'Significant historical findings' unearthed at Great Western Park development site in Didcot

Herald Series: A neolithic pot under excavation at the housing site A neolithic pot under excavation at the housing site

ARCHAEOLOGICAL remains dating back thousands of years have been uncovered on the site of new homes at Didcot’s Great Western Park development.

Archaeologists were called in as digging uncovered ancient artefacts during work to build the 3,343-home development, off the A4130.

Builders Taylor Wimpey said “significant historical findings” had been unearthed at the site, west of Didcot, during the past month by firm Oxford Archaeology.

The oldest findings are a Neolithic flint arrowhead, used by early hunters, and a bowl believed to be for ceremonial purposes.

Ten circular houses were discovered, believed to be part of a late Bronze Age and Iron Age hillcrest settlement at the site.

They were identified by a ring of post-holes and timber-framed structures, which are believed to have supported a thatched roof.

Similar square structures have also been found, thought to have been used for food storage.

Other findings include a Roman villa and farmstead and a perfectly preserved medieval horse burial, which appears to show that the animal was put down because of a broken leg.

Taylor Wimpey commissioned the dig to ensure that historical findings on the site were preserved. They will be built over once they have been catalogued by the firm for posterity.

Chris Ashmore, marketing director for Taylor Wimpey in Oxfordshire, said: “There have been some exciting historical discoveries at Great Western Park, which give us an insight into the past and traces the history of the area back to 3,500BC.”

Mr Ashmore said: “We are eager to safeguard this window to the past — much of the Roman farmstead for instance will be preserved under sports pitches.”

Archaeologist Rob Masefield, of environmental consultants RPS, who is co-ordinating the Oxford Archaeology excavation, said: “This has been an amazing site.

“We knew there was an Iron Age settlement on the hillcrest but the findings so far have exceeded our initial expectations.

“Some of the artefacts will be removed and studied by specialists and the best items could end up on display in the county’s museums.

“One of the best discoveries so far is a neolithic pottery vessel dating back to 6000 BC, it’s a very significant find.”

Steve Lawrence, project manager for Oxford Archaeology, said: “It’s exciting stuff — the Iron Age settlement is well established with round houses. A number of skeletons have also been found from the late Iron Age and early Roman period.”

Didcot and District Archaeological and Historical Society spokesman Joyce Hall said: “These are fascinating finds. A lot of our members are quite old now and I hope these discoveries will give our society a new lease of life.

“Until the railway arrived in Didcot in the 1800s, it was just a small village but people have been living in the area for thousands of years.”

She said she had found fragments from a Roman period pot near All Saints’ Church in the 1970s.

The archaeological work is set to continue alongside the building work and once Great Western Park is completed, a full report will be published. The first phase of the estate will feature 220 homes and will open in the summer.

Comments (1)

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4:43pm Sat 12 Mar 11

Abacare says...

Fascinating story - it tells us much about how our families lived in the past in the area. Great to see Taylor Wimpey taking such a professional approach and that the local Archaeology Society are able to support it.

But what a contrast to the shabby and underhand approach taken by the developer and authorities at the Old Gaol site in Abingdon. Despite the promises wrung from them there has been no involvement of local people or statement about what was found. And this in the centre of the oldest continually-inhabite
d town in England on a site where Roman and prehistoric finds have been unearthed in recent years.

Yes, Didcot should be proud of its heritage and Abingdonians should have the same chance!
Fascinating story - it tells us much about how our families lived in the past in the area. Great to see Taylor Wimpey taking such a professional approach and that the local Archaeology Society are able to support it. But what a contrast to the shabby and underhand approach taken by the developer and authorities at the Old Gaol site in Abingdon. Despite the promises wrung from them there has been no involvement of local people or statement about what was found. And this in the centre of the oldest continually-inhabite d town in England on a site where Roman and prehistoric finds have been unearthed in recent years. Yes, Didcot should be proud of its heritage and Abingdonians should have the same chance! Abacare
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