Broadcast 17 April 2011
An archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ within Bedford Purlieus Wood, Thornhaugh, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire (NGR 504525 299984) to investigate a series of Roman remains first identified at the beginning of the 19th century. The site is located in an area rich in Roman archaeology, lying to the west of the town of Durobrivae (modern Water Newton), and with numerous sites and find spots of Roman date in the vicinity.
In 2005 and 2007 Northamptonshire Archaeology (NA) carried out an earthwork survey and evaluation within the wood which identified a north-south range of buildings bordering the western side of a possible courtyard enclosed on the northern side by an earthen bank. The survey also identified a series of large quarry pits immediately to the west of the north-south range and a second enclosure some 130m further west. A LiDAR survey of the Site by the Forestry Commission, following on from NA’s work, revealed an extensive complex of remains and quarry pits.
The NA evaluation also identified areas of domestic activity around the main complex of structures with evidence of what were considered to be ‘high status’ elements to the buildings, with painted wall plaster and box flue tiles from a hypocaust system. To the west, the second enclosure revealed evidence of iron-working.
Eight trenches were excavated by Time Team in October 2009, to expand further on the information gained from NA’s work and to investigate areas inaccessible in 2005 and 2007. The trenches were concentrated on the north-south range of buildings, the courtyard area, the northern bank and a raised platform in the south-east corner. Trenches were also excavated in the second enclosure to the west and through one of the large quarry pits.
The whole complex has been interpreted as a courtyard villa with associated ironworking. The trenches excavated through the building range revealed them to be utilitarian and basic with no ‘high status’ elements; they were interpreted as domestic buildings - a possible kitchen and grain store. The raised platform was possibly the site of the villa’s bath-house, producing box flue tiles, painted plaster, opus signinum and lightweight tufa blocks for vaulting.
The western enclosure, initially interpreted by NA as industrial in nature, was confirmed as such by the identification of an iron ore-roasting floor. A trench through one of the quarry pits found evidence of iron ore extraction, the disused quarry being subsequently used as a dump for domestic waste from the villa.