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Fieldwork Reports: January 2004

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The following reports on recent archaeological fieldwork undertaken in Northamptonshire were published by NCC's Historic Environment Team (Northamptonshire Heritage) on 30 January 2004.

The reports have been passed to the Northamptonshire Sites and Monuments Record and will be entered into the SMR database system.

THE COTTONS ROCKINGHAM
NGR SP 8665 9187
Recording Action
Albion Archaeology
Albion Archaeology was commissioned by Deejak Builders (Rushden) Ltd to undertake and archaeological recording action in advance of the erection of several buildings near the northern limit of Rockingham. Prior to development the site consisted of two distinct areas, bounded by Main Street to the west and a curving lane 'The Cottons' to the east. The western land parcel consisted of a disused farmyard with a paddock to the east. The paddock contained relatively well preserved remains of ridge and furrow cultivation. The earliest evidence for utilisation of the area is a possible prehistoric pit identified in the evaluation. As this feature was not exposed by the subsequent development, it was decided to preserve the pit in situ.

A substantial ditch separated the ridge and furrow from the western area. This was very close to the existing boundary fence. The only medieval feature identified within the western land parcel was a slightly curving, recut ditch in the north of the area. It is probable that the pit identified during the evaluation was actually a continuation of the curving ditch.

The majority of archaeological features exposed were post-medieval or later in date. The western land parcel had been severely affected by Victorian disturbance, which had modified the topography of this area, with a raised terrace to the south and an extensive depression to the north. Traces of a substantial building, though to be domestic in form and dating to the 17th-18th centuries. This building is not depicted on any maps. A well was also found in proximity to other walls. The proximity of this building to the well suggest that they were not related. Investigation of the ruined barn to the east revealed evidence that it had been modified over time. Extensive quarrying extended across the two land parcels in the central northern part of the site.
From the excavation of the service trenches along the adjacent roads, it would appear that traces of hollow-ways were present Gretton Road and Main Street. The topography of the Cottons suggests that it too may have been set within the base of a depression, possibly the remnants of another hollow-way.

KINGSWELL STREET AND WOOLMONGER STREET NORTHAMPTON
NGR SP 7532 6033
Desk-based assessment and Trial excavation
Northamptonshire ArchaeologyAn archaeological evaluation of land off Kingswell Street and Woolmonger Street was carried out by Northamptonshire Archaeology in advance of the proposed redevelopment of the site. The evaluation comprised a desk-based assessment and archaeological trial excavation. The potential for significant archaeological remains within the application area, particularly those relating to the development of the late Saxon and medieval town, was highlighted by the desk-based assessment. However, trial excavation has shown that much of the site has been extensively truncated by modern development, from the mid 19th century onwards, and well-preserved archaeological remains appear to be largely confined to the eastern edge of the site, beneath the car park. These remains, which broadly date to the 13th and 14th centuries, consisted of a stone wall, a possible hearth, a bread oven or kiln and a series of deposits, some of which appeared to contain cess and other domestic refuse. These remains were partly masked by a layer of soil that probably accumulated in the late medieval to early post-medieval period, and it is likely that further features survive beneath this layer. Mechanical removal of this layer could not be carried out due to Health and Safety constraints. Later activity on the site consisted of the remains of a possible house dating to the late 17th century, fronting on to Kingswell Street, a pit of a similar date, and the extensive remains of 19th century buildings. No evidence was found for the 'lost' medieval lane, 'Lewnyslane' connecting Woolmonger Street and Kingswell Street.

BP SERVICE STATION BRACKLEY
NGR SP 593 385
Watching Brief
Archaeological Services and Consultancy Ltd
A watching brief and metal detector survey were undertaken in September 2003 on a site near Brackley, Northamptonshire. The work was undertaken because the site was adjacent to an area known to contain human burials and settlement features, of possible Iron Age date. The watching brief revealed a small number of undated archaeological features and a 16th century copper alloy buckle. No further burials were observed.

