Rushmore Golf Club, with its excellent facilities, was the meeting point for an expedition across the fairways and into the rough to explore the Romano-British village of Woodcutts. Pitt-Rivers realised this was a multi-period site but it fell to later generations of archaeologists (Hawkes et al.) to re-examine his copious and excellent records, and define three distinct phases of occupation – stretching between the late Iron Age and the late Roman Period. As at Rotherley, the General left his signature on the site with monumental engraved slabs testifying, in this instance, to the two deep Roman wells on the site. What had previously been thought to be simply a pond turned out to be the deepest of these wells, which were explored by professional well diggers hired for the purpose. A Roman bucket was found at the bottom, but no water as the water table was much lower in the 19th century than in the Roman Period. The general’s hypothesis that other ponds on the Chase could also be collapsed wells has never been tested. Unlike at Silchester, where knocked through barrels were used as well-lining, these wells were through chalk and required no linings, though putlog holes had been inserted to support cross beams.
Although the General may have missed evidence for settlement that modern methods of area excavation might well have revealed, the artefacts and faunal remains testified to a well-implanted agricultural community who had adopted Roman technology (‘hypocaust’ corn driers for example) as well as high status Samian tableware, alongside more basic New Forest wares. The site contained a number of infant and foetus burials and, more disturbing, the burial of a child who had died from a sword cut. The General realised that he was also missing precious artefacts when, ten years later, he picked up a fibula brooch from the excavation spoil. He did, however, recover 2,700 nails: clear evidence that good quality squared off timber was being used on the site.
Woodcutts was the beginning of the General’s series of large excavations (1884-5) in the area and with it began his practice of recruiting and personally training diggers (his estate workers), supervisors and draftsmen for these winter campaigns.
On-site discussions included the thorny question of ‘banjo enclosures’ and the horsey nature of Durotrigian tribal life.