|Trumpington Local History Group
the Latest Phase
Jonathan Tabor opened his talk by explaining that large-scale developments may have a planning
condition which required the developer to commission and fund archaeological work. There have
been extensive excavations at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) and across the
Southern Fringe. Every major development uncovers more archaeological evidence.
At Trumpington Meadows, there was evidence of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age monuments,
an Iron Age settlement and a Saxon settlement, including the bed burial with the cross. At Clay
Farm, there were Middle Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman settlements. At CBC, work in 2002
on the Cancer Research Centre site identified a well-established Early Roman (mainly 1st
century) settlement and small cemetery plus 11 pottery kilns. CAU was then commissioned in
2004 to carry out an evaluation of the entire area, which identified a rich archaeological
landscape. This included two plots which were now being developed by AstraZeneca, referred to
as AstraZeneca North and AstraZeneca South.
|Copyright © Trumpington Local History Group, 2017. Updated 17 May 2017.
|At the Local History Group meeting on 17 March 2016, Jonathan Tabor
(Cambridge Archaeological Unit, CAU) gave a fascinating report on
excavations at Addenbrooke's Hospital and particularly the new
AstraZeneca site (Cambridge Biomedical Campus). Meeting report by
Andrew Roberts, with thanks to Jonathan Tabor and to CAU and
AstraZeneca for the photographs. One of a number of pages about local
archaeology (see list on Subjects page, under Topics). Updated May 2017.
|Aerial photograph of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus from the south, at an
early stage of work on the AstraZeneca excavation, with the railway line, busway
bridge and Francis Crick Avenue; AstraZeneca South site (foreground),
AstraZeneca North site (upper right), Laboratory of Molecular Biology (upper
left), Papworth site (centre right). Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
Jonathan said that an analysis of the evidence from crop marks showed a number of hotspots.
This was followed by trial trenches and geophysical work which confirmed the crop mark
evidence and added further detail. Priority areas identified at that point included a Middle Bronze
Age triple ditch enclosure on AstraZeneca South and Early Roman ditches and paddocks on the
Papworth site. Beyond the immediate area, crop marks suggested another Early Roman
settlement area to the south and an Iron Age or Roman site between the Laboratory of Molecular
Biology and Cancer Research Centre buildings. Overall, the area was multi-period with extensive
|Plan of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, showing evidence from crop marks
(red), trial trenches and geophysics (black lines and grey scale), with the
possible route of a Roman road (red dotted line); with AstraZeneca South
(lower centre), AstraZeneca North (centre), Laboratory of Molecular Biology
(upper centre), Cancer Research Centre (upper right). Cambridge
|From this point, work progressed on individual development parcels, with the highlights including:
• Laboratory of Molecular Biology: Middle Bronze Age enclosure and Saxon features;
• Energy Centre (south of the Papworth site): Roman Conquest period settlement;
• Francis Crick Avenue: western part of the Conquest period settlement;
• Multi-Storey Car Park (south east of the Papworth site): boundary ditches, evidence of
agricultural fields rather than a settlement area, showing how well defined the settlements were;
• Papworth (excavated by Oxford Archaeology East): Bronze Age and Roman field system and
part of the Early Roman settlement.
Jonathan said that little was know about the AstraZeneca North site at this stage in the research.
When the original hospital was being constructed in the 1960s, construction material was
dumped here, adding 3 m of made ground above the original surface. The same chalky marl had
been deposited to the east of the site. In the event, there was rich archaeological evidence under
the added layer.
Work now began to remove the topsoil on both plots, requiring major work on the north site,
with up to 200 lorry movements a day. CAU worked closely with Skanska which was managing
the overall project. The excavation took place from July 2014 to March 2015.
|Removing topsoil from the AstraZeneca South site, with the Laboratory of
Molecular Biology beyond the busway. Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
|The site plan shows the extent of archaeological features on the two AstraZeneca plots.
|Site plan of the archaeological
features on AstraZeneca South and
AstraZeneca North. Cambridge
|Plan of the archaeological features on
AstraZeneca South. Cambridge Archaeological
|Jonathan said that the area was probably in active use throughout prehistory. The earliest
evidence was a Neolithic pit in the north of the site, 3500 BC, including an Early Bronze Age
arrowhead. The triple ditched enclosure was Middle Bronze Age, 1500-1100 BC (light blue).
There were two drove ways, which seemed to converge on the area, and a field system. There
was also Iron Age evidence.
Initially in the Middle Bronze Age there was no settlement, with the area used as agricultural land
divided by ditches. Later in the Middle Bronze Age, three large enclosures were developed on an
impressive scale (labelled Enclosure A, B, and C in the plan above: the western enclosure C is
mainly under the railway line). The enclosures were built over the earlier field system and were
probably contemporary with each other, with multiple revisions to the ditches. Jonathan said that
the enclosure ditches were rich in charcoal and burnt stone, suggesting there was domestic
activity within the enclosure. There was also a large quantity of animal bone, mainly in the
ditches, probably from butchering of cattle, etc. Finds included a spearhead, chisel and awl:
bronze tools are comparatively rare, so this suggested a site with a reasonable status. In addition,
there were around 500 pottery sherds, which were also significant in a Bronze Age context.
There was also one human burial (marked with a red star on the plan).
|Aerial photograph of the Middle Bronze Age enclosures. Cambridge
|Cross-section of one of the Middle Bronze Age enclosure ditches. Cambridge
|Excavating the Middle Bronze Age enclosure ditches, looking across the site
towards Francis Crick Avenue and Addenbrooke's Road. Cambridge
|Animal bone in the Middle
Bronze Age enclosure
|Spear head and Ardleigh pottery from the Middle Bronze Age enclosure ditches.
Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
|Taken together with Clay Farm, the excavations have revealed an extensive and significant
Bronze Age landscape, with enclosures, field systems and similar find assemblages west and east
of Hobson's Brook. Jonathan said that there were a number of enclosures at Clay Farm but none
with the same form as those at AstraZeneca. These enclosures were monumental in scale, with a
settlement status which was not as grand as the setting. They were possibly at a focal point in the
landscape, perhaps a market or meeting space.
Jonathan added that there was also Iron Age evidence on AstraZeneca South, with a round
house in the north of the site and clusters of pits within the Middle Bronze Age enclosure,
showing that the enclosure was still being reused after 1000 years. There was also an alignment
of pits to the south, which may have been reinforcing a boundary, extending to the Papworth site
and towards Nine Wells. The largest collection of Iron Age finds came from one of these pits.
|Iron Age pits at the southern end of the
AstraZeneca South site. Cambridge
|Aerial photograph of the AstraZeneca North site, with the Laboratory of
Molecular Biology (upper left), the Papworth site (lower right) and Francis Crick
Avenue (left). Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
|Site plan of the AstraZeneca North site. Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
|Jonathan continued his talk by describing the work and evidence from AstraZeneca North.
Almost all the features were Roman, in marked contrast to AstraZeneca South. There had been
some disturbance in the 1960s, leaving ruts in the ground, but the area was remarkably well
preserved. It was very wet and muddy during the excavation in the winter of 2014-15.
There were ditches forming settlement enclosures, paddocks and fields, in two main phases,
dating to the 1st-4th centuries AD. There were two round houses in the western part of the site,
1st-2nd centuries AD, the foundation trenches of a rectangular structure to the south, and a
building to the south east with substantial post holes, possible an aisled building, such as a barn.
There were two cemeteries: one (Cemetery A) on the western edge of the site, possibly
extending under the site boundary, probably contemporary with the round houses, 1st-2nd
centuries AD, with burials in shallow pits; the other (Cemetery B) to the east of the area, 3rd-4th
centuries AD, with inhumation burials in five graves, two males and three females, two of whom
were buried in coffins (which survived as soil stains). One of the burials had a pot and another
had a pot and an intact unguent bottle, c. 5 cm high, which was almost certainly imported and
had probably held perfume or oil.
|Burial from Cemetery A on the AstraZeneca North site. Cambridge
|Burials and unguent bottle from
Cemetery B on the AstraZeneca North
site. Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
|There were 12 wells or deep pits on the site, the deepest of which had a wooden ladder. There
were also large areas which had been quarried, probably for potting clay or daub. Some of the
high status finds were from these areas, probably brought here from elsewhere. There were over
5500 pottery sherds, including the remains of storage jars, etc., largely from local kilns such as
Horningsea, plus imported Samian wares and amphora. (Jonathan added that the kilns on the
Cancer Research Centre site were probably an earlier date.) There was also 90 kg of animal
bone, from butchered cattle; quern stones including Rhineland lava and Millstone grit; 78 Roman
coins, mainly 4th century, including examples from Thessalonica and Constantinople; axe head,
meat cleaver, etc. The quern stone evidence suggested that crops were being grown nearby while
the coins reflect the location of the site near a major route. The overall impression was of a
standard rural Roman site used over a long period, with everyday activities taking place in an
|Pottery sherds and coins from the AstraZeneca North site. Cambridge
|Jonathan said that the team were still working on the phasing of the site. They thought the
earliest evidence was Early Roman, Conquest period, including ditches and a trackway. This was
followed by widespread Early Roman ditches, roundhouses, cremations and cultivation trenches
(also at Papworth). In the Later Roman, there were regular enclosures and paddocks and the
cemetery. By the Saxon period, there was a small settlement within the earthworks of the
Roman settlement at the Cancer Research Centre site, whilst an Alfred the Great debased penny
was recovered from an infilled ditch at the AstraZeneca site.
Jonathan concluded his talk by emphasising the scale of the excavations and the evidence it
provided of the prehistory and history of the Cambridge area.
One question was the possible size of the Bronze Age population. Jonathan replied that it could
have been an extended family but would have been more sizable when taken together with Clay
Another question was about Bronze Age evidence from the Wandlebury area to the south.
Jonathan said that less work had been carried out on the chalk uplands but the analogous area of
the Wessex chalklands was well populated. He added that there was also evidence of rich
occupation in the fenland landscape to the north.
Another was about the life-span of the ditches. Jonathan said they were constantly redesigned,
particularly in the Roman period.
He was asked whether the large-scale Bronze Age earthworks would have been created by local
people or larger teams and replied that they would have required a communal effort.
In response to a question about the coins, Jonathan said that one was silver and another had
distinctive features. The Alfred coin was debased, of poor quality silver.
He mentioned that there were probably trackways across the area and the Roman road to the
He was asked about the relationship of this area to Cambridge and replied that there was still a
debate about the size/extent of Roman Cambridge, with new evidence from excavations at
Kettle's Yard, etc.
He added that after the Saxon period, the Addenbrooke's landscape reverted to agricultural use,
with settlements becoming focused at Trumpington and Cherry Hinton.
Jonathan was thanked for a very enthralling presentation.