Early Roman Highgate Wood C Ware jar, from Drapers' Gardens
The Neolithic monumental complex as it may have appeared from the south

Unlocking the Landscape

Archaeological Excavations at Ashford Prison, Middlesex, PCA Monograph 5

By Tim Carew, Barry Bishop, Frank Meddens & Victoria Ridgeway

PCA Monograph No.5 The site of Ashford Prison lies immediately north of the river Ash. The area is generally low-lying and was traversed by tributaries of the Ash. From early prehistory transient groups of hunter-gatherers visited the area, perhaps only stopping for long enough to repair a toolkit, or manufacture a handful of new blades. However, by the Neolithic, a slight promontory of land, defined and enclosed by water, became the focus of deliberate visits. In time a ditched monument was constructed; initially perhaps a segmented or partially open circle. Over time this became fully enclosed and surrounded by a continuous ditch, ultimately being marked by a series of pits or, arguably more probably, upright posts. A further screen of posts was constructed towards its centre and ditches were created running towards it from the southwest and northeast. This monument and its ditches may have controlled the area of land to the east, contained by the watercourses.

ln the Bronze Age an extensive field system was constructed across the west London gravel terraces, and the excavations here revealed parts of that. Ditches were excavated representing land divisions, geared towards the control of livestock, perhaps brought to graze on the lush pastureland of the valleys during summer months.

There then appears to be a hiatus in archaeologically visible activity, with little evidence for exploitation of the area until the later Iron Age, when roundhouses were built, pits were dug, and food stores constructed. The Neolithic monument apparently continued to be revered and towards the end of this settlement phase, one of the latest structures to be built was constructed close to the earlier ring-ditch but facing away from it, in direct contrast to the other buildings on site and established practices of the period.

Following the Roman Conquest further ditches were dug, again forming part of a wider exploitation of the terraces. Although a single building is noted which may date to the Saxon period, from this period of intense exploitation the area remained little utilized until the construction of buildings in the 19th century: initially an orphans' residential school, then a youth remand centre, and briefly a prison, before being closed in 1988.

This publication details the results of archaeological excavations, incorporating detailed reports on the artefacts recovered and environmental background to the area. A concluding chapter discusses the findings within the broader context of the prehistory of the west London terraces.

Publication Details

Paperback: 127 pages
Publish Date: 2006
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0-9542938-4-0
ISBN-10: 0-9542938-4-3
Dimensions: 29.8 x 21 x 0.8 cm
Price: 17.95 (Out of Print
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