Located within a field to the north of Eastrea, the scheduled area contains a large ring ditch, possibly dating from the Bronze Age; a segmental cropmark which may relate to a second, smaller, ring ditch; and a probable Anglo-Saxon settlement comprising a number of small, roughly rectangular, features which have been interpreted as grubenhäuser. The site has been identified from cropmarks evident in aerial photographs which also indicate various rectangular and sub-circular features representing different phases in an evolving settlement.
Reasons for Designation
The ring ditch and settlement site north of Eastrea is scheduled for the following principle reasons:
* both ring ditches and grubenhäuser are characteristic features of their respective periods and as such are of national importance.
* the clarity of the ring ditch suggests a good state of preservation, likely to contain archaeological evidence and paleonvironmental data.
* the monument displays a diversity of important features from multiple phases of occupation, notably including the ring ditch and early-medieval settlement.
* there is a high level of potential for archaeological deposits to survive within the ring ditch and sunken floors of the late-medieval settlement site, providing stratigraphic evidence of the continuity and change in the use of the site over 3000 years.
From the Bronze Age through to the medieval period islands in the fens became the focus for settlement sites. Eastrea once formed such an island, and the area retains archaeological evidence relating to multiple periods of occupation in the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Romano-British and early medieval periods.
The ring ditch and settlement site north of Eastrea was first recorded in aerial photographs taken in 1967. They indicate different phases of settlement in this location.
The ring ditch is likely to have been constructed as part of a pre-historic round barrow. Some funerary structures of this type have been dated to the Neolithic period, as early as 3000 BC, but the main period of construction was the early Bronze Age, around 2200-1500 BC, after which date cremation was more commonly practiced than inhumation. There may have been a raised mound or a built structure within the ring ditch but these are not evident on the ground and are not indicated through aerial photography or 2m LIDAR imaging. The ditch’s 37m diameter is relatively large. A second, smaller, arc-shaped cropmark immediately to the east of the ring ditch may represent part of another round barrow.
There is a cluster of sub-rectangular pits east of the ring ditch that are similar in size and shape to sunken feature buildings sometimes called grubenhäuser. Such buildings follow the arrival of Germanic-settlers (the ‘Anglo-Saxons’) and relate to an earlier building tradition in their continental homelands. These relatively small structures often served as workshops or sheds. Sunken floors were dug and the structure was typically enclosed within lines of wall-posts set in individual post holes. Grubenhäuser are believed to date from the fifth to eighth centuries AD, but may be earlier in origin.
Aerial photographs taken 30 July 1967 and 21 October 1972 provide the earliest images of the cropmarks. Their identification resulted in the scheduling of the site in 1977. In around 1980, the field came into the same ownership as the haulage yard to the south, and a part of the scheduled area was developed to provide hard standing for an external yard, and a large warehouse. This industrial area was excluded from the schedule in 2020.
In July and August 2015 limited trial trenches were excavated in the yard around the warehouse now excluded from the scheduled area. Although there was a low density of features identified, the evaluation did reveal small parts of un-dated cut ditches in the yard. The potential survival of archaeological evidence is indicated by these findings. A single test pit was excavated within the formerly scheduled part of the warehouse and indicated that any archaeological deposits located around the foundations of the warehouse are likely to have been removed. No further excavation has taken place, and the site has not undergone geophysical survey.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: located within a field to the north of Eastrea, the scheduled area contains a large ring ditch, possibly dating from the Bronze Age; a segmental cropmark which may relate to a second, smaller, ring ditch; and a probable Anglo-Saxon settlement comprising a number of small, roughly rectangular, features which have been interpreted as grubenhäuser. The site has been identified from cropmarks evident in aerial photographs which also indicate various rectangular and sub-circular features representing different phases in an evolving settlement.
DESCRIPTION: the scheduled monument lies within an area of approximately 2.58 hectares predominantly used for arable crop production. The site lies on flat land where the northern edge of the village of Eastrea rises about 5.5m above the surrounding fens. The field is bordered to the west, north and east by drainage ditches with agricultural land beyond. Parallel to the northern boundary is Cow Lane, a cattle drove connecting Eastrea to Coates. The central third of the southern half of the field was developed in 1980 for industrial use and is not included in the scheduled area, having been excluded in 2020.
The monument is not visible at ground level but is evident as a series of buried features showing as crop marks on aerial photographs. The survival of buried archaeological deposits, and therefore the archaeological potential of the site has been corroborated by recent, localised excavation within the industrial area of the scheduled monument.
Aerial photographs show that the ring ditch is located to the west of the centre of the agricultural area, and has a diameter of approximately 37m. The ditch's clarity suggests a good state of preservation and is highly likely to contain archaeological evidence and paleoenvironmental data. Immediately east of the large ring ditch is a smaller cropmark in a segmental shape possibly representing a second ring ditch.
The possible early medieval settlement remains appear as a cluster of grubenhäuser or sunken feature buildings east of the ring ditch. There are between eight and ten pits of sub-rectangular and sub-circular form. They range in size from 1.7m by 2.8m, to 2.7m by 3.7m and 1.8m by 4.7m. North-east of this group is an elongated feature 2.9m by 13.2m, though this may be geological in origin. Generally, where excavated, these features reveal very little of the structural fabric, although the archaeological remains of the excavated hollow and the associated deposits resulting from the use of the structure hold important archaeological potential. Ring ditches are often found in association with Anglo Saxon settlements or cemeteries either reused during the Anglo-Saxon period as markers of a settlement or as places for the burial of the dead. Three Bronze Age ring ditches were recorded at Aldham Mill Hill (Schedule entry 1461329) where the smallest was found to be the focus for four Anglo-Saxon pagan inhumation burials. At Burnham Market a ring ditch marks the southern edge of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery (Schedule entry 1458971) and was found to be contemporary with the cemetery,
The cropmarks of a number of fragments of linear ditches can also be seen and may be archaeological in origin. This is supported by excavations in 2015 that took place in the area now excluded from the Schedule. There are also numerous sinuous and linear cropmarks throughout the field which are most probably geological in origin.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the scheduling boundary follows that of the agricultural area of the field on all sides. There are drainage ditches to the west, north, and east, and the eastern part of the southern boundary. Where the agricultural area wraps around the warehouse and yard the boundary is principally formed of trees and a chain link fence with concrete posts.
EXCLUSIONS: any fences and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling.