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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 1509: summary

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Archaeological excavation on land west of Low Road, Dovercourt, Essex, CO12 3TR: August-October 2019
by Laura Pooley
(with contributions from Julie Curl, David Dungworth, Lisa Gray, Emily Harris, Emma Holloway, Dr Matthew Loughton, Alec Wade, Adam Wightman, Sarah Carter, Emma Holloway, Bronagh Quinn, Robin Mathieson)

Date report completed: April 2020
Location: Land west of Low Road, Dovercourt, Essex, CO12 3TR
Map reference(s): TM 23250 30180 (centre)
File size: kb
Project type: Excavation
Significance of the results:

Summary. An archaeological excavation was carried out on land to the west of Low Road, Dovercourt, Essex in advance of the redevelopment of the site into a housing estate. Cropmarks on the development site included a ring-ditch, square enclosure and several linear features set within a wider landscape of significant prehistoric and Romano-British remains. An archaeological trial-trench evaluation in advance of the current phase of excavation located the ring-ditch and square enclosure along with numerous ditches/gullies and pits of prehistoric and Romano-British date. The remains of eight modern field boundaries were also present.

Excavation has revealed that the earliest archaeological remains on the development site were pieces of worked flint dating to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods found scattered through later-dated contexts. The earliest features were a Neolithic pit/tree-throw and Late Neolithic pit. Middle Bronze Age activity included a barrow with redeposited cremation burial in the fill of the ring-ditch, an unurned cremation and four pits containing fragments of Deverel-Rimbury urns that could be truncated burials. There were also prehistoric ditches towards the south of the development site.

Most of the excavated features on the development site dated to the Romano-British period with a co-axial field system and large rectangular enclosure laid out on high ground to the north. There was no occupation evidence but three corn dryers with associated environmental evidence, fragments of millstones and quernstones, and a possible working hollow show that cereal processing was an important activity. Also present was a large watering hole with metalled base and evidence for animal management. Together this suggests that the development site was located with an agricultural landscape and cereal processing 'zone' probably associated with either Little Oakley Roman Villa or the postulated villa(s) at Dovercourt. Finds evidence shows the site was in use from the 2nd into the 4th century.

Evidence for an Anglo-Saxon settlement at Dovercourt consists of a single sunken featured building (Grubenhäuser) and rectangular post-built hall, with a small number of associated features.

Nine modern field boundaries were also present, of which seven were plotted on the 1st edition 6-inch OS map of 1875 and two pre-date that map. Cartographic evidence shows that these boundaries existed until at least the mid-20th century when the smaller fields were opened out into one large field.