Wroxeter: The Webster Excavation Archive Project

H E M Cool, 2011 (updated 2014)

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Dr H E M Cool
Barbican Research Associates
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West Bridgford
Tel: 0115 9819 065

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H E M Cool (2014) Wroxeter: The Webster Excavation Archive Project [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1025064


The front covers of the published reports

The post-excavation work on the material from the Webster excavations took place during the 1980s and early 1990s. The length of the post-excavation period and the fact that publication was in two separate volumes produced by different teams, resulted in a fragmented archive that was difficult to use. This was not through any oversight on the part of the editors, but rather a natural result of the conditions under which they were working. The archive had been returned to the English Heritage store at Atcham over a number of years and from different people and institutions including the post-excavation teams and the specialists.

In 2009 with the transfer to Atcham of the relevant holdings of the Ancient Monuments Laboratory (X-radiograph plates etc), the complete archive was gathered together in a single place for the first time. This provided the opportunity to document and unify the different elements. Following the preparation of a project outline in December 2009, Barbican Research Associates was commissioned to carry out the work. The principle research aim was to organise and document the archive to provide an effective curatorial and research tool.

The paper archive (including photographs, plans, X-radiograph plates etc) was sorted, re-organised and re-packed. Duplicate material was removed and a document entitled Guide to the Wroxeter (Webster) Archive produced which describes the material available at Atcham and the boxes in which it is stored.

An Access database was created that can be used as a curatorial and research tool. This includes the following.

  • a stratigraphic table which unifies the result of both volumes;
  • a complete small find table using material from the original finds records, the published specialist reports and other information in the archive;
  • a vessel glass table that provides the concordance between the different published catalogues and the archive catalogue;
  • the archive coin catalogue;
  • an index to the X-radiograph plates;
  • an index to the photographs of objects taken by the Ancient Monuments Laboratory;
  • indexes to various of the original paper records relating to the site narrative;

The database is fully described in the document Introduction to the Wroxeter (Webster) Archive database.

It should be noted that the database does not include the pottery records. Readable versions of the pottery databases created during the work on the Baths and Macellum volume have not yet been located, and resources were not available to undertake the very large amount of data entry that would have been required.

One of the subsidiary aims of the project was to explore whether the material from the Webster excavations could contribute to our understanding of the fifth and sixth century occupation that was revealed during the excavations by Philip Barker and his colleagues in the Bath Basilica (Barker et al 1997). To this end attention was focussed on the small finds which have the most potential to help identify occupation of that date. It was known that the publication of these had been selective and the work showed the full extent. Interrogation of the completed database revealed that only a quarter of the recorded small finds had been published (see Table 1).

Bone etc145547692
Copper alloy113417682903
Fired clay1399112
Lead alloy9196205
Metal- 99

Table 1: the published and unpublished small finds in the Webster archive

Of the unpublished material approximately 40% have an image of some type available in the paper archive (see Table 2 for summary). These would be helpful for anyone seeking to work with the unpublished material.

MaterialPhotographX-radiographAML cardTotal
Bone etc- 314
Copper alloy16837162367
Jet /shale551359
Lead alloy133420

Table 2: numbers of unpublished items with some form of image available in the paper archive.

It is hoped that the database information and the guides to the archive available here will help people wishing to use the material from the archive to quantify their requests and to provide precise references to the items and elements they might wish to see.

The archive is currently stored at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. Requests for access should be sent to:

The Curator,
English Heritage,
Boscobel House,
Boscobel Lane,
Bishops Wood,
ST19 9AR.


Barbican is very grateful to Heather Bird and Sara Lunt of English Heritage for supporting this project and for all of their help whilst it was being conducted. The work was conducted by Hilary Cool, David Griffiths and Quita Mould.

Additional bibliography

Barker, P., White, R. Pretty, K., Bird, H. and Corbishley, M. 1997. The Baths Basilica Wroxeter : Excavations 1966-90, (London: English Heritage).