|Trumpington Local History Group
Clay Farm Archaeology Open
Day: 11 August 2010
|Over 100 people attended an Open Day at the Clay Farm archaeology site
on 11th August 2010. This was organised by Richard Mortimer of Oxford
Archaeology East, Project Manager, with help for publicity by Stephen
Brown. We are indebted to both of them. Small groups were given tours
of the site by team members; one group by invitation was led by Tom
Phillips, Project Officer for the excavation, and we are grateful to him for
providing most of the information reported here, and for checking this text
for any glaring inaccuracies. Report by Howard Slatter.
|Copyright © Trumpington Local History Group, 2014. Updated 1 July 2014.
|Archaeological investigations on Clay
Farm, near Shelford Road and the
Addenbrooke's Road, with the
hospital in the distance. Photo:
Stephen Brown, 19 July 2010.
|Aerial view of the archaeological investigations on Clay Farm, to the east of Shelford
Road, with the new Addenbrooke's Road and work on the Guided Busway in the old
railway cutting, July-August 2010. Looking across the site from north east at bottom to
south west at top. Source: Oxford Archaeology East.
|The archaeology of an area of approximately 6 hectares to the east of Shelford Road is being
investigated by a team from Oxford Archaeology East (formerly CAMARC of Cambridgeshire
County Council). This is in preparation for the development of the site for housing by
Countryside Properties Ltd; the cost of the archaeology is borne by the developers. A further
area to the north, nearer Long Road, will be investigated once this first section is complete.
The first phase evaluation of the archaeological potential was the digging of trial trenches across
the whole of the Clay Farm site in 2005, after some initial geophysics. Based on the findings of
that first evaluation, it was decided that the two areas mentioned should be excavated more
thoroughly. About 70 cm of the topsoil was removed in early May 2010, and since then the
archaeologists have been on site; they expect to complete this phase by the end of September.
Once the topsoil was removed, a large number of surface features were revealed. These vary in
date from ditches from the middle Bronze Age (1500 to 1200 BC) up to modern field drains
and trenches associated with the use of the site for the Royal Show in 1951 and 1961. The
aerial photograph shows many of these features quite clearly, as darker lines and patches on the
generally lighter coloured gravel subsoil. Those ditches and other features which were identified
as medieval or earlier were then excavated, either with sampling trenches or completely.
There is a series of roughly parallel middle Bronze Age ditches, which would have served as
field boundaries. Most are quite narrow (about a metre across at the topsoil horizon), but two
are much bigger, being about two metres wide. Originally these would all have been
accompanied by a bank made from the spoil, but that has been lost over time. In section, the
darker infilling of the ditch itself is very obvious when compared with the surrounding gravel.
The larger ditches are thought to be a 'political statement' by the owner, representing his local
status, and would have been a second phase of construction after the smaller ditches were dug.
|In the north-eastern corner of the
site is a series of post holes, a pit
and associated burnt sandstones.
This could have been a settlement,
or more likely a structure for
processing crops or treating animal
skins, as it is on the lower part of the
site and may have been too wet for
an actual settlement. The pit would
have contained water, and the stones
heated in a fire before being placed
in the pit to heat the water. The
nearby broad curved ditch contains a
very dark infill, indicating charcoal
and domestic debris; a lot of pottery
sherds and three flint arrowheads
were found here. The ditch itself
seems to form part of a D-shaped
enclosure, and is probably from the
late Bronze Age/early Iron Age.
A Romano-British ditch crosses
above this curved older ditch. There
are also several large deep Roman
pits, probably for water; one was
being excavated as we were shown
round, and contained the discarded
skull of a cow; many animal bones
have been found on the site, nearly
all those of cattle. The truncated
remains of a small early Roman era
pottery kiln were visible, complete
with a broken kiln bar; originally this
would have been covered with a
clay shell and pots would have been
baked inside. The shell would be
broken to access the pots after
firing, then the kiln reused a few
times before abandoning it.
|Along the modern northern edge of the site are a series of parallel trenches of much more recent
origin. It is possible that these are 19th century coprolite diggings, or are the remains of gravel
extraction; further excavation is planned.
The western end of the site contains a late Iron Age settlement. The perimeter ditch has been
fully excavated, but no domestic rubbish was found, and there is now no trace of the house
itself. Alongside the ditch was found a human baby inhumation.
|Series of narrow parallel cultivation
beds at about three metre spacing.
Photo: Stephen Brown, 11 August
|Truncated remains of a small early
Roman period pottery kiln. Photo:
Stephen Brown, 11 August 2010.
|Part of the large trench of the 'D'
shaped enclosure. Photo: Stephen
Brown, 11 August 2010.
|There are two features of interest on
the part of the site to the south of
the new Addenbrookes Road. Firstly
is a series of narrow parallel
cultivation beds at about three metre
spacings. It is not known what they
were used for; possibilities are vines
or other fruit, but no evidence has
In the southern corner is a large
double ditched enclosure. Other than
the find of a Neolithic flint blade, the
surface proved to be
archaeologically sterile. However, at
one location within the inner ditch
itself were some very abraded late
Roman pottery sherds, together with
five late Roman bracelets, some
large Roman nails and fragments
from three different human skulls. It
is believed to be some kind of
funerary monument, with the
remains brought in from elsewhere.
|Finds on display in the team's store included much domestic pottery from the Bronze and Iron
ages and the Roman era; a fragment of Samian ware, mended with a lead staple; a couple of
Roman coins; and a piece of a first century AD pillar-moulded glass bowl.