the site. Excavation has also shown the existence of a substantial road-way on the site, linking it to Teffont's most unusual Roman site, the possible shrine in Upper Holt Wood.

This shrine was in the form of a trapezoidal enclosure delineated by a substantial boundary wall to the north, with a stone gate at its north-eastern limit. The southern and eastern boundaries were defined by earthern banks, which in places were later reinforced by demolition rubble from earlier Roman buildings. It had structures present on terraces along with a possible walkway to the enclosure’s eastern end, where most of the buildings were located. The site included a number of deposits of a ritual nature, such as a sacrificed lamb interred as a foundation deposit in one of the structures, as well as a newborn baby and fragments of adult tibia within a hollow in the articulated wall collapse of the northern boundary. An absence of archaeological features, layers or finds in the central area  surrounded by the enclosure boundaries may be indicative of a sacred grove, or other open space. This site also produced a notable coin assemblage of predominantly Late Roman date, and high status pottery. The location of the site on the very crest of the ridge and the find of a possible god figurine or mount, alongside the votive offerings of coins, the presence of possible sacred grove and the ritualised deposits of lambs and human remains suggest that the site was almost certainly religious in nature.

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Archaeological investigation of the Roman shrine in Upper Holt Wood. This provides a broad assessment of where archaeological deposits are very likely to be present (red), probably absent (green) or definitely absent (clear). The clear area with no archaeological features indicates a possible sacred grove.

Hill Field, adjacent to the Upper Holt Wood, has also revealed Roman activity in the form of a large apsidal building, structures associated with iron working, and a ritual element in the form of a cist containing animal bone, an entire smashed vessel and showing signs of in-situ burning. Further downslope towards Teffont Magna, earthworks beside the stream appear to have originated in the Roman period, although were further built up in the medieval period.

Another key site in Roman Teffont was a large cemetery located in Black Furlong Wood, most of which was destroyed by quarry workings in the 19th and early 20th century. There are confirmed reports of over thirty burials in stone coffins – or possibly, and more likely, stone-lined cists - of Roman date being discovered, and those who worked at the quarry at the time have stated that many more were excavated and destroyed in secret in the quarry's lime kilns, in order to prevent delays to the work. Further burials were discovered in the 20th century by an amateur archaeologist, along with hobnails, jewellery and other material culture. This would represent one of the largest Roman cemeteries in Wiltshire, and suggests that a large settlement with the wealth to afford stone-built coffins used the cemetery. It is also possible that Black Furlong Wood was exploited for its stone in the Roman period.

It is therefore clear that Roman Teffont was an active, relatively wealthy and heavily occupied landscape; the population was likely at least as high as in Teffont today. Teffont’s Roman archaeology is very significant in regional terms, as it presents an unusual opportunity to investigate a local landscape in a holistic and integrated way. The key Roman sites in Teffont have provided dating evidence that hint at occupation until the very late 4th century AD at least – certainly until AD 388 or later – and it is likely that these continued to be occupied in the early decades of the 5th century. There is no evidence as yet for post-Roman activity on any of the Roman sites discussed here, but the valley displays evidence for middle Saxon activity, and wider place name, cemetery and artefactual distributions suggest that Teffont may have been on the border between post-Roman and Anglo-Saxon communities in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The valley is likely to contain evidence for this key period, and finds of Saxon pottery on the east side of the Teff in Teffont Magna bear this out.

The project has not undertaken any notable work on the medieval or later periods, although we have made finds of this date. This later history of Teffont is cogently discussed in ‘The Bounding Spring’, by Audrey MacBain and Lynette Nelson, and is available via the Teffont village website here.