The Colchester Archaeological Trust undertook a watching brief of c.6.5ha. in three Areas (A, B, C) during infrastructure works for the University of Essex’s new research park, the ‘Knowledge Gateway’.<1>
Area A (c.2.5ha. In area, to the west of Capon Road)
Area A lies almost wholly within the floodplain of the Colne (Areas B & C are above the floodplain).
The remains of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery are located at the western edge of the development site on the flood plain of the River Colne, within (and to the west of) Area A (one is within Area A, four outside). The removal of topsoil from one of the barrows (Barrow A within Area A) provided the opportunity to record the extant mound and undertake a magnetometer survey; note that the shallow topsoil strip, c.150mm deep, and removal of vegetation, had been partially undertaken with a bull-dozer without archaeological supervision. All remaining topsoil stripping was undertaken with a toothless ditching bucket under supervision. The top of the exposed barrow mound stood 150mm higher than the surrounding alluvial deposits, after topsoil removal. No other features were encountered in Area A (possibly due to the uneven topsoil strip). Prehistoric worked flint, medieval, post-medieval and modern pottery, as well as post-medieval/modern glass and CBM fragments were recovered from the topsoil. Once the topsoil had been removed, clay was deposited to raise the ground level by 750mm.
The excavation of two Borrow Pits was also observed within Area A. Pit 1 produced six worked flints and a large modern rubbish pit. Pit 2 produced no features or finds. Services and trial-holes were also monitored.
Note that topsoil from Area C was stored on the area between Areas A and C.
Area B (c.0.8ha. In area; principally to the south of Capon Road and west of Boundary Road - the majority of this area was excavated/removed to create a large borrow pit)
The excavation of the western part of Area B had been excavated to 1000mm in depth without/before archaeological supervision. There was a dense deposit of Roman brick and tile, however, along the edge of this area, probably a pit F4. Late IA-early Roman sherds and Roman brick/tile fragments were recovered from the section of this feature. Two possible pits were identified in this area (despite substantial wheel-rutting). A ?Roman brick fragment was recovered from one, the other contained burnt material.
Late IA-early Roman sherds and Roman brick/tile fragments and worked flint were also recovered from the interface between the topsoil and colluvium during the topsoil stripping, and occasional charcoal and daub flecks.
A dense deposit of charcoal was uncovered by machine F5, containing fragments of burnt bone, probably the remains of an unurned cremation. Close by, a dense deposit of pottery F6 was observed in section (from two or three vessels, early 2nd-mide/late 3rd centuries), apparently the pots in the base of a pit.
Features in Area B were sealed by a layer of colluvium.
A possible infilled alluvial channel was also encountered in Area B, that perhaps connected to the River Colne.
Area C (c.3ha. In area, on the east side of Boundary Road - only two areas were stripped, the area for Nesfield Road, C1 (c.0.4ha.) and the area where Boundary Road joins St Andrews Avenue, C2 (c.0.4ha.)
In C1, no archaeological features were encountered during topsoil stripping (using 360 degree excavators). Numerous sherds of medieval (13th-14th century) pottery were recovered from a small area (probably from the colluvium), but no cut features. Deep excavations defined two possible ditches F7 and F8 (in section), to the west of this concentration.
A layer of colluvium was encountered downslope, towards the western end. Topsoil was directly over natural towards the east end. A natural spring was encountered towards the east end of Area C1.
In C2 the topsoil wa less than 100mm thick, over the natural. Three modern features were identified, a rubbish pit, and two ditches (one of which contained large lumps of tarmac). Two sherds of post-medieval pottery and peg-tile were recovered from the topsoil.