Test Pit 2 (BRR/16/2) Bowden Ridge  NB This page is still under construction see report on main page Bowden Ridge Research Digs on the Ridge

Test Pit 2 (BRR/16/2)    Leicestershire County Council No. X.A46.2016         Grid Reference:  SP740 882                          

Date of Excavation: 30th-31st July 2016     Bowden Ridge






               The east end of Bowden Ridge. The excavation site is just beyond the trees on the horizon

This test pit excavation was carried out by Great Bowden Heritage & Archaeology in the back garden of a house close to the summit and at the eastern end of the long hill named Bowden Ridge.  

The property lies on the northern extent of housing development in Market Harborough, at an altitude of 108 metre, 1171 metre from the centre of Market Harborough and 786 metre from the centre of Great
Bowden. The land to the west rises towards the higher part of the hill and drops away to the east towards the River Welland which is 655 metre distant at its nearest point.  The hill top is flat.   The property is
bounded to the west by a field under rough grass and to the south by The Ridgeway houses built in the 1960s.  Beyond Great Bowden Road the land drops away to the railway cutting.   To the north is a narrow strip of woodland on the hill top beyond which the land drops sharply towards the railway and Great Bowden village.   The hill top in this area has extensive views towards the north, east and west and before the
development of Market Harborough there would have been similar views towards the south.  This strategic position may have accounted for the development of this ridge hill top in the distant past.

Below approximately 20 cm of topsoil and a layer of clinker and charcoal the overlying geology of glacial till began to appear. The British Geological Survey’s map shows this site to be on the edge of an area of
glacial till described as follows:

Description: Till, Mid Pleistocene - Diamicton. Superficial Deposits formed up to 2 million years ago in the Quaternary Period. Local environment previously dominated by ice age conditions.

Setting: ice age conditions. These rocks were formed in cold periods with Ice Age glaciers scouring the landscape and depositing moraines of till with outwash sand and gravel deposits from seasonal and post
glacial meltwaters.

The soil was compressed and layers of grit were visible; at a depth of 90 cm the soil was very compressed sand and gravel, with some clay, yellowish in colour and difficult to penetrate.  The excavation was
halted at 1 metre depth. Despite the compressed nature of the soil the soil would have been disturbed at least during the Roman period and formed part of a refuse ditch or trench in view of the many broken
pottery pieces and animal bone found.

The underlying geology was not reached but is described in the BGS as Dyrham Formation, siltstone and mudstone formed 183-190 million years ago during the Jurassic Period in shallow seas.

Before Enclosure in 1776 this location would have been part of Bowden’s Open Fields system and within a furlong of the South Field.  We have not been able to identify the particular furlong by name but Lidar images
(courtesy of Leics. County Council) suggest that the strips would have run east-west at this point and ridges are slightly visible in the lawn.

The long hedge line on the western boundary of the property runs diagonally across the ridges and is therefore most probably dating from post Enclosure.

Most historical information on this area dates from the Roman period.
A large number of Roman artifacts were recovered during the construction of houses on The Ridgeway, east of the diagonal hedge line in the 1960s, and between 70 metre and 150 metre distant, see below:

Roman pottery from the Ridgeway identified May 1985

by Dr Richard Pollard of Leics. County Council
The finds were probably collected by residents from their gardens and donated to the Harborough Historical Society. These were placed in the Harborough Museum when it opened in 1983 and were accessioned under
the reference LEIMH100.1983.

Looking on an old OS map the finds seem to come from the first area of development along The Ridgeway ie from 2-34 and some were handed over to the Historical Society in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the
houses were first built. Not sure if there was another time of collection around when the Museum opened in 1983. (P A Feb 2016).  The full addresses have not been given on this website.

1.    . The Ridgeway  Small bronze coin of Valens  AD 364-378  SP1408 3305 (?) possibly SP74088805
2.    .. The Ridgeway Small bronze coin of Crispus (became a Caesar in AD 317 executed by his father  Constantine I in AD326)
3.    . The Ridgeway Fragments of greyware found 2ft deep under layer of broken stone.
4.    . The Ridgeway  Follis of Constantine I (AD 306-337)Small bronze coin Vileutihan (could be Vitelius AD69 or more likely because of date Valentinian I or II  ( AD364-392)
5.    .. The Ridgeway  Bronze coin of Allectus (AD 293-296)
6.    .. The Ridgeway  113 Roman sherds (mostly late grog tempered ware), 2 medieval and post medieval
7.    .. The Ridgeway  2 sherds Roman pottery
8.    .. The Ridgeway  123 sherds Roman, 11 medieval, 2 post medieval, 2 tessera and a coin.
9.    .. The Ridgeway  88 Roman sherds, 1 tessera, 1 late Iron Age, 12 medieval, 4 post medieval.

