Living beside the Roman superhighway: new excavations at Waddington

The Lincolnshire Echo is reporting on new excavations beginning on the site of a housing development at Waddington – south of Lincoln on the line of Ermine Street, the major Roman route linking London and York, and passing directly through Lincoln.

The site is to the north of the village of Waddington, and to the east of the modern A607. Don’t let this fool you, though, as the A607 was not there in the Roman period. The Roman Ermine Street was actually to the east of the site, running underneath the southern end of the runway of RAF Waddington, as can be seen in the fantastic aerial photograph below. The A607 is to the right, and the field where the excavation is to be is outlined in red.

ermine-street-at-raf-waddington_red

Ermine Street at Waddington, looking south. Sourced from Geograph and used under a creative commons license. Site outline added

 

The area has produced plenty of Roman finds in the past. Some pottery scatters have been noted close to the site of the excavations, in fields to the west of the A607. Slightly to the north west of these, a concentration of ceramics, roof and box flue tiles, a bronze chain and part of a toilet set suggest a concentration of activity and the presence of structures. South of these, at a quarry site closer to the modern village, more ceramics of various types (including local grey wares, imported mortaria and colour coated ware) were found in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

A 4th Century coin hoard was discovered about 500m to the north of the site, at the very southern tip of Bracebridge Heath, in 1976. It consisted of 2,960 coins, mostly of the House of Constantine. They were discovered in a large greyware jar, which is now in The Collection museum, with a small selection of the coins staying in Lincoln and the majority going to the British Museum. The area around the coin hoard has produced numerous other Roman coins, ceramic vessels and tiles, almost all of 2nd to 4th Century date, suggesting more roadside structures of some form in the vicinity.

Just to the southeast of the coin hoard were discovered the Roman burials mentioned in the Echo article. You can read more about them on the Lincolnshire Historic Environment Record entry here, but to summarise, separate discoveries and investigations between 1978 and 2000 revealed a total of 4 cremations and 6 inhumations. One of the cremations, excavated in 1980, is of particular interest as the burial was in a pot placed within a cist made from 7 separate pieces of limestone – a rare form of burial for Lincolnshire (Ambrose 1981). The inhumations were aligned both north/south and east/west, and were dated by the ceramics to the 2nd Century (a warning to those who try to suggest that an east/west burial must be Christian!). A wall seems to have separated the cemetery from Ermine Street, and traces of mortar suggest that other buildings were present at some stage, perhaps a shrine or mausoleum.

The new excavations will therefore hopefully add to our understanding of this area in the Roman period, and tell us more of the small communities that lived out their lives, and were laid to rest, alongside one of Roman Britain’s superhighways.


References

Ambrose, T. 1981. Waddington, Romano-British burial. Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Vol 16, p.76-78

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