By Sandy Gerrard

Industrial archaeology is an often overlooked heritage resource. In some quarters in Wales it is not even seen as archaeology. In England, however this is clearly not the case as English Heritage have just scheduled a large C19 gravel pit!

Whilst this might appear to be good news and a long overdue appreciation of the importance of this much maligned industry, sadly this is not the case. No mention of the pit appears in the documentation and instead English Heritage seems to be under the impression that the area where the pit once stood is the site of a small Roman town worth protecting.  The scheduling documentation gives no clues to why EH believe that the shallow remains of the town have survived large-scale quarrying. Perhaps EH would be kind enough to explain why they have asked the Secretary of State to place this backfilled gravel pit onto the Schedule of Ancient Monuments?

EH’s own online PastScape describes the area as the “Site of a possible Roman settlement at Billingford represented by coins, pottery, a bronze brooch and a silver ring.” But apart from the finds mentioned above and a few “ephemeral cropmarks” there really does not appear to be anything in the scheduling documentation to strengthen EH’s own published tentative identification. Settlement remains are known to have existed in the area to the south, but there appears to be no definitive evidence that nationally important Roman remains actually survive within the scheduled area and the chances of them surviving within an area that has been quarried are surely non-existent.

There are many other peculiar aspects about this scheduling which I may return to in the future, but in the meantime EH might wish to consider why:

  • the descriptive details all relate to the parts of the site that are not scheduled.
  • the details imply that the focus of the settlement is elsewhere
  • no building materials have been found and there is no mention of post holes
  • the monument is described as “A Roman small town or roadside settlement occupied between the C1AD and c.750AD.”
  • they have scheduled an area that may have been severely disturbed. The large number of finds might be an indication that much of the remains have been disturbed. Can EH be sure that nationally important remains survive in any part of the site?
  • the continuity of settlement into the early Anglo-Saxon period and its association with the early see at North Elmham is also significant. Does proximity always mean association?
  • aerial photographs indicate pre-Roman settlement in the form of a clearly defined co-axial field system.
  • the site is described as “immediately connected to Roman roads” but what does immediately connected actually mean? Surely it is either connected or it is not?
  • the new bank adjacent to the road is not excluded from the scheduling.
  • the selected source details are incomplete

If they can come up with answers it would great if they could share them.

It would also be interesting to know why the site was rescheduled less than two years after it was first scheduled in 2010. This site was scheduled on 08-Jul-2010 and again on 27-Jun-2012 as “A Roman roadside settlement 150m south-west of Billingford Hall”. The List Entry Number is 1021458 and for those who wish to dig a bit further the PastScape No. is 130984.

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[For other articles  in the series put Scheduling in the search box]