Category Archives: Braughing

Another day, another town

You would think I would have had enough. But no… hot on the heels of the end of the Gorhambury season, we headed off to the mysterious east side of the county. The Greenwich meridian seems to exert a powerful influence in Hertfordshire with its citizens seemingly afraid to cross the invisible line.

Back at the start of the project, we planned to do some survey in and around Braughing.  We managed just one site. The area is extremely important with multiple late Iron Age and Roman sites including the Roman “small town” on Wickham Hill.  We had an opportunity to work on the small town along with members of the Braughing Archaeological Group for a couple of days, mainly to see if magnetometry would show something useful.  The field was, however, rather rough and caused the odometer on the cart to over-run by about a meter, and the nuts and bolts needed constant tightening. On the second day I adjusted the odometer settings which improved matters a bit.

The survey underway on Wickham Hi

The survey underway on Wickham Hill.

We managed to complete 13 grid squares which was pretty good going, especially as the data logger crashed three lines before the end of the fourteenth square and we lost the rest of the grid.  The results, after a bit of work in TerraSurveyor, were very interesting.

The survey results.

The survey results.

The broad line running east-west towards the south of the surveyed area is the road.  It can be seen in the Google Earth image in the background.  Towards the west, the very dark band must be where the road becomes a sunken way as it goes up the slope.  What is very obvious is the difference to the planned public town at Verulamium.  This site was clearly a very different type of settlement.  What we have clearly shown is that it is worth expanding the magnetometry survey to cover as much of the settlement as possible.  Hopefully, the field surface will be a little more benign when we return!  One thing won’t change, however, and that is the slope…

On top of the hill.

On top of the hill.

Many thanks to Jim West for coming all the way from Chorley Wood to run the mag on the first day while I lay-in the grid, and also many thanks to all the members of BAG who joined in. Looks like we’ll be back!

Adventures in Braughing

Firstly, the mystery of the “big pipe” at Verulamium has been solved,  It is a 12″ gas main.  I assume it is buried quite deeply, but has a massive magnetic signature which swamps the signal.

Last weekend saw us looking at the first of our sites at Braughing.  The area is well known for its Roman “small town” and its Iron Age remains although the pattern is quite complex.  The site appears to be “multifocal”, a posh way of saying there is stuff spread about all over the place.  The first site we examined at the suggestion of Mark Landon was in a smallish pasture which had recently been cut for hay.

Clare Lewis and I met with Mark on Saturday to lay in the grid.  We had put in two base points with the dGPS earlier in the year.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the second point, which was necessary as a backsight for the total station.  After over an hour of pulling up stinging nettles and troweling back the surface we gave up and I just guessed the backsight with the intention of laying out the grid which we could tie into the OS National Grid later.  The next day, ably assisted by members of the Braughing Archaeological Group, we looked again for the backsight point with no luck,  Just as we had finished for the day and were about to go home the point was finally found.  Ellen and I quickly surveyed in the grid pegs to get the actual OS grid references.  Much to our amazement we found that the pegs were between 5 and 25cm out.  “Good enough for government work”, as they say…

We had quite a team out on the Sunday,  Ruth Halliwell (WAS) and Keith Bradbury (CVAS) were helped by members of the Braughing Archaeological Group / East Herts Archaeological Society including Mark Landon, Caroline Baigent, Bridget Edgson, Richard Maddams, Carolyn Westlake and Anne Rowe.  As a result we managed nine grids and completed the entire field in a day.

The site lies under a meter of alluvium and so it was going to be a challenge to detect anything much.  There is clearly a site there, Mark pulled a piece of samian, an imbrex and a piece of coin mould out from the bank of the river,  The normal processing (see figure below) didn’t show too much.

The first site at Braughing, normal data processing.

The first site at Braughing, normal data processing.

There is one circular high magnetic feature which is probably an oven, as well as some rather mysterious linear features running across the site.  Jarrod Burks suggested a route for a more high contrast plot.
Higher contrast processing, with Mark's annotation.

Higher contrast processing, with Mark’s annotation.

I’m not sure I can see anything much else in the plot, although with the eye of faith — or is it optimism? — Mark wonders if the features he has marked with red dots might be a building. We have been spoiled at Six Acres and Verulamium with such clear results.  This sort of “ink blob” result is more usual!  Any guesses as to the linear features?  They look more like geology than archaeology to me, but any suggestions welcome.

This week sees us back in Verulamium Park.  The weekend is going to be busy with the Magna Carta celebrations in the Park.  We are not certain if we are going to be there Saturday or Sunday as yet, we will check the weather forecast later in the week.

As the harvest approaches we will be wanting to get onto our rural sites.  We are still in urgent need of people to take charge of the organisation of some of these including contacting landowners.  Can you help?