Geophysical survey in March 2003 identified a number of magnetic anomalies likely to reflect ditches and pits, and thought possibly to represent ancient field systems, an enclosure and a ring ditch. (1)
An airborne mapping technique (LIDAR - Light Detection and Ranging) was applied to an area of quarry extension at Willington Quarry. The data provided a picture of a broadly flat and eroded river terrace topography that has been heavily ploughed, especially in recent years. However, some positive and negative anomalies were identified that might relate to archaeological features. Areas of surviving ridge and furrow were identified to the north-west. To the south a low mound may represent the survival of a barrow. This would be in keeping with the remains of Bronze Age burial mounds found during excavations in nearby areas in 1970-2 and 1998. The topographic location on the edge of the terrace is a very plausible location for a burial mound with encircling ditch, although it is always possible that the mound is a remnant of a soil storage heap from the construction of a haul road and bridge over the Egginton Brook in 1997. Other potential archaeological features include slight curvilinear depressions about 26m long, possibly the remains of a burial mound and encircling ditch, bisected by a bank or ridge which extends at least 100m, continuing to the south east. (2)
Between 2003 and 2006 the site was stripped, partly by the quarry company, which was followed by a watching brief, and partly by the archaeologists as a part of a strip, map and sample exxcavation. Considerable evidence for Romano-British activity was found, which the excavators divided into 3 phases:
a. C1st to mid-C2nd: A cluster of steep sided elongated pits containing C1st pottery. No loom weights were found, but it is suggested that these were similar in funtion to the similar Iron Age pits containing loom weights. There was also a small enclosure and a boundary ditch containing mid-C1st pottery in the south of the site, close to the Egginton Brook.
b. Mid-C2nd to C4th: The main activity in this period focused on a large rectilinear enclosure in the southern portion of the western part of the site. This enclosure took the form of a 'ladder', as it was split across its main north-south axis by a series of parallel boundaries. Very little pottery, mid -C2nd or later, was recovered from this feature, so it is suggested that it was some kind of agricultural feature, perhaps for livestock. The northern portion of the enclosure may have been a focus of domestic activity, put the lack of domecstic material makes this appear unlikely. The 'ladder' enclosure was extended northwards at some point.
-The 'ladder' seems to have been extended northwards at some point.
-In the C3rd the 'ladder' enclosure seems to have been replaced by a new field system characterised by smaller, rectangular plots. One plot being formed within the original 'ladder' enclosure and another just to the north. There are traces of a structure, in the form of a cluster of post-holes, and a stack stand, in the form of a small ring gulley, in the enclosure formed within the 'ladder' enclosure. In the larger rectangular plot created to the north of the 'ladder' enclosure, what the excavators describe as the 'northern compound', there were a number pits in the middle of the compound and a cluster of postholes towards the northwestern corner. Although none of the features yielded dateable material, but one contained 2 round quern stones. It is suggested that some of the pits represent the remains of at least two rectangular structures. Othe pits were large and rectagular in shape, one of the contained two round quernstones. The compound formed in the southern part of the 'ladder' enclosure there were internal divitions and pits containing preserved timber artefacts, including bowl and traces of coppaced wood. It was suggested that the revived field system may be linked to a shift towards more arable farming in the later Roman period.
c. Late C4th: Activity on the site seems to have come to a rapid end. (3)