Buildings and Structures

Iron Age buildings and structures within these settlements continue to follow the forms identified before 2006, with the roundhouse being the most common type. The review of finds and structural evidence for the Iron Age to Medieval port of Meols on the north Wirral coast (M) concluded that at least three roundhouses of the Iron Age were exposed and lost to sea erosion at the end of the nineteenth century (Griffiths, Philpott & Egan 2007, 386-7). At several sites, evidence has emerged for larger groupings of roundhouses, with many seeing multiple re-use. The excavations at the Old Vicarage, Mellor (GM), revealed evidence for five roundhouses, with at least four phases of occupation represented and gully diameters of 10-12m with north-west entrances. The 2007 excavations revealed a much larger sixth roundhouse of 21m diameter, again using posts set within a gully, lying within the inner enclosure (Roberts 2011).

At Poulton (Ch), excavation has revealed one of the largest Iron Age settlements west of the Pennines. Iron Age features excavated comprise ten roundhouses, using posts within gullies with diameters of 7.5m to 15.6m, in the form of a ring of posts set within an outer circular ditch and circular gullies containing post holes. There was evidence for multiple sequences of roundhouse demolition and rebuilding attested by intercutting ditches. Such intensive settlement evidence remains, though, unusual within the southern part of the region and is currently unrecorded in northern Lancashire and Cumbria.

Other structures located within late prehistoric settlements in North West England include midden deposits (Poulton, Ch), four-poster structures (Chester amphitheatre, Ch), pits, and linear boundary ditches. The four-poster structure at Chester is associated with palaeo-environmental evidence for the bulk processing of cereals and probably the storage of fodder (a by-product of cereal processing; see above). This has implications for the interpretation of the cluster of four-poster structures excavated at Beeston Castle (Ch) in the 1970s and early 1980s (Ellis 1993) and the single four-poster excavated at Oversley farm at Styal (Ch) on the Cheshire/Greater Manchester border (Garner 2007).

It should be noted that the geophysical survey work undertaken for the Cheshire hillforts project at seven enclosure sites produced limited results in terms of identifying internal structures, from both magnetic susceptibility and electrical resistance surveys. Yet, this was not reflected by the project’s excavations at two sites Eddisbury and Kelsborrow (Ch), which both produced internal evidence for post-holes and pits (Garner 2016, 69-71). Whilst variations in the local geology and machine specifications might be responsible for the gap between the survey work results and the archaeological excavations, geophysical survey elsewhere, in the region has produced more positive results at Poulton (Ch) and at the Old Vicarage, Mellor (GM). Garner (2016, 71), thus cautions on relying solely on geophysical survey as the only means of exploring these later prehistoric settlement sites.

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