Newfield Farm, Pelton - 2010 to 2011
An archaeological soil strip, map, record, and excavation was undertaken at Newfield Farm, Pelton, near Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham by TWM Archaeology during 2010 and 2011, funded by Persimmon Homes, as part of a programme of archaeological mitigation drawn up by Durham County Council Archaeology Section. The site lay on the fringes of Pelton, adjacent to an east-facing ridge overlooking the
The stripped areas occupied a total of 1.54 hectares to the immediate southwest of the derelict Newfield Farm buildings. The preceding archaeological investigation of the site consisted of a desk based assessment (2007), geophysical survey (2008), evaluation (2008), and building recording (2011). Trenches dug during the evaluation phase of works had revealed a concentration of pits, one of which contained 68 sherds of Bronze Age tradition pottery. Subsequent analysis of this pottery revealed it to be from two vessels: a large decorated food vessel, and a plain-rimmed bowl. Following this, the more extensive programme of strip, map, record, and excavation was undertaken.
Although subsequent agricultural activity had removed everything but those parts of features cut into the underlying natural clays and gravels, archaeological features were visible across the whole of the stripped area, including pits and a series of parallel gullies. This indicated an extensive occupation and management of the landscape on and around the development area. Initial radiocarbon analysis of five samples indicated occupation on the site dating from 3780BC through to 1690BC, with a cluster of three dates between 2340BC and 1950BC. Additional finds of Bronze Age tradition pottery sherds and worked flints confirmed the prehistoric date of the site.
Although many of the prehistoric features recorded across the site were pits and postholes of undetermined relationship or function, several features appeared definable as the remains of temporary windbreaks or small shelters. These crescent-shaped features were orientated in a variety of directions and were present across the whole of the stripped area, with a greater concentration towards the west and south (in the area outside that defined by the parallel gullies). In form, these features generally averaged just over 2m long, 0.5m wide, and 0.3m deep, with near-vertical inner faces and more gradually sloping outer faces. In some cases they had been backfilled with burnt material possibly originating from an associated hearth or campfire.
The majority of the additional pottery recovered from this study (40 sherds) came from the burnt fills of a single, heavily truncated, oval-shaped feature towards the southern end of the site. Analysis indicates that these sherds were from two or more corded beaker vessels of Bronze Age tradition. It is hoped that it may be possible to secure a radiocarbon date from the burnt material associated with this pottery.
Similarly, the majority of the additional flint recovered came from the partly burnt fills of a single feature towards the western part of the site, possibly representing an example of a windbreak feature as mentioned above. A total of 36 flints were recovered from the backfill of this cut, including arrowheads, blades, and flakes – indicating that flint knapping had been carried out in the immediate vicinity.
Two parallel gullies ran from south to north across the stripped area, widening out into a funnel-shape towards the northern end. The layout of these features is similar to that often associated with stock-management, where livestock would be led into a wider enclosure before being channelled down into a corral or enclosure at the end of a narrower channel. However, in this case the channel measured some 55m across, which would be uncommonly wide for such a feature. As the gullies continued beyond both the northern and southern extents of the stripped area, their original extents and function remain unknown. It remains possible that these gullies represent a later prehistoric occupation of the site, as similar (if generally more closely set) examples are often associated with Iron Age activity.
This site is of great regional importance as very few examples of early Bronze Age settlement sites have so far been discovered in the northeast. The discovery of radiocarbon dated features in association with pottery and lithics from a non-funerary context is significant and contributes to the understanding of both settlement and artefacts from the period. The possibility of multi-period occupation on the site further increases the significance of the project.