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TVAS News: Iron Age iron production at Sadlers End, Sindlesham

During June, August and September 2010 Thames Valley Archaeological Services undertook an archaeological evaluation and excavation at Sadler’s End, Sindlesham near Wokingham in Berkshire in advance of the construction of the new Wokingham cricket ground on behalf of Taylor Wimpey, West London. The major find of the excavation was a large area of iron smelting including a number of small pit furnaces and a single large shaft furnace which were located next to a large mound of slag. This has been provisionally dated to the Iron Age and, if this date proves to be correct, will be a rare example of iron production from this period. An estimated 2 tonnes of slag were recorded and other finds included a number of decorated pottery sherds dating to the middle Iron Age. This dating will hopefully be refined further by the use of radiocarbon dating at Kiel University and archaeomagnetic dating carried out by Bradford University. In addition, a number of small pits, interpreted as charcoal clamps for the production of charcoal for the smelting process and ore roasting pits for the refining of the iron ore, were excavated close to the furnaces. Elsewhere on the site the remains of two Middle Bronze Age urns were also recovered.

A number of iron production sites and iron slagheaps are recorded for south east Berkshire (and beyond), exploiting the iron-rich sands of the Bagshot Beds. However, at Sindlesham, there is no ore locally available and it seems most likely that the ore was brought to the site presumably to exploit an abundance of fuel.

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

General view of work progressing. Excavating sections of the slag dump to reveal the archaeological features below.

The excavation continues with many features coming to light beneath the slag dump. An excavated shaft furnace.

TVAS archaeometallurgist Steve Crabb discusses the site with Dominique de Moulins and Sarah Paynter of English Heritage.