News

A Landscape of Power. History Runs Deep in the Countryside of West Somerset

In the last few decades those areas that have experienced the most new building have also seen the most archaeological exploration. Sometimes, however, we end up in places that have seen comparatively little previous investigation, and this provides us with a chance to write the first systematic archaeological story of an area. This was just the case at Hinkley Point in West Somerset, where EDF Energy is currently building a new nuclear reactor. This major development provided us with an opportunity to examine a large tract of land bordering the Bristol Channel. From the reactor site itself there are fine views out across the water to the South Wales coast, but the area is exposed and susceptible to strong wind – we regularly saw the rain clouds being blown apace towards us. So you might have thought that this was an unlikely spot to find much archaeology, yet quite the opposite proved to be true.

Excavations in all weathers on a linear site with Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation
Excavations in all weathers on a linear site with Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation

Our work revealed fascinating evidence for past activity in this remote spot stretching back until around 3000 BC. Virtually all periods of the past were represented, including Iron Age and Roman settlements and a fascinating post-Roman cemetery dating from the 5th to 7th centuries AD. We also examined the site of a farm which was only abandoned in the 1960s, and amazingly showed that this site has also been occupied in the Iron Age, Roman and medieval periods. What was it about this spot that drew people back to it throughout history?

An unexpected early medieval burial ground – the final resting place of over 300 of the area’s local inhabitants
An unexpected early medieval burial ground – the final resting place of over 300 of the area’s local inhabitants

Fieldwork at Hinkley Point is now over, and we are engaged in the vital process of analysing and reporting on our findings. Our first book on an Iron Age settlement and Roman villa near the village of Cannington has just been published, and further volumes will follow over the next few years.

The remarkable remains of a farmhouse, which had been in use until recent times and which was shown to have medieval origins. It seems to have been the descendant of a farm with late Iron Age beginnings
The remarkable remains of a farmhouse, which had been in use until recent times and which was shown to have medieval origins. It seems to have been the descendant of a farm with late Iron Age beginnings

Book Launch Event in Cannington, Somerset

Cotswold Archaeology has just published the first volume in a planned series about the archaeology of the Hinkley Point C construction project, undertaken on behalf of EDF Energy.

The book – Cannington Bypass, Somerset: Excavations in 2014. Middle Bronze Age enclosure at Rodway and Roman villa at Sandy Lane – concerns the results of excavations ahead of the infrastructure work around Cannington village.

To mark this publication, South West Heritage Trust has arranged a book launch, that was held at Cannington Court in the evening of Wednesday 6th March.

The book is being distributed by Oxbow Books, Oxford.

cannington book cover

Some photos from the event.

Book launch cannington, view of the venue Cannington book launch authors and contributors group photo

 

 

 

 


Brixworth: Industrialisation of the Countryside – 2000 years ago

We sometimes think of the Roman invasion of AD 43 as a great watershed, but in many ways a lot of the developments which we think of as Roman were actually a continuation of processes that begun in the Late Iron Age (from about 100 BC onwards). One of the trends we can detect in some (but not all) parts of Britain was a desire – or need – to grow more food and make more efficient use of the countryside. Our excavation in 2016 at Brixworth, Northamptonshire, for Barratt Homes provides a good example of this process in action.

Roman corn drying oven – perhaps used for malting to make beer
Roman corn drying oven – perhaps used for malting to make beer

From around 400 BC onwards a series of trapezoidal and sub-circular enclosures were constructed, associated with a large number of pits which were likely used for the storage of grain and other agricultural products. A lovely beehive quern demonstrates that grain was being turned into flour on the site. This activity continued seemingly unaffected by the Roman invasion and the site developed into a farm made up of a complex series of enclosures that were used either as places to live or for a variety of agricultural purposes, including crop processing. The construction of a large drying oven suggests an expansion of crop-processing activities in the later Roman period (roughly AD 200-400) and perhaps even brewing (the oven might have been used in the malting process).

The people who lived in Brixworth must have devoted much of their waking hours to agriculture on an almost industrial scale. Let’s hope they enjoyed their local beer when the day’s toil was over.
You can see some of the finds from Brixworth following the links below.

Metal artefacts from Brixworth
Quernstone from Brixworth

Excavating an Iron Age storage pit
Excavating an Iron Age storage pit

A finely-made stone-lined Iron Age water cistern – it is natural bedrock at the bottom
A finely-made stone-lined Iron Age water cistern – it is natural bedrock at the bottom

 


Wickham Archaeological Investigations

Since September 2018, Cotswold Archaeology has been carrying out archaeological investigations in Wickham, Hampshire. Working with developer Croudace Homes and Winchester City Archaeology, the investigations are being undertaken prior to the construction of a new residential development of 82 homes.

This is not the first time archaeologists have visited this site however, with work beginning in the late 1960s. These early investigations revealed evidence of Roman activity, including both domestic and industrial debris. Investigations in the early 21st century recorded late prehistoric pottery, and our investigations expand upon two previous phases of trial excavations undertaken in 2014 and 2018.

pottery from WickhamSince September our archaeologists have revealed the extent of Roman roadside settlement activity which is currently thought to have had its heyday within the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, perhaps as a kind of Roman ‘service-station’. We have uncovered evidence of post-built structures, multiple enclosure ditches and several large waste pits, from which we have found a wealth of pottery and other kiln debris. Amidst the Roman archaeology, Bronze Age cremations and worked-flint were also discovered, suggesting the presence of human activity in this area as early as the Mesolithic period.

As an educational charity, CA are dedicated to delivering outreach and community engagement programmes within the local area, using both on and off-site approaches and digital technology, to help widen access for engagement and participation. As part of our investigations at Wickham, an Open Day was due to be held on Saturday 24th November. Whilst our archaeologists are prepared for all weathers, in this instance severe wet weather compromised site safety and we unfortunately had to put a halt to the open day. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused and to all those planning to come along.

The past five months have revealed a fascinating insight into the history of this area. As we were unable to welcome you to the site in November, our Andover fieldwork team have made a fantastic on-site video to show you what we have been up to.

Information panels produced for the Open Day are available to download below.

Our investigations were initially due to be completed in December 2018 but, due to bad weather, we have been delayed. We will continue working on site into January 2019. Once we have finished, our specialists will analyse and record the information collected. We will then be able to build up a picture of the site, which we hope to share at another event in Wickham in 2019. Further details about this event will be available to view here soon.

people (archaeologists) standing, archaeological site in the background


New CA Reports Online website launched!

Many of you will already know of our ‘Reports Online’ website, the online library that makes freely available pretty much every CA fieldwork report that we’ve ever produced, with new reports added as they become publically available.

Frequent visitors may also have noticed that the website hadn’t been performing too well recently – due to the increasingly large number of reports hosted it had become rather slow to load. It also had a search form that wasn’t very user friendly and it didn’t work well on mobiles devices, so in 2018 we decided it was time to revamp the website – and we are pleased to announce that the new ‘Reports Online’ website was launched just before Christmas!

The new website is available at the same address (https://reports.cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/) or via our main CA website. It’s faster, better designed, has an improved keyword search and (we hope!) is far more user friendly, particularly if you are using a mobile device. But don’t just take our word for it – visit the site for yourself and let us know what you think of it. All feedback is gratefully received: we are committed to making our work as widely accessible as possible, so if you discover something isn’t quite right then please do let us know and we can try to fix it, just email enquiries@cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk

printscreen of the reports online website showing the search form and a map


We are seeking new trustees

Cotswold Archaeology is a registered educational charity, and as such it is governed by a Board of Trustees who also serve as Non-Executive Company Directors. We now have up a vacancy on our Board and would like to hear from people who are interested in being considered as a Trustee. 

We are particularly looking for someone who has experience at a senior level in a trading company, ideally one that operated from multiple locations. A background in property development/construction/land use planning would be ideal, but we are happy to hear from people with backgrounds in other industries.

Applications from women are particularly welcome, as they are currently under represented on our Board. We are also particularly interested in people who live or have worked in the areas served by our Andover, Exeter or Milton Keynes offices.

Trustees typically contribute 4-8 days annually to the affairs of the Trust and involve attendance on between two and five meeting days per annum. Most meetings take place in Kemble, near Cirencester, and occur during the working day. At least one meeting per year takes place at one of our other offices (Andover, Exeter or Milton Keynes). Outside of Board meetings liaison is conducted by email and telephone.

No remuneration is offered for performing the duties of a Trustee, although all reasonable expenses will be reimbursed.

You can find out more about Cotswold Archaeology on our About Us page.

 If you think you might be interested in this opportunity please contact us by email at careers@cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk or telephone Liam Coates on 01908 556033, and we will send you further information and details of how to register an expression of interest. The deadline for receipt of expressions of interest is 5pm on Thursday 28 February 2019.