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Trumpington Local History Group
Archaeology of Clay Farm:
Meeting on 29 March 2012
Copyright © Trumpington Local History Group, 2014. Updated 1 July 2014.
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There were 50 participants at the
Local History Group meeting on
29 March 2012, when Richard
Mortimer, Senior Project
Manager,
Oxford Archaeology
East, gave a talk about the
archaeology of Clay Farm. This is
a report on the evening: there is
also a
video of the talk, organised
by Andy Robinson, Futurecity, as
part of the background for the
artists involved with Clay Farm
and Glebe Farm. Report by
Andrew Roberts, with thanks to
Richard Mortimer and Andy
Robinson.
Poster: Sylvia Jones.
Archaeology of Clay Farm: 4000 Years of Settlements and Burials
The Archaeology of Clay Farm, 29 March 2012.
Howard Slatter introduced Richard Mortimer, who
gave an informal and richly illustrated talk about the
discoveries during the excavations across six areas of
Clay Farm. The site varied from gravel terraces on
the west to the fen and valley to the east. The team
had found evidence of activity from the Early
Neolithic (4000BC) up to the present, including
Middle Bronze Age (1500-1200BC) and Early Iron
Age-Roman (800BC-200AD).
Howard Slatter introducing Richard Mortimer at the Trumpington Local History Group meeting about Clay Farm archaeology, 29 March 2012. Photo: Andrew Roberts.
Howard Slatter introducing Richard
Mortimer. Photo: Andrew Roberts.
Clay Farm from the north. Photo: Oxford Archaeology East.
Clay Farm from the north. Photo: Oxford
Archaeology East.
Clay Farm and the 6 areas investigated. Oxford Archaeology East.
Clay Farm and the 6 areas investigated. Oxford Archaeology East.
The results from the Middle Bronze Age were particularly important, with three distinct
settlement areas. (Richard mentioned that previous archaeological work had identified just a few
comparable areas in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.) This was the period when
society changed from being hunter-gatherers to a settled farming community which set the
pattern for subsequent land use, including constructing networks of ditches and field boundaries.
The environment had already been changed from woodland to open countryside and there must
have been earlier phases of agriculture for which no evidence survives. In the Middle Bronze
Age, the excavation found extensive evidence of strip fields, enclosures and settlements across
large areas of the site on the edge of the fen. The enclosures may have been for cattle which
would have been a valuable resource that needed to be retained and protected from wild animals
and rustlers. These enclosures were about 60-90 m x 50 m, bounded by large deep ditches.
Clay Farm Area E: aerial view from west. Oxford Archaeology East.
Clay Farm Area E: plan with strip fields (orange), enclosures (brown) and settlements (blue). Oxford Archaeology East.
Clay Farm Area E near Addenbrooke's Road:
aerial view from west and plan with strip fields
(orange), enclosures (brown) and settlements
(blue). Oxford Archaeology East.
The excavation in the northern area (near the current tree belt to the east of Fawcett School)
found ceramics, bonework, metalwork including a bronze spearhead and bronze scabbard
chape, flint cutters, scrapers and arrowheads. The results from two southern areas (near the
Addenbrooke's Road roundabout) had included bonework, a musical instrument and amber
beads from the Baltic. There was a large volume of quern stones, burnt hearth stones, loom
weights, animal bones and crops which was evidence of permanence. It was possible the three
areas were consecutive settlement sites, dating from c. 1450-1375BC, 1400-1300BC and
1300-1200BC. There were irregularly shaped structures in these two areas, with post holes
spread over about 10 m (not round structures, as in the Iron Age), plus four U-shaped
enclosures. There were bones indicating the remains of perhaps 50 humans but no cremations
as would have been expected.
Middle Bronze Age spearhead from the northern area, Clay Farm Area B. Oxford Archaeology East.
Middle Bronze Age scabbard chape? from the northern area, Clay Farm Area B. Oxford Archaeology East.
Middle Bronze Age flint cutters and scrapers from the northern area, Clay Farm Area B. Oxford Archaeology East.
Middle Bronze Age flint arrowheads from the northern area, Clay Farm Area B. Oxford Archaeology East.
Middle Bronze Age finds from the northern area, Clay Farm Area B. Oxford Archaeology East.
Later in the Bronze Age, the area became waterlogged, preserving evidence of elder and wheat,
barley, flax. The people would have made bread and beer.

There was more evidence of buildings from the Early Iron Age, including roundhouses,
enclosures and large-scale pits. This was contemporary with the construction of hill forts at sites
such as Wandlebury.

In the Late Iron Age, there was a high-status burial (north of the path from Byron's Square to
Addenbrooke's Hospital, close to the edge of the CPDC grounds). This has been dated to c.
35-40AD and included two bodies which had been cremated. They were accompanied by grave
goods from overseas, including pottery vessels and a fine toiletry set. The people would have
been trading with the Roman Empire, just before the Roman invasion. About 40 years later, the
grave seems to have been surrounded by a circular enclosure, which may have been a memorial
garden (reminiscent of a garden in Tuscany described by Pliny the Younger).
Excavating the Late Iron Age burial, Clay Farm. Oxford Archaeology East.
Toiletry set from the Late Iron Age burial, Clay Farm. Oxford Archaeology East.
Excavating the Late Iron Age burial, Clay Farm. Oxford Archaeology East.
Excavating the Late Iron Age burial, Clay Farm. Oxford Archaeology East.
In the Late Roman period (350-420AD or later), there
was a large circular enclosure at the southern end of
the site (between the gardens to the rear of Shelford
Road and the Addenbrooke's Road roundabout). The
double circular ditches included a number of dispersed
bodies and five bracelets. It is possible there was a
Roman cemetery to the west of the site (under the
Shelford Road gardens).
Plan of Late Roman enclosure, Clay Farm. Oxford Archaeology East.
Plan of Late Roman enclosure, Clay Farm. Oxford
Archaeology East.
The archaeological evidence with the most recent date
was from the northern part of the site (near Long
Road, close to the line of the new spine road), where
there were seven searchlights from World War II. The
finds included plates dated 1942 and a baked-bean tin
inside a green paint tin!
World War II evidence, Clay Farm: paint tin with baked-bean tin. Oxford Archaeology East.
World War II evidence, Clay Farm. Oxford
Archaeology East.
In terms for continuity, Richard mentioned that there had been a trackway across the site in the
Bronze Age on a roughly east-west alignment (just north of the path from Byron's Square to
Addenbrooke's Hospital and Alpha Terrace). It was possible a similar alignment was followed
by a later Roman road which joined up with the Colchester-Cambridge route and crossed
Trumpington to Grantchester.

The archaeological work was commissioned for Countryside Properties as part of the
preparatory work for house building.


Further information

Reports on previous site visits:
Clay Farm Archaeology Open Day, 11 August 2010.
Clay Farm Archaeology Site Visit, 7 April 2011.

See Mortimer, Richard and Phillips, Tom (2012). 'Clay Farm's evolving landscape',
Current
Archaeology
, 264, March 2012, pages 32-37.

Contacts: Richard Mortimer and Tom Phillips,
Oxford Archaeology East.