ROMAN TIMES IN THE VALE
There is some evidence that the Avon Valley has been intensively occupied since Neolithic times, but almost all the sites are under intensive horticultural cultivation throughout most of the year, and do not produce useful guidance such as crop-marks.
The Romanised Britons in the Vale can be thought of as in two categories: those who lived in the countryside and those in the towns. The countryside dwellers - peasants and small tenant farmers, lived in crude wooden structures very little different from the type of dwelling in use before the Romans came. Occasionally a roof tile or flue tile has been found, indicating a somewhat superior building, but there have been no aristocratic villas yet found in the area. Most of the known sites are along the rivers (the Avon and . Badsey Brook) or by Cleeve Prior and Icknield Street..
Changes to the way of life, over the 400 years of occupation, were gradual. The locals could always find a market for their produce - corn and livestock - not least with the occupying troops. Iron Age pottery mixed with Roman coins and the occasional luxury item in glass or bronze. A hoard of 400 gold - and 200 silver - coins at Cleeve Prior indicates that t least one individual prospered.
AFTER THE ROMANS: THE ABBEY
When the Romans withdrew, the area reverted to less than their previous Iron Age life, with an economic slump and little appetite for central organisation, so that there was little resistance when the Anglo-Saxons arrive shortly after. The Worcestershire area , and its people the Hwicce, lay on the borders between the Welsh, the West Angles forming Mercia and the Saxons spreading from Kent to form Wessex. By the 7th century, it was Mercia that dominated, under Penda the pagan and then Wulfhere the Christian convert.
After the Synod of Whitby in 664, a great initiative was started to convert everyone to Christianity. King Aethelred of Mercia and his sub-kings Osric and Oswald of the Hwicce founded a bishopric at Gloucester, shortly followed by that in Worcester. Minsters were set up in Fladbury, Inkberrow, Pershore, Stratford and Bredon, but the greatest of these was at Evesham.
ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE ABBEY
Geo-physical survey of the parish churchyard
A geophysical survey of the parish churchyard (surrounding All Saints and St Lawrence's churches) was undertaken in spring 2015. In preparation for this study members of the committee collected and collated old records (including old archaeological digs). The party looked at the buildings, walls and ground to see if there were anomalies that would suggest new builds and alterations to medieval structures. Please see the photographs below:
The results of the initial geo-phys were, unfortunately, inconclusive. On the positive side, this does mean that there are still key questions which can still be investigated. Indeed, the following key areas have been identified as areas for possible further investigation:
• The missing Chapel of St Katherine (on the north side of St Lawrence's);
• A covered walkway (linking the abbey great court to St Lawrence's);
• A possible processional route from the 'Norman' gateway to the north door of the Abbey (this is way the new abbot
entered the abbey precinct); and
• A cobbled road on the north side of the churchyard (leading to All Saints).
Evesham at the Time of the Abbey
Another project for future consideration is a survey of Evesham during the time when the Abbey was functioning. We have a few old maps that show the roads that were extant during the Victorian times so all later roads and builds can be identified and disregarded. If anyone has any really old maps they would like to disclose to us that would be very kind!
Armed with maps, notebooks and camera, we can study the buildings in the streets for signs of earlier structures. Looking at the footings and roofs can provide a lot of clues. A sagging roof often belies a Tudor building beneath. Behind a lot of respectable Georgian and Victorian there lie nearly entire Tudor black & white dwellings, wall paintings and features.
Hopefully we will be able to build up a good database of records and photos which can be linked to the old photos and historic texts to get a real insight into early Evesham.
Street names and tithe maps have been very informative and show that there was quite a selection of trades other than farming: Brick Kiln street, Vine Street, Port Street. Tanneries provided hides for the local shoe trade (Charles I fined the town in shoes for rebuilding the bridge after he raised it to stop Cromwell's troops accessing the town).