New Allotment Site – Full Report

Archaeological investigation of the Allotment Field, off Long Lane, Gamlingay by GamArch supported by Jigsaw Cambridgeshire on 1st March 2013.

Archaeological Evaluation by GamArch with contributions by Jigsaw Cambridgeshire

Prepared by Kirstin Rayner. Editor: Jemima Woolverton   Report Date: April 2013

Report Number:  1        Site Name:     Gamlingay Allotment field, off Long Lane

HER Event No:              Date of Works:               March 2013

Grid Ref:                        524622, 252606 (midpoint of baseline)


This document has been prepared for the titled project or named part thereof and should not be relied upon or used for any other project without an independent check being carried out as to its suitability and prior written authority of GamArch and Jigsaw Cambridgeshire being obtained. GamArch and Jigsaw Cambridgeshire accepts no responsibility or liability for the consequences of this document being used for a purpose other than the purposes for which it was commissioned. Any person/party using or relying on the document for such other purposes agrees and will by such use or reliance be taken to confirm their agreement to indemnify GamArch and Jigsaw Cambridgeshire for all loss or damage resulting therefrom. GamArch and Jigsaw Cambridgeshire accepts no responsibility or liability for this document to any party other than the person/party by whom it was commissioned

GamArch, c/o Eco hub, Stocks Lane, Gamlingay, SG19 3JR

t: 01767 650310


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© GamArch 2013


A field walking training exercise was conducted on 1st March 2013 by GamArch with support from Jigsaw Cambridgeshire at the Allotments site, Long Lane, Gamlingay. The exercise produced small quantities of finds dating from prehistoric to modern, suggesting that there has been limited occupation on the site despite its close proximity to the village.


Location and scope of work

The field walk was carried out near Dutter End on the outskirts of the village of Gamlingay. The field walked is on the left hand side of Long Lane as you leave the village travelling east towards the Gransdens. A metal detecting survey was carried out at the same time as the field walking activity.

Figure 1. General location map including field grid squares walked (outlined in red) on Long Lane allotment site, Long Lane, Gamlingay

Allotment  location mapThe work was carried out before the field was given over to the provision of allotments for the village by Merton College, via a lease to Gamlingay Parish Council. At the time of the work the field had been recently ploughed and had been under agriculture for many years. The purpose of the exercise was to recover, identify and preserve any artefacts and to evaluate the site in terms of its historical and archaeological interest, prior to the land being used as an allotment site

GamArch (Gamlingay Archaeology Group) is an amateur group interested in and investigating the archaeology of the parishes of Gamlingay and the Hatleys. The group is supported by Jigsaw Cambridgeshire, who have been providing professional support, advice and training for local projects involving archaeology.

Geology and topography

The site is situated on the north-easterly edge of Gamlingay. The soil type is 541A Bearsted which is a well drained course loamy soil over sandstone, in places ferruginous. The bedrock geology underlying the site is Woburn sands formation of sandstone (code WBS-SDST) belonging to the lower greensand group of the early cretaceous age. This typically consists of cross-bedded sandstone or loose sand composed of fine to course grained quartz sand, glauconitic in part which is commonly silty with a few clay wisps or seams. It is locally cemented to iron pan or gritty carstone. There may be some pebbles and phosphatic nodules towards the base. It is typically grey or greenish-grey, weathering to ochreous yellow brown.

Sources: Cemetery Development Services Ltd-CDSL/3078 and National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI) 2013. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 25/06/2013)

Archaeological and historical background

The medieval village of Gamlingay – one of the largest villages in Cambridgeshire – probably originated around a triangular green now built over and bounded by Church Street on the north, Stocks Lane on the south-east and West Street on the west. Before the conquest the village is thought to have been centred on the Station Road area as Saxon bones in a graveyard were discovered there in the 1990s. In 1260 Walter de Merton founded Merton College, Oxford and gave much of his land in Gamlingay to the College, an amount of which it retains to this day. The village was divided into three manors – Merton, Avenels and Woodbury to the West. The land was divided into three great fields until the Enclosures of 1848. Avenels, the main medieval manor, passed to Merton College Oxford in 1599, soon after which the village was devastated by fire. A detailed series of maps by T. Langdon produced soon after the fire provides important evidence of the topography of the village in this period. (Clarke 2004: 3). A significant amount of documentary evidence dating from 1279 onwards survives in the form of charters, court rolls, wills, bills of sale and similar.

The site field walked is part of one of the great fields adjacent to the Merton Manor site. Recorded archaeological finds and sites in the vicinity of the field walked include a moated site approximately 250 meters to the south-west. It is possibly the Avenels manor moat. Prehistoric flints have been found in and around the immediate vicinity of the moat and in several other findspots between it and the field walked site. Possible Medieval (or Roman) building remains lie some 150 meters south-west of the field-walked site.


Thanks to Jemima Woolverton (Project Officer), and James Fairbairn from Jigsaw Cambridgeshire, and Peter Dight, local metal detectorist, for their help and training expertise supervising the investigations.

Aims and Methodology


The aim of this field walk was to discover if there was anything of historical or archaeological interest on the site before it was cultivated and turned into allotment plots. This was the first field walk conducted by the Gamlingay Archaeology Group (GamArch) and as such it served also as a means of introducing members to the procedures and methods involved in conducting archaeological field walks generally and in how to conduct a metal detecting survey.


On 1st March 2013 ten GamArch volunteers arrived at the field to help layout the search grids, to do the actual field walking and to learn to use a metal detector and undertake a metal detecting survey. The field had been rough ploughed for the first time the week before, and left in an unrolled state. The light was low due to winter season with significant cloud cover but was more than adequate for the exercise.

A baseline running north to south was set out and offsets from this used to set out a grid of 20m² squares across the field. Grid squares were marked out with a red flag atop a cane at each corner and each square assigned a number. The position of the baseline’s start and end point was recorded by using a handheld Garmin 60CSx GPS unit. Each point was recorded three times and an average position arrived at. Some GPS checks on the accuracy of points elsewhere on the grid layout were made before field walking began.

Figure 2. Location, layout and numbering of field grid. National Grid coordinates appear above and below the start and end points (red crosses) of the grid’s baseline.

lottylocgridEach grid square was walked systematically in a zig-zag manner. Finds were bagged and recorded with grid numbers and collected at the end of the exercise for processing at a later date.

A metal detecting survey was conducted in tandem with the field walking. This was undertaken by Mr Peter Dight, a member of the Cambridge Archaeology Field Group. Due to the state of the rough ploughed ground and the bitterly cold weather conditions on the day Mr Dight was able to survey the northern area of the grid only – the two most southerly rows of the grid, the two rows nearest to Long Lane, were not metal detected. Positions of metal finds recovered during the survey were recorded using a handheld GPS unit. Each find was given a unique ID code and bagged separately. Bags were labelled with the ID code of the find.

Processing of field walking finds took place on 28th March 2013 at the Gamlingay Eco Hub. Processing involved the washing and identification of finds. A majority of the finds were found to be non-archaeological ferruginous stone and discarded as waste. A tally of numbers of finds by type per grid square was then made and the results recorded. After this the finds were put into local store. The metal conducting survey finds were processed by Mr Dight and identified by him at his home. They were then handed on to GamArch and the tally of them added in to the field walking finds tally. These metal detecting survey finds remained with GamArch and are now held in local store.


Table 1 summarises how many finds were recovered from each grid square, and what type.

Grid no No. flints No. worked stone No. glass No. Med tile No. mod tile No. mod brick No. Rom pot No. mod pot No. coin No.  slag Total
1 1 1 1 3
2 2 1 2 5
3 1(?) 1 2
4 Cap &button 2
5 0
6 1 1
7 0
8 Lead& strutt 2
9 1 1
10 Lead 1
11 0
12 2 2 1 1 6
13 0
14 knob 1
15 0
16 0
17 0
18 buckle 1
19 0
20 2 1 1 4
21 0
22 0
23 0
24 buckle 1
25 0
26 0
27 0
28 0
Total 6 1 4 1 3 1 1 3 1 1 30

 Table 1: finds from field walking and metal detecting(red)       (8)

Finds Summary

Field walking finds numbered 22 in all and the metal conducting survey numbered 8 giving a combined total of 30 finds.

For the area field walked, finds mostly came from the southern half of the grid. About 25% of these finds were modern including one 1883 penny. The older material consisted of 6 worked flints, one probable Roman rim shard, and one piece of probable Medieval tile. One piece of slag was found in grid square 9, in the south west field corner. The 22 finds consisted of

5 CBM (ceramic building material)

4 pottery

4 glass

6 worked flint

0 bone

1 metal

1 slag

1 putative worked stone

Archaeological (pre-modern) finds are described in more detail below.

Struck Flint

Flint flakes were recovered from grid squares 2 and 20. One core and one blade were recovered from grid square 20.

Worked Stone

One piece of putative worked sandstone was recovered from gridsquare 3.

Medieval Tile

One piece of probable Medieval tile was recovered from gridsquare 1 (red outside, grey middle, possibly glazed in past).

Roman Pottery

One piece of wheel thrown pottery (rim) was recovered from gridsquare 12, probably Roman.

