Eden Drive, Sedgefield

The initial Iron Age roundhouse before excavation © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Base of the oven from inside the second roundhouse © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
The second Iron Age roundhouse with human scales © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

In 2017 Archaeological Research Services Ltd undertook archaeological excavations in advance of a residential housing development on behalf of Taylor Wimpey (North East) on land to the west of Eden Drive, Sedgefield in County Durham. Covering 2.6 hectares, the excavations revealed evidence for occupation spanning the Mesolithic period to the post‐medieval periods, including at least two phases of Iron Age and a subsequent phase of Roman enclosed settlement.

The earliest phase of Iron Age occupation on the site consisted of a single unenclosed roundhouse located at the extreme northern edge of the excavation area towards the higher part of the site. A series of narrow, intercutting ditches and possible droveways located centrally within the excavated area are likely to be contemporary with this roundhouse. These ditches demarcated a roughly rectangular‐shaped area and, given the presence of the droveways, could represent stock enclosures associated with the roundhouse.

The ensuing late Iron Age phase of occupation saw the development of an enclosed settlement. This was represented by a second, larger roundhouse comprising a circular construction slot with a south‐east facing entrance and an internal hearth and oven, along with an associated sub‐circular enclosure which is interpreted as a pen for the holding of livestock. Both the large roundhouse and the stock pen, believed to be roughly contemporary by the way in which they respected each other’s locations, were enclosed by a rectilinear enclosure bordered by possible droveways for corralling of livestock. West of the roundhouse was a much larger rectilinear enclosure defined by a wide, deep ditch. Charred emmer wheat grains from a pit associated with the roundhouse produced a radiocarbon date of 96 cal BC to 66 cal AD.

The latest, Roman period phase of occupation on the site comprised re‐cutting and extending the late Iron Age rectilinear enclosure with the addition of further boundary ditches to the east. The large roundhouse and associated enclosure were respected, indicating that they may have remained in use within at least the initial Roman phase of occupation. The site therefore continued to be occupied from the late Iron Age into the early Roman period although, based on the pottery recovered from the Roman features (including a terra nigra platter fragment imported from northern Gaul), probably not beyond the mid-2nd century AD. Whilst the main Roman rectilinear enclosure ditch was more substantial than its late Iron Age precursor, there was no Roman settlement evidence recovered from the enclosure’s interior. This may indicate that the enclosure was used for the rearing and protection of livestock as opposed to a living space. Analysis of the animal bone retrieved from both the Iron Age and Roman phases indicated a predominance of the major domesticates, including cattle, sheep/goat and pig, with horse also being represented during the Roman period. The large Roman enclosure clearly encompasses the hilltop, which lies to the immediate north of the excavated area and, given the discovery of Roman ceramics and a large fragment from a possible voussoir box tile used in bath house roofs, could suggest a Roman building was located within this enclosure on the highest part of the site, but beyond the limit of excavation.

A report on the results of the excavations was published in Durham Archaeological Journal volume 23 for 2022 (pp75-108).

To find out about the features and finds discovered at the site please use the ‘Links and Downloads’ page to access the project report.

Map and Site Plan:

Eden Drive, Sedgefield site plan with map inset © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Copper alloy pin from Eden Drive © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
The second Iron Age roundhouse with the stock pen beyond. The oven is in the centre of the roundhouse © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Archaeological Research Services Ltd