THRAPSTON TO ISLIP FLOOD ALLEVIATION
NGR SP 99099 78539
Desk-Based Assessment
Northamptonshire Archaeology
A desk-based assessment was carried out as part of a wider Environmental Impact Assessment by Halcrow Ltd on behalf of the Environmental Agency, prior to a proposed Flood Alleviation Scheme at Thrapston and Islip on the River Nene. Three known archaeological sites occur within the proposed development area. The Islip Hoard of Roman pewter was found during quarrying. The exact whereabouts of a former Chapel/Hermitage of St Thomas, which stood at the western end of Thrapston Bridge, is unknown, but it may be located within this area, together with associated fishponds. The bridge itself is a Grade II listed building dating from the 12th century but subject to later and extensive repairs. Two Grade II listed houses occur on the Islip riverbank in an area which may be provided with a floodwall. The surviving embankment of the former L&NWR crosses the site and may be added onto by the proposed eastern embankment.

WEEDON ROAD TO ST CRISPINS LINK ROAD
NGR SP 7173 6050
Watching Brief
Northamptonshire Archaeology
An archaeological watching brief was undertaken by Northamptonshire Archaeology during construction of the Weedon Road to St Crispin's link road. No archaeological deposits were encountered, however a number of unstratified finds were recovered during metal detecting.

CHURCHYARD OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE CHURCH, NORTHAMPTON
NGR SP 7540 6094
Excavation
Northamptonshire Archaeology
Plans to remove and rebuild an unstable 9m stretch of the north cemetery wall at the Holy Sepulchre Church, Northampton, entailed a reduction of the surrounding burial ground level by up to 3m. Archaeological excavation within this area uncovered three burials from the Victorian period, cut through 4 to 5 feet of imported burial soil, into a pre mid-19th century horizon. The underlying burial soil contained disarticulated human bone, suggesting that the graveyard may also have been landscaped. The lower burial soil contained pottery, glass and tile dating from the 13th century through to the post-medieval period, and an assemblage of bone tentatively ascribed to tannery waste. Although the graveyard was apparently closed in the mid-19th century, burials continued to be interred until the late 19th century.

HIGHAM FERRERS CASTLE, OFF MIDLAND ROAD
NGR SP 9615 6858
Watching Brief
Northamptonshire Archaeology
An archaeological watching brief was undertaken between April to May 2001 on the site of Higham Ferrers Castle during the course of a housing development. There were no longer any surface remains of the castle, and the deposits identified below a modern tarmac and limestone hardcore layer, consisted of make-up layers of clay and limestone fragments. No archaeological features or finds were recovered.

PITSFORD QUARRY BOTTOM SHEEP DALE FIELD
NGR SP 765 666
Watching Brief & Excavation
Northamptonshire Archaeology
An archaeological recoding action covering c 3.7 ha was carried out in three stages at Pitsford Quarry on land located to the south of Pitsford village and west of Moulton College, within Bottom Sheep Dale field. The methodology employed comprised watching brief followed by excavation. A series of excavations provisionally dated to the mid-late Iron Age were excavated and recorded.
The first phase of activity on the site was a pit alignment, comprising 85 pits aligned NNW-SSE, none of which produced any diagnostic artefacts.

The pit alignment was superseded by a ditched curvilinear boundary constructed on a roughly north-south alignment. This feature was maintained over time as a series of recuts.

To the northwest of the boundary a series of substantial ditches defined a number of large adjoining rectilinear enclosures, probably representing a field system. Within these large enclosures were a number of smaller rectilinear enclosures, ring gullies, probably representing the remains of round houses, and several pit groups. Excavation again showed that considerable effort had gone into the maintainence of these features, with numerous recuts identified.

To the east of the boundary occupation was defined by the construction of discrete intercutting rectilinear enclosures and pit groups. Several of the enclosure ditches had been recut.

The excavations at Bottom Sheep Dale Field revealed a complex sequence of landscape development and occupation in the mid-late Iron Age. It is proposed that a full programme of post-excavation works be undertaken to analyse and disseminate the results.

