The Fillingham Project overview - Fieldwork July 2000 - Settlement Evidence - Excavation

Excavation

Excavation

Four trenches were excavated, shown on the plan. Trench 5 was uncovered, but was not excavated until October 2000. A series of phases of land use were identified by the excavations, which are summarised below.

Phase 1: Prehistoric and Roman.

At least 15 worked flints and two handaxes, probably dating to the Neolithic, and nine sherds of Roman pottery were discovered during the excavation. All of these were redeposited in later features. A series of postholes were found in trenches 1 and 4. These were shown to pre-date the Anglo-Saxon activity on the site, but did not contain any datable material, and could not be assigned to a particular period.

Phase 2: Anglo-Saxon Settlement and Cemetery.

170 sherds of Anglo-Saxon pottery were recovered from trenches 1 to 4. Most of these were redeposited. 30 of the Anglo-Saxon pottery sherds, some animal bone, a bone pin and a spindle whorl fragment were recovered from an elongated pit or ditch section in the south end of trench one (see plan below). This feature was partly cut into the bedrock, and did not contain any human bone. Most of these sherds dated to the early to mid Anglo-Saxon period (5th to 8th centuries AD). The high quantities of pottery recovered indicates that an Anglo-Saxon settlement was located in the vicinity of the excavations, and it is likely that the ditch was on the edge of that area.

A large amount of redeposited human bone was recovered from trenches 1 to 3. This was found to represent a minimum number of 16 individuals, including 2 infants, 3 younger children, one older child and an adolescent. Both male and female adults of all ages were present. This indicates that the cemetery was for a normal lay population rather than, say, a monastic one. No in situ burials were excavated during the July excavations, although an area of undisturbed graves to the west of trench one was identified. This was excavated as trench 5 in October 2000. Previous excavations had revealed a late Anglo-Saxon cemetery in the area, and it was assumed that the disarticulated human bones related to disturbed graves from that cemetery.

It would appear that an early to mid Anglo-Saxon settlement was located at the west end of Fillingham, the outskirts of which were excavated in July 2000. It is difficult to say if much of the remainder of this settlement remains undisturbed and unexcavated. During the 9th century or later a graveyard was established near to this area settlement. This cemetery will be discussed further in the section on the October excavations.

Phases 3&4: Post-Medeival Quarry and Farm Buildings.

During the 18th century a quarry disturbed the Anglo-Saxon cemetery and settlement. The stone extracted was a crumbly sandstone / mudstone that would not have been suitable as a building material. The digging of the quarry may have been connected with the landscaping of the Fillingham estate in the 18th century, and the stone may have been used in the construction of the dam for the lake. Alternatively the stone may have been used as a road surface - perhaps in the hollow lane immediately to the east of the excavation. The quarry was backfilled shortly after being opened - no silty deposits had time to form. The backfilled quarry contained lots of disturbed human bone, indicating the workmen just threw back the skeletons they had disturbed.

At around the same time some post-medieval farm buildings were built directly next to the quarry edge. As no datable material was recovered from the construction layers of the building it is difficult to say which came first - the building or the quarry, but their close proximity suggests that one was in existence when the other was constructed. These farm buildings survived until the mid 20th century, and a continuation of them still stands today, immediately to the east of trench 1.