10.    .. The Ridgeway  Roman sherds and an area of cobbled floor
11.    .. The Ridgeway  bronze coin Constantine II (AD317-340), 32 Roman sherds and 2 medieval
12.    .. Great Bowden Road  4 sherds Roman (1 geyware, 1 shelly , 1 colour coated) + coin of Magnus Maximus     (AD383-388)
13.    .. Great Bowden Road  35 Roman sherds, 7 late Iron Age, 9 medieval, 5 post medieval.
14.    .. Great Bowden Road  2 sherds greyware and 1 shellyware.
15.    ........... Great Bowden Road sparse scatter of Roman (inc greyware and samian), tessera and oyster shells
16.    Great Bowden Hill A substantial rim sherd of a vessel decorated by scoring and finger decoration, but no exact location.

Ignoring the coin from possibly 69AD the period covered by evidence of Roman occupation is mostly 4th century (293-392 AD) which would fit the late grog tempered ware from .. The Ridgeway. (R C 2016)
2016 additions in italics.

However, nothing from the Roman period had been logged from the area north of The Ridgeway gardens and was the main reason for the excavationin this location.  The results of this excavation show that the area of
influence of the Roman township extended further north than previously known.

Great Bowden Heritage carried out two excavations at ..  The Ridgeway in 2005. Historic Environment Record MLE16380  Pottery found during these excavations was verified by Leicestershire County Council and is
summarized below:

Late Iron Age/Early Roman 1cAD = 18 sherds

Roman (13 categories) = 103 sherds

Early Anglo-Saxon = 2 sherds

Early Medieval = 9 sherds

Late Medieval = 2 sherds

Post medieval = 25 sherds

Two large jars full of Roman and possibly Iron Age pottery also from .. The Ridgeway was handed in at an event run by Great Bowden Heritage.  This was taken and identified by Leicestershire County Council Museum
Service.  It is listed as 200 plus sherds on Historic Environment Recordentry MLE 1948.  No further details are available at present.  The excavation site is 400 metre east of Waterfield Place MLE19107, a mid to
late Iron Age settlement excavated by ULAS in 2011.

A windmill site north of White Lodge, Great Bowden is listed under Historic Environment Record MLE1956 Grid Reference:SP 741 882 with the following comment “A windmill in the south field of Great Bowden is
mentioned in 1543, this may be the one on Prior (1779) but not on any subsequent maps. A windmill in 1623 that was still there in 1690 may be this mill.”  One possible site for this mill is approximately 180 metre,
north-east from the excavation site and close to the hollow way which can be seen to the left of the photograph at the head of this report.


A test pit, 1 metre x 1 metre was dug in 10 cm contexts in the lawn in the back garden.The pit was photographed before the start of each context and the spoil was sieved or broken up into small pieces to extract any finds.  When it was considered that the natural had been reached the sections were
photographed and the pit was backfilled replacing the soil in the correct order and finally replacing the turf.  The finds have been photographed, and identification of the pottery verified by an expert before being returned to the safe-keeping of the property owners.  A documentary archive will be placed in the care of Leicestershire County Council and data passed to the Historic Environment Record.

Context 1 and 2. The first 20 cm produced most notably a distinct layer of clinker and corroded metal including many nails and screws; also, medieval and modern pottery sherds and building material.  Surprisingly there were Roman period tesserae, both stone and terracotta in C2.  This suggests
there had been some modern disturbance of the soil, perhaps during the construction of the house.  The layer of clinker is unexplained but one of the modern houses in the road is called Farriers Lodge which may give
a clue.

Context 3 and 4.  Dug to a depth of 40 cm.  A mixture of both modern and Roman period finds and pottery was extracted.  Smaller deposits of clinker, coal, coke and brick etc. were also found.

Contexts 5 and 6.  There was medieval pottery at 40-50 cm and thereafter mostly Roman period with one or two tiny sherds of medieval pot. The soil remained dark in colour suggesting that we were excavating a refuse
pit with burnt and organic material deposited.  However the soil was very compacted and difficult to dig and with a distinct layer of gravel in these two contexts.

Context 7, 8 and 9 The soil was lighter with deposits of sand and gravel in places.  By the end of C9 the soil had changed to a sandy gravel appearing to be compacted and undisturbed. Pottery was now entirely
Roman period or possibly prehistoric and other finds were from that period with an increased amount of animal bone.  A large quantity of butchered animal bone including a cracked bovine skull, possibly as a
result of poleaxing, was uncovered in C9.  Also in C9 a horned bovine skull was visible in the west wall of the pit.  The pit was undercut on that side to extract it.  The skull was examined at the University of Leicester and it was felt to be from the Roman period and an elderly animal due to peridontal growth below the teeth.This skull was laid on the bottom of the ditch cut and faced north.  It had no visible signs of

Other finds from the three final contexts included Roman roof tiles and tesserae.


                       Photographs show the total animal bone excavated from context 9
                            and the large horned skull in situ during the excavation.

The excavation team felt they had achieved what they had set out to do and established that the Roman period influence on the hilltop extended further north than had been previously known.  

The roof tiles and tesserae gave an impression of well constructed buildings which had been repaired or improved at some point.  The bull’s skull was interesting as it was definitely laid at the bottom of what
we assume was a large pit or trench into which we had cut. The smaller skull appeared to have been slaughtered with a poleaxe but the large horned bull was elderly and may have died of old age.  We understand that native bulls were smaller and during the Roman period continental bulls were imported and interbred.  

