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Monument record MDR11369 - Post-Roman cemetery, Little Chester, Derby

Type and Period (2)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Pilkington, writing in 1798 about Little Chester, notes: "I am credibly informed, that human bones have been dug up in several parts of Mr. Waterall's orchard, which comprehends nearly a quarter of the station … In general the bodies are found without any stones or other covering to protect them from the earth. I have seen the ground opened to a considerable depth, and about a yard from the surface bones lying in an horizontal position with so much order and regularity, as to render it probable, that they have never been disturbed from their original situation." (1) In the course of excavations by within the Roman Camp at Little Chester in 1926, five human skeletons were discovered. They lay about 2ft 6ins below the surface of the ground inside the camp and close to the west wall. All showed signs of regular burial and all were placed with the feet to the east. Three were men, one a woman and one a child of six. It was concluded that the interments were post-Roman but that they were not later than the 13th century. Their regular burial in an east-west orientation indicates the presence of a cemetery on the site, presumably after the introduction of Christianity but possibly before the Norman Conquest. (2) During the late summer and autumn of 1926, Charles Bakewell Sherwin carried out important excavations at Little Chester, the results of which remained unpublished at the time. Recent examination of Sherwin's notes and photographs indicates that six skeletons were uncovered in one of his trenches, and that they were closer to the northern wall than the western. A man, a crippled woman and a child some six years old had been buried side by side in close proximity to a stone footing. Two feet to the north lay the upper portion of a fourth skeleton and 28ft to the north-east, also close to a stone footing, lay two adult males interred side by side. No grave goods were found which, together with the orientation, suggest Christian burial, certainly post-Roman and probably medieval. Although there is no documentary or archaeological evidence that a church was ever established at Little Chester, an extensive cemetery certainly existed in this north-west quarter of the fort. Human bones have been found in this area since the 18th century. In the 1950s when the stables, which were being utilised as changing rooms, were re-floored, burials were encountered, and in December 1969 others were unearthed during tree planting. The stone foundations by the skeletons were taken by Sherwin to be a Roman building orientated east-west. (3) Although the building referred to above was believed by Sherwin to be Roman, it might possibly be a chapel, given the presence of the burials. Research suggests that the most likely area for the site of Waterall's orchard, referred to by Pilkington (Authority 1), is the north-west corner of the fort. If so, the human bones reported from the orchard in the 18th century would tie in well with the skeletons found by Sherwin in 1926. (4)

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Pilkington, J. 1789. A View of the Present State of Derbyshire, Volume 2. p 199.
  • <2> Article in serial: Clews, C. 1927. 'Human remains, Little Chester', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 49, pp 376-7, plate.
  • <3> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1993. 'Little Chester, Derby: The 1926 Excavations', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 113, pp 21-44.
  • <4> Unpublished document: D'Arcy, J. Email to the SMR regarding burials at Little Chester, 30 October 2007.



Grid reference Centred SK 35273 37580 (38m by 38m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR2461

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Record last edited

Aug 23 2022 6:02PM

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