Chalk Pit Field North

 

In 1991 Anglian Water laid a sewerage pipe that ran south from the River Heacham along side the metalled track bounding the east and south sides of the Boneyard Field, continuing east-west along the south side of the metalled track past Boneyard and through the Chalk Pit Field to the main road. During this work Norfolk Archaeological Unit carried out a watching brief to identify and record any archaeological features within the area.

 

In the course of this watching brief Norfolk Unit excavated three areas along the path of the pipeline. In an area to the east of the Chalk Pit, archaeologists found the remains of truncated gullies and spreads of occupation material such as shell, bone and pottery. In an area to the west of the Chalk Pit they found an oval oven/kiln, possibly dating to the Middle Saxon period. As a result of this work, in 2001 SHARP decided to open an evaluation trench in the northwest corner of the Chalk Pit to try to find any evidence of occupation associated with the oven/kiln and to assess the archaeology of the area. Initially a five by five metre area was cleared of vegetation and topsoil. Our first aim was to relocate the position of the sewerage pipe since all that had been reported was that it ran along the south side of the metalled track. We decided to concentrate on a five by two metre area at the west end of our original area.

The archaeology was difficult to interpret but we found signs of a large ditch cut. After excavating the ditch we found at the bottom a piece of green plastic marking the position of a sewerage pipe and thus successfully achieved our initial aim. We opened up areas either side of the pipe trench to sample the undisturbed archaeology. On the south side of the pipe a 5 by 1.5 metre trench was opened, whilst on the north side (nearest the metalled track) a 5 by 1 metre trench was opened. In the northern trench we found layers of compact sandy soils with many chalk and flint inclusions, which may have been associated with the track since there was an absence of these layers in the southern trench. In one of the more recent of these deposits we found a fragment of copper alloy Crotal bell (sometimes called rumbler bell) which is likely to date from the 17th or possibly early 18th century. In the west end the northern trench we found a sloping layer of compact chalk that extended into the east facing section of the trench, which could have been a hard standing associated with the track.
In the Southern trench we found little of archaeological importance until we excavated though deep colluvial layers, which rendered a few finds such as oyster shells, animal bones and pottery. Cut into a yellow gravel sand layer we found a series of features; possible postholes, two double postholes, two gullies and one ditch. Unfortunately we found no artefacts from any of the fills of these features so no date can be assigned to the features. Comparing the stratigraphy to sequences elsewhere in the area, and the sherds of pottery found in the layers above, led us to suggest that the features could be the remains of a possible prehistoric structure, however to come to any definite conclusions and to find the extent of the features would require further excavation of this area.

It was concluded that, although some sherds of Thetford ware pottery were found in the colluvial layers, there was no direct evidence of Middle-Saxon occupation in this area which could be associated with the oven/kiln previously found by Norfolk Archaeological Unit. However we have shown that there is interesting archaeology in the Chalk Pit area. Further excavation is needed to investigate the features that we found, and hopefully give more definite dating evidence.

That further excavation was to come in 2007. Extensive magnetometry survey, undertaken at Easter, yielded some very exciting results, with the survey indicating extensive and prominent ditch systems, the most striking of which being a substantial D shaped enclosure. This probably relates to the Saxon settlement which the cemetery served. Concentrations of fieldwalking finds corresponded with some of the most intensely ditched areas revealed by the geophysical survey.

Based on the evidence to hand it was decided that for the 2007 season we would conduct an evaluation project within the northern area of Chalk Pit field. The main objective was to establish the location of the Middle- Late Saxon settlement and to try and further understand its character and chronology. If successful, it was anticipated that this might develop into the next mid to long term excavation focus of the project.
During set-up week five evaluation trenches, targeting geophysical anomalies, were opened by mechanical excavator. All five trenches were placed within a 30m strip of land at the northernmost edge of the field close to the hedge that runs adjacent to the trackway leading into the main campsite area.

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