Dig 3 – what was it all about?

main_logo-1Okay, before we get to the results from Dig 3, lets put them into context. Last summer (2016), as part of the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology, we undertook Dig 3, this time focusing our investigation on the detatched hamlet of Streetly End, about 1km south of the main village of West Wickham (Cambridgeshire). During the original Big Dig in 2013, three test-pits dug in the hamlet identified occupation dating back to the 12th century, which is much earlier than previously believed, as documentary evidence doesn’t mention the settlement by name until the 14th century.

We know that a Saxo-Norman settlement (AD 850-1150) existed at Stradleia (Streetly) in the late 11th century because it is listed in the Domesday Book (AD 1086). However, this is presumed to refer to Streetly Hall Farm, located approximately 1km to the west, and not the present hamlet of Streetly End. So, our first question is this, how far back does occupation go in Streetly End?

As only three test-pits have been dug in the hamlet so far, our data-set isn’t great. So, our goal of 2016 was to increase our knowledge by digging more test-pits (5 in total, now taking us up to 8 in the hamlet).

Another question raised by the original Big Dig was what happened to the hamlet in the late medieval period. Test-pit excavations often reveal a decline in settlement, characterised by the absence of pottery, in villages in this period. This is thought to be an effect of the various famines and plagues of the 14th century, most famously the ‘Black Death’ outbreak of AD 1348-9. Yet, all three original test-pits in the hamlet produced late medieval pottery, in stark contrast to elsewhere in the parish, in the main village of West Wickham and at Burton End, both of which appear to have largely depopulated in the 14th/15th century. Bucking this trend, did Streetly End prosper and grow in the late medieval period?

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Satellite image showing areas of work (red), Dig 3 test-pit locations (purple) and previously excavated test-pits (yellow).

We have more specific questions too. Test-pit 1, dug at the northern end of the hamlet in ‘Field 1’ is on the site of a row of cottages that were demolished in the early 20th century. What were these cottages, and how long had they been there before they were knocked down? More buildings are shown on 19th century maps in ‘Field 2’ at the western end of the hamlet. Three test-pits dug in this field (3-5) aimed to see if they were a tannery and dovecote listed in the vicinity.

Streetly End also lies close to known Iron Age and Roman sites, including a ‘villa’ site and Roman road approximately 300m to the west of the hamlet. What evidence could we find for this earlier activity in our test-pits?

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Digging test-pits in ‘Field 2’ as part of Dig 3, 2016.

Dig 3 has been a huge success. Over the weekend of July 16-17, over twenty volunteers helped dig all five planned test-pits. Every test-pit was completed on time and they have all produced fascinating results, which we will take a close look at in subsequent blogs. Don’t worry if you weren’t able to visit us during the weekend, we have also created 3D-models of the test-pits that you can explore at leisure online.

Have we wet your appetite for more? Come back for our next post, which will take a look at the results from Test-pit 1…

Mathew Morris (Archaeological Supervisor)

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