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Keith Ray's Archaeology of Herefordshire

The Archaeology of Herefordshire: An Exploration

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by Keith Ray

Paperback, 448 pages with 230 colour illustrations
ISBN 978 1 906663 96 4  Price £15

In recent years Keith Ray, leading Herefordshire Archaeology, the county archaeology service, has worked with local archaeologists and historians, contract archaeology companies, English Heritage, The National Trust, Manchester University, Channel 4’s Time Team and other experts, to generate a wide range of exploratory projects, including many excavations. Much new knowledge and understanding of Herefordshire’s archaeology has been gained as a result of these investigations. In this entirely new study, the author has described what is now known of the county’s archaeology, assessing both the work of past generations and the discoveries of this modern era of enquiry.
Major excavations on Dorstone Hill and at Wellington Quarry have shed light on the activities and rituals of our Neolithic ancestors, while the excavation of a cairn in the Olchon valley has illuminated the ebb and flow of beliefs at the transition of the Neolithic into the Bronze Age. In Hereford the site of part of the Saxon cathedral has been identified, along with a possible Mercian royal residence, helping reshape ideas about the Saxon city. The extent of iron working near Ross-on-Wye and in Hereford has been revealed, showing that Herefordshire was once a surprisingly industrial county. What have traditionally been considered to be earth and timber Norman castles have in some cases been shown to include major structures built in stone, perhaps from the very beginning. And detailed programmes of excavation at some sites, such as Croft Castle, have not only redefined the sequence of construction of the building concerned, but have also traced the extensive redesign of gardens and parkland down the centuries. These are just a handful of the new insights into many periods of Herefordshire’s remote and more recent past revealed by this fascinating study.
The book is complemented by a Foreword written by author, historian and county resident Sir Roy Strong.
Keith Ray achieved a first degree and a doctorate in archaeology from Cambridge University before embarking upon an archaeological career that has included both academic posts and 25 years in local government service. He was Herefordshire’s County Archaeologist between 1998 and 2014, and is currently Honorary Secretary of the Herefordshire Victoria County History Trust. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a full Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. In 2007 he was awarded an MBE for services to archaeology in Herefordshire.

The Early Bronze Age ‘structured cairn’ at Olchon Court near Longtown, under excavation in 2010.
This is a complex funerary monument, or perhaps more properly ‘cemetery’. It was in use and subject to successive embellishments and re-orderings at intervals across potentially as many as two hundred years and is therefore a remarkable testament to the history of a community. Two, earlier still, ‘Beaker’-period Early Bronze Age rectangular stone burial cists were found during agricultural operations in the 1920s only 200m away on the same farm.

Excavations at Dorstone Hill in 2013, looking east. In the foreground is a cist that produced a diagnostic leaf-shaped flint arrowhead.