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Historic England Research Records

Irchester Settlement

Hob Uid: 347066
Location :
Northamptonshire
Wellingborough
Irchester
Grid Ref : SP9160066600
Summary : Excavations have uncovered a Roman settlement overlying an Iron Age settlement. The Iron Age settlement consisted of enclosures, pottery and coins. The Roman settlement may originally have been a vicus to a fort dating from c.AD 43. There are cropmarks of a possible early Roman fort. Between AD 150 and 200 the settlement was enclosed by a bank and then a wall. Excavations uncovered a 5th century timber building which appears to mark the end of the settlement. A temple was also uncovered. A hoard of some 42000 late 3rd century Antoniniani was found in area VI in 1963. Extensive geophysical and aerial surveys have identified features within the main settlement and it's wider landscape. Various excavations and archaeological assessments have also been carried out over the last 14 years.
More information : (SP 917666) Roman Town (AT) (Site of) (1)

A Roman 'camp' occupies Burrowfield and Roman finds have long been known from the site. Walls 8' thick were noted by Morton and ironstone digging led to further discoveries in 1873-4 followed by not very successful excavations by the Rev R S Baker in 1878-9. (2)

Well built stone walls showing two periods of construction, a road leading eastwards from the E-gate, many skeletons and numerous small objects were observed by Dr W W Robb in making a cutting across the earthworks on the east and west of "Camp" or "Borrow" Field. (3)

Roadworks on the A45 were watched and rescue excavations carried out in 1962-3 through the southern defences and to the south. A pit of Iron Age `A' date, a walled and ditched enclosure of Iron Age `B', three periods of Iron Age `C' occupation and buildings from 1st to 4th century AD were noted. A triple ditch system round Burrow Field could not be clearly dated being either Belgic or RB. A hoard of some 42000 C3rd Antoniniani was found in area VI (see plan) in 1963. (4)

Further excavations in 1963 on behalf of MOWPB in a similar area led to the conclusion that occupation began in Claudian times, perhaps as the extra-mural settlement of an auxiliary fort. It continued in the 1st and 2nd centuries until sometime between 150 and 200 AD the open settlement was enclosed by a bank. Subsequently the front of the bank was cut away to accommodate a wall of mortared limestone. Remodelling of the defences in the 4th century was probably for artillery. A timber building of the 5th century marked the end of the occupation. Belgic pottery found was claimed to be of Claudian date. A Romano-Celtic Temple can be recognised in Baker's plan. (5)

Coins of Cunobelinus have been found at Irchester (Possibly from the above area). (6)

Northampton Museum hold many of the finds from here including the coin hoard found at SP 91866694. See 25" survey. (7)

A close examination of the plan of the surviving defences of Irchester and of air photographs suggests that the ramparts may not all be of one period. The existing ramparts do not form an exact rectangle for there is a change of alignment of some 5-8 degrees, at the centre of both the east and west sides indication perhaps that the enclosed area may be made up of two distinct parts. Air photographs show traces of what may have been a large ditch running E-W and joining the points where the alignments change. This ditch is overlain by the main axial street of the town and partly by the southernmost of the branch streets to the east. This ditch therefore, may represent the south line of the defences of either an early, smaller town or more likely, a 4 ha fort connected with the initial Roman conquest. A broken pelta-shaped belt buckle and some spearheads are the only finds which could have any military significance. (8)

Archaeological remains found in the 1920's (see Authority 3), during workings at Irchester Roman town and Cherry Orchard Quarries, comprised coins and stone coffins with lead lining, one of which contained the skeleton of a man nearly seven feet tall, along with that of a young boy. This was sent either to Northampton or Middlesbrough Museum. A tiled road was also uncovered, and a well with broken pottery. Roman town (SP 917667) A detailed description of the architectural masonry from the town has been published. Further references to a Roman lead coffin found in 1876 are listed in BAR. (9)

Roman town on AP in 1978. (10)

Rescue work was carried out in advance of road widening in 1981-2, two areas of interest were uncovered. Agricultural activity and an overlying was revealed at the eastern extremity of the settlement. The building was dated to the 3rd century AD, followed by ditches and rubble dating to the 4th century or later. The second area of interest lay at the south west corner of the walled town. The defensive ditches revealed in 1962 were re-examined and showed a system of three ditches which had been back filled in the 4th century rather than the late Belgic/Early Roman period as implied previously. (11)

A Roman disc brooch was found at SP 925657 in 1981. (12)

General discussion on the Roman fine wares from the town. (13)

Development and plan. (14)

A burial site exits on the edge of the Roman town. (15)

Scheduled. (16)

An extensive range of aerial photographs were viewed and the cropmarks of the Roman settlement and earlier Iron Age enclosure was mapped as part of the Bedford Borough NMP project. The main network of metalled roads within the walled (partially surviving as earthworks and visible on recent lidar imagery) settlement as well as the foundations of individual buildings were visible as cropmarks. The buildings included a possible temple building at SP 91729 66611 and four circular features at SP 91735 66621, SP 91751 66670, SP 91607 66619, SP 91624 66672.

