Archaeological investigation on the route of A417 Missing Link

A417 Missing Link evaluation - a person recording an evaluation trench

During September to December 2020, Cotswold Archaeology undertook an archaeological evaluation on the route of the proposed A417 Missing Link, between Cirencester and Gloucester. The area around the proposed route is rich with archaeology of all periods, including the prehistoric site at Crickley Hill and Roman settlement in the Birdlip area. During the course of the fieldwork, at least 300 trenches were excavated along the route, largely targeting anomalies identified during a preceding geophysical survey.

The archaeology recorded during the fieldwork included finds and features from across the chronological spectrum, including Mesolithic and Neolithic flintwork, Bronze Age settlement, Iron Age and Roman funerary, settlement and agricultural activity (including a possible ritual site adjacent to Ermine Street Roman road), indications of potential Saxon settlement, medieval agricultural evidence, post-medieval quarrying and the positions of several potential Second World War defensive emplacements.

A417 cupid figurine

Amongst the unearthed artefacts is a rare Cupid figurine of Roman date, which is currently being examined by our finds specialist, Ed McSloy; more information about this exciting object will be coming soon. Michael Goddard, Highways England’s Senior Project Manager for the A417, said:

“The archaeology works we are undertaking along the A417 give us a significant insight into life on the site thousands of years ago, providing a unique glimpse into the past.”

Jim Keyte, Archaeology Lead for the project, added:

“It has been fascinating to reveal more about the area and the people who once lived here. Our investigations will continue as the project progresses and we expect more interesting discoveries to come.”

Alex Thomson, Cotswold Archaeology’s Project Manager for the evaluation, commented:

“This project has given us a unique opportunity to investigate a large area of the Cotswolds that is rich with archaeology, and it has shown us a landscape of continued use from the prehistoric period to the modern day: some of the finds that our hard-working team recovered during the fieldwork are incredibly interesting and I look forward to our further involvement on the scheme. The results of the evaluation will enable the archaeologists at Gloucestershire County Council and Historic England to assess the impact of the proposed road on the archaeological resource, and work with Highways England to define areas for further investigation and preservation where possible.”

The A417 is an important route between Gloucester and Swindon, which helps connect the midlands and north to the south of England and is an alternative to the M5/M4 route via Bristol. The Missing Link is a three-mile stretch of single-lane carriageway along the A417, between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout in Gloucestershire. Currently, it causes many problems for road users and those who live or work in the area, with congestion frequent and unpredictable.

Highways England is planning to build 3.4 miles (5.5km) of new dual carriageway, which will considerably improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion, and improve connectivity for road users and local communities, while unlocking economic growth in Gloucestershire and beyond.

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