History of BACAS

From our archives:

“… such a Club as this will naturally have wider interests than merely digging into the past. By arranging for lectures during the winter months, besides their instructive use, such lectures will help to keep the Club interested in subjects that fall naturally within its scope, at a time of year when field work is often impossible. I hope too that the Club will organise expeditions to places not too far away, that have interests of their own, and that in this way, some of those members who feel that they cannot take part in its more vigorous work, will yet find it to their advantage to join, on account of its wider claims on archaeology.”

– Rev Abbot Horne in the first Camerton Excavation Club newsletter in 1949.

The Bath and Counties Archaeological Society (BACAS) began as the Camerton Excavation Club, formed in 1948 by Bill Wedlake (see obituary in Camertonia 37 (1999) p.2). Wedlake grew up in Camerton, and at 13 began working at Camerton Farm, where he developed a passionate interest in the archaeological remains that had been excavated by the Reverend John Skinner. He was involved in excavating the extensive Romano-British settlement at Camerton from 1926 to 1956. He is also notable as having dug at Maiden Castle with Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and led the excavation of a Romano-British Temple site at Nettleton between 1956 and 1972. Wedlake and his partner, Peter Greening, and the Society itself were instrumental in preserving many of Bath’s historic buildings from sweeping ‘modernisation’, such as the now-replaced development at Southgate Street.

The first President of the Society was the Right Rev. Ethelbert Horne, the Abbot of Downside Abbey and parish priest of Stratton-on-the-Fosse for some fifty years. Abbot Horne was well-known as an archaeologist, for his involvement in such excavation as the Camerton site, as well as being a director of excavations for 12 years at Glastonbury Abbey. He was an active member of many local historical and archaeological societies in the area, and a great contributor to many journals.

Horne’s successor was Sir Mortimer Wheeler, a key figure in archaeology in the early half of the 20th Century, about whose illustrious career much has been written.

In 1963, the members decided ‘In view of the Camerton Excavation Club’s extended activities the title is no longer suitable and that in future it be known as “The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society”’. Fifty five years later, it was felt the time elapsed from the Camerton excavations was sufficiently great that it should be dropped from the name, and BACAS became “The Bath and Counties Archaeological Society”. Camerton continues to be remembered in the title of the Society’s journal, Camertonia.

From 2000 till 2010, BACAS had a project based at Blacklands, Upper Row Farm, Hemington, the site of an early Romano-British villa. In 2006, we were visited for an episode of Time Team. (Video)

You can also read the Wessex Archaeology Report on the Blacklands Excavations 2006.