The Sherwood Archaeology Society was formed in 1960 from a nucleus of students who had attended a comprehensive course in the subject in Mansfield. The tutor was the late Professor Maurice Barley of The University of Nottingham and it is entirely due to his inspiration that the Society exists.
There was some justification for the title of “Sherwood” as an ancient oak tree in Mansfield’s Westgate was traditionally considered to be the centre of Sherwood forest. Our activities have generally been focussed in central and west Nottinghamshire.
The county, it is fair to say, is less well-endowed with the more spectacular archaeological sites such as exist in Wessex or East Anglia and this fact may partially explain the rarity of archaeological societies in the area. Although our achievements may appear modest by comparison with some long-established societies in the South of England,our presence has been a most valuable one for the County.
Over the years we have maintained our original intent to bring the subject to the people with museum help and monthly lectures; unbelievably in the early years our speakers included Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Graham Webster!
Our research projects have varied greatly from limited ground surveys to long-term excavations. We have always placed a high priority on the writing up and the publishing with the least possible delay and with very few exceptions this has been achieved.
What follows , in rough chronological order, is a catalogue of our work with summary conclusions.
The majority of these Reports and their associated artefacts can be examined at leisure in our facility in Mansfield museum.
Combs Farm 1961
Type of Site Iron age/ Romano-british
Grid ref.(3) SK 631552
Project leader(4) Brian Simmonds
This site is one of a group of so-called Iron-age hill forts first noted by the antiquarian
Major Hayman Rooke in 1798. His observations of Nottinghamshire earthworks are reported in
the Transactions of the Thoroton Society and can be more easily accessed in the Mansfield
Woodhouse reference library where laminated prints of his original drawings are accessible.
The site appears as ‘camp’ on the Ordnance Survey maps and our aim was to confirm its precise
location and estimate its date of construction.
The ditch and its bank were sectioned with a 4 foot wide trench and although, not surprisingly, no
dateable artefacts were found, the ditch profile conformed to one of Iron-age date
However the excavator did note that the well defined slot in the bottom of the ditch, whilst not of
the same dimensions as the well-known Roman military feature, could have Roman influences.
The report of this excavation and its background can be found in Thoroton 1963 edition pages 9
Cotton Mill Farm 1969
1 Medieval Moated Site
Crop marks of an apparent rectangular enclosure were noted by the aerial photographer Jim
Pickering in 1967.
The farmer was interested in the history of his land and three trenches were dug, two to cut the
features visible from the air and one to test the central and higher level.
The central oblong features within the enclosure were concluded to have been fishponds and the
irregular rectangle of the outer ditch was consistent with other Moated sites in the East Midlands.
The central test pit revealed no structures nor was any firm dating evidence found.
A large house adjacent to the field on the northern side is known as the Grange and this may
provide the clue to the area’s original use when attached in some way to a monastic order possibly
When this use of the land was no longer required the field was flooded to provide a head of water
for the mill in the S.E. comer of the field. This dam is clearly marked on several maps of the 18th
and 19th. centuries.
Further work could be justified on the history of this mill.
An excavation report with section drawings and plans are lodged in Mansfield Museum
1 Medieval Iron Bloomery
2 South of Skegby Church
4 Derek March
The discovery in 1969 of a hoard of 14 th.C. silver coins close to St. Andrew’s Church in
Skegby led the society to examine the surrounding area in more detail.
Some irregularities in the plot of land immediately below the graveyard prompted an area
excavation of about 100 squ.ms.
The archaeology was very close to the surface and within the top 20 cms. was found a large
quantity of iron nails, slag and charcoal.
Three large pestholes cut into the bedrock were interpreted as an open sided work shelter.
This contained an extensive hearth area. Outside this structure were a number of unexplained
circular cut features whose diameters varied from 500 cms to 1.5 metres.
Pottery finds at the time were diagnosed green glazed Stamford ware.
Evidence of a cobbled road or trackway was identified running across the hillside in a S.W/N.E
No artefacts, report or drawings can be found of this work; the only record is this eye-witness
Sookholm Church Foundations 1972
1 Tower base
3 SK 548669
4 Jim Turner/Frank Fletcher
A local group of enthusiasts were involved in the restoration of the tiny and neglected church at
Sookholm . Pevsner describes the building as a ‘simple, two cell, Norman chapel which could be
as early as 1100′.
Evidence in the stonework of the west elevation suggested that a tower may have existed and the
Society was asked to confirm this.
A small area excavation revealed the foundations of a square tower and the only small find was a
fragment of a decorated clasp possibly from a prayer book.
Drawings of these foundations and a south elevation of the church are filed in the Museum.
Meden Valley Fieldwalk Project 1973/74
.Hardwick Area 1980/81
1 Surface finds analysis
2 River Meden catchment area Hardwick Park to Pleasley Vale
3 SK 4964
4 David Bowler/Frank Fletcher/Jack Chapman.
A general fieldwalking survey of the available arable land surrounding Mansfield began in 1969.
