Test Pit 28 - 38 North End
The pit was dug close to the lane (now a driveway) which leads from North End, opposite Holy Trinity Church, to Topcliffe Mill. The house was built as a gardener’s cottage in 1948 by Miss Bowen, who owned Topcliffe Mill. It is very close to the site of two former manors: Vesey’s and Topcliffe.
This won the prize for the deepest pit of the year, being excavated to a depth of 1.4m. It produced exceptionally large quantities of pottery, including a very large assemblage of 23 Bronze Age sherds and a single Romano-British sherd. A very large assemblage of Late Saxon pottery included 132 sherds of St Neots Ware and three sherds of Stamford Ware. Most of the remaining pottery was High Medieval dating to the 12th-14th centuries and included 19 sherds of Medieval Shelly Ware, 18 sherds of Medieval Sandy Ware and 66 sherds of Hertfordshire Greyware. A single sherd of Victorian pottery was also found.
The other finds from this pit included small metal tacks and nails, shell, charcoal, brick and other building material. The large faunal assemblage included bones of cow, sheep/goat, pig, horse, dog, rabbit, chicken, domestic goose, squirrel, hedgehog, a species of vole and a very large number of unidentifiable bones, mostly of sheep-sized animals.
The large assemblage of prehistoric Bronze Age pottery gives strong evidence for activity in this area at this time, and coupled with the presence of burnt bone suggests a possible urned cremation may have once existed here, although now dispersed. The single sherd of Roman-era pottery contributes towards the general distribution observed across 11 test pits in Meldreth, together indicating the probable presence of a farmhouse somewhere in the area surrounded by farmland. The very large assemblage of Saxon pottery clearly indicates people were living here at this time, and it is interesting to note the proximity of this settlement to the location of the parish church which is thought to have been first established around this time.
As might be expected for a test pit dug close to two medieval moated manor sites, test pit 28 was one of seven across the village to produce more than 50 sherds of 12th -14th century pottery, again indicating the intensity of settlement activity at this time. The evidence for occupation ceases at test pit 28 before the end of the 14th century and the site does not appear to have been occupied again since then.
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.
Our site was compact and two gazebos, as a precaution against the forecast rain, just fitted amongst the fruit trees. Fortunately no rain – just a bit of shady sunshine. Our super-sieving team found it to be quite hard physical work but they did a great job and our system and layout worked nicely – seats for the sievers being essential. Early contexts produced pottery that was confirmed by Cat as medieval. Her comments motivated us as they confirmed the value of what we were doing and seeking to achieve. We also found a selection of animal (?) bones and teeth.
After three contexts on Day 1, we got into a rhythm and managed five on Day 2. A steady flow of finds continued and Cat’s input confirming more bone/teeth and medieval pottery continued to encourage us. From context 7 onwards the number of finds increased and the pit was left open for more investigation during the following week.
All-in-all, we spent two enjoyable and sociable days with a steady flow of visitors who kept us up-to-date on how the other pits were progressing. The weekend was rounded off perfectly at the barn where we got an overall picture of everyone’s finds.
Day 3 onwards
Even down to context 15 the number of finds was being maintained and we were still digging soil! The pit was finally closed on 29th August.
Please click on a photograph to display a larger image.