Other Excavation within the Parish

In addition to the large scale, volunteer-led excavation of the site at the National Herb Centre, small-scale private archaeological investigations have also been carried out within the parish. These are a fascinating additional resource and help to paint a picture of the parish at a point in time when written records were scant or non-existent.

Investigation of four Anglo-Saxon Burials

In 2010 four burials were found at Edgehill on the parish boundary between Ratley and Warmington during building work. A report was commissioned from Warwickshire Archaeology Services and the following is a summary of those findings.


The four burials were found on the parish boundary between Ratley and Warmington on a low knoll at the top of the ridge. It is not clear if the knoll is a natural feature – it is a ‘distinct possibility’ that it was an older burial mound. A steep edge along its southern side may have been the result of cutting a ditch along the parish boundary or a ditch surrounding an undated barrow.

The report concludes that although the burials are recorded as from the parish of Ratley and Upton, the archaeological evidence suggests they should be more accurately ascribed to Warmington.

The kink in the parish boundary at the point of this formal cemetery (of which the four burials are likely to form only a part) seem to relate to the knoll and/or the cemetery. This would mean the boundary was meant to include the cemetery in Warmington parish with the ditch on the south side being the parish boundary. Saxon burials were often in earlier barrows – either from the early Saxon or Neolithic or Bronze Age. It is believed that they were used as a device to claim land rights in a time of political turmoil between the Hwicce and the more powerful Mercians.

Saxon presence in Edgehill

The report describes the middle Saxon period in Warwickshire as ‘nigh-on invisible’ in terms of archaeology. It does point to the significance of local place names (Tysoe means ‘spur’ of the war god Tiw + hoh) and Ratley with its Old English -leah ending, thought to refer to a time when this area was more heavily wooded. It also points to the significance of Nadbury Camp and refers to Camp Lane as an ‘ancient route’.

The report describes these middle Saxon burials as the ‘first definitive evidence’ for a middle Saxon population in Warwickshire (assuming that they lived in the area where they were buried). The author speculates that due to the poverty of the population the more dateable artefacts (such as pottery) were not available to them; instead they would have relied on organic materials such as wood, leather and bone which would not have survived in the ground.

The Burials

The report states there were ‘at least’ four burials. The amount of remains recovered ranged from 80 per cent to ten per cent and the preservation from good to poor. Only one of the burials was fully excavated from the start. The report concludes that one was definitely aligned east/west, another probably – the other two it is not possible to deduce.

The most complete burial was laid supine with arms folded across the abdomen. The burials were covered with a layer of clay loam. The report concludes that although the bodies alignment may suggest Christian burial, this is not conclusive as conversion to Christianity in Anglo-Saxon society at this time was still in the early stages.

Warmington’s Recently Discovered Dovecote 

The footings of a medieval building, thought to be a dovecote, were uncovered recently by archaeological investigation, prior to the building of an extension at Hill Cottage, School Lane.

A dovecote, or columbarium, is listed among the possessions of the Prior of Warmington in 1291. 

Whether the footings found at Hill Cottage are monastic is not certain, but property deeds of 1660 and 1685 refer to this dovecote. It belonged to a leading Warmington family called Draper, and it stood in what was then called Dovehouse Close. 

Dovecotes were built to provide secure homes for domestic pigeons. The birds supplied:

  • meat – especially the young ‘squabs’ about 1 month old
  • eggs – five or six clutches a year of two eggs
  • down and feathers – cushions, pillows, quilts and decoration
  • dung – ten times as valuable as normal manure and a source of saltpetre for making gunpowder.

Did you know?  

  • pigeons mate for life.  
  • the chicks are fed on ‘pigeon milk’, partly digested food, by both parents – the father takes over this role when the mother is busy with the next clutch.  
  • pigeons forage for their own food and have a strong homing instinct. 

 The Romans had dovehouses, or columbaria, but ones still standing date from the 12th to 18th centuries. They were built in stone, brick or timber and were circular, square or polygonal in shape. The interior might have more than 1,000 nesting holes.

The nests were reached from a rotating central post, with projecting arms, known as a ‘potence’, to which ladders were attached. Until the early 17th century, only lords of manors or parish priests were allowed to keep pigeons; part of a privileged way of life, providing a luxurious supplement to an already ample diet.