Archaeology on Allotments

12 04 2012

Following on from last night’s post, I promised a report on a dull-looking bit of ground surrounded by brambles with a couple of small trenches marked out ready for excavation.  This is the site of the Worcestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club’s very own allotment in the heart of Worcester City.  It was, until recently, completely covered over with brambles, but cleared thanks to the Worcester City Parks Department, in advance of the slow worm season.  This site will form the basis of a project for the older club members and young leaders, looking at the archaeological potential of this and other allotment sites around Worcestershire, as well as being a fantastic resource for experimenting with ancient crop growth and techniques.  They will be looking at ways people have used the land over the centuries and comparing this with the way we live today.

This site in particular was chosen for its known archaeological potential, based largely on fieldname evidence in the immediate area.  The mid-18th-century Doharty map of the Manor of Claines has an accompanying terrier book, a fantastic leather-bound volume into which were entered the names of owners, tenants, land-use, acreage and most importantly for us, names of fields.  While our site sits just to the southwest of the former Roman road to Droitwich, the field names are also very suggestive of activity of that date; Street Hill, Old Camp Hill and Black Lands could all point to a Roman settlement with a fourth field named as ‘The Fort’.  All very interesting, especially when this evidence is combined with a number of stray finds from the area (coins and pottery. including a whole vase in antiquity), recorded on the Worcester City Historic Environment Record.

Our first piece of Roman pottery - a sherd of greyware

Over the Easter break a group of young archaeologists have begun excavating some small test pits to get a feel for the archaeological make-up of the site.  This has taken place under the guidance of professional archaeologists, so that the work is done to the highest possible standards, whilst enabling the young people to gain valuable excavation experience.  Initial findings could be promising – a significant quantity of iron slag has been found in the top few inches of soil on site, perhaps more than the usual background ‘noise’ that would be expected from a site outside of the known area of Roman ironworking in Worcester.  A single sherd of Roman greyware has also been found in the topsoil.  Ongoing reporting on this site is taking place via Twitter using the hashtag #WYACallotment.

In other news, the very worthwhile Worcester Greencycle site has come up trumps for the club with a number of concrete slabs acquired in order to set up a base for a shed on site.  Greencycle/ Freecycle is a great sustainable way of  getting hold of items that others may otherwise send to landfill, and likewise a means of getting rid of unwanted, but still perfectly usable items.