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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 900: summary

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Geoarchaeological and archaeological monitoring and recording at Harwich Extra Care Centre, 419 Main Road, Dovercourt, Essex: September-December 2015
by Stephen Benfield
(with contributions from -)

Date report completed: January 2016
Location: Harwich Extra Care Centre, 419 Main Road, Dovercourt, Essex
Map reference(s): TM 24340 31190
File size: 1,499 kb
Project type: Geoarchaeological and archaeological monitoring and recording
Significance of the results: negative
Keywords: Palaeolithic, later prehistoric, WW2 air-raid shelter

Summary. In September-December 2015, the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) carried out a geoarchaeological and archaeological monitoring and recording during the groundworks for construction of two new buildings at 419 Main Road, Dovercourt, Essex for the Harwich Extra Care Scheme. The site lies to the south-east of the former Gants Pit gravel-pit (also known as Pounds Farm). This is situated on the Stour terrace deposits which cover the plateau at Dovercourt and is one of the richest sites for Palaeolithic artefacts in the region. The pit was located within the grounds of the present Spring Meadow School (north-west of the present site). It is the potential of this area for important Palaeolithic remains that was the reason for the archaeologcal condition and requirement for archaeological monitoring and which was the primary focus of the archaeological work carried out by CAT. Prior to the monitoring, an archaeological evaluation, consisting of eight test-pits distributed across the area of the development site, had been carried out by Archaeology Southeast (ASE). This revealed a remnant head (solifluxion) deposit on the south-eastern part of the site, but no artefacts or evidence of any Palaeolithic remains. The geoarchaeological monitoring carried out by CAT involved the observation of footings and drainage works for the two new buildings. Examination of the exposed deposits of sands and gravels, including combing through excavated spoil, did not produce any significant archaeological finds. A bulk sample of a gravel deposit also proved negative in terms of any recognisable ancient (Palaeolithic) artefacts. The only finds recovered from it were a very small quantity of intrusive material consisting of glass and tile fragments (modern) and two small flint flakes of probable later prehistoric date. In terms of any significant Palaeolithic deposits located within the development boundary, the negative results seem to suggest that the potential of the site is low. A record of the character of the deposits was made through the recording of exposed sections. These indicate a different sequence of deposits on the eastern side of the site to that on the west. As the sands and gravels are interpreted as primarily ancient waterborne deposits, this could suggest a north-south flow across the area of the site. Below the soil and sub-soil, consisting of grey-brown sandy silt, some indication of freeze-thaw disturbance was noted in the sand and gravels, while some mixed contexts might indicate solifluxion material. The remains of an air-raid shelter of 'covered trench' type, dating to WW2, were located on the north-eastern part of the site. No other deposits or features of archaeological significance were encountered during the monitoring of the site.