More than a hundred local residents attended February’s meeting of the East Leake & District Local History Society, when Trent & Peak Archaeologist Richard Parker gave an extremely interesting talk about the archaeological survey which was carried out at the local gravel excavation site.
Although the archaeologists say there could have been humans on the site for at least 40,000 years, no remnants of the Neolithic era would have remained. The earliest evidence of human habitation was from the Bronze Age (2000BC-800BC): the footprints of several barrows (burial grounds) and a few fragments of a beaker.
Boundary ditches carving up the landscape were identified as dating from the Iron Age (800BC-43AD), and a row of pit holes common for that time suggests an enclosure to protect livestock. A number of large scorched pebbles indicated domestic activity during that era – possibly cooking – and evidence of a burnt mound suggested perhaps ritualistic activity.
A few fragments of pottery were found which dated from the Roman period (43AD – 410AD). From the Anglo Saxon period (410AD-1066AD) postholes and base stones (suggesting building structures), and doughnut-shaped loom weights and heat-affected stones possibly from fire pits (suggesting working activity) were identified. Also the remains of a funeral pyre and a large number of Anglo Saxon ceremonial urns, although it was not considered viable to continue excavation to establish an exact number.
Nearby, the remnants of 2 windmill platforms (Medieval 1066-1540) were uncovered, and a few coins. Evidence of the post-Medieval (1540-1901) ridge-and-furrow farming system became obvious, and the remains of a 1900’s farmhouse well.
No human remains were found as bones disintegrate in acidic sand and glacial gravel. The large area where ceremonial urns were discovered indicates cremation was used by the early inhabitants. (The much later St. Peter in the Rushes graveyard was outside the quarry area).
In addition to the urns, the archaeologists found a buckle with gold, silver and garnet inlays, and a gold and garnet stud (both now in the British Museum), a small bone comb, a few spearheads and a metal boss which would have been in the centre of a warrior’s shield, some necklace beads (including some amber beads possibly from the Baltics), and 2 teeth! Research on these items is continuing.
The archaeologists have concluded their investigations on site. The area is now deemed A Site of Scientific Interest, and has been returned to the quarry company who it is hoped will restore the site to its former countryside landscape once their work is done. The historic findings will be preserved, and recorded with archive creation.
The next meeting of The East Leake & District Local History Society will be on Wednesday 19th April at 7.30 p.m. in St. Mary’s Church, when the talk will be about “Rufford Park – a history mystery”. On 17th May the subject is the former East Leake Station – a very local topic. Visitors welcome.
Written by The East Leake & District Local History Society
Photo: Archaeologists Richard and Laura Parker with a spearhead found at the quarry site. Photograph courtesy of Reverend Tim Parker.