Following the discovery by local metal detectorists of a wide spread of Roman coins and other artefacts in a field north of Streatley close to the River Thames just to the south of the Berkshire/Oxfordshire boundary. BAS was asked to undertake a geophysics survey to assess the future archaeological potential of this site and possible provide additional archaeological context for the artefacts discovered. The site is close to the projected route of the Roman Road from Silchester to Dorchester (Margary 160) and the HER records a spread of Roman tile and pottery to the south that is presumed to be the site of a Romano-British settlement, and settlements at Moulsford to the north and Streatley to the south. LiDAR and digitised aerial photographs also highlighted a number of linear features running across the field.
The area to be surveyed was some 11ha, which was surveyed initially with the gradiometer over some 8 days by BAS volunteers who, from experience gained on recent projects, were able to consistently delivery >30 grid squares each day. The BAS were also joined by colleagues from SOAG who have been researching Romano-British settlement nearby within Oxfordshire, where information and experiences were shared. The gradiometer survey results shown in figure 2 highlighted show anomalies interpreted as the remains of Romano-British field systems in the southeast of the field which are most likely associated with the settlement thought to be located within the field to the south and area consistent with metal detecting find spots suggesting that Roman coins were possibly deposited as a result of manuring. In the south of the field an area of intense burning was identified, and closer inspection of this area with the earth resistance meter identified rectilinear features and a possible spread of rubble suggesting that this could be the remains of a cottage that had been destroyed by a fire. No evidence was found of the Roman Road, which confirms that its location is most likely to the west of the A329 along its currently projected route.
The linear features seen on LiDAR and aerial photographs were revealed in greater detail by the gradiometer, and appear to be the remains of a ditched trackway or drove-way possibly connecting the settlement in the field to the south with the River Thames. Of particular interest was a 40m x 40m ‘L-shaped’ anomaly close to the west bank of the River Thames. This feature was close to the remains of a silted paleochannel running parallel to the modern canalised course of the river. On closer inspection with the earth resistance meter, it could be seen that this ‘L-shaped’ feature was associated with high resistance anomalies interpreted as being a possible floor surface and also an area of rubble interpreted as being the possible remains of a building.
Given the location of these anomalies to the River Thames and the paleochannel, and the morphology of the anomalies revealed by the survey, it thought that these feature may related to a previously unknown watermill. A number of watermills are recorded in this area within Domesday, but not at this location, and the Rocque map of Berkshire from 1761 does not show any buildings at this location either. This suggests that if the survey anomalies do indeed relate to a watermill that it may have been in use during the Late Roman/Early Medieval period but having fallen into disuse and disappeared before 1086 – or it may have been built much later during the Medieval period but disappeared by 1761. Further work is needed to investigate these findings further.
BAS has been invited to present our results from this survey to the Goring Historical Society in July, where it is hoped that this will result in further liaison and collaboration with local historians to research records of watermills in the area. Having been recently sold, it is hoped also that the new owners of this field will be supportive of further archaeological investigations to shed further light on the anomalies observed. Thanks are due to the volunteers (Margaret, Tim, Andrew, Nigel, Paul, Phillip, John, Tony, Richard, Geoff, James, Juan, Jill, Martin, Vaughn and Nicola) who took part in the survey.
For more information on this project contact Keith Abbott keefandtrace(at)hotmail.com
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