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Pioneering Heritage Project Explained

A fascinating archaeological project in neighbouring Great and Little Sampford by the Sampford Society that has pioneered a new development in archaeology was explained in Radwinter Village Hall by Ken Neale on 11th January.

The Sampford Heritage Project tested the methodology for computer archaeology becoming the blueprint for similar work in assessing the secrets that lie beneath our soil. It was based co-operation between the Essex County Council (Heritage Conservation Branch) and the Sampfords Society and cost £37,500 of which £25,000 was funded by Local Heritage Initiative, the Nationwide Building Society and English Heritage with contribution in cash and kind from the Essex County Council and the Sampfords Society.

The project, which involves high quality archaeological review and research, involved over local 200 people, including a great number of schoolchildren and 60 people who walked the fields after they had been ploughed, rolled and drilled to record surface finds against a grid. It revealed a general picture of the settlement patterns in the area from the Palaeolithic period (before 10,000 B.C.)

A ground survey of the 1.5 thousand Hectares of fields involved; tested the various methodologies to determine what could be done at reasonable speed and acceptable cost to the required standard.

£20,000 of the budget was spent on professional services from County Council Archaeologists with a substantial sum also being expended on such equipment as field measuring and apportioning gear, tabs, pegs, maps, walky-talkies and GPS satellite positioning equipment so that grids could be set up in the fields based on the Ordnance Survey

The project is now nearing completion and has brought to light a Mesolithic blade (c 9,000 BC); the tip end of a Palaeolithic hand axe expertly dated to 30,000 BC; mapping of primary and secondary manors at Great and Little Sampford in the early 14th century; the first evidence of strip farming in the parish and the first evidence in this part of Essex for inter-commoning on the manorial waste in the medieval period; beautifully worked prehistoric flint artefacts including a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead in near perfect condition and several thousand years old; early pottery of possibly Roman or Iron Age provenance, a bronze Age palstave axe; the bronze arm of the Roman pagan god Mercury; a Richard II half groat and excellently preserved teeth from a large animal, possibly a mammoth.

An important Roman occupation site was discovered at Little Sampford with numerous surface finds including a coin of Cunobelin (minted at Camulodunum (Colchester), combed and decorated flue tiles, pilae, tegulae, imbices and a range of good quality potter shards. A later mini-dig revealed the presence of a Roman building, flint walling, tiled flooring and part of the hypocaust system. An Iron Age droveway was discovered as well as the route of the Roman Road from Braintree, Finchingfield Little and Great Sampford, as it crossed a brushway ford over the River Pant on its way to Radwinter.

Radwinter at Town Hall Open Day

A display of Radwinter Historical material went on show amongst other mini-exhibitions at Essex Record Office’s Archive Access Point Open Day in Saffron Walden Town Hall on 24th January. Among the demonstrations was an early glance at Radwinter archives recorded so far on the prototype RUTH database. An estimated 250 people attended the event and great interest was shown in the Radwinter exhibit.

More Talks Planned

The next talk will be by Fiona Wells entitled Rooted in the Soil and will be at 8.00 p.m. in Radwinter Village Hall, on Wednesday 12th April. On Wednesday, 12th July Michael Southgate will be explaining how the new RUTH database will be used give everybody access to the Radwinter and other Uttlesford archives via on-line computer or the local history recorder. Hopefully, Mrs Brenda Watkin will be explaining timber-framed houses on Wednesday 11th October and remaining talk of the year will be held in December.

Contact: Michael Southgate, Village History Recorder

Telephone 01799 599478

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