Staffordshire National Mapping Programme project
The Staffordshire NMP project is being undertaken by Archaeological Research Services Ltd in conjunction with the Staffordshire County Council’s Historic Environment Section.
Prior to this project Staffordshire had been subjected to limited aerial investigation and survey. Parts of the county have great archaeological potential from an aerial photography perspective, and it is likely that a significant number of sites await discovery. Meanwhile unrecorded archaeological remains in areas undergoing mineral extraction, increased cultivation and urbanisation may easily be lost. The project will enhance the county Heritage Environment Record (HER) by providing high-quality, mapped archaeological data derived from aerial imagery. The maps and records will not only assist development control requirements but will improve the understanding of Scheduled Monuments and their wider landscape settings. The results will help enable the development of appropriate management strategies for these heritage assets.
In recent decades the extraction of mineral resources has resulted in a number of significant archaeological discoveries. This includes a rich ceremonial and burial landscape near the Trent-Tame confluence in the Trent Valley, a pattern now being mirrored along the River Dove where Late Neolithic/ Bronze Age burial and other sites have recently been uncovered. Archaeological work in advance of quarrying in the Trent-Tame confluence has also revealed evidence of the late prehistoric and Romano-British landscape. A little to the north, investigations at Catholme examined an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and contemporary settlement.
The Phase 1 project is focused on mapping and identifying heritage assets over two key sand and gravel and coal-producing areas. The first area, joining up with the National Forest NMP, will provide extended coverage along the Trent Valley north of Rugeley, as well as assessing the potential for survival along the River Blythe. The second area incorporates the western side of the Dove Valley, an area considered to be of high archaeological potential which is relatively poorly understood. Phase 2 of the project will then sample the agricultural landscapes in the west of the county and some of the sandstone areas.
Phase 1: Eastern River Confluences
The first phase of the project was completed in July 2014 and targeted two very different landscapes. One adjoined the former National Forest NMP project area, extending the coverage of the cropmark-rich landscape of the Trent Valley as far as Stafford. This low lying, and intensely farmed arable landscape, contrasts with the varied landscape of the second study area, centred on the Weaver Hills. This mapping area extended as far north as the southern boundary of the Peak District National Park, incorporating the Churnet Valley and the western side of the Dove Valley.
Later prehistoric activity
The additional mapping of the Trent Valley has further highlighted the archaeological potential of the region. Around the Mavesyn Ridware causewayed enclosure, the later prehistoric landscape displays a diverse array of Bronze Age round barrows, a possible Neolithic bank barrow and several other rectilinear and curvilinear enclosures all visible as cropmarks.
Post-medieval and modern extraction
The Weaver Hills have experienced extensive limestone quarrying, the largest of which are the Caldon Low Quarries which remain in use today. The large-scale extraction and transportation of limestone in this area began in the second half of the 18th century. A series of tramroads were constructed at this time to transport the limestone to the Caldon Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Phase 2: Western Areas
The second phase of mapping is on-going. The two survey blocks target an area of coal extraction centred on Kidsgrove and an area of rural farmland towards the west of the county.
One site of note from this phase of mapping is Ranton Abbey, a moated medieval Augustinian Cell. Examination of the air photographs and lidar has revealed that the surviving earthworks are much more extensive than previously recorded. Field boundaries, boundary banks, extractive pits, the likely southern precinct boundary, and a number of water channels were recorded in the grounds surrounding the moat.
The mapping of Phase two is due for completion in June 2015 and a second summary report will be produced to present the findings.
The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project, please contact the Historic England Archive.
For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.
Historic Places Investigation
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The aerial survey of parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire was an NMP project undertaken prior to creation of the National Forest.