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Site record MDR4537 - Roman Industrial Site (site of), Derby Racecourse, Derby

Type and Period (5)

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SK 36133755 : Romano-British pottery kilns at Derby Racecourse playing fields. Attention was first brought to the site when Romano-British pottery sherds were found. Trial excavations in 1967 established the presence of three kilns. Rustic ware was found indicating late 1st or early 2nd century activity, and a Samian sherd along with imitated Samian shapes suggested a date in the first half of the 2nd century for the sealing of one deposit. In 1968 ten Trajanic kilns of the updraught type were excavated. Products included lid-seated jars similar in fabric to Derbyshire Ware, Rustic Ware jars, and beakers. A mortarium waster of the potter Septiminus, who was working in the early 2nd century, was built into one kiln. Samian ware from the filling of the kilns would be consistent with a date of 110-20 AD for their abandonment. In 1972-3 six kilns were excavated. Two were of early 2nd century date, one of which had been disturbed by unauthorised digging and the other was constructed partly over a filled-in well which yielded pottery pre-dating the kiln. Two further kilns were of Antonine date and had a smaller kiln lying adjacent to their stokehole. The last kiln, of which only the furnace survived, was of a 1st century type and its remains had been partly destroyed when one of the Antonine kilns was constructed. The main products consisted of jars, bowls, and dishes; oxidized black burnished sherds were found in the furnace chamber of the 1st century kiln. Other finds included brooches, pins, and glass. Most finds from the excavations are now in Derby Museum or at Nottingham University. When production of pottery ceased in the mid 2nd century the abandoned site was taken over by industrial workings. (1-4) SK 362377. Two Roman brooches, one of "dolphin" type and one of "aucissa" type were found in a field in the north-western area of Racecourse Park by M. Brassington in 1967. In Derby Museum (192-75 and 442-76). (5) During excavation of the pottery kilns in 1968,a skeleton was found in the flue of one of the smaller kilns. The burial was probably contemporary with the abandonment of the kilns c120 AD. (6) During the 1974 excavations varying types of hearths and furnaces, some at least associated with iron-working, were uncovered. (7) Additional reference. (8) 11-week excavation of Romano-British industrial settlement by Miss J. Dool for DOE and Derby Museum in summer 1974. Although the area had suffered from ploughing, traces of timber structures were found with 2 pottery kilns, 6 wells and a metal-working hearth. (9) Scheduling Description: Located c.600m east of the Roman fort at Little Chester (Der'ventic), the site is a vicus, or small civilian settlement, situated on the Roman road from Little Chester to the Trent at Sawley. Excavations carried out on part of the site between 1968 and 1974 have revealed it to be a Roman industrial settlement, specialising originally in pottery and later in metalworking, with an associated cemetery. Pottery production indicates that industrial activity began with the settlement's creation c.AD90 and lasted until the mid-second century when metalworking took over as the most important industrial activity. This continued until the settlement's decline in the mid-fourth century. The latter period of occupation, from the second to the fourth centuries, is reflected in the area of the cemetery excavated. This revealed a line of five mausolea the Roman road and an open cemetery to the north with both cremation and inhumation burials, three of which contained military dress fittings. An area of a walled cemetery containing a mixture of inhumations and cremations was also located slightly further north of the main complex. The modern goalposts within the scheduled area are excluded from the scheduling. (11) In October 1974 excavations were directed by J Dool for Derby Museums in advance of roadworks for the A61. The entire site was much disturbed through cultivation, and consequently the above-ground structures, and stratified deposits, had been largely destroyed. Remains of a cobbled surface, dated by pottery to the later third or fourth century, were encountered on the north side of the Roman road; much mutilated, and undateable, cobble patches were also found to the south of the road. It was evident that occupation had been concentrated along or near the frontages of the Roman road, as the density of features showed a marked decrease further back. The function of many features remains uncertain. Two wells and two pottery kilns were excavated, together with some twenty hearths or furnaces and other evidence for metalworking. Three sherds of Iron Age pottery and a triangular clay loomweight, although found in features of Roman date, clearly indicate Iron Age settlement in the vicinity. It seems likely that the industrial settlement grew up alongside the Roman road, beginning c.AD80 with the establishment of pottery kilns to serve the need of the garrison at Little Chester. Pottery production ceased in the mid-2nd century, and from then on the principal activity was smithing, until occupation ceased by the mid-fourth century. (12) A cylindrical glass Roman perfume or unguent flask, natural-greenish in colour was found at Little Chester, Derby, on the Racecourse playing-fields, during the excavation of the Romano-British pottery kilns, and is now in the possession of a former resident. Such flasks often accompany female cremation deposits. (13) In 1969 and 1973 Trent Valley Archaeological Research Committee carried out excavations on Derby Racecourse to investigate the badly damaged traces of industrial activity in Roman times around the area of the pottery kilns, first excavatred by A K Gregory in 1968. Traces of pits, hearths and post-holes were recovered, but no comprehensible pattern of features emerged. A ditch parallel to and north of the Roman road was excavated, establishing another point on the road. (14) This report gives details of Roman brooches from excavations in and around Derby, together with casual finds given to Derby Museum. Each is described in detail, classified and illustrated. Finds from Dool's excavation at the industrial area on Derby Racecourse in 1974 included 7 brooches classified as Colchester Derivatives, 1 classified as a Headstud, 1 classified as a Trumpet, 3 classified as Plates, 2 as Pennanulars, and 1 Fragment. Finds from Gregory's excavation in 1968 included 1 Colchester Derivative, 1 Plate, 1 Pennanular, and 1 Fragment. (15)

Sources/Archives (14)

  • <1> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1968. 'A Romano-British pottery near Little Chester, Derby, trial excavations in 1966-7', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 88, pp 60-67. figs.
  • <2> Article in serial: D R Wilson. 1969. J Ro Studies 59 1969.
  • <3> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1971. 'A Trajanic kiln complex near Little Chester, Derby, 1968', Antiquaries Journal. Volume 51, pp 36-69. Figures.
  • <4> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1980. 'Derby Racecourse kiln excavations 1972-3.', Antiquaries Journal. Volume 60, pp 8-47. figs.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: East Midlands Committee of Field Archaeologists. 1977. East Midlands Archaeology Bulletin, 11, 1977. p 5.
  • <6> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1970. Derby Archaeol Soc Archaeol Research Gp N/L 1970. 17. p 3.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Britannia 6 1975 242-3.
  • <8> Bibliographic reference: Swan, V. 1984. The Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain. Gazeteer 252. pp 246-52.
  • <9> Bibliographic reference: Trent and Peak Archaeol T 2602.
  • <11> Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1990. Scheduling Notification. 13236. Cat. No.: 282.
  • <12> Article in serial: Dool, J. 1985. 'Derby Racecourse: excavations on the Roman Industrial Settlement, 1970', in 'Roman Derby: Excavations 1968-1983', Derbyshire Archaological Journal. Volume 105, pp 155-221.
  • <13> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1992. 'A note on a Roman perfume flask', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 112, p 5. Plate 1, fig. 1.
  • <14> Article in serial: Wheeler, H. 1985. 'The Racecourse Industrial Area 1969 and 1973', in 'Roman Derby: Excavations 1968-1983', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 105, p 154.
  • <15> Article in serial: Mackreth, D. 1985. 'Brooches from Roman Derby', in 'Roman Derby: Excavations 1968-1983', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 105 pp281-299. Figs.



Grid reference SK 3613 3755 (point) Centre

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Record last edited

Aug 23 2022 6:02PM

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