Metal detecting survey finds numbered 8. They have as yet to be formally identified but a preliminary assessment dates them to modern times.

Find ID Fabric Find Description Easting Northing Grid Square
PD1 ? rectangular buckle, riveted at rear 524585 252646 24
PD2 lead scrap of lead sheet, patterned on one side 524647 252663 outside grid
PD3 aluminium? small tubular sheath capped at one end, external pattern 524640 252629 4
PD4 CA small 4 hole circular button 524632 252621 4
PD5 ? short strip of lead 524648 252609 8
PD6 ? rectangular plate with lip and support strut 524655 252613 8
PD7 iron circular knob or rivet 524670 252622 14
PD8 CA? small buckle? 524683 252613 18

Find PD2 came from outside the field grid. This is because the metal detecting survey commenced when the baseline had been set out but not all grid squares had been marked out. With only the north end point of the baseline serving as a guide in that area and under severe time constraints the detectorist inadvertently strayed outside the grid perimeter and found find PD2 some 7 meters north of the grid perimeter.

Discussion and Conclusions


All of the metal detected finds and the majority of the field walked finds appear to be modern. The distribution of these finds suggests activity within archaeologically recent times to have been concentrated on grid squares 3 and 4 and on the squares adjoining them.

Finds of an earlier date consist of 6 pieces of worked flint, a single probable Roman pottery rim shard (possibly Roman Grey Ware) and a piece of medieval roof tile. The flints came from grid squares 2, 12 and 20 with two flints coming from each square. These grid squares are all on an eastern line with squares 2 and 20 being adjacent to one another and 40 meters due east of them is grid square 12. Grid square 12 is also where the Roman shard came from. The medieval tile piece came from grid square 1. All of these earlier dated finds came from the south and south west of the field grid.

Flint has been worked from prehistoric through to modern times and without formal identification by a specialist it is only possible to suggest that all of our flint finds are prehistoric. This fits well with the known local archaeology in that scatters of prehistoric (no tighter timeframe is given) worked flint and of single worked flint findspots are known. A HER website search gives half a dozen or so locations of such finds to the south-west, south and south-east of the centre of our site grid. The nearest of these is only some 140 meters away from the site and the furthest is less than 300 meters away. All of these known sites are downslope and between our site and the course of the village brook and are thought to reflect prehistoric human activity associated with the ecologically rich habitats around the course of the brook itself. Finds include arrow heads, an axe, cores, scrapers and microliths. Some of these finds came from within the area of the now levelled remains of a medieval moated site (CHER number 01140), probably the site of Avenels Manor.

The Roman shard from our field walk is of interest in that HER has no records of other Roman finds within a kilometre of the village cross roads other than those found during excavations of Gamlingay’s Anglo Saxon settlement and cemetery. The Roman material there was mooted to have been curated or re-used by the Anglo Saxons, a practice known to have occurred elsewhere in England. This Anglo Saxon site is more than 700 meters south to south west of our field grid and on the other side of the village brook. Our single Roman rim shard may have been transported by chance or as a result of Anglo Saxon (or later) farming activity by, for example, manuring of out fields.  However, one other site (CHER number 02337) within 250 meters south west of our grid may better explain the Roman shard’s presence. Known from RAF aerial photos the site is described as possible buildings of either Medieval or Roman date and so our Roman pottery and medieval tile find may both be understood in light of these possible buildings.

Ridge and furrow is known in a field some 400 meters to the north of our site and the paucity of finds suggests that the field we walked has only been lightly used, mainly for agriculture, throughout time.

The roughly ploughed ground may also have contributed to the low numbers of finds, along with the inexperience of the field walkers, for whom this was a first training. Even so the few archaeological finds of interest recovered were interesting and the experience gained by GamArch members was in all aspects very useful.


A request will be made to the future allotment holders on the site and to GAGA (Gamlingay Allotment Growers Association) to report any further finds to Gamarch for identification and recording purposes.

Further field walking in the fields south-west, south and south-east are being actively considered by the group. This would help cast light on the possible buildings (CHER number 02337) there and on the moated site (CHER number 01140). We would also hope to recover more worked flint and plan to map distributions of all such lithics found within our area.

Finds recovered during this exercise will be examined by specialists in order that we might be completely satisfied with our preliminary assessment as to their date and type.


Clarke, R.  2004   Land to the Rear of the Coach House, Church Street, Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire: An Archaeological Evaluation. Cambridgeshire County Council. Report no. 759.

National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI)  2013. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 25/06/2013

Smith, J.J. & Hann,M  2012    T2 Environmental Report.  Cemetery Design Services Ltd