Other major settlements

Cheshire’s major Roman settlements have also seen significant fieldwork and publication of the results since 2006. Publication and synthesis of excavations carried out prior to 2006 has also been achieved. In Nantwich (Kingsley Fields), the excavation of the extensive industrial settlement by the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit in 2002 has now been published (Arrowsmith and Power 2012). Excavations revealed a previously unknown Roman road at Kingsley Fields, linking the settlement to the main Roman road network. Along the road, evidence for the collection and storage of brine and production of salt, with a series of enclosures, buildings, a well and a cluster of cremation burials; waterlogged conditions provided high quality preservation of organic materials including timber tanks. Development along the road began the Hadrianic period and intensified in the later 2nd century, ending in the AD 180s, before a second major phase began in the early 3rd century and ending largely by the mid-3rd with only small-scale brine collection continuing in the late 3rd and 4th centuries.

The results of the archaeological work in Middlewich (Ch) from the 1960s onwards have recently appeared in a synthetic article (Garner and Reid 2012), and reports on excavations at King Street in 2001 and Jersey Way in 2013 have now been published (Williams and Reid 2008; Zant 2016). The auxiliary fort formed the core of settlement from AD 70-130, probably for a cohors quingenaria peditata of 480 men, though the unusually high proportion of silver coins led Shotter to postulate a legionary detachment. The extra-mural settlement extended for up to 20 ha and was laid out in well-defined ditched plots, which extend into agricultural landscape. The buildings are strip in nature, many post-in-trench, with some post-in-the-ground. Occupation in the extra-mural settlement diminished after 200 but occupation continues until at least the 360s. Salt extraction was a key industry, and tanks and heaths and ovens for drying the brine have been recovered, but other industries include iron smithing.

Middlewich timber brine tank with well-preserved artefacts, Cheshire (courtesy of Oxford Archaeology Ltd)

At Stockton Heath (Ch) excavations in 2007 on the site of the Roman road and associated ribbon development to the south of the industrial settlement at Wilderspool have been published (Dodd et al 2010; Rogers and Garner 2007). Excavations since the 1930s have enabled the progressive understanding of a section of the Roman industrial settlement. At Loushers Lane, Wilderspool a previous excavation had identified a possible suburban villa. However later excavations, including in 2012, suggested the presence of several Roman stone buildings. In 1976, excavations to the east of the site revealed an east-west lane serving a series of plots defined by ditches, which was interpreted as an ‘apparently unplanned’ ribbon development of the 2nd and 3rd centuries (Wilson 2015, 311). The adjacent area to the north was investigated in 2014, revealing an east-west ditch, probably a boundary parallel to the lane found in 1976. Pottery from the ditch fills included late Roman shell-tempered ware, Huntcliff-type ware and Crambeck ware, suggesting infilling in the late 4th century. The presence of quantities of building materials appeared to derive from the large Roman stone building, suggesting it was ruinous, falling into disrepair in the 4th century. A small clay oven and sandstone wall foundations were found on the eastern edge of the site. The 4th-century occupation was interpreted as agricultural/domestic occupation, including cooking jars, bowls and mortaria. A stone spindle whorl suggested textile processing and hammerscale indicated blacksmithing. A low yield of charred cereal grains from the ditch fill suggested crop-processing (Wilson 2015, 311).

The work provides confirmation that occupation of Wilderspool continued into the late 4th century at least on this part of the settlement, although the usual caution should be applied to the end-date of occupation since there is no certainty that occupation ended when the latest pottery was deposited.

Leave a Reply