The first type of man or sub-man probably lived on this earth some ten million
years ago. About two hundred million years ago, a period of time which it; is
impossible for our human minds to grasp, this village of ours was under water.
It was the age of the giant reptiles, such as the fearsome tyrannosaurus, a flesh
eating reptile some twenty feet high. Scientists call it the mesozoic age -we
know about it through the fossilized remains of such animals. An ichthyosaurus
-a fish reptile -the fossilized head and parts of backbone of which were found
by the old duck pond at Hinton House. Such remains are found in a geological type
of earth called Lias, and the remains of ichthyosauruses are found chiefly in
the West near Lyme Regis in Dorset.
TO ROMAN TIMES
Topographically the parish of Hinton Charterhouse is a plateau much of it over
400 ft above sea-level, sloping steeply to the north-west to the level of the
Wellow Brook, which is at about 120 ft, and to the east to the Rivcr Frome which
is below 100 ft. The beds of these streams are of dias clay, and at successive
rising intervals there are Inferior Oolite, Fullers Earth and the Great Oolite
which forms a steep escarpment at the edge of the plateau. The Fullers Earth tends
to form a ledge or gentler slope between two steeper pitches. Signs of ancient
habitation may be looked for either on this platform or on the summit of the plateau.
At the time when man and his animal contemporaries first arrived in this land,
the slopes of the valleys must have been strewn with weathered boulders, the tougher
remains of the Groat Oolite which in far distant geological times strctched unbrokenly
over the whole area, being drained by the infant tributaries of the primeval Avon.
As bones of prehistoric animals, many of them now extinct, such as mammoth, woolly
rhinoceros, musk-ox, bison, etc., have been found at Freshford, Coombe Hay and
in the gravels of other parts of the Avon system, there is no doubt that they
roamed over the parish of Hinton Oharterhouse, but no remains have been found
there.And though they were probably hunted by men of the Palaeolithic Ages, as
else where in Somerset, no evidence to prove it has ever been recognised.
The first sign or human occupation is in the Neolithic period (2500 -1800 B.C.)"
The adjoining parish of Wellow is famous as the location of the Stdney Littleton
Long Barrow, a transepted gallery or passage grave, vvhich may have contained
at least 30 burials.The existence of this barrow implies continuous occupation
of the Wellow valley by a relatively numerous community. This implication is strongly
supported by evidence from Hinton Charterhouse and adjacent parishes. In the year
1821, the Rev. John Skinner, Rector or Camerton, observed in a field on the south
side of the Wellow Brook ( opposite Rainbow Wood (Wellow) ) two erect stones which
he considered to be all that remained from an ancient burial chamber. He stated
that the stones were known as the Giants Cave or Grave. He had previously noticed
similar remains a short way off in the parish of Wellow. These also were named
Giants' Grave, a name considered to be an almost certain indication of the site
or a Neolithic long barrow, even when no visible evidence remains, as is now the
case in both these examples.
Lower down the valley in the parish of Limpley Stoke, there still remain two erect
stones of the same nature. More substantial evidence of Neolithic occupation occurs
in Hinton Charterhouse on the 300 ft contour line, on the Fullers' Earth platform.
About 300 yards from each other there are two stone barrows or cairns. Each is
composed of stones of varying sizes, some quite large, apparently gathered pnomiscuously
from the surface, and not obtained by quarrying. The eastern one has the dimensions
and general shape of an earthen long barrow, being about 100 ft long and tapering
in height from the East end. In one place there are signs of stones laid in courses.
The western one, in Poor Field, has one half completely removed; this may have
been done as far back as in Roman times, for there is evidence that it was visited
by the people of that period. The inner face of the remaining half is a straight
dry wall of undressed stones, altogether 25 ft in length. In one place eight courses
of stones can be counted. These two barrows and the two sites named Giants' Graves
lie within a circle of radius 400 yards and suggest that Hinton Charterhouse supported
a population in 2000 B.C., of people who had not yet learnt the use of metal weapons
On the plateau, there are four round barrows, which until excavation of their
contents should prove otherwise, may be assumed to be of the Bronze Age (1800-
500 B.C.). The most conspicuous is a deeply hollowed mound on a prominent high
point (437 ft) near Abbey Farm. The Rev. J. Skinner examined it and found in it
three Roman coins, an indication that the Romans were the f'irst to explore it.
In the N.W. corner of the same field there is a barrow almost ploughed out of
existence. In the field adjoining to the north there is a large barrow. This no
doubt owes its preservation to its inclusion until fairly recent times in Hog
Wood. There is also a small barrow on the edge of tpe plateau in Broadfield Farm.
Extensive signs of occupation in the Early Iron Age (500 B.C. -A.D. 50) can be
seen on many of the downs near Bath, notably Hampton and Charmy Downs, in the
f'orm of "Celtic Fields" with accompanying trackways for wheeled vehicles.
No such signs are visible now in the parish of Hinton Charterhouse, but cattle
were certainly grazed there. The Hayes Wood Enclosure in Freshford is a rectangular
earth work with a rampart outside and a ditch inside, unsuitable for protection
against human enemies, but, with the aid of a palisade on the rampart, suitable
for the protection of live stock from wild beasts. This has been proved by excavation
to be of Iron Age and its occupants possessed oxen, sheep and pigs.
The Romans invaded England in AnDn 43, introducing a higher culture and have left
indications in the parish. rrhe most important is a portion of the Roman Road
from Bad bury Rings, Dorset, to Bath. This road, visible as a broad bank between
ditches, is about 700 yards long. Its preser vation is due to its protection for
many centuries in Hog Wood. on reaching the edge of the Midford Brook valley it
made a detour and crossed the brook at Midford and returned to pass in front of
Midford Castle. Near the line of the road a stone coffin containing a skeleton
was found in the year 1917, during ploughing on Midford Hill Farm. In the S.E.
corner of the parish, in a field called Temple Field, there is "the site of a
Roman house. It is much nearer Farleigh Hungerford than Hinton Charterhouse and
has always been re corded as being in the former parish. The Ordnance Survey six-inch
maps place it in the latter, the parish boundary passing it very closely. It was
examined by the Rev. J. Skinner in 1822 and by others later. It is said to have
had a well constructed bath and tessellated pavements and must have been a villa
of some distinction. On the south side of the Hinton -Wellow road there is a field
known as Shepherds' Mead or Shepherd's Field, in which there may have been a second
Roman house. In the year 1820, the Rev. J. Skinner who had considerable experience
of Roman houses caused diggings to be made there and found Roman coins and pottery
and also building stones.He also found further signs of Roman occupation at a
place he called Barn's Croft, which seems to have been east of the field Ennox,
but has not been identified. It seems possible that much Roman material of interest
remains to be discovered.