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TVAS News: Medieval Haddenham, Buckinghamshire

Recent excavations in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire have uncovered features typical of the 'backlands' of a medieval settlement. The work was carried out on behalf of Rectory Homes in advance of the construction of housing on the site.

An archaeological evaluation was carried out in April 2007 which uncovered archaeological features, such as pits, ditches and walls, across the site. The features showed that a complex pattern of activity mostly dating from the 11th to 13th centuries existed. Because of this, it was deemed necessary to undertake a full excavation of the site to piece together the features found in the evaluation. Once the whole area had been stripped off and the features excavated it was possible to see that the linear features were once the boundary between two plots which had been redefined on several occasions. It is assumed that the actual houses for the plots would be located closer to the street frontage whereas these zones are used for various activities including rubbish disposal and animal management. It is thought that the smaller linear features at the south of the site may have acted as small animal pens.

The majority of the deposits found here are dated to medieval times (11th- 13th centuries) indicating that the settlement flourished and had expanded from its Saxon origins. Yet, as observed for many other similar sites, this activity then ceased with little further development for several centuries. Here, this may simply reflect a change in methods of rubbish disposal or a change of landuse but it may also reflect a wider decline at this time thought to be due to factors such as economic downturn, climatic deterioration and epidemic disease (eg the Black Death).

Pottery belonging to the Saxon and Roman periods was also found in some of the features as well as several animal burials, including a sheep and two dogs.

A public open day was held on the site to allow people to come and view our findings. As part of this, we created a series of information posters detailing the history of Haddenham, the background to the site and the findings themselves. These posters are now available to download in PDF format here: TVAS Educational Resources.

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

Plan of the site showing the excavated features. Excavating the chalk-filled pit.

The excavated chalk-filled pit. Scales 0.3m, 1m and 2m. One of the animal burials found on site. This one is a sheep. Scales 0.1m and 0.3m.

A cross-section of the plot boundary ditch. A second cross-section of the plot boundary. The relationship sequence of intercutting ditches is clearly visible. Scales 0.5m, 1m and 2m.