PRE-CONSTRUCT ARCHAEOLOGY
A roof tile from a Roman Bath House, Shadwell, with Latin script.
 

Rural / Greenfield Sites

Greenfield Sites

Faverdale East, Darlington

Extension of the Faverdale East Business Park on the north-western outskirts of Darlington necessitated one of the largest pieces of archaeological fieldwork undertaken to date in County Durham/Darlington. The development site covered c. 36 hectares of agricultural land, with much of this now occupied by an Argos distribution centre. The site was considered to be of particular archaeological interest due to the suspected presence of the deserted medieval village of Whessoe on higher ground immediately to the north. Geophysical survey of four sample areas of the site in 2003 was followed by a trial trenching evaluation in the eastern half of the site, which produced disappointing results.

PCA began trial trenching in 2004 in the western half of the site, this closer to the suspected deserted medieval village site, and a very different picture quickly emerged. However, it was not medieval activity for which Faverdale has now become famous; instead significant settlement activity of Roman and potentially Late Iron Age date was uncovered. Working in close liaison with senior personnel of Darlington Borough Council (DBC) and the Durham County Council (DCC) development control archaeologist, PCA designed a programme of open area excavation to ensure that the site would be effectively ‘preserved by record’ ahead of the imminent development programme. Around 6 hectares of land was investigated in detail with PCA mobilising a team of nearly 40 archaeologists to ensure that the site could be handed over at the end of the 14 week window of opportunity.

The Faverdale site has produced some very significant archaeological results, which have shed new light on current understanding of indigenous society and settlement during the Roman military occupation of Northern Britain.

Permanent habitation at Faverdale began in the Late pre-Roman Iron Age when an open farmstead was established, continuing to be occupied until the early 2nd century AD. The remains of roundhouses, stock enclosures and droveways were identified. Artefacts show that the inhabitants had increasing access to Roman material culture and even began to manufacture copies of Roman styles of pottery.

In the mid-2nd century AD a substantial ditched enclosure was built on a spur of higher land in the north-western part of the site with a network of smaller, interconnected enclosures to the south and east, where small-scale industrial activity such as metalworking, crop processing and butchery were undertaken. Huge quantities of dumped domestic refuse indicate that buildings once occupied the larger enclosure, but these had been destroyed by later ploughing. One building survived: a small two-roomed stone structure with hypocaust system and painted wall plaster. Although similar to a Roman bathhouse, this was much smaller, and was perhaps used as a sweat room or steam bath. Material recovered from the 2nd-century settlement shows that Faverdale was a successful community with extensive trade links, presumably stimulated by the large numbers of Roman troops stationed within the northern frontier zone. Items such as bone pins and brooches demonstrate that the inhabitants adopted aspects of a Roman lifestyle, yet they continued to use items traditionally found on Iron Age and indigenous Roman period settlements, such as a bone weaving comb and handmade Iron Age tradition pottery.

At the end of the 2nd-century AD the main rectilinear enclosure was backfilled, the heated building demolished, and the site largely abandoned until the construction of a late 4th-century AD stone building, possibly of agricultural function.
The fieldwork and initial post-excavation work was funded by DBC and Argos, with further funding secured in 2009 from DBC and DCC for analysis of the site data and publication of the results.

The fieldwork and initial post-excavation work was funded by DBC and Argos, with further funding secured in 2009 from DBC and DCC for analysis of the site data and publication of the results.

Aerial photo of ploughsoil strip at Faverdale The Faverdale hypocausted building Pilae stacks within the hypocausted building at Faverdale Bone weaving comb from Faverdale Handmade jar in Iron Age tradition pottery from Faverdale

Grange Farm, Gillingham, Kent

An archaeological excavation was undertaken at Grange Farm, Gillingham, Kent, in advance of a proposed redevelopment of the site for residential purposes. The site is situated on the eastern side of Gillingham, on a hill overlooking the southern bank of the Medway River.

The open area excavation was undertaken in four separate areas around Grench Manor, which although being outside the area of excavation lay at the heart of the study site.

The archaeology encountered was multi-phase, the features dating from the prehistoric through to the post-medieval period. The site appears to have been heavily used during the Roman period consisting of a significant roadway across the site and later a large wooden structure, probably a raised granary. These activities suggest that a villa was constructed on the site around this period, possibly on the site of the modern day Grench Manor. Other Roman features included an aisled barn with masonry walls and a substantial mausoleum containing middle age female in a lead coffin, found west of the roadway.

In the medieval period the records show the building of the Grench Manor around the 11th century, and a large moat ditch was found associated with the manor circuit.

Grange Farm, one foggy morning Preparing to remove the lead coffin The lead coffin is removed A Roman necklace, composed of a series of gold filigree double-loop links, threaded with beads of green stone variscite. Early Anglo-Saxon Bow Brooch of gilded silver with Niello inlays

Laurel Farm, Norfolk

Archaeological investigations were undertaken by Pre-Construct Archaeology ahead of the development of a site at Laurel Farm, c. 1km north of the village of Thorpe Saint Andrew and 5km from the historic core of Norfolk, as an extension to the Broadlands Business Park. Geophysical, fieldwalking and metal detecting surveys were carried out over an area of c. 19 hectares, followed by evaluation and subsequent open area excavation, which concentrated on four areas of the site, with the largest excavation area measuring 150m x 130m.

The investigations revealed an extraordinarily long and complex history of the occupation and exploitation of the area. The oldest artefact found was a Lower Paleaolithic handaxe, at least a quarter of a million years old and made by pre-modern people during one of the warm stages in the last age. The site was also visited in the Upper Palaeolithic, at the end of the last ice age, by hunter-gatherer communities. They used the shelter provided by the roots of an upturned tree, possibly as a temporary camp, and while there knapped flints to make blades, which would have been used to work wood and bone. People used the landscape in a similar way in the Early Neolithic, around five to six thousand years ago. One pair of adjacent tree-throw hollows had been used to dispose of quantities of Early Neolithic pottery, animal bone and nearly 4,000 pieces of struck flint.

Towards the end of the Neolithic/early Bronze Age, around 4,500 years ago, use of the area changed: a substantial ring-ditch was found, probably the remains of a ploughed-out round barrow or burial mound. A notable find was an Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead.

By the Middle Iron Age, a farmstead settlement with one or two roundhouses set within a field-system shows that the area had reverted to domestic occupation. Quantities of Romano-British pottery were also found at the site; some probably representing waste products from the nearby kilns at Postwick. Later Roman material from the site includes a 4th-century crossbow brooch with onion shaped terminals.

By the later Saxon period the area is likely to have been on the edge of a vast area of heathland and woodland, unsuitable for agriculture or habitation. Radiocarbon dating shows us that from as early as AD 700 until the early medieval period, around AD 1200 the area was used for the early stages of iron extraction and production – processes which have rarely been identified archaeologically. Numerous charcoal burning pits were also identified at the site; charcoal would have been important in the iron processing industry and was evidently manufactured at Laurel Farm in some quantity.

By the later medieval period, the site was situated on the margins of an extensive area of heathland, Mousehold Heath, which continued to be used for its natural resources; with gravel quarries and brick kilns, exploiting the natural clays until pressures on agricultural production towards the end of the 18th century resulted in the enclosure of the landscape.

Laurel Farm with Broadlands Business Park in the background 4th-century crossbow brooch with onion shaped terminals A charcoal burning pit General site working shot Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead