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A Bronze Age post alignment and timber platform at Flag Fen and associated Bronze Age and later field systems and settlement to either side of the Northey Road

A Scheduled Monument in Thorney, Peterborough

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Latitude: 52.5759 / 52°34'33"N

Longitude: -0.1855 / 0°11'7"W

OS Eastings: 523059.224651

OS Northings: 299107.818679

OS Grid: TL230991

Mapcode National: GBR HZS.FY3

Mapcode Global: WHHNL.3JY3

Entry Name: A Bronze Age post alignment and timber platform at Flag Fen and associated Bronze Age and later field systems and settlement to either side of the Northey Road

Scheduled Date: 26 March 2012

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1406460

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


A Bronze Age post alignment and timber platform to the east of Fengate Power Station, including Bronze Age and later field systems and settlement to either side of the Northey Road.

Source: Historic England


The post alignment, constructed from timber apparently felled and worked specifically for this purpose, consists of five rows of posts, with at least five levels of horizontal timbers identified. The first phase consisted of two rows, Rows 1 and 3, mainly alder, with more oak used in the later phases of construction. The posts of Row 1 are widely and regularly spaced, with the more closely spaced posts of Row 3 forming a solid main axis along the length of the structure; this was the only row to be maintained throughout the life of the post alignment. Associated with this first phase is a consolidating layer of horizontal timbers as well as a narrow walkway. A wide opening in Row 1 appears to give access to a pool south of the alignment, within the timber platform.

Row 1 fell into disuse soon after the long period of stability of the second phase, possibly replaced by Row 2. The more densely spaced Row 3, and later Rows 4 and 5, appear to present a barrier or boundary to the north. The main pathway across Flag Fen was between Rows 2 and 3, successive surfaces showing signs of trample and wear, with sand and gravel laid to apparently provide grip on wet and slippery surfaces. Narrower walkways have also been identified.

Throughout its long life the walkways of the post alignment were used in rites involving the deposition of weapons and other metalwork into the waters or fen edge below the post alignment. Domestic items and personal items of jewellery have also been found, with almost every object apparently deliberately broken or disabled in some way. Different classes of item seem to have been favoured in different periods, but the distribution of objects appears to be of particular significance. The great majority of offerings were made to the south of the post alignment, or carefully placed within the timbers, while different categories of object tend to be found together within particular zones of the structure's length. The structure and purpose of the timber platform is more difficult to determine. It may not have been a continuous platform, but pierced with openings to the water below, as the pool accessed from Row 1 suggests. The presence of fragments of adult human bone has also led to the suggestion that it was used for the laying out of bodies after death.

The post alignment ends to the east shortly after reaching landfall on the Northey side of the Flag Fen basin. Aerial photographs of the fields to the east of the visitor centre and Northey Road reveal a complex range of cropmarks, the most prominent and extensive of which are the ditches of an axial field system aligned on the fen edge, similar to that examined by excavation at Fengate. These features include a pair of parallel ditches, a possible droveway, the presence of which has been confirmed by excavation. The excavations undertaken in 1999 demonstrated the survival, amongst other settlement evidence, of lines of stake holes to the east and north of Mustdyke well preserved beneath alluvial deposits. The Bronze Age may also be represented by two probable bowl barrows, one immediately to the east of the Northey Road and one to the north of a small quarry at the north-east end of the same field; in both, limited excavation confirmed the presence of a ditch and mound. Two small, clearly defined, rectilinear enclosures to the east of the Northey Road may be of Iron Age or Roman date, while another rectilinear, apparently double ditched enclosure close to the fen edge and north of the Roman Fen Causeway appears to overlie a slightly smaller circular feature and has been interpreted as a Romano-Celtic temple or, alternatively, a wayside inn. The line of the Roman Fen Causeway can be seen travelling across the field to west of the Northey Road, swinging south to run roughly parallel where the road turns east.

The monument includes the full extent of the Flag Fen Visitor Centre and, to the west of that, a corridor of land that includes the route of the post alignment and Roman Causeway. This corridor is bounded to the north by the north bank of the Catswater Drain; where the drain turns south-west, just east of the Power Station, the scheduling boundary is formed by the east side of the road, slightly to the west of the drain. At its widest point this corridor of land is about 142m wide, and at its narrowest, where the track enters the Visitor Centre, about 85m. The scheduled area also includes the paddocks and fields to either side of the Visitor Centre access road, between the Catswater drain and the Northey Road, as well as the field to the east of the Northey Road. The scheduling boundary here falls on the inside of the field boundary drains to south-east and north-east, and is defined to the north-west by Willow Hall Lane. Willow Hall Lane and the quarry in the field to the east of the Northey Road are not included in the scheduled area. Where the north-west boundary crosses the Northey Road and runs south-west from Halfpenny Toll House it follows the inner, south-east bank of the Catswater Drain up to where it crosses the Adderley Drain.

All modern road and track surfaces are excluded, as are all fences, gate posts and modern agricultural buildings. Modern buildings and structures within the Visitor Centre are also excluded from the scheduling, including reconstructions of prehistoric structures, however, the ground beneath all these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Flag Fen timber post alignment, platform and associated Bronze Age and later occupation evidence on the Northey side of the Flag Fen basin are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival / Condition: The survival of timbers and artefacts within the wet conditions of the Flag Fen basin is outstanding, while the survival of features on the dry gravels to the east is good, and their condition apparently stable.

* Rarity: The post alignment and timber platform at Flag Fen represent a class of monument where relatively few examples survive and are well documented. Amongst these it is unique for its scale, completeness, longevity and complexity.

* Group Value: The direct association of the post alignment, platform and Roman causeway with field systems and other features on the Northey side of the Flag Fen enhances the interest of both. Research undertaken here will also inform our understanding of this kind of structure and their social, economic and environmental setting.

* Fragility / Vulnerability: Waterlogged deposits and artefacts are vulnerable to changes in water levels and to the effects of encroaching industrial development.

* Documentation: The monument and its setting have been well documented in the course of over forty years of excavation and research.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Evans, C, Beadsmoore, E, Lucas, G, Fengate Revisited, (2009)
French, C A I, Pryor, F M, The South-West Fen Dyke Survey Project 1982-86 East Anglian Archaeology Report No. 59, (1993)
Pryor, F, Flag Fen, Life and Death of a Historic Landscape, (2005)
Pryor, F, Bamforth, M, Flag Fen, Peterborough Excavation and Research 1995-2007, (2010)
Pryor, F, The Flag Fen Basin, (2001)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Peterborough New Town: a survey of antiquities..., (1969)
Gurney, D A, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology 15' in Evidence for Bronze Age Salt Production at Northey, Peterborough, (1980)
Brunning, R, Prehistoric Trackways in England and Wales, 2008,

Source: Historic England

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