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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009992

Date first listed: 15-Dec-1994


Ordnance survey map of Roman field system and trackway with later field ditches and drove on Whittlesey Washes, 60m south of Bedford House
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Jan-2019 at 15:37:20.


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

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Fenland (District Authority)

Parish: Whittlesey

National Grid Reference: TL 23474 98249


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 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.


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


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 south.

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.

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: 20804

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing