Test Pit 12 - Meldreth Primary School

This pit was dug over three days, Friday to Sunday, in order to give all of the children attending the school an opportunity to participate in the dig.  The pit was dug on the field to the rear of the school (which opened in 1910), approximately 26 metres from the River Mel.

The Finds

The pottery from this pit included a wide range of types including Bronze Age sherds, St Neots Ware, an assemblage of Early Medieval Sandy Ware, Early Medieval Shelly Ware, Hedingham Ware and Hertfordshire Greyware all dating to the 12th-14th centuries, Glazed Red Earthenware, English Stoneware and six Victorian-era sherds.

Other finds from this pit included coal, glass, metal nails, a George II farthing coin, other metal objects and scraps, coal, brick, mortar, fragments of oyster shell and pumice stone. The faunal assemblage included bones of cow, sheep/goat, pig and some other unidentifiable remains.

Test pit 12 was one of eight pits to contain Bronze Age pottery, strongly indicating settlement activity somewhere in the vicinity of the present Meldreth village at this time. The area around this test pit then appears to have been abandoned until the late Saxon era when occupation resumed, with 72 sherds of High Medieval pottery indicating definite settlement when the immediate area where the test pit was dug was likely used for dumping household waste.

This test pit is the only one excavated near the River Mel to show evidence for past settlement by the waterway (see also test pits 5 and 6), showing that the village continued down to the stream in at least this part of the village, and could have been used for either residential settlement or industrial activities. Deposition in test pit 12 ceases in the late medieval period, with only a very small background scattering of finds after this date. In this context the find of an 18th century George II farthing coin is intriguing, as the area was not settled at the time this coin would have been in circulation, so the coin is likely to be a casual loss.

In summary, the findings from this test pit support local memories that the area has not been settled in recent times, but also reveal clear evidence for occupation during the medieval period that subsequently disappeared and moved west to the present location of the village.

For an overview of the site and finds, please click on the image of the exhibition poster which is the first image in the gallery below.

For detailed analysis of the finds, please see the results sheet for this pit, which is available as a download at the bottom of this page.

For reports and maps relating to all of the test pits, please see the documents available on our results page.

Site Diary

Day One

A very successful first day, made all the more so by the participation of the school children, ALL of whom visited in groups throughout the day to join in with digging, sieving and cleaning finds. It was very motivating for the children, not least because finds steadily and continually turned up and many undoubtedly felt the “buzz” of connection with the makers of pots and the residents of Meldreth from 800 years ago or more! The coin [a George II farthing] that turned up in W Pattmans’ sieve created particular excitement because of its singularity, age and “treasure-like” quality!

Days Two and Three

Visitors came to look at the pit and join in throughout the two days. Ken, Helen and myself, Andrew Jones, manned the pit and oversaw its development to the eighth context, by which point the finds had dried up while the water table had crept up and we found ourselves simply modelling with clayish soil. Nonetheless, both these days saw a continued trove of pottery sherds, bone and teeth. One or two sherds included simple decoration and three pieces found later on Sunday were identified as prehistoric, which we found especially exciting. We were grateful of the shade on an exceptionally hot weekend, but it was a real pleasure getting to know one another and discussing and debating the lives of those who inhabited the school field many centuries before 8-a-side football was established there!

Photo Gallery

Please click on a photograph to display a larger image.


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