It soon became clear that large areas had been lost to archaeology through open cast mining, pit
tipping and soft-wood forestry.
Much of the remaining farmland particularly on the sandstone to the south and east of the town
yielded very few finds either of flint or pottery. However to the north and west in the region of
the Meden and its tributaries there was an abundance of occupation evidence.
Almost every field examined yielded worked flints and several localised scatters of
Romano-British pottery were recorded.
Over 100 fields were systematically walked and the finds plotted. Frank Fletcher subsequently
drew more than 1000 flint artefacts.
These drawings and the distribution reports were published in 1975 and 1986; copies of these
reports and their assesments are available for study in the Museum.
A sample cross-section of the assemblage was despatched to Dr.Pat Phillips of Sheffield
University for her expert appraisal.
The assemblage from the Harwick Park area was studied by Mr. AJ.B.Parton also of Sheffield
and his report of 1986 is also filed in the Museum.
The broad conclusions of both these prehistorians were that the area had been intensively used by
hunter-gatherer societies since the Mesolithic period and a continuity of flint implement
techniques was traceable into the iron-age.
Our shelves in the Museum contain around 40 boxes of flints and pottery.the results of this work,
each labelled with the field locations.
Farnsfield Roman Camp 1978
1 Roman Marching Camp
2 Blidworth Lane Famsfield
The results of aerial photography by Dr. Derek Riley prompted an investigation 1 mile s.w. of
Famsfield. Three trenches were dug across the visible cropmarks and a very typical Roman
defensive ditch was sectioned.
In the infill 4 romano-British coarse-ware pottery sherds were found plus one base sherd thought
to be of iron-age date.
There was much conjecture as to the time lapse of the back-filling as some of the exposed
surfaces showed signs of weathering.
It is also unclear whether the pottery sherds were residual or contemporary; possibly quite an
The report and all the photographs and drawings are filed in the Museum.
Dorket Head 1973-1993
1 Iron-age/Romano-British Enclosure
2 Ramsdale near Calverton
3 SK 596485
4 James and Catherine Turner
In the ongoing examinations of the Nottinghamshire earthworks recorded by Major Hayman
Rooke in the 18 th. C. Dorket Head has received by far the most archaeological attention.
Over a 20 year period using weekends mostly in the summer months the team sectioned samples
of all the visible features and recovered the largest assemblage of Iron-age pottery yet found in
In the report published in 1992 Jim states, with his usual flair for understatement’ Dorket Head is
a difficult site to assess’.
The typical playing-card outline of a Roman encampment is undoubtedly there as observed by
Rooke but the iron-age pottery finds outnumber the Roman by four to one.
Also a ditch system outside the rectangular one was sectioned at several points and was very
clearly Iron-age in character.
The finds from the whole site reflect a very long period of occupation which is not surprising
given the commanding strategic position of the headland.
The report, drawings and the day books kept by the excavator are available for study in the
The pottery finds are also easily accessible in the racking as is a preserved Iron-age sickle which was
excavated after the publication of the main report.
Pleasley Chapel / Moorhaigh Farm 1974/1975
1 Medieval church & muli-period occupation site
2 Moorhaigh near Pleasley
3 SK 5012 6328
4 Derek March
David Bowler (surveyor) Frank Fletcher (drawings)
In 1974 the Society was seeking a research project within easy travelling distance of its
membership and the enigmatic ‘Chapel’ placed by the Ordnance Survey in a field at Moorhaigh
Farm was, and has been proved to be, a good choice.
The site had been noted in the general Meden Valley field survey but as it had never been under
the plough an excavation would be most propitious.
The farmer Mr. Holingsworth was not in good health and had grave concerns for the security of
his farm. It required a most tactful and professional approach to gain his confidence and open up
The work in 1974 was carried out over 15 weeks and was successful in exposing the plan of a
simple two cell early medieval church.
It also became apparent that there was evidence of earlier stone footings on a differing alignment
from which stone had been robbed and re-used.
The team were further surprised by a substantial quantity ofRomano-British pottery sherds and
two Roman brooches.
Also within the sub-soil were two rim sherds of Bronze-age food vessel.
This scatter and other features visible on the surface prompted the team to return the following
The trench which had yielded the R.B. pottery was extended southwards and more pottery was
Some ten metres distant from the chancel end of the church a further stone structure was found.
This ‘building’ was totally excavated and was 6 metres square, consisting of a low wall, possibly
robbed to ground level, with a stone flagged interior.
In the centre of the floor was a deep fissure which was at the time interpreted as a old water
In the debris outside the walls were found numerous stone roof tiles with a single perforation.
It was assumed that this roof had slowly decayed over time rather than collapsing at one time into
Leading from the hypothesis that the function of the structure was the control of a water source
the building has been referred to as a sistern. Probably with a timber frame on sleeper walls with
a stone tile roof.
The northern side of the floor and outer wall facing the church, showed much signs of wear; this
fact and the similarity of the stonework to that of the church led the team to believe that the two
structures were contemporary.
