Ancient Monuments

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Roman field system and trackway with later field ditches and drove on Whittlesey Washes, 60m south of Bedford House

A Scheduled Monument in Thorney, Peterborough

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Latitude: 52.5679 / 52°34'4"N

Longitude: -0.1797 / 0°10'46"W

OS Eastings: 523473.178645

OS Northings: 298233.300528

OS Grid: TL234982

Mapcode National: GBR HZS.WZW

Mapcode Global: WHHNL.6QP7

Entry Name: Roman field system and trackway with later field ditches and drove on Whittlesey Washes, 60m south of Bedford House

Scheduled Date: 15 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009992

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20804

County: Peterborough

Civil Parish: Thorney

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Whittlesey St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a trackway and an adjoining rectilinear field system
with associated earthworks of Roman date, with a later drove and field
ditches, and is located on a gravel terrace, on the high ground of Whittlesey
Washes, between the River Nene cut to the north and Moreton's Leam to the

The trackway runs north west - south east across the site, following a
slightly sinuous course, and is on or very close to the presumed line of the
Fen Causeway (the Roman causeway across the Fens, from Denver on the eastern
side to Peterborough on the west) as projected from where it has been
identified on a site 600m to the north west. It is visible as a slightly
irregular hollow approximately 10m wide and 0.5m deep in the ground surface,
and within the hollow are traces of possible ditches along either side of the
central track.

Immediately to the west of the trackway is a series of rectilinear enclosures
having internal dimensions ranging from approximately 50m by 60m to
approximately 60m by 110m and defined by a grid of ditches aligned on a north
west - south east axis. The ditches, which have become partly infilled, are
visible as linear hollows measuring approximately 4m in width and 0.4m in
depth. The ditch which forms the eastern boundary of the fields is a slightly
larger feature, approximately 6m wide and 0.5m deep. The enclosures at the
northern end of the monument are also surrounded internally by slight earthen
banks approximately 1m in width at the base and standing to a height of
approximately 0.3m, and another bank, approximately 2m wide and 0.5m in
height, runs along the outer edge of the eastern ditch, between it and the
adjoining trackway. At the northern end of the monument, where the earthworks
are most clearly defined, there is a pronounced scarp on the north and east
sides of the enclosures, which are raised above the level of the adjacent
ground surface. On the eastern side of the trackway, towards the northern end
of the monument, are traces of another ditch which runs north eastwards.

Overlying the Roman earthworks is a network of ditches, with alignments
roughly parallel to those of the modern field boundaries, which define a
series of larger and later enclosures. A drove approximately 13m wide, with a
ditch approximately 4m wide along the north side and a scarp to the south,
runs east-west across the southern half of the site and this, also, is later
than the Roman field system.

All field boundary fences and gates are excluded from the scheduling, as is an
electricity pylon in the south eastern part of the site, although the ground
beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

During the Roman period, particularly during the second century AD, the fen
silts and areas bordering the peat fens were extensively and often densely
occupied and farmed. The Roman field systems in the Fenland were often laid
out around or between small settlements of no more than a few farmsteads,
although some may reflect land division and land management on a more widely
organised scale. Sometimes they may be associated with a major landscape
feature, such as a road or canal. They comprised more or less regular blocks
of rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures, often aligned along and linked
by droves and sometimes covering large areas, although most are less than
200ha in extent. Both fields and droves were defined by ditches, sometimes
with adjoining banks, which may remain visible on the ground as earthworks.
The field systems are, however, recognisable primarily through air
photography in which the rectilinear pattern shows up in crop marks, soil
marks or relief lines. The pattern of the fields and droves in the Fens
suggests a concern chiefly with stock management, although arable agriculture
will also have played some part. Many field systems have been recorded in the
region, and although almost all have been levelled by later agriculture, many
of the levelled systems will nevertheless retain archaeological features of
national importance. These, and all field systems which retain identifiable
upstanding earthworks, are considered to be worthy of protection.

The earthworks on Whittlesey Washes survive extremely well and include a range
of different features. Archaeological evidence concerning the organisation
and use of the field system, including evidence of farming practice on the
site and of the local environment at that time, will be contained in the fill
of the ditches bordering the enclosures, in and beneath the field banks, and
in deposits beneath the surface of the enclosures. The relationship of the
field system to the Fen Causeway is of particular interest, and the ditches of
the field system overlying the Roman earthworks, will retain evidence of the
later history of the site.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hall, D N, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 2: Cambridgeshire, Peterborough to March, , Vol. 35, (1987), 57,58

Source: Historic England

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