OAKLEY BANK FARM
NGR SP 6072 4856
Excavation
University of Leicester Archaeology Services
An archaeological watching brief was undertaken by ULAS in 2002, during topsoil stripping and groundworks for new stock buildings at Oakley Bank Farm, Plumpton, Northamptonshire (NGR SP6072 4856). The work revealed two Roman ditches with butt-ends, positioned at right angles to each other. In addition, a small, shallow, pit was uncovered nearby, containing first century pottery, charcoal and burnt animal bone. The remains are particularly significant because they represent the first evidence of late prehistoric and Roman activity in the vicinity. The nearest Roman town is Towcester, located approximately 10 miles to the south east.

SHOULDER OF MUTTON SITE, WELFORD
NGR SP 6423 8041
Excavation
Archaeological Services and Consultancy Ltd
During October 2003 an archaeological recording action was carried out at The Shoulder of Mutton, Welford, Northamptonshire.
Twelve archaeological features were identified and recorded. These comprised one animal burial, four pits, two of which contained significant quantities of animal bone, two postholes and five intercutting ditches. It is considered highly likely that these ditches had originally functioned as boundary markers. Excavation demonstrated that this activity could be split into several distinct phases. It is thought that these boundaries relate to divisions between the backplots of properties lining the High Street, which lies a short distance to the east.

Medieval and Post Medieval pottery sherds were recovered from archaeology at the site. The quantities of pottery, particularly of medieval sherds, were very low, especially when considering the proximity of the site to the historic core of Welford. Other artefactual material included Post Medieval horseshoes, glass fragments, two metal buttons and clay pipe fragments. It is thought that the majority of activity at the site dated to the Post medieval period. However, there remains a possibility that the earliest phases may date to the medieval period.

NUNN MILLS SITE, DELAPRE, NORTHAMPTON
NGR SP 7615 5983
Desk-Based Assessment
Oxford Archaeology
Oxford Archaeology has been commissioned by Terence O'Rourke to undertake a desk-based appraisal of the archaeological implications of the redevelopment of land at Nunn Mills Delapre. This appraisal incorporates summaries of a separate Deposit Model and Buildings Assessment.

No Scheduled Ancient Monument or Conservation Areas will be affected directly or indiretly by the proposed development.
The settings of a Grade II Listed Building and an English Heritage Registered Battlefield will be slightly indirectly affected by the proposed development. These sites are assessed as of High Importance although the Significance of the Environmental affect has been assessed as Minor or None.

The proposed development will have direct impacts on ten known structures, six of which may be assessed as of Low importance, with the significance of Environmental Effect assessed as moderate, and four of the structures may be assessed as Very Low Importance with the significance of Environmental Effect assessed as minor. Impacts to these structures may be mitigated by a program of recording subject to the approval of the County Council's Planning Archaeologist.

The environs of the post-medieval Nunn Mill, and any features relating to the medieval mill, its facilities, or bridges of the medieval period are assessed as of Uncertain but potentially High Importance with the Significance of the Environmental Effect assessed as possibly Major.

The results of the deposit model show that the combined depth of overburden above the natural gravel surface varies between c 1.0 m and 7.2 m, composed of c0.50m to 3.50m of made ground and c 0.50m to 3.70m of alluvium. The thickest combined overburden occurs in the western and north-east sectors of the site.

The deposit model indicates the potential of the proposed development area to include features and deposits from the Palaeolithic to the medieval period buried below alluvium deposited in the medieval period. These may be assessed as of Uncertain but potentially High or Very High Importance, with the significance of Environmental Effect assessed as Major or possibly Severe. Also sealed below the alluvium may be palaeoenvironmental deposits, including preserved pollen, plant macro-remains and insects.
Above the alluvium, the proposed development area has the potential to contain deposits and features dating from the later medieval period to the modern period. There is a higher likelihood of later medieval features in the environs of Nunn Mill. The importance of such potential features or deposits may be regarded as ranging from the very low (e.g. modern building features) to high (e.g. substantial evidence for medieval bridges).