Spire University of the Third Age


ISSUE No.44                   www.salisburyu3a.org.uk                    January 2006


The New Year for Spire U3A has started and we hope you will enjoy all the group activities that are available.    U3A is so successful because it has developed over the years to provide special interest groups and it is these self-help groups with their many different subjects, which makes for a lively and interesting branch such as Spire U3A.          We have a number of new members and we hope they can find a group specialising in their personal interest. If your chosen subject is not available then please ask a committee member to help to start one or at least find others with the same interests.            This is your Newsletter so please use it to air your views and help the committee to provide Spire U3A with every ones needs.


    A very small prize for the first correct answer received by the Editor along with an article for the March newsletter!

Each Question gives an (approximate) answer that can be written as a value in pre-decimal money, to obtain the total amount as shown.

      Reminder for the young or forgetful! 12d = 1 shilling and 20 shillings = £1

The Archaeology Group

          Well, we did it! The first U3A Archaeology ‘dig’?  In spite of aching limbs, blisters and weariness I think I can say we all enjoyed it.

          It started several years ago when we heard an interesting talk by David James proving, on paper at least, that there was, contrary to the opinion of some, a large Roman town at Sorviodunum.   Some of us were excited about this and asked if there might be any way we (with time on our hands!!) could help.  David James said ‘Well, £5000 might make a start’.  So we set about it.

          After a great deal of work and much controversy from our U3A we achieved a lottery grant of £3000 with all of it detailed exactly how it was to be spent. The archaeologists with whom we had consulted (Bill Moffatt and Mark Corney) worked out how it could be done.  Most of the land in the area is under English Heritage’s control and cannot be touched, but the owners of one large field, Mr. and Mrs. Moore were interested and gave us permission to work on their land providing it was all completely restored at the end. 

          Our first day’s work in March brought about 20 people, mostly watchers of a certain TV programme, who hoped to find treasure!  But the chosen day was the coldest of the winter, with a really biting NE wind and, although we all worked most diligently, we nearly froze. (It actually took me, personally, about 24 hours to really come to again).

          About 12 test pits, 15” cube, were dug over a large area and there were several successes, with part of a quern stone, some fine black burnished ware and part of a house wall possibly being found; all of it Roman.  This was satisfying but we were really too cold to continue so work was abandoned.

          Abandoned till July, that is.  Once again we feared the gods were against us as, after 2 weeks of hot sunny weather, the forecast for our three days was for almost continuous rain.  However, some of us were standing, slightly shower dampened, at 8.45 on the first morning waiting our instructions and ‘raring to go’.  Bill had decided we should dig a 5 metre square beside the Roman road (not the so-called Portway) towards the SW corner of the Moore’s field.  I don’t think any of us had realized what hard work it is removing turf.  After our square was marked out it took all of us, with some help from Bill, 2 hours of hard slog to do this.  It had to be done and laid methodically on two sides of the 5 metre square, each turf laid grass to grass and soil to soil so it can be replaced exactly.

          Then we set about removing the top 6” layer with spades and trowels, piling up the spoil on the other two sides of our square. We made some finds such as small pieces of fired clay possibly broken tiles.  Then Bill decided we should dig down another 6 inch in half the area.  As it had rained the previous weekend, the top layer had not been too difficult but, as we went deeper, the ground became quite dry and very hard but more productive.  Lots of small bits of tile, some bone and a few obvious pieces of pot were found.  Different types of soil and an area of large flint appeared.  Imaginations ran riot!  Was it the Road? A wall? A house? or a villa? As we were asked to dig deeper quite a number of pieces of slag came to light. Was it an iron works, a foundry, a blacksmith?    Then something quite strange showed up when another piece of quern was uncovered.                                                          

Of course, our third and last day had to be mainly tidying up the hole for photographs and recording, then the filling in and consolidating of the site.  But first we had to make a truly vertical section of our trench, not so easy when it has lots of stones and flint in it.  After a few hours work it looked quite professional.

          Then came the real assessment.  Mark had reported that all the pottery was 1st century Roman.  Most of what had been previously found further west, nearer the river, had been dated 4th century.  It was also settled that the vertical face of our dig showed a Roman road with, beside it, a collapsed flint wall probably that of a house, and a floor of a structure.  This was all pretty satisfying really for one small hole in a large field.  OK, we didn’t find what we set out to do, but we found that there were habitations there in Roman times, 2000 years ago.  And what if we could dig more holes all over the area?  Was it a vicus?

Many thanks and congratulations to all who took part.       Anne Boutell.

Note: A 'Vicus' is a settlement that grows outside of Roman military bases to cater to the needs of the soldiers (and their money). Likely to have originally been of a temporary nature, these settlements quickly grow into communities and later into permanent towns.

On the 30th January at 10 am Chris Wadge will be giving the Science & Technology group a talk on CLOCKS.  If you have an old clock that needs some TLC then come along to hear what Chris has to say.No membership of this group is needed - just turn up at the Harnham Memorial Hall.  Cost only £1.  Contacts:    Peter Read on 01722 501 218                    Chris Penfold on 01722 325 220.

Joint Health Care Research Group Activities

The Group's meeting on October 14 was the culmination of widespread activities during the year covering: MRSA / infection control, new developments in radiography, patient's food and nutrition, the activities of local Patient Forums, the operation of the hospital pharmacy, research into arrangements for the discharge of patients, and future developments at the hospital.
The October meeting was devoted to moves for Salisbury District Hospital to achieve Foundation Trust status. The speaker was Frank Harsent, Chief Executive of the Hospital Trust, who explained the advantages and answered a barrage of questions on the subject. He invites all U3A members to become ‘Members' of the new Foundation Trust. (Application forms are available from the Group Leader).
The hospital's head of planning has invited members of the group to have a conducted tour of the new wing of the hospital, now due to be handed over by the contractors next March.The next meeting of the Group will be at Harnham Memorial Hall at 2.0.p.m. on Friday, February 17th when Debbie Coombes, leader of a Salisbury Hospital project to improve patient discharge arrangements, will talk about improvements that are being put in place as a result of patient comments including those resulting from our Group's questionnaire being put to local U3A members.
Between meetings there is ongoing participation by individual members in various projects in the field of local health care. There is no limit to the number of members of the Group.

 For further information contact the Group Leader,
Eric Gould on 01722 339 868.


Articles for issue 45  please, by March  4th 2006

Sheila Read. 12 Chiselbury Grove, Salisbury, SP2 8EP

OR by E-mail: s.read.frps@ntlworld.com

Return to Home Page