A programme of archaeological works on the south side of Chipping Campden, in the Cotswolds of Gloucestershire, has produced the first archaeological evidence for Saxon settlement in the town. The works were undertaken by our Bristol Office in advance of a proposed residential development in Badgers Field, off George Lane.
A low level of prehistoric activity was indicated by residual finds in later features, comprising a small quantity of flint debitage, some of it Mesolithic, two sherds of Early Bronze Age pottery, five probably Iron Age sherds and one identifiable only as late prehistoric.
The majority of the features were ditches defining field boundaries and a possible trackway. They corresponded well with the results of a geophysical survey which had indicated more than one phase of field system. Despite the few secure stratigraphical relationships between the ditches, and the low level of finds, the recovery of Romano-British pottery and ceramic building material, and of animal bone with signs of butchery techniques typical of the Romano-British period, suggests that a least some of the ditches were of Romano-British date.
A number of sherds of Saxon pottery were also recovered from the ditches, but these may have been intrusive. However, the feature with the largest finds assemblage was an irregularly shaped shallow pit which contained 35 early Saxon sherds (6th/7th century AD). The pottery fabrics are hard-fired and predominantly coarsely sandy; in addition, three are organic-tempered and two are in calcite-tempered fabrics. Diagnostic sherds are limited to two small rims, and one body sherd is stamp-decorated (quartered circles). The pit also contained a small quantity of fired clay and over a kilogram of animal bone, comprising a fragment of cattle skull and several sheep bones, including a complete horn core from a ram which had saw marks at its base. The pit also produced charred grains of barley and wheat, fragments of hazelnut shell and weed seeds (grasses, oats and legumes), although the shallowness of the pit means that some of this material may have been intrusive.
Overall, the excavation has thrown significant new light on the early exploitation of land to the immediate south of the town of Chipping Campden, which is known to have existed in the Saxon period. It appears likely that the land was enclosed and drained during the Romano-British and Saxon periods, a process which would have continued into the medieval period and beyond. It is clear that there was occupation in the immediate vicinity during the Saxon period, the finds being characteristic of a small rural settlement practicing a mixed agricultural economy.