Fairford History Society

Horcott Quarry - Oxford Archaeology Open Day (15/3/08)

On 15th of March 2008, FHS members made a second visit to Horcott Quarry to view progress at Oxford Archaeology's Open Day. Iron Age, Roman and Saxon evidence suggests that the site was occupied from 400 BC to 800 AD. In 2006 FHS members were able to see excavation of a large Roman Cemetery but this tour of the site allowed us to see the imprint of Iron Age, Roman and Saxon settlement on the environment as well as some fragments of artefacts.

Sand and gravel have been quarried at Horcott since the 1960s. The gravel seam is about 3 metres deep and mixed with clay. The nature of the soil and sub-soil and agricultural activity from the end of occupation and the beginning of quarrying means that there is very little of the settlement remaining.

Iron Age
There is evidence of 30 - 40 early Iron Age roundhouses at the Horcott Quarry site. It is thought that approximately 20 existed at the same time which suggests a community of about 100 people. The remains of these roundhouses consist of a circle of post holes. Evidence of fence posts and enclosures also exist. Within the settlement were the vestiges of a large number of four-post structures. These are thought to be small grain stores as Spelt and Emmer wheat seeds where found in the post holes. Analysis of the Iron Age evidence continues.

Iron Age Horcott Roman Horcott

In addition to one of the largest Roman rural cemeteries in the Upper Thames Valley having been found at Horcott, there is evidence of a Roman farming settlement focused around a small masonry building. This 'proto-villa' is thought to predate the cemetery and masonry found in some of the graves is thought to have come from the building suggesting that it was in ruins when the cemetery was in use. The building consisted of a large central room and two wings, with a structure that suggested the back of the house had been extended. The remains of the house are to be excavated further.

The Saxon settlement at Horcott is one of the largest discovered in the region. There were two types of buildings; rectangular post-built halls and sunken-featured buildings or Grübenhausen ('Grub Huts'). The sunken-featured buildings, consisting of a building raised on four large posts at each corner of a rectangular hole in the ground, may have been workshops or simple dwellings. The rectangular halls were thought to be houses.

A Saxon Rectangular Hall, Horcott Saxon Grub Hut, Horcott

Simple handmade pottery, animal bone and clay spindle whorls for weaving associated with the Saxon period have been found within these buildings. The pattern of the buildings suggests that the settlement moved away from the nearby watercourse upslope over time. The remains of two parallel ditches indicate the site of a track alongside the settlement. A series of pits in amongst the building remains are thought to have been wells.

Artist's Impression of Iron Age Settlement

The Horcott Iron Age settlement is thought to have started as a small community of arable and pastoral farmers who could also produce pottery, metalwork and textiles. The site was originally on a spur of slightly higher land bounded by a watercourse the remains of which can still be traced.

During the Roman period the inhabitants of Horcott were thought to be a prosperous farmer and his family.

Artist's Impression of Roman House Artist's Impression of Saxon Settlement

Artist's impressions courtesy of Oxford Archaeology.

The Anglo-Saxon residents of Horcott were thought to be 'indigenous' people but culturally Anglo-Saxon.

Oxford Archaeology still has to analyse its findings in Horcott Quarry and intends to publish a detailed report within a couple of years.

Roman Coffin Nails Early to Middle Saxon Pottery

Early to Middle Saxon Pottery