Iron Age and Roman settlement at Bar Pastures


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009991

Date first listed: 28-Jul-1995


Ordnance survey map of Iron Age and Roman settlement at Bar Pastures
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Jan-2019 at 00:20:42.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Thorney

National Grid Reference: TF 25085 02508


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

During the Roman period, particularly during the second century AD, the Fenland silts around the Wash and areas on and close to the margins of the peat fens were extensively and often densely occupied and farmed. Rural settlements were small, comprising individual farmsteads or, more often, groups of several farmsteads organised in small villages which, with their associated field systems, were aligned along droves. Droves also served to link loose clusters of neighbouring settlements in a branching and intersecting network which might extend over several kilometres. The pattern of settlement was determined chiefly by the requirements of stock management and animal husbandry, exploiting pastures on the silts and higher ground, and the summer grazing and winter fodder provided by the adjacent freshwater fens. Although arable agriculture was almost certainly practised also, there was an element of self sufficiency in craft production and in the exploitation of local resources. Each farmstead was normally contained within a rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosure or block of enclosures, demarcated by substantial ditches and including low, thatched buildings of clay and wattle and daub on a light timber frame, with working areas such as farmyard, stockyard, rickyards and gardens alongside. Often the buildings were sited on natural hummocks or on artificially raised platforms. The earliest of such settlements, which are dated to the later first century AD, are generally very small and differ little in general appearance from certain settlements of the preceding Iron Age, although Iron Age settlements in the Fenland region are not so numerous or widespread. During the second century, when small and large-scale engineering projects, including the construction of roads and canals, were carried out widely in the Fens, the size and complexity of the settlements tended to increase and the layout of droves and fields to become more regular. Many were, however, abandoned in the third century AD because of increasing problems of flooding and drainage. Numerous Roman settlements of this type, with their associated field systems, have been recorded in the Fens, particularly through air photography, and they serve to illustrate both the nature of small-scale farming during the period of the Roman occupation and the ways in which a local population adapted to and exploited a particular environment. Many of the sites have, however, been reduced by medieval and later agriculture, and very few remain with upstanding earthworks, with a varied range of identifiable features and/or evidence for the survival of environmental remains. Consequently, all sites which survive as earthworks or which have a varied range of identifiable features are considered to be of national importance.

The Iron Age and Roman settlement at Bar Pastures survives very well in the north eastern part. The part in the south and west has undergone some disturbance by ploughing, but nevertheless retains archaeological information necessary for an understanding of the site as a whole. The site is particularly valuable as a rare opportunity to study the relationship of the Roman settlement to the earlier occupation of the site during the Iron Age. The monument as a whole will contain evidence for the organisation, development and duration of the settlement during both these periods, and evidence concerning buildings, domestic life, farming practices and the local environment at that time will be preserved in deposits on the building platform, in the enclosures which survive under pasture, and in the infill of ditches and other deeply dug, buried features, such as pits. The site has additional interest as part of a wider landscape of Iron Age and Roman settlements and field systems which has been recorded by means of air photography in the surrounding area.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes part of a settlement of Iron Age and Roman date, with a drove and associated ditches, rectilinear yards and other enclosures, some of them containing the remains of buildings, and is located on a gravel terrace about 1km west of what was at that time the edge of the peat fen. In the north eastern part of the monument these features survive under pasture, where the ditches and platforms which define them are visible as low earthworks. To the south and south west of this, the site is under arable cultivation, but ditches cut down into the underlying gravel survive as buried features below the ploughsoil and delineate the further extent of the enclosures and buildings, revealed in crop marks and recorded by means of air photography. At least three distinct and apparently unrelated sets of ditches and enclosures overlap on the site, showing successive changes in the layout and organisation of the settlement over a period of time.

The upstanding earthworks in the north east part of the monument include a rectangular house platform, up to 0.4m in height above the prevailing ground surface level and measuring c.18m by c.27m, with a ditch c.4m wide around the north eastern end. In the adjacent field (within the part of the monument at present under cultivation) a small, rectangular ditched enclosure has been recorded c.20m to the west of the platform. It is of similar size and proportion and aligned on a parallel axis, and is interpreted as the remains of a second and related building. These features lie within part of a large, ditched enclosure, south of and parallel to a short drove, c.9m wide and bordered along either side by ditches c.3m wide, which runs north east - south west across the northern end of the site. Cutting across the drove, approximately at right angles, is a double ditch defining a boundary or narrow trackway, the ditches being c.2m wide and up to 2m apart, with traces of a low bank along the north side. Another, apparently later ditch, c.5m in width, crosses this feature north-south. All the ditches which survive as visible earthworks have become partly infilled, but remain visible as linear hollows c.0.3m deep in the ground surface.

The buried features to the south and west of the upstanding earthworks include two groups of small enclosures, each interpreted as a farmstead. One of these enclosures, on the south side of the complex, is approached by a short, ditched track and contains a ring ditch, interpreted as the drainage gully around a circular house. The general date and character of the site have been confirmed by finds indicating domestic occupation, including fragments of both Iron Age and Roman pottery, on the surface of the ploughsoil in this area.

Field gates and all boundary fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 20803

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hall, D N, Palmer, R, Fenland Evaluation Project: Cambridgeshire, (1990)
Hall, D N, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 2: Cambridgeshire, Peterborough to March, , Vol. 35, (1987), M.1:B1
CUCAP: RC8-EF 243; CCX9,
Hall, DN, (1993)
RCHME: TF2402/2/290-291, TF2402/13/103-108, TF2402/25/404-411,

End of official listing