Excavation of an early Romano-British settlement near Swinford, Leicestershire
During the summer of 2011 an archaeological excavation was undertaken in a 350ha area of farmland between Swinford and Lutterworth in Leicestershire (SP 575 815 centre) in advance of the proposed construction of an 11 turbine wind farm. In all, four c.60m by c.30m areas were stripped over the proposed footprints of four of the turbines to investigate possible early Roman features found during a programme of archaeological trial trenching undertaken by ULAS in 2010.
In one turbine a complex sequence of possible late Iron Age and early Roman settlement was uncovered (pictured). The earliest features were a series of parallel, east to west orientated ditches dating to the mid to late 1st century AD which were found crossing the northern half of the area. These were replaced during the first half of the 2nd century by a series of rectangular enclosures in the southern half of the area which were enclosed by a substantial ditch which could be traced running north-north-west to south-south-east across the western side of the site before turning east at its southern end.
Four structures were found within the excavated area. Structures One and Two both appeared to be associated with the earlier phase of activity. Structure One may have been the remains of a rectangular timber building but Structure Two was almost certainly the remains of a roundhouse. Late Iron Age pottery found beneath a cobble surface in Structure Two and from one of its drip-gullies may indicate that the roundhouse dated to the Conquest period (early-mid 1st century). A second roundhouse, Structure Three, was sited immediately south of Structure Two and appeared to be associated with the later enclosures. Its demise was marked by a thick layer of soil containing large quantities of charcoal and burnt daub. This appeared to date to the early 2nd century.
The fourth structure (pictured), which was stratigraphically the latest feature in the area, was a substantial stone platform surrounded on its north side by a ditch which appeared to be intended to keep the platform dry from water descending on it from up-slope. Along the ditch the platform was kerbed with stone, including a large fragment of re-used rotary-quern. It is thought the platform was intended to be a dry, external working surface, possibly a threshing floor. A dispersed collection of redeposited iron slag and vitrified heath lining suggests iron-working, most likely smithing, was also occurring in the vicinity but no primary evidence of industrial activity was found in the area. Geophysical results suggest that the occupation in Turbine 4 was on the western edge of a small settlement sited immediately east of the excavated area. Ceramic dating suggests that all occupation had ceased by the mid 2nd century AD.
Less archaeology was found beneath the other turbines. In one a series of severely plough-damaged ditches and gullies formed two parallel alignments, possibly marking a trackway heading north-north-west towards the main settlement. A small number of pits or tree-throws edged the southern side of the ‘trackway’ whilst to the north two cremation pits were excavated. The small amount of pottery recovered from the area suggests occupation could have spanned the 1st century AD, or may well have been confined to the decades around the Conquest period. Beneath the third turbine, a few further ditches, gullies and pits were uncovered. Very little pottery was recovered, most of which was heavily abraded early Roman material, and it remains unclear to which period most of these features date to. The ditches all pre-dated the medieval ridge-and-furrow but little more could be determined; whilst one ash-filled pit, possibly a hearth, produced a small quantity of late Iron Age pottery. A second small pit contained the semi-articulated remains of a sheep which, judging by the good quality of the bone (on a site where bone did not survive well), had almost certainly been buried during the post-medieval or modern period.
No archaeological features were found in the last turbine area, but an almost complete flint chisel of possible late Neolithic date (pictured) was recovered from the subsoil during machining.