In June 2017, Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by GK Heritage Consultants on behalf of Burnham Plastering & Drylining Ltd to undertake an archaeological evaluation on land off Filers Way, Weston Gateway Business Park North, Weston-Super-Mare. The site is part of the North Marsh on the eastern edge of Weston-Super-Mare, in the Somerset Levels and was rough open grassland at the time of excavation.
Previous archaeological fieldwork in the surrounding area had indicated the presence of Romano-British settlement and land improvement in the form of drainage and reclamation, following on from earlier prehistoric salt working.
The four evaluation trenches confirmed that land in this area had been partially reclaimed, probably for agricultural purposes, during the Romano-British period. Pottery of this period was recovered from the lower alluvial layers, and a single small drainage gully (pictured above right) was recorded at a depth of over 1 m below present ground level in Trench 2, showing that land was being drained at that time.
Reclamation of marshland is borne out by the environmental evidence. A sample taken from the fill of the gully was processed to identify molluscs; only open-country species were present and no aquatic snails. These snails show that drainage must have been successful when the gully was in use and even when partially silted-up, it would still have been visible as a feature within the landscape. A single wheat grain of Triticum sp. may indicate crop production in the vicinity during the Romano-British period. This picture is also confirmed by the presence of a thin band of clay associated with a period of land stabilisation, which was present within all four trenches, indicating that the area was open grassland during and shortly after the Romano-British period.
Later alluvial deposits, representative of intermittent wet and dry periods, buried the previous ground surface, suggesting that the land stabilisation seen during the Romano-British settlement of the marshes did not last for long. Deposits overlying the Romano-British layers show that the land was primarily pastoral in the medieval and post-medieval periods, with the area being subjected to episodes of inundation and drying-out that were more pronounced than in the Romano-British period. This remained the case until the advent of post-medieval water management, which used large ditches and sea walls to keep the North Marsh sufficiently drained for agriculture and small-scale settlement from the 16th century onwards.