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Here is a small selection of past and current projects undertaken by Earthworks. Please take a look at our new Galleries on the Police HQ and Stockton Heath projects.

Habitats and Hillforts Project with Cheshire West & Chester Council (CWaC). 2009-10.

Working with Cheshire West and Chester Council, Earthworks has provided staff to assist in the training and supervision of local volunteers who have expressed an interest in learning about archaeological fieldwork techniques. The project has been a major success and during limited archaeological investigations on local hillfort sites, including Helsby, Woodhouse and Eddisbury, the great hidden archaeological potential of these protected sites has been amply demonstrated.  

Follow this link Cheshire West and Chester Council - Hillforts for more information regarding this exciting project.

The impressive entrance to Eddisbury Iron Age hillfort.
Placing large timber uprights in prehistoric post holes to mark the impressive entrance at Eddisbury hillfort.

Tower Wharf Excavations, Chester. 2009 Excavations.

Prior to residential development at Tower Wharf, Chester (to the rear of Telford’s Warehouse), a large open area excavation was completed. The remains of 19th century structures (sheds, cobbled yards and warehouses) associated with the development of the Shropshire Union Canal and later basin, were recorded.

Early map evidence shows that outworks associated with the city’s Civil War fortifications were constructed in the area, to the north of the City Walls. The very impressive remains of a substantial 17th century ditch were also excavated.

Although some distance from the Roman fortress, Romano-British occupation was also identified and included the remains of a Roman road and possible timber structures.

The scale of the Civil War ditch is evident on this view of the Tower Wharf excavations, Chester. The canal basin is in the background.
Excavating the fills of the 17th century ditch with a metalled surface at its base.
19th century cobbled surface adjacent to the canal basin.

Police HQ, Chester. 2007 Excavations.

The area has seen little previous investigation and the scale, survival and quality of the archaeology came as a surprise. Principal amongst the Roman period features exposed was a stretch of metalled road surfacing with, in its earliest phase, flanking stone-lined drainage channels. This road was initially lined with timber-built structures, probably dating to the late first– or early second–century; the timber buildings were superseded by stone-built structures, in the form of a number of large strip buildings, again aligned perpendicular to the road. Their function is uncertain, but they perhaps served storage or industrial roles. West of the road there was clear evidence for industrial processes in the form of small furnaces or ovens, and areas of burnt clay. Dating evidence suggests this activity probably continued into the third century AD.

A short distance north-west of the industrial area, and west of the road, the stone foundations for a well-appointed building, or buildings, of considerable size were revealed. This impressive structure was subdivided into a number of small rooms with at least two furnished with tessellated flooring. Evidently this building was of some status and may have served either as a highly-appointed private residence or perhaps an official role. Clear evidence for an earlier timber phase of construction was noted beneath this building.

Although unconfirmed during the excavations, the road probably continued its course to the north-west where an extensive metalled area, strewn with broken pottery, was recorded. This area lay close to the south side of what would have been a significant declivity within the landscape, in the form of a steep-sided valley or creek; this feature is still visible as a marked dip in the landscape today. Although the function of this creek - together with a stretch of Roman sandstone masonry to the north (at the base of the City Wall) referred to as a ‘quay wall’ - are at present uncertain, it is tempting to interpret the metalled expanse as an integral part of Roman activity in this location, which may have centred on the loading/unloading of goods via the River Dee.

The excavations produced a wide range of artefacts including significant quantities of ceramic roofing tile and pottery. Also of significance were a large quantity of bone hairpins, ceramic figurines of religious form, fragments of painted wall plaster and a fragment of polychrome mosaic flooring.

The analysis of the material recovered from this important site is under way.

Please follow this link to view a gallery of Police HQ, Chester.

Medieval gold ring recovered during Police HQ excavations.
Preparing mosaic for lifting during Police HQ excavations in Chester.
Second century AD Roman decorated samian bowl from central Gaul.
Roman goddess Dea Nutrix - mother or nursing goddess.
Medieval burials exposed during excavations at Police HQ, Chester.
Remains of large, well-appointed Roman building.
Impressive Roman wall.

Stockton Heath School, Warrington. 2007 Excavations.

Following on from an earlier evaluation, large-scale archaeological excavations in 2007, ahead of the building of a new primary school at Stockton Heath, provided the opportunity to examine Roman remains either side of the major Roman road that ran north to the settlement focus at nearby Wilderspool.

The Roman road itself was in a good state of preservation and evidence recovered suggested Roman occupation alongside the road from the late first through to the late third century AD. Although somewhat disturbed by later activities, the general picture was one of a succession of timber buildings, serving perhaps as both dwelling and workshop, within ditched enclosures. The evidence – which includes the presence of a number of clay ovens, metalworking residues and fragmentary rotary quernstones - points to both agricultural and industrial activities on the site.

Of special note were the three Roman cremation burials from the west side of the road. Initially, their presence was considered to represent an early roadside cemetery that had been subsequently built over as ribbon development expanded southwards along the Roman road. Interestingly, the cremations seem to have been contemporary with the main period of occupation and their irregular placement suggests they were buried within the occupied area.

The full report on the project, including specialist analyses of the pottery and other finds, soil samples and cremated human remains, can be found in the Journal of Chester Archaeological Society. New series 81, 2006.

Please follow this link to view a gallery of Stockton Heath School, Warrington.

Second century AD Roman cremation group pots exposed during the Stockton Heath excavations.
Uncovering Roman cremation burial, Stockton Heath excavations.
Roman road and surviving kerb stones, Stockton Heath excavations. The large hole in the background is one of many WWII air-raid shelters that were used by the school.
Roman well, Stockton Heath excavations.

Second Wood Street, Nantwich, Cheshire. 2003. Excavations.

Modern archaeological investigations (particularly by Earthworks) have begun to characterise the remarkable archaeology that lies beneath much of Nantwich. The survival of timber structural remains of medieval street frontage properties, and features and artefacts associated with the production of salt, is remarkable.

Prior to housing development, an area excavation in Second Wood Street was completed. As anticipated, the survival of timber and other organic remains (leather, cloth) was extraordinary. Particularly noteworthy was the identification of a salt ‘ship’, and a channel containing medieval barrels.

This photograph exemplifies the remarkable survival of medieval timber structural remains beneath much of Nantwich

Lifting and conservation of medieval ‘ship’ from Second Wood Street, Nantwich, Cheshire. 2003.

In collaboration with Cheshire County Council, and funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant, Earthworks managed the lifting and organised the transportation of the ‘ship’ exposed during the 2003 excavations. The ship is currently being conserved at York Archaeological Trust.

The ‘ship’ - one of three identified in the immediate vicinity - was essentially a hollowed-out oak tree trunk used to store brine; the barrels were a later method of brine storage. The brine was boiled during the salt extraction process.

The medieval ‘ship’, Second Wood Street

The Square, Chester. 2003. Excavation.

Before the start of construction for a large-scale residential development on the fringe of Chester’s historic centre, extensive excavations have assisted in the understanding of the development of the eastern suburbs from the medieval period.

The area clearly formed part of a large tanning and leather processing industry dating to the late post-medieval period. Detailed analysis of the extensive bone assemblage associated with the tanning activities is close to completion.

Other notable features included part of a seventeenth century ditch with an integral and enigmatic stone structure, thought to represent Civil War activity. Moulds probably associated with medieval bell manufacture were also recovered.

Final recording of 17th century structure at The Square, Chester

Prosperity Way, Middlewich, Cheshire. 2001. Excavations.

A large area excavation was completed prior to the start of a new industrial development. The location was peripheral to the known areas of Roman settlement, but nineteenth century observations suggested that the Roman occupation extended into this outlying area.

Excavation confirmed the presence of Roman field boundaries enclosing regular plots in an organised agricultural landscape. Traces of timber structures were also recorded together with the exciting remains of a pottery kiln, dating to the late first or early second century AD, which contained the pots from its last firing.

Pottery kiln, Prosperity Way, Middlewich

The Willow, Buckley, Flintshire. 2000. Excavation.

Excavations were completed before the start of a housing development on a post-medieval pottery complex. Map evidence suggested the presence of a kiln on the site from at least the mid-eighteenth century; however, the archaeological findings indicated that potting had been undertaken here from as early as the late seventeenth century.

The impressive base of a pottery kiln, together with the remains of the potter’s cottage, were recorded. A large and important assemblage of the wares produced on the site was retrieved.

Negotiations with the developer secured the preservation of the main kiln base beneath the development’s main access road.

Pottery kiln, The Willow, Buckley, Flintshire
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