An Iron Age to Roman settlement near Ledbury Viaduct, Herefordshire

Early this year we undertook an excavation on land to the north of Ledbury Viaduct in Herefordshire, prior to residential development of the site. A previous geophysical survey and archaeological trenching had identified a small area of Roman activity, which was located on a plateau overlooking the River Leadon.

Site plan, showing identified archaeological features
Site plan, showing identified archaeological features

Despite initial works suggesting only limited Roman occupation, our fieldwork has revealed more extensive remains than anticipated, spanning multiple periods of activity. The features identified comprised a probable adapted palaeochannel, an enclosure, a field boundary and ring ditches, post-built structures, pits, and possible occupation deposits. Evidence for medieval ridge and furrow cultivation and large-scale modern disturbance were also present. Most of the artefacts recovered were broadly dateable to between the Iron Age and Roman periods.

The Middle Bronze Age loop-socketed spear/javelin head, fresh from the ground
The Middle Bronze Age loop-socketed spear/javelin head, fresh from the ground

The site was small, but we still discovered 14 coins, 2 brooches, fragments of glass, a quern stone, a smith’s hammer, and a knife – all of Roman date – amongst other objects. However, the most interesting finds were a fantastic Middle Bronze Age loop-socketed spear/javelin head, which was retrieved from an otherwise undated ditch, and an impressively intact Severn Valley Ware vessel dateable to between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and discovered in a ditch terminus.

The earliest features we encountered were two parallel ditches in the south-western corner of the site (from which the aforementioned spearhead was recovered), and these were cut by two ring ditches, dating from the Late Iron Age to Roman periods. The fills were rich with organic material; environmental samples were taken and the processing of these will hopefully shed light on their function.

Intact Severn Valley Ware drinking/food vessel
Intact Severn Valley Ware drinking/food vessel

The ring ditches were superseded by later Roman enclosure and drainage ditches with a number of associated pits. The easternmost ditch extended beyond a large area of modern disturbance and into a managed watercourse.

Two structures (a three-post structure to the north and a four-post structure to the south) were also identified, with Roman pottery recovered. It is possible that they represent temporary shelters or stores associated with the later Roman activity.

Two spreads of Roman occupation material were identified within natural depressions at the north and centre of the site, both containing significant quantities of pottery and many of the artefacts listed above.

The archaeology identified during the course of the excavation was slightly more complex than expected, providing evidence for a small-scale but rich and extended period of activity within the site. The site team did an excellent job, especially given the periods of high winds and severe flooding! Hopefully the forthcoming post-excavation work will allow further exciting interpretations about the site.

Sara-Jayne Boughton

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