Neolithic to Saxon times

Largely as a result of building and other development activity, and detector rallies, there has been a significant amount of new material found in the Hanneys in the last thirty years, perhaps covering 5000 years of occupation. Paul Sayers has summarised the pre-conquest period below:

Hanney Before the Normans


People have been living in the Hanney area for around 8,000 years, from the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age.  Although there are no written records before 956 AD, archaeological evidence, particularly from studies on the proposed reservoir site, undertaken between 19992 and 1999, and during the last 10 years on proposed development sites in East Hanney, Grove and Wantage builds a picture of the earlier history of the area.  Two large metal detector rallies in 2009 and 2010 add further information.

The earliest finds are Mesolithic stone tools found in small numbers throughout the area but with no evidence of where these people lived.  We have some evidence of Neolithic settlement (around 3000 B.C.) from land south of The Causeway in East Hanney, where fragment of two pottery bowls had been deliberately buried in a pit.

By the Bronze Age (2000-750 BC) there are more signs of people living in the area with settlements south of Bellinger’s garage and at two locations on the proposed reservoir area.  A Bronze Age cremation cemetery was found on the St Mary’s School site in Wantage.  The nearby Uffington White Horse is also of late Bronze Age date.

We know that people were in the area during the Iron Age, 750 BC-43 AD, from the Waylands Smithy long barrow and hill forts at Uffington Castle, Segsbury Camp and Cherbury Camp.  But they were living and farming in the Vale, with roundhouses found south of Williams Racing and at Crab Hill and eleven settlement sites in the reservoir area.  The metal detector rallies found many iron Age items including brooches and coins, particularly from the century before the Roman invasion.

In the Roman period, AD 43-410, there was settlement at Wantage and a religious centre at Marcham/Frilford, the A338 is believed to follow the route of a Roman Road from Cunetio, near Mildenhall in Wiltshire, to Alcester, near Bicester, via Wantage.  The metal detector rallies recovered many Roman finds but these were particularly concentrated in fields alongside this road.  Archaeology in advance of a proposed housing scheme to the south of Summertown in East Hanney revealed evidence of widespread habitation surrounded by paddocks and enclosures but these people were of fairly modest status.  There were also burials of at least five adults plus a child.  Further afield in East Hanney parish, to the east of the present village, there is evidence of a higher status villa site and of a trackside settlement around 1.5 km long.

Archaeological evidence is relatively scarce for the for the time between the end of the Roman period in the early 5th century and the arrival of the Normans in 1066.  We know from documentary and other evidence that by late Saxon times the area was well settled.  King Alfred was born at Wantage and most of the village names are Saxon in origin but even in Wantage itself there is relatively little archaeological evidence of the Saxons.  It seems likely that their settlements are largely lost beneath later villages.  One notable exception to this lack of archaeological evidence is the Hanney brooch, found between West Hanney and Denchworth during the 2009 metal detector rally.  Further excavation revealed the grave of a woman in her mid-20s who had been buried in an isolated location with the brooch and other grave goods.

William Wintles Presentation on Roman and pre-Roman Hanney –  26th February 2019.

William has generously allowed us to use the majority of the slides he used in his presentation. A fuller introduction will follow but the sequence on the link below gives much information on the Hanneys from the Iron Age onwards.

Roman Hanney – William Wintle Presentation- February 2019