It is inconclusive but we like to think that farming 2000 years ago may have been similar to the present day when the fields around this location are full of beef cattle.  Other animal bones including chicken
and baby pig suggest there was a varied meat diet.
August 2016
See also Bowden Ridge Research; sub page Romans on the Ridge
Pottery extracted from BRR/16/2 (identified by University of Leicester Archaeological Services)

Context 1  Modern fine white earthenware 2 = 3g:  Medieval shelly ware 1 x=3g.

Context 2  Modern, fine white earthenware, same as in C1, 6 = 5g:  Victorian 1 = 1g:  Early
Medieval oxidised ware strap handle, probably a jug, 1 = 6g:  Unidentified - possibly modern flower pot fabric, 1 = 6g:  Roman grey ware, small jar or beaker, late 1st-mid 2ndC. 1 = 7g.

Context 3  Modern fine white earthenware as in C 1 and 2, 1 = 3g: Roman Nene Valley colour-coated ware, probably a beaker, late 2nd-early 3rd C, 1 = 1g:  Roman grey ware jar or beaker, late 1st - 2nd C+, not closely dateable, 1= 3g:  early Roman shelly ware, mid-late 1st- med 2nd C, 3 = 4g: Roman (probably), dense grey ware, late 1st-2nd C + ncd

Context 4  Modern, white china, 1 = 1g: Roman Nene Valley colour coated ware beaker (probably) late 2nd-early 3rd C +, 1 = 1g: Roman jar rim, late 1st- 2nd C, an early oxidised ware or abraded grey ware, late 1st-2nd C, 1 = 6g.

Context 5  Post Medieval/Modern, 2 x china, 1 x possibly Cistercian ware) 3 = 2g: Roman Oxfordshire red-brown colour coated ware with roulette decoration. Most likely from a bowl. This fabric starts cAD240 but
Leicester/Leicestershire examples tend to be 4thC and can be as late as AD360+, 1 = 4g:  Roman Nene Valley colour coated ware beaker, late 2nd-early 3rd C+ (the fabric is orange so probably into the 3rdC), 1 =
9g:  Roman grey ware including everted rimmed small jar or beaker, late 1st-med 2nd C The rest of the grey ware is not closely dateable, 2nd C+,4 = 43g:  Roman (one sherd could be Roman or Medieval) 2 sherds (black ones including the rim) early Roman lid seated, almost channel rimmed jar, mid/late 1st C - mid 2nd C, 3 = 6g:  Roman grog-tempered grey ware,mid 1st C or possibly into early 2nd C, but not much later, 1 = 12g: Roman tiny sherd abraded oxidised ware, late 1st- 2nd C+ ncd, 1 = 1g: Roman south Gaulish Samian ware, part of a footring from a Drag.27 cup, 1st C, 1 = 1g.

Context 6  Post Medieval SMW/EA3 mottled ware, 1 = 1g: Roman Oxfordshire red-brown colour coated ware (abraded), 4th C, 1 = 1g: Roman Nene Valley colour coated ware beaker, possibly a folded form, 3rd C, 1 = 4g: Roman shelly ware (probably) mid/late 1st - 2nd C, 3 = 34g: Roman colour coated ware with pink fabric, probably Nene Valley, 1 = 1g: Roman grey ware, late 1st-2nd C+ ncd, 4 = 121g: Roman Northants. burnt white sandy grogged-tempered ware (ribbed outer surface), late 1st- mid 2nd C, 1 = 49g.

Context 7  Roman Oxfordshire red-brown colour coated ware bowl rim Type C49 derived from Samian Drag.36 and Curle 15 forms (burnt sherd), 4th C, 1 = 7g: Roman Nene Valley colour-coated ware bowl, mid/late 3rd - 4thC, 1= 5g: Roman Nene Valley colour-coated ware beaker with roulette dec., 3rd C+, 1=1g:   Roman Nene Valley colour-coated ware beaker, late 2nd -early 3rd C+, 1 = 1g:  Roman grey ware misc., late 1st - 2nd C+, 6 = 165g.

Context 8  Roman Nene Valley colour-coated ware beaker, probably 3rd C+, abraded, 1= 1g: Roman
grey ware including large jar rim. Examination of the core of the large jar rim suggests the abraded grey ware sherds may come from the same vessel, 6 = 236g:  Roman grey ware abraded, see item above, late 1st -
2nd C+ ncd, 5 = 186g: Early Roman “transitional” mixed-gritted ware (grog/sand/calcareous), mid 1st C, 5 = 20g.

Context 9  Roman grey ware, jar rim late 1st - mid 2nd C, 1 = 4g:  Roman grey ware jar base, late 1st - 2nd C ncd, 1 = 139g: Roman shelly ware jar, mid/late 1st - 2nd C, 1 = 10g: Roman shelly ware jar rim, late 1st - 2nd C, 1= 5g.

Test Pit 3 (BRR/17/3

Leicestershire County Council No. X.A46.2016

Grid Reference:                           

Date of Excavation:
This will be our next dig in 2017 - details coming soon.




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