Gregg Redford – September 2019

A trench was excavated between December 1991 and March 1992 across part of an extensive crop-mark complex threatened by the const ruction of a new water main between the villages of Scarrington and Aslockton (SK740409). Excavations were carried out alongside watching brief of the remainder of the pipeline route, which extended beyond those villages to Car Colston, Flawborough, Orsto n and Bottesford. Severn Trent Water, to whom thanks are expressed, provided funding. A full report on the project, which was directed in the field by Colin Palmer-Brown and co-ordinated by David Knight, is due for inclusion at a later date.

The site lies in the Vale of Belvoir on the crest of a low interfluve The region of higher land between two rivers that are in the same drainage system. separating the River Smite from the Car Dyke, c 4km east of the Romano-British small town of Margidumum. Excavations revealed an intermittent cover of gravely drift, overlying Mercia Mudstone Also called Keuper Marl, Keuper Red Sandstone, and Arden Sandstones. The crop-marks were first recognised in the 1960s, following an aerial survey by Jim Pickering and on present evidence may extend over at least 25 hectares about 62 acres.

The crop-mark site is at present unique in the TRENT BASIN. Although crop-marks are unclear on one side, this could encompass a massive sub-oval ditched enclosure with an internal area of almost 20 hectares About 49 acres . This appears to have been divided into two units of roughly equal size, each with a series of sub-rectangular ditched enclosures around their edge an d a central open place. A trench was excavated long the pipeline route where it intersected the enclosure boundary and a narrow zone of crop-marks around the edge of the enclosure, with the aim of clarifying their character and date. This trench was exte n ded beyond the recorded crop-marks into the interior of the enclosure for c 75 metres, in order to establish whether structural remains might continue beyond the periphery of the enclosure into areas, which have yielded no crop-marks to date. The trench p r ovided a cross section of the enclosure boundary and revealed a remarkable density of later prehistoric and Romano-British features, immediately inside the enclosure. No structural traces were encountered away from the c. 50-metre zone around the edge of the enclosure, suggesting that occupation may have been concentrated around the periphery.

Phase 1: Pre-enclosure
Removal of two partially levelled banks associated with the Iron Age boundary ditches of Phase 2, showed these to seal a scatter of small pit or post holes and a steep-sided gully (possibly a palisade trench) indicative of pre-enclosure activity. A significant depth of buried soil (up to 0.25 metres deep) was recorded beneath the bank flanking the outmost boundary ditch, but unfortunately the relationships of this deposit to the Phase 1 features remain unclear. A pre Iron Age date may be implied by the stratigraphy, but the only dating evidence comprised a single flint blade, possibly of Neolithic or Bronze-Age origin from the fill of the gull y.

Phase 2:Iron Age Enclosure
A section across the enclosure boundary showed this to comprise two substantial ditches with flanking banks clearly visible in section. It remains unclear whether these ditches were in contemporary use or whether they should b regarded as successive. The outmost ditch measured 4 to 6 metres wide by up to 2 metres deep and yielded substantial quantities of Iron Age pottery and animal bone. much of which was apparently deliberately deposited. The ditch appears not to have conti ued into the Romano-British period. The inner-ditch also produced significant quantities of Iron-Age pottery and seems to have been infilled largely as a result of natural silting before it was recut on a slightly more southerly alignment in the Romano-Br i tish period. The remains of levelled banks were revealed between the two ditch alignments and along the outer edge of the external ditch, but any internal bank associated with the innermost Iron Age ditch had been removed by later cutting. One of the baul k sections through the inner of the two banks revealed a substantial post-hole cut though bank material, possibly indicating some kind of timber superstructure.

Phase 3: Romano-British
The outmost boundary ditch may have been substantially infilled before he end of the Iron Age and as noted above only the alignment of the inner enclosure ditch may have perpetuated in the Romano-British period. This preserved evidence of one major recut and produced a substantial quantity of pottery and animal bone, much dliberately dumped.

A remarkable density if Iron-Age and Romano-British features was recorded within a c 50 metre zone adjacent to the enclosure boundary, including pits, post holes and curving gullies, which could represent the foundations of crcular buildings and associated drainage gullies. Few of these may be related stratigraphically to the main boundary ditches, but suggest dense occupation inside at least on part of the enclosure during these periods.

Artefacts and Environmental Remains
The excavations uncovered a substantial quantity of later Iron Age and Romano-British pottery suggesting activity over a long period. The presence of wheel-made Iron-Age pottery provides persuasive evidence for activity in the later 1st century BC or earlier 1st century AD. While the presence of substantial scored-ware could imply a considerably earlier ancestry (on present evidence as early as 4/5th century BC). The site also produced a small collection of triangular fired clay loom weights and bone weavi ng combs suggesting textile production, together with an unusually high assemblage of animal bones and charred plant remains. Full analysis of these finds which could imply dense occupation, should contribute significantly to an understanding of the econo mic and structural development of the site during the Iron-Age and Romano-British periods.

The crop-marks contrast strongly with those of known Iron-Age and Romano-British sites elsewhere in the East Midlands, such as the sub-rectangular ditche enclosures which have been recorded in the Trent Valley at Fisherwick, Withington and Gamston or the large ‘nucleated settlements’ of Late Iron-Age Lincolnshire, such as Dragonby or Old Sleaford. The material culture suggests a low status settlement, com parable in this respect to Trent Valley sites, such as Withington or Gamston, but the plan is entirely novel. Further excavation is required to investigate the internal spatial organisation of the site and the size of the social grouping. Excavation may e stablish whether occupation concentrated around the periphery, together with fields and paddocks and whether the central area may have been reserved for other such as stock grazing..

Transcribed and footnotes by:
GR Redford
Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol XCVIII,1993 pages 146-147.
Bingham Library 7th February 2006.