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CHER Number:CB15534
Type of record:Monument
Name:Multiperiod remains, Chief's Street, Ely


Excavation found multi-period remains, although it appears the site has been backplots during its history. The majority of features identified were boundary features, and little evidence was found to suggest domestic occupation in the immediate vicinity.

Grid Reference:TL 535 804
Parish:Ely, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

  • GULLY (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • PIT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • BOUNDARY (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PIT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • WELL (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • OVEN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BOUNDARY DITCH (Saxo-Norman - 1001 AD to 1150 AD)
  • STRUCTURE (Saxo-Norman - 1001 AD to 1150 AD)
  • FENCE (Saxo-Norman - 1001 AD to 1150 AD)
  • DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FENCE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RUBBISH PIT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Finds:

  • BIRD REMAINS (Undated)
  • FISH REMAINS (Undated)
  • MAMMAL REMAINS (Undated)
  • SHERD (Roman to Medieval - 43 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Events:

  • Excavation at the Former Red, White and Blue, Chiefs St., Ely, 1999 (Ref: ELY CS 99)

Full description

1. Archaeology was found in each of the three open areas excavated, dating to a broad range of periods from Roman to post-medieval. There were also a number of undated pre-Roman features in one corner of the site. A wide variety of feature types were encountered, including postholes, wells, ditches and gullies. The earliest phase was represented by gullies and pits in the SW corner of the site.
The Roman phase consisted of fencelines of postholes and other boundary features, probably relating to settlement adjacent to the Roman road that ran across the summit of the Ely Island.
In the Middle Saxon period, pits, wells and an oven were in use on the site, possibly for some small scale industrial process. Usage of the site changed in the Saxo-Norman period, with a large boundary ditch being established on the W of the site, and other ditches and gullies dug elsewhere. A small wooden structure of just four posts was also constructed at this time, as well as a fence.
During the C12th-C14th ditches and a fenceline were established parallel and adjacent to the line of Chief's Street, while the remainder of the site was waste ground with several rubbish pits.
After the medieval period, the site continued to be used for the disposal of rubbish until the construction of the first public house.
The environmental evidence shows the changing diet and the surroundings of the people who lived nearby, and indicates extensive exploitation of the nearby claylands. Flax appears for the first time in the Middle Saxon period, while the greatest exploitation of fish happens in Saxo-Norman times. Eels formed a large part of the diet in the C12th-C14th, these were presumably caught locally.
The site has also contributed to our understanding of local settlement patterns in the Middle-Late Saxon period. It now seems likely that there was continuous settlement strung out along West Fen Road from the top of the island to the fen at the bottom. This is a very different pattern from the one which has long been accepted, where settlement is nucleated around Etheldreda's monastery, close to the site of the present Cathedral.

<1> Kenney, S., 2002, Roman, Saxon and Medieval occupation at the site of the former Red, White and Blue Public House, Chiefs St, Ely (Unpublished report). SCB17771.

Sources and further reading

<1>Unpublished report: Kenney, S.. 2002. Roman, Saxon and Medieval occupation at the site of the former Red, White and Blue Public House, Chiefs St, Ely.