The Late Iron Age, Roman and early Saxon settlement at Elms Farm, Heybridge, Essex (UK) was excavated in the mid-1990s in advance of the construction of a large housing estate. The large-scale of the excavations is matched by the substantial and important artefact assemblage recovered, which included 6.4 tonnes of Late Iron Age and Roman pottery, 2,910 Roman coins and over 9000 animal bones.
This has enabled an appreciation of the development of the settlement over time and space, of the changing functions, status and economy of individual areas and the settlement as a whole, and the issues of transition, change and finally decline.
The site revealed evidence for activity from the Bronze Age through to the post-medieval period.
A centrally located shrine, with a series of strip-plots to the north and south was identified and appears that the settlement around it was remodelled in the mid 1st century AD, with the creation of a formal infrastructure of metalled roads, as well as a new temple precinct on the earlier sacred site and a reworking of the strip-plots into enclosures. To the north of the settlement area were a number of burials, pyre sites and pyre debris dumps. Early Roman cremations were added to this area slightly later. Some of the pyre sites exhibit higher-status elements, and at least one may have been ‘aristocratic’, suggesting the presence of a local elite.
The economic focus of Elms Farm appears to have been primarily agricultural while the site’s estuarine setting provided secondary economic resources. A range of manufacturing activities were also undertaken with evidence for metal-working, pottery production, bone-working, and textile manufacture.
Following PUNS report recommendations and with crucial support from Historic England, this online monograph (Volume 2 – over 600,000 words) presents the full stratigraphic descriptions and specialist reports of the Late Iron Age, Roman and Saxon material, while the companion East Anglian Archaeology print monograph (Volume 1; Atkinson and Preston 2015) presents the synthetic discussion regarding the site. Underpinned with a digital archive, hosted by the Archaeology Data Service, it is hoped that all these dissemination strands will form the basis for much future research and re-interpretation.
Heybridge: A late Iron Age and Roman settlement. Excavations at Elms Farm 1993-5. Volume 2 by Mark Atkinson and Stephen J. Preston (with many contributors)