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No.224 August 2019

Monthly Newsletter

Revealing the 'Fort in the Wood'

Excavations got underway last month on this site near Burscough (location still confidential at the moment). Steve Baldwin's Bluestone Archaeology team plus volunteers and members of our Society, worked a 5day week and 2 weekends to uncover another small proportion of this vast and intriguing site. A 15m x 15m square was prepared last year and about half of this was worked on this time, to uncover some of the upper most layers of the stratigraphy. Five years of archaeological evaluation and finally last year's spectacular resistivity survey confirmed the site to be a full sized Roman Auxiliary fort. However security concerns dictate that we only reveal a small portion of the survey at this time. Also, relations with the owners of the adjacent field are far from ideal and Bluestone are keen to protect the site from unwelcome attention of trespassers and nighthawkers. The section we can show, however, reveals quite clearly a stretch of road, travelling out of the fort towards the east. It's about 7m wide, and has a large building straddling it. For all intents and purposes this looks like the eastern gatehouse as it is in the right place and roughly the right size (17m x 6.5m). However lines representing walls crossing the road between the towers are a mystery - could they have been an attempt to join the towers into a single large building when the fort went out of use? Our excavations so far have revealed only a small portion of this building, represented by a large amount of stone rubble, interspersed with broken bits of ceramic building material (i.e. Roman brick or tile). However, footings of a large stone wall have emerged on the north east side. A GPR survey, carried out by Steve last year, suggests these foundations go quite deep. A cobbled surface has also been revealed, which seems to be running under the stone rubble, suggesting a pathway into the building. The few sherds of pottery retrieved so far, confirm a Roman presence (i.e. black burnish ware and very late coarse ware) but, apart from evidence of a hearth, there were few other finds. Steve has invited us back at the end of the month to extend our resistivity survey when the crop has been taken. This will be to chase the roads leading east and south out of the fort and also to see if a vicus can be detected.


Despite the diversion at Burscough we are continuing our exploration of our Well Site at Haigh and suspected Roman road running beside it. The latest results have revealed exactly how the well was fed with water (i.e. a large stone culvert on the southeast side) but how the excess water found its way to the field drain on the north side is still unclear. We can see, however, that the area around the well was heightened at some stage by 10cm, maybe to avoid the muddy conditions inevitable around this type of feature. More post holes have also turned up under the uppermost flag floor but their purpose is also unclear. Further work on the suspected road has revealed this to be quite a substantial structure and we may have reached the original surface underlying it (but no dating evidence as yet). As mentioned before, you can follow our activities on our blog site:- http://www.wiganarchsoc.co.uk/blog/?page_id=1683

Summer Trip

Just a reminder that our trip this year has been arranged for Sunday 25th August, when we will be visiting excavations of a medieval iron smelting site on Holcombe Moor near Ramsbottom. Neil Coldrick of the local Heritage Group will be giving us a guided tour around this fascinating site, which may have it's origins in the late Saxon period. In the morning, Ian Trunmble will be giving us a guided tour around the new Egyptian galleries in Bolton's Museum. Lunch will be in the town centre where there happens to be a food fair on. The trip is free except for petrol cost (car sharing to be arranged). As Holcombe Moor site is on MOD land, we need to know the numbers a week before, so if you indent going please could you confirm by e-mail as soon as possible.

By the way, no meeting this month - our next meeting will be on Wednesday 4th September when we will be having our own Mike Keulemans talking about the History and Archaeology of Circular Churchyards. -BA