Excavation at Sizewell

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Between December 2015 and February 2017 Cotswold Archaeology and Suffolk Archaeology jointly undertook a series of archaeological evaluations for EDF Energy Nuclear New Build at proposed development sites at Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast.

The first area to be investigated was Pillbox Field located just 350m west of the village of Sizewell. Sizewell had a burgeoning 13th-century settlement and was granted a market in 1237. Evidence from the medieval period was apparent within the trenches with a trackway and flanking ditches producing pottery dating from the 12th to 14th centuries. The remains of more recent activity can still be seen today, with an extant World War II pillbox located within field. During excavations a possible World War II command trench leading to the pillbox was also uncovered.

Photo of the Pillbox
Working shot of the kiln at Wickham
Working shot of the kiln at Wickham

After a short break, investigations turned to a site at Wickham Market, close to the previously known Roman settlement of Lower Hacheston. Excavations in the 1960s and early 1970s during construction of the A12 road uncovered a substantial Roman settlement, which appeared to be a continuation of an existing Iron Age site. These 20th-century excavations revealed that the settlement was occupied throughout the Roman period and was particularly associated with pottery production, with at least eight kilns excavated at the site. Our evaluation revealed Roman activity on the northern fringes of Lower Hacheston comprising domestic and industrial features, including another kiln (see left). The kiln had a domed clay-and-stone superstructure with two opposing flue arches and an internal pedestal. The use of the kiln appears to have been for the production of sand-tempered greyware vessels and was similar in design to those uncovered in the previous excavations. We also found a spread of dark material, which was probably a midden, or rubbish dump, for the settlement. A large number of finds came from this midden, including a coin from the reign of the Emperor Nero (AD 54 to-68) (see below, left) and a metal instrument that was probably used to get cosmetics out of bottles (see below, right). To the north of the Roman settlement, the evaluation revealed a wealth of archaeological evidence, including prehistoric cremations, Roman field systems and a trackway, and medieval enclosures.

Nero's as
Neronian as
Toilet scoop
Toilet scoop
Sunken Featured Building during excavation
Sunken-featured-building during excavation

Our next site was located on the eastern edge of the town of Leiston, where we found archaeological remains ranging from a prehistoric trackway with flanking ditches to more medieval enclosures. We were surprised to discover two Anglo-Saxon sunken-featured buildings (SFBs) in what was anticipated to be an area with little archaeology at the north end of the site (see left). SFBs were rectangular wooden structures, the majority of which seem to have had floors suspended over broad but shallow pits. They were prevalent in northern Europe from the 5th century AD and started to appear in Britain with the immigration of Germanic peoples in the later 5th and 6th centuries. Further evidence of Anglo-Saxon settlement came from the remains of a rectangular post-built structure to the west of the SFBs. A series of later rectilinear enclosures dating to the medieval period were found on the northern and eastern boundaries of the site and may have been domestic plots fronting onto Valley Road and Lovers Lane respectively.

WWI button
WWI button

Our final site from this phase of fieldwork was located adjacent to the existing nuclear power station and produced features ranging from prehistoric ditches to the modern day use of the site. Medieval activity within the site appears to have occured at discrete points within the landscape, perhaps in connection to the establishment of the second Augustinian Abbey at Leiston during the 14th century. Sub-rectangular enclosures were identified, which often had a buried soil layer preserved within them, possibly suggesting that these were small farmsteads within Abbey land. Near these enclosures two large pits encompassing possible clay-built ovens or kilns were observed. Evidence for military use of the site in the 20th century was represented by a concrete post pad and a World War I uniform button (see above, right). This button is a general service button that was worn by soldiers of all regiments during the war.