Mercia Marina, Willington, Derbyshire

Bronze Age Ring Ditch © ARS Ltd 2024
Body sherd with cremated human remains adhering to the inside -this sherd most likely dates to the Early Bronze Age © ARS Ltd 2024
Pottery sherd in smaller possible cremation pit © ARS Ltd 2024

The area around Willington, in this middle portion of the Trent Valley, is an archaeologically rich landscape and his been the focus of fieldwork for a substantial portion of the last century. To the west of Willington, at Willington Quarry, excavations in advance of gravel extraction from 1970-72 uncovered archaeological remains from the Early Neolithic through to the Early Medieval period. These included Early and Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age settlement remains, as well as Early Bronze Age ‘ring ditch’ funerary monuments, part of an Iron Age farmstead, and Anglo-Saxon post-built and sunken-featured buildings. Other known sites within the immediate Willington area include two Neolithic cursus monuments and Bronze Age round barrows.

In 2008, Archaeological Research Services Ltd undertook archaeological excavations prior to the creation of Mercia Marina, which opened in September 2008.  We undertook further excavations in 2016 and 2017 on behalf of Mercia Marina Ltd for the development of holiday lodges and associated landscaping to the north-west of the Marina. Our work revealed possible Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic flint implements, two clusters of pits containing Early Neolithic pottery and flints, an Early Bronze Age ring ditch which produced two cremation pits, four discrete Early Bronze Age post-built structures, and an east-west running late prehistoric pit alignment, along with two lengths of ditch interpreted as either a fence or small palisade. Previous excavations before the extraction of sand and gravel at the Mercia Marina site in 1995-6 by the Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit recorded clusters of pits containing Neolithic pottery and two Early Bronze Age ring ditches.

Mercia Marina is located on a freely draining sand and gravel terrace overlooking the floodplain of the River Trent. Between 6,000 and 8,500 years ago this area was covered with mixed deciduous woodland. Small groups of nomadic people hunted the wild animals that came to graze and drink by the river, discarding flint projectile points they used to tip their arrows and flint tools used for processing meat and skins. The site was settled by an early farming community between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago. Between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago this part of the Trent valley was open landscape where animals grazed. The remains of at least four houses dating to this period were found at the site, along with two burial monuments associated with three pottery vessels, each filled with cremated human remains, which had been buried on three separate occasions over a 250-year period. In the centuries before the Romans invaded Britain, the site was divided into fields and paddocks used for grazing domesticated animals. The fields were marked out by lines of pits and drainage ditches and. Farmsteads dating to this period were situated on higher ground to the north of Mercia Marina.

See the ‘Links and Downloads’ page to access the project reports.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd