Project Background

People, place and time are the enduring threads that motivate interest in the past. In particular people are fascinated about the historical development of their own local communities and the archaeology of the surrounding landscapes. The rationale behind this project is to provide opportunities for people to become directly involved with archaeological issues that affect their local environments. In addition this initiative will enable valuable investigative research to be undertaken which otherwise would not be possible.

The landscape of the Upper Nene, to the west of Northampton, has undergone little rigorous archaeological investigation or field survey during the second half of the twentieth century. However, interest in the archaeology of the area amongst local residents has markedly increased during the same period in response to the growing popularity and raised profile of archaeology as a leisure activity. The specific purpose of this Local Heritage Funded project is to gain an appreciation of the nature and extent of archaeological survival across a narrowly defined study area and period base. Members of the archaeological and historical societies of the parishes of Bugbrooke, Flore, Harpole, Weedon and Upper/Nether Heyford have joined together with other interested individuals to investigate, record, analyse and evaluate the potential of archaeological sites associated with their local landscapes. Importantly the project will enable local communities to develop their awareness, field skills and sense of ownership of local archaeological issues, whilst also providing extremely useful data that can inform both professional and academic debate.

"Local People: Local Past" began in the August of 2001 and fieldwork finished in August 2004. It is a pilot project for a much larger initiative, which is currently being planned. The fieldwork undertaken was non-invasive in nature and subject to competent professional support for field practice, training and analytical evaluation by a member of academic staff based at University College, Northampton. In addition the project has endeavoured to develop a coherent partnership between the disparate interest groups and professional agencies for the assessment of archaeological sites and features within the landscape. Since this is a new initiative, the project is designed to be self-contained with easily determined outcomes.

The focus of the project is a period based study that examines twelve settlement sites which are located in the five parishes. A major decision was to concentrate on sites dating from the Roman period. This enabled the work previously undertaken on a research excavation of the Whitehall Villa and Landscape Project to be developed in a wider context. The Romano-British sites have been chosen for investigation because the potential for exploring the archaeological evidence of that period is extensive and such settlements provide an abundance of evidence which can be analysed relatively easily and systematically by an amateur workforce in collaboration with professional practitioners.

The exploration of these sites will be crucial in helping to establish the importance, chronology, classification and survival status of these settlements. Unfortunately our knowledge of these settlements is very restricted apart from their general location. Undoubtedly community based fieldwork will enable us to improve our understanding of the settlements themselves, indicate the extent of their attendant landscapes and assist in the process of heritage management in the future.

What are the specific aims of the Project?

  • Undertake a non-invasive survey of archaeological sites of the Romano-British period.
  • Raise awareness and ownership of archaeology/heritage issues in local communities.
  • Provide people with opportunities to develop a range of archaeological skills and professional network links to develop a community-based approach to monitoring and recording the archaeology priorities of the local area.
  • Involve local communities in a debate about local heritage issues in connection with on going planning and development proposals for their local landscapes.
  • Produce accessible interpretative material for community and academic study purposes for children and adult audiences ( GIS, Web site, CD ROM etc.).
  • Enhance understanding of the archaeological potential of the area.
  • Enhance people’s enjoyment of their neighbourhood and its past.
  • Highlight the potential benefits of community based archaeological fieldwork.

Why study the Romano-British Landscape in this area?

The Roman settlements associated with the survey area lie adjacent to Watling Street which is one of the most important road links in Roman Britain. The five parishes reflect a far wider area of Roman settlement associated with the Nene Valley. The region is one of the most densely occupied areas of Roman Britain but very little is known about the nature of that settlement. This project will afford an opportunity to characterise the type of occupation, develop diagnostic models of site distribution and engage with issues related to chronological development of individual settlements.