It was obvious that at some future date the whole site must be more thoroughly examined and
The excavation reports and full scale drawings of the work are filed at the Museum as are the
boxed and labelled finds.
Sookholme Tile Kiln 1995
1 Roman Tile Kiln
4 David Burton
Large quantities of Roman tile fragments have been noted on several occasions in the field to the
south of the pond known locally as the Roman Bath.
Adrian Oswald in the 1930s also recorded the presence of a stack of waster tiles in a uniform
heap running east-west along the boundary of the field.
In 1979 Chris Brookes attempted to pinpoint the presumed site of the kiln by resistivity survey.
Although his results showed anomalies beneath the field his work was not conclusive.
In 1995 a mineral extraction application was submitted to Mansfield District Council and it was
likely that the site was in immediate danger.
The Society began the work of assessing the Brooks resistivity anomalies and investigating more
closely the so-called tile stack.
After two seasons work no kiln structures were found.
From the random nature of the heap of tile wasters it was concluded that the most likely
explanation for their presence was that of a systematic field clearance probably in the 19th. C.
The scope for further searches is by no means exhausted but the overgrown nature of the pond
margins and the water itself pose much difficulty.
In the archive of Major Hayman Rooke there exists a most convincing drawing of ‘the Roman
bath at Sookholm’. From his sketches the best guess is that the structure he observed lies beneath
the existing pond.
The excavation report, drawings and tile samples can be studied in the Museum’s Archaeology
Watching Brief at Mansfield Woodhouse 1994
In 1994 the Society tendered a figure to carry out a watching brief at a housing development in
Castle Street in Woodhouse.
The site was immediately behind the parish church and the Manor House and was a rare
opportunity to examine a potentially sensitive area.
Although a quantity of post-medieval pottery and glass was recovered no significant structures
were encounted which could be dated earlier than the 19 th. C.
To fully comply with the P.P.G. 16 directive the project involved a considerable workload
including a continuous on-site presence, photography and the maintenance of a daily logbook.
Despite any remuneration, the unanimous conclusion of those involved about the possibility of
subsequent P.P.G. 16s was that they should be left to the professionals. 1
The logbook, finds and photographs are filed at the Museum.
Pleasley Park Survey 2001
1 Medieval Deer Park topographical survey
2 Pleasley Vale
3 SK 520654
4 R.D.Smith/Jim Priest.
The Pleasley Vale regeneration scheme highlighted the need to assess the surface features within
the woodland known as Pleasley Park.
The earliest record of these ‘earthworks’ was in a paper by Hayman Rooke 1790 which, under
pressure from his mentor Sir George Younge, he ascribed to Roman military activity.
A local history group with the help of the Creswell Crags Centre identified some sections around
the periphery as the remains of deer-leaps.
The interior of the wood and in particular the southern quarter is criss-crossed by fissures and
gullies which at first glance can appear to be man made.
Following the measurement of the most well defined of these features we were able to reject the
accuracy of Rooke’s drawings and dismiss the theory of Roman activity.
Our conclusions were that the park had been intensively used for limestone extraction and logging
and all other features were the result of the weathering of the magnesium limestone and natural
Moorhaigh Farm 2004/2005
1 Multi-period settlement site
2 Moorhaigh near Pleasley
3 SK 5012 6328
4 David Burton
In 2004 the Society decided that a return to Moorhaigh was long overdue to attempt to answer the
outstanding questions left by our work of 30 years ago.
The farmer and his partner were most sympathetic to our desire to learn more about their property
and the project appears well set for a very long-term research opportunity.
An overall view of the site itself and clues from the immediate surroundings demand the view
that the chapel should not be viewed in isolation.
The fact that the church at Moorhaigh is not reccognised by any of the neighbouring ecclesiastic
diocees suggests the possibility of a monastic connection, indeed local anecdotal evidence implies
We know that in the reign of Edward I the bishop of St David’s, Thomas Beck, retired from
office in 1202 and established a hermitage in Mansfield Moor (location unknown).’ Thomas Beck
with his more illustrious brother Antony, Bishop of Durham, were born at the Manor of Pleasley
only 1 1/2 miles distant.
Thus far we have not been able to substantiate these historical connections with any hard
archaeological or documentary evidence.
The so-called cistern excavated in 1975 could make more sense if included within a monastic
context or could it have more to do with the scatter of Romano-British pottery and be of a much
earlier date ?
So far the anomalous wall in evidence in the earlier work has been traced and appears to form aroughly rectangular structure some 15 m. in length
There is confirmation at several points that this wall pre-dates the Medieval work but it is unclearwhether it is a boudary wall or the footings of a building.
The site has many visible surface features not least the surrounding bank, most prominent on the
north and western sides. A distinctive shelf is most apparent within the northern boundary of the
field and at some point this must be tested, man-made or natural.
The finds include an iron cross, two 16th.C. jeton, and much pottery mostly post-medieval.
An interim report has recently been prepared by the site director and it is currently hoped that in
the coming summer enough volunteers will come foreward for the work to proceed.