Multi-phased settlement east of Milton


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
The site is located within two fields known as Hill Close and Long Meadow, north of Fen Road, Milton, Cambridgeshire.


Ordnance survey map of Multi-phased settlement east of Milton
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
The site is located within two fields known as Hill Close and Long Meadow, north of Fen Road, Milton, Cambridgeshire.

South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Multi-phased settlement dating from the Roman period to C12. The settlement focus moved from the industrial Roman site at the east and north-east corner of Hall Close to the late Saxon and early medieval domestic occupation and agricultural activity indicated at the western end of the field.

Reasons for Designation

The multi-period settlement site, east of Milton, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

Potential: * for the high level of survival of nationally important archaeological deposits dating from Romano-British to the early-medieval period;

Rarity: * for the well preserved remains of the late Saxon enclosed settlement implying a proto-manorial complex which may have influenced the shift and evolution of settlement focus in the medieval period;

Diversity: * for the diverse range of archaeological features representing the settlement change, evolution and abandonment from the Romano-British to the medieval period;

Group Value: * for the close spatial relationship between the early settlement site and the C13 Grade II* listed Church of All Saints believed to be the focus of the later medieval settlement.


The site, known as Hill Close and Long Meadow, is located north of Fen Road, Milton, within a multi-phased landscape. The first and second terrace gravels at Milton constitute part of the fen edge and because of their well-draining nature, close proximity to the River Cam, but high enough to not to be affected by flooding, has made this terrain an ideal place to live since prehistoric times. However, the distribution of early prehistoric artefact scatters suggests, at that time, the focus of activity was to the west of the current site, with increased activity in the later prehistoric period, including settlement remains, around Limes Farm, north of the site. Archaeological evaluation in advance of a housing development east of Milton Hall and immediately north of the Repton lake, associated with the Hall’s designed landscape, identified at least two phases of late Iron Age activity including settlement and associated agricultural features, which continued in use in to the Romano-British period. Extensive evidence for Roman activity is recorded running as a corridor along the terrace gravels from Milton to Waterbeach including the discovery of two Romano-British inhumation cemeteries and a site for Horningsea pottery production. An intense area of Roman activity was recorded between Milton Hall and the current site, with occupation being almost continuous throughout the first to fourth century and to the south of Fen Road, at least one other kiln dating from second century.

Despite the concentration of Roman activity there was very little evidence of post-Roman settlement or other activity. The Domesday Book documents a settlement in Milton, held by the King and Abbot of Ely in 1066 and by Picot of Cambridge in 1086, but the medieval settlement was most likely centred around the Church of All Saints which lies 200m to the north-west of the site. The first reported site of a medieval manor house comes from documentary evidence which records that Henry III in 1235 gave Godfrey of Crowcombe ten timbers to build himself a house at Hall End (VCH 1989). Hall End being the name of a piece of land at the eastern extremity of the site. Other sources record the burning of the Milton Manor in 1266 by the rebel forces of Simon de Montfort. Early Ordnance Survey (OS) maps depict the earthworks of a large ditch extending north to south through the western end of the area, and is labelled ‘moat’ with the site of ‘the Hall’ immediately to the east. Low earthworks, aligned with the features recorded on the OS maps, were recorded in this area during a topographical survey in summer of 2016.

The site has undergone a series of archaeological investigations since 2006. Between 2006 and 2008 geophysical, systematic fieldwalking, test pitting and metal detector surveys were undertaken, informing much of the history outlined above (Booth, D, 2009 and 2009a). Further geophysical survey of the site was undertaken in early 2016, a topographic survey to record earthworks and the possible moat was undertaken in summer 2016 and an archaeological evaluation, comprising six trenches was completed in autumn 2016, all of which add to our understanding of the site and its context (Lane, A, 2018). The findings of these surveys and excavations are outlined in the Details section below.


Principal elements: The site lies in fields known as Hill Close and Long Meadow at the eastern end of the village of Milton and on the north side of Fen Road. Hill Close is bounded along the northern edge by a copse of trees and the Humphrey Repton lake associated with the designed landscape of Milton Hall, whilst Long Meadow is a linear field running at right angles to the north-east corner of Hill close.

Description: The monument survives as very subtle earthworks and buried remains most clearly visible from aerial photographs as an extensive series of complex crop mark features, across both fields. These are suggestive of building platforms, trackways and rectangular and sub circular enclosures defined by buried ditches. Systematic fieldwalking across Hill Close has provided significant evidence of multi-period activity across the field with particular reference to the Roman and Medieval periods. The finds were found to be clustered in two main areas, one at the western end and the other in the north-eastern corner (adjacent to Long Meadow). It was at the western end of Hill Close that almost all of the medieval pottery was located, with types of pottery representing the whole of the medieval period but some late Saxon Ipswich ware suggesting there was a pre-conquest occupation of the settlement of Middletun. The predominant medieval pottery was C12 to C14 in date and in keeping with the proposed establishment of the manor house in the mid-C13. Archaeological evaluation trenches excavated in this area in 2016 suggest that the later medieval material was being deposited here as midden material into C13 and C14 but the settlement at this time was most likely further to the west.

The distribution of natural stone, although widespread throughout Hill Close, was noticeably concentrated at the western end of the field. One particularly large piece of worked sandstone with a right angled corner and lime mortar adhered to it, is clearly building stone and possibly foundations for a timber framed building. It is interesting that William Cole, a local C18 antiquarian who lived in Fen Lane, recorded foundations, fish ponds and ditches indicative of a manorial site (VCH 1989) here in C18. In the early C21 the farmer of the land and his father found several large pieces of stone at Hill Close including a trough (location unknown) which could be either medieval or Roman.

Pottery finds in the north-east corner of the field were predominantly Roman Horningsea wares with sherds of heavy storage jars and mortaria, a contrast to the finds of Roman pottery in the adjacent Long Meadow where a greater percentage of fine wares were recorded. Although no geophysical survey has been carried out in this part of the field, crop marks, revealed by aerial photography, show a complex of interlocking and overlying features. In combination, the crop marks and pottery assemblage imply an industrial work area and could have been part of the same industrial complex suggested in the adjacent southern end of the Long Meadow (Booth 2009) now bisected by a relatively modern drainage conduit and field boundary. Fragments of a distinct Roman roof tile and flue tile supports the theory of a possible Roman building here, potentially part of the wider Roman occupation so evident in Long Meadow.

The predominant metal artefact recovered in Hill Close is in excess of 25 Roman coins, found mainly in the east and north-east corner of the field. Again, similar to those found in Long Meadow, dating from late first century to the fourth century. A small fourth century coin of the Arles mint, pierced with a small hole suggests reuse in the early Saxon period.

An archaeological evaluation consisting of the excavation of six trenches was undertaken on land at the west end of Hill Close in 2016 to assess the archaeological potential of the area and to inform and advise a forthcoming planning application. The excavations, across and either side of the feature recorded as ‘moat’ on the 1887 OS map and in the area of most concentrated medieval artefacts recovered during field walking, indicate the degree of archaeological survival and the level of archaeological potential across the field. The presence of the large linear feature (marked as a moat on early OS maps) was confirmed, recorded as being approximately 9m wide in places, 1.60m deep and would have appeared as an imposing feature in the landscape. The lower fills of the ditch indicate the original feature probably dates from the late Saxon early Norman period although it cannot be said with certainty whether it is of pre or post-conquest date. It is considered the ditch was most likely a boundary ditch for an early forerunner of the manor house, but is not part of a moated site in the sense in which the term is usually used, these generally date to the C13. The pottery assemblage from the evaluation does not indicate that domestic occupation continued on the site into the C13. Although, as mentioned above, a substantial collection of C12 to C14 pottery was recovered, it was almost entirely from the upper fills of one ditch suggesting that domestic refuse was being deposited as midden material here into C13 and C14.

A concentration of burnt material from the ditch excavated in Trench 4, at the extreme east side of the area evaluated, could conceivably support the documentary evidence that suggests Milton Manor was burnt in 1266 by the rebel forces of Simon de Montfort. The recovered dating from this feature, and the location of the hall as marked on early OS maps could also add support to this interpretation.

The archaeological evaluation revealed a small number of artefacts dating to the early to mid- Saxon period, including the majority of a single jar from a relatively small ditch. The near-complete jar dated from C7 to C9 and was most likely locally made. Further pottery from this period, frequently found in association with small quantities of animal bone, indicates Saxon domestic occupation. The preparation of food on or near the site is further indicated by finds of six fragments of Niedermendig lava, at least five of which could be identified as deriving from querns, these have a likely date range of the C8 to C12, probably associated with later Saxon to early medieval domestic occupation and agricultural activity. The site is likely to have formed part of a C8 to C11 ‘proto-manorial’ site, whose focus was potentially shifted elsewhere following the Norman Conquest, possibly in the mid-C12.

Although the eastern end of Hill Close and Long Meadow have not been subjected to archaeological evaluation excavation in the same way, a series of six 2m by 1m test pits were excavated following the fieldwalking and geophysics survey in 2008. The test pits were located to target four zones of archaeological potential including three groups of features relating to the suggested industrial and domestic Roman activity. A series of boundary ditches containing Roman pottery, and another feature of Roman date were recorded at the eastern end of Hill Close and in Long Meadow, confirming the high potential for Roman occupation remains to survive at this side of the site. The test pitting also highlighted the fact that, despite ploughing for decades, features in Hill Close were recorded at a substantial depth whilst features at the southern end of Long Meadow were found at a shallow depth and had therefore been truncated by the plough.


Books and journals
Medlycott, M (editor), Research and Archaeology Revisited: a revised framework for the East of England, (Occasional Paper no.24, 2011)
Wright, APM (Editor), Victoria History of the Counties of England: Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, (1989)
Albone, J Massey, S and Tremlett, S 2008 The Archaeology of Norfolk's Aggregate Landscape. The results of the National Mapping Programme. English Heritage Project no: 5241MAIN, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology
Booth, WD 2009 A preliminary Archaeology Survey (b): Hill Close, Milton, Cambridgeshire with particular reference to Crop Marks, Geophysical Survey and Fieldwalking
Booth, WD 2009a A Preliminary Archaeological Survey (a): Long Meadow, Milton, Cambridgeshire with particular reference to Crop Marks, Geophysical Survey and Fieldwalking
Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record: including entries 05865, 08322, MCB17819, MCB17882; MCB18151, MCB 17965, MCB24120, ECB3226, ECB2888, ECB2707, ECB2950, ECB2948, ECB2981, ECB3795
Clarke, G, Bullivant, M and Booth, WD 2009 Report of test pit excavation at Long Meadow and Hill Close, Fen Road, Milton, Cambridge. Active 8 Archaeology
Lane, A. 2018 Land North of Fen Road, Milton, Cambridgeshire, Archaeological Evaluation Report. PCAS Archaeology Ltd 1701
Sanderson, I (2008) Milton, Fen Road Geophysical Report. Archaeology Research Report (HER: ECB2707).


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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