Test pits at Norton Allotments, 30 and 31 October 2009

Tomorrow, we begin digging three test pits in the allotments to the west of St Nicholas’s church. Our attention was drawn to the site by group member Evelyn Goodwin, who cultivates a patch there and who has, over the years, amassed a small collection of finds.

We know that this was the site of a group of cottages that were converted to use as the parish poorhouse in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. We know little about their form, although an old photograph suggests that they were timber-framed with brick nogging. Some of Evelyn’s finds, including clay tobacco pipe stems, probably derive from the cottages or poorhouse.

The allotments from the air in August 2008

The allotments from the air in August 2008: they lie to the west (left) of the church tower

Others are more unexpected. There is a considerable quantity of Romano-British material, mostly pottery. It is very abraded, which is hardly surprising on a well tended allotment. It also fits with nearby discoveries at St Nicholas’s School and from several places in Church Lane as well as the contemporary finds from the main summer excavations in 2008 and 2009.

What we don’t yet know is the context of Evelyn’s material. Is it being brought to the surface from buried Roman features or is it a general scatter of Romano-British rubbish that has been in the topsoil since it was first discarded, as the clay pipes are likely to have been? Will we find evidence for medieval activity on this prime site, next to the parish church? I hope that we will have some answers by Sunday evening!

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About Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

I'm the Archaeology Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council Museum Service. I was born and brought up in Letchworth Garden City, so I have a life-long connection with the area.

Posted on 29 October 2009, in Fieldwork, Test Pits. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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