Cotswold Hills National Mapping Programme project
This survey was carried out to National Mapping Programme standards with the aim to discover and better understand the archaeology of this iconic landscape. This better understanding will help to inform planning decision made for this area and offer better protection for these sites.
The project area extends from Wotton-under-Edge in the south-west to just south of Stow-on-the-Wold in the north of the Cotswold Hills. The project was funded by the former Historic Environment Enabling Programme (Project No. 4755) and was carried out by Gloucestershire County Council Archaeological Service. The key results of the survey are available in the NMP report.
Mapping in and around the Cirencester revealed an interesting wealth of archaeological features which date from the prehistoric periods to the Second World War. Numerous ring ditches were visible as cropmarks, and were interpreted as the levelled remains of probable Bronze Age round barrows.
Although no settlements have been identified dating to this period, the presence of the many funerary sites and field systems, which may be contemporary, is indicative of a Bronze Age population. The area continued to be settled during the Iron Age, as suggested by ‘banjo’ enclosures, rectilinear enclosures, hill forts and unenclosed settlements.
The Cotswold Hills are also well-known for Roman sites, and many have been identified by the aerial survey. There is a wealth of evidence for Roman-period activity within the project area, as the long-lasting Roman influence made significant changes to how the landscape was structured.
New types of site, such as villas, towns and the extensive road network, were constructed across the region. Large numbers of villa sites and other settlements are mostly visible as cropmarks, such as that at Barnsley Park, which is associated with an extensive system of field boundaries.
Medieval and post-medieval
The most common form of archaeological evidence across the study area were the remnants of the medieval and post-medieval agrarian landscape. Extensive areas of ridge and furrow cultivation were visible as earthworks on the historical aerial photography, although much of this has subsequently been levelled by ploughing.
The Cotswold Hills region was extensively cultivated in the past, as it still is today. Aerial survey can reveal some of the innovations and changing farming practices which were adopted in the agricultural revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Along many of the valley bottoms there are extensive and well-preserved water meadows dating to the post-medieval period.
Second World War
The Cotswold Hills contain a number of Second World War military camps, airfields and hospitals, many of which were located within large-scale parks and gardens requisitioned during the war.
In Cirencester Park, immediately to the west of the town, a pair of American army hospitals are visible on the historical aerial photography.
You can read more in the project report:
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Historic Places Investigation
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