Other features were visible as ditches, some of these such as the square enclosure at SP 91610 66537 and a curvilinear ditch at SP 91758 66521 likely predate the Roman settlement and are Iron Age in date. To the west of the settlement are further linear banks and ditches which are possibly related. (17-20)

The settlement and its wider landscape has been recently surveyed from geophysics. Within the 2006 archaeological report Figs 1.2 and 1.3 show an up to date plan overview from aerial survey, geophysical survey as well as from excavation evidence. (21)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1928
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 2
Source : The Victoria history of the county of Northampton: volume one
Source details :
Page(s) : 178-84
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in the County of Northampton. Volume II: archaeological sites in central Northamptonshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 91-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Letter 9th April 1985 (ES Tonks)
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Source Number : 13
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Mr J Roberts, quarryman
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Source Number : 14
Source : Roman lead coffins and ossuaria in Britain
Source details : No 142
Page(s) : 38
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 38
Source Number : 15
Source : Northamptonshire archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 97
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 14, 1979
Source Number : 16
Source : Irchester Roman town: excavations 1981-2
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Source Number : 17
Source : Northamptonshire archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 100
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Vol(s) : 17, 1982
Source Number : 18
Source : Rushden : the early fine wares
Source details :
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Source Number : 19
Source : The morphology of Romano-British 'small towns'
Source details :
Page(s) : 167, 180
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 144
Source Number : 20
Source : The 'small towns' of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 31
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Natural History of Northants 1712 (J Morton)
Page(s) : 517
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Source Number : 21
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : District of Wellingborough
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Source Number : 22
Source : Light detection and ranging (lidar) airborne survey
Source details : LIDAR SP9166 Environment Agency 1M DTM 01 Oct 2014 - 31 May 2017
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 23
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NHC 5436/32A 28-JUN-1978
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Source Number : 24
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NHC 11924/13 12-JUL-1990
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Source Number : 25
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR 15155/16 29-JUL-1994
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Source Number : 26
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR 15162/17 29-JUL-1994
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Source Number : 27
Source : Northamptonshire Archaeology [assessment & evaluation reports]
Source details : Mason, P. 2006. Iron Age and Roman Landscapes at Victoria Park, Irchester, Northamptonshire. Excavations September 2004 to May 2005. NCC, Northampton
Page(s) :
Figs. : 1.2-1.3
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Associated Architectural Societies' reports and papers [Lincoln, York, Northampton, Bedford, Worcester, Leicester and Sheffield ]
Source details : 13 1875 88-118; 15 1879 49-59
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Source Number : 5
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Mss plan (Baker)
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Source Number : 6
Source : The journal of Roman studies
Source details : (WW Robb)
Page(s) : 223
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 16, 1926
Source Number : 7
Source : Excavations [of Iron Age and Roman settlement] at Irchester [Northamptonshire], 1962-3
Source details :
Page(s) : 63-99
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 124
Source Number : 8
Source : Excavations at the Roman town of Irchester [Northamptonshire], 1962-3
Source details :
Page(s) : 100-128
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 124
Source Number : 9
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Coins of Ancient Britons Supplement 1890 (J Evans)
Page(s) : 568-9
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 BHS 07-JUL-70
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Settlement, Enclosure
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 299
Monument Start Date : 267
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Pottery Kiln, Temple, Town, Inhumation, Town Defences
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Period : Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Settlement, Enclosure
Object Type : COIN
Object Material :
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : COIN HOARD
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1003892
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NN 83
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Northamptonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 9166001
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Northamptonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 9166016
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Northamptonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 9166019
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Northamptonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 9166020
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Northamptonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 1641/0/0
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SP 96 NW 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1875-01-01
End Date : 1879-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BORROW FIELD
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1926-01-01
End Date : 1926-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER, EXTRA MURAL SETTLEMENT
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1962-01-01
End Date : 1962-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1962-01-01
End Date : 1963-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SP 96 NW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1970-07-07
End Date : 1970-07-07
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1981-01-01
End Date : 1982-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1990-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, AREA WEST OF IRCHESTER ROMAN TOWN
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER HERITAGE PARK (CAR PARK, STAGE 1)
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER ROMAN TOWN
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER FARM HERITAGE PARK
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER FARM HERITAGE PARK
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT VICTORIA PARK
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND SOUTH OF THE A45, IRCHESTER ROMAN TOWN
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VICTORIA BUSINESS PARK
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CHESTER HOUSE FARM
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER HOUSE FARM
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, IRCHESTER ROMAN TOWN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CHESTER LODGE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND NORTH-WEST OF IRCHESTER TOWN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER FARM HERITAGE PARK
Activity type : MANAGEMENT SURVEY
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CHESTER HOUSE FARM
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CHESTER HOUSE FARM
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CHESTER HOUSE FARM
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2013-01-01
End Date : 2013-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BEDFORD BOROUGH NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2016-02-01
End Date : 2019-05-03