Archaeologists share their top finds from A14 excavations in Huntingdonshire

The remains of a medieval blacksmiths workshop. Picture: MOLA Headland

The remains of a medieval blacksmiths workshop. Picture: MOLA Headland - Credit: Archant

A team of archaeologists working on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon upgrade have shared their five top features from the project so far, including structures which offer a fascinating insight into life in Huntingdonshire hundreds of years ago.

A wood-lined well. Picture: MOLA Headland

A wood-lined well. Picture: MOLA Headland - Credit: Archant

The dig is being carried out by MOLA Headland Infrastructure, on behalf of Highways England.

A medieval blacksmiths’ workshop

Discovered during excavations of the deserted medieval village of Houghton, the blacksmith’s workshop was described as a “firm favourite” among archaeologists, offering a glimpse into the daily life of a bustling village community between the 11th and 13th centuries.

Archaeological remains have included evidence of metal-working in the form of a pit filled with lumps of slag and hammerscale (the by-product of iron-forging), and post-holes from a wooden building.


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A wood-lined well

A Roman pond. Picture: MOLA Headland

A Roman pond. Picture: MOLA Headland - Credit: Archant

Found just west of Brampton, the well is understood to dates to the Saxon period (400 to 1066 AD).

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The structure is unusually well preserved which archaeologists have attributed to the water-logged Cambridgeshire landscape, allowing them to see how it was carefully constructed to prevent the soft edges from crumbling inward.

A spokesman for MOLA Headland, which is carrying out the dig, said: “Wells such as this one would have been crucial to ensuring that local populations had access to cleaner water in a watery landscape where contamination would have been a problem.”

An artificial Roman pond

The pond was excavated near Fenstanton and measured around 35metres in diameter. The archaeologists excavated down into the spring and discovered evidence of wooden tanks which would have had some impact on the cleanliness of the water.

Archaeologist Elliott McDonald said: “It’s rare to get such great survival of fragile wood, so it required a lot of care and attention to detail when cleaning it, as well as special wooden and plastic tools to make sure there was no damage to finds.”

Iron Age cooking pits. Picture: MOLA Headland

Iron Age cooking pits. Picture: MOLA Headland - Credit: Archant

Iron Age cooking pits

The pits were discovered close to the village of Brampton and gave the team an insight into domestic life in the period from 700BC-43AD, before the arrival of the Romans.

The pits contained charred material and fire-cracked stones which would have been used in cooking. In the Iron Age the stones would have been heated up and thrown into the pits, with their heat slowly being released over several hours.

Timber structure

Large posts which survived well in the wet ground conditions in Offord Cluny proved to be part of a rare elm-built structure.

An elm-built timber structure. Picture: MOLA Headland

An elm-built timber structure. Picture: MOLA Headland - Credit: Archant

The posts would have held up the roof of a large-aisled Roman building and have been radio-carbon dated to 120-240AD. According to MOLA, the discover makes the building one only two securely dated elm-built timber structures excavated in the UK.

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