The Appleton Area Archaeological Research Project (AAARP)
To the immediate west of Oxford, the River Thames describes a broad loop to the north. The land within the loop lay in the county of Berkshire until 1974. The attractive villages of Appleton and Eaton sit towards the western edge of that land amidst fields and woods overlooking the Thames from a broad ridge that dominates the western approach into Oxford. Despite its proximity to the historic city, almost nothing is known about the development of this area’s landscape and settlements before the later medieval period. Clay geology runs through the ridge frustrating some of the standard ways of detecting archaeological sites. Yet there are hints of past significance that tantalise. A medieval manor ringed by a wide moat was a status symbol and – highly unusually – there were three such manors in Appleton just a few hundred metres apart. Two of them survive (Appleton and Tubney), with their moats, and Appleton Manor incorporates a remarkable and rare example of a late Norman hall-house. Stray antiquarian finds and one or two past excavations in the vicinity have revealed the probability of discovering early prehistoric, Iron Age, Roman and early Anglo-Saxon sites. There are also a considerable number of unexplored deserted medieval villages.
AAARP will discover more about the area. Where are the Iron Age farms? Might the nearby Romano-Celtic religious complex at Marcham-Frilford imply significant Roman settlement on the ridge? Does the area play a role in the emergence of the kingdom of Wessex? How and why did the villages develop? Why the abundance of moated manors and deserted medieval villages? The project also provides an opportunity to explore the best methods for intensive research on less amenable geologies.
The local history society, other villagers and local land owners are key players in this research. Using approaches honed in OUDCE’s East Oxford Archaeology Project [link] volunteers of all ages and backgrounds will be central to the project and provided with professionally-supported training. And volunteers who worked with the East Oxford Project will be joining us again to help – passing on skills gained in East Oxford to the people of west of Oxford. We will be digging test pits, conducting geophysics, fieldwalking, undertaking topographical and building survey, and documentary research. Early results are already overturning assumptions made about the historic landscapes.
AAARP received funding from a Mick Aston/Council for British Archaeology Award in 2017. For more information, please visit the AAARP website.
There is an AAARP article about Appleton Manor in the 2017 volume of Oxoniensia and an article about the project more widely in Volume 1(5), 2017 of AwEsome Histories, the journal of the Appleton with Eaton History Group.