Thursday, 23 February 2012

News - Medieval remains revealed (Southwell)

Evidence of extensive Medieval burials has been found on a site earmarked for homes in Southwell, it can be revealed.
The graves could prove a continuation of burials in the Church Street area from at least the late Saxon period to modern times.

The results of an interim evaluation of what has been found at Platts Orchard, which has planning permission for three homes, is expected to be made public next week by Newark and Sherwood District Council.

The private company, Pre-Construct Archaeological Services Ltd, with oversight from the county council archaeological team, was commissioned to conduct an investigation by site owner, Gascoines Group Ltd, eight months ago.

Six trenches were dug. According to the company’s report, Trench Five revealed the presence of an extensive area of human burials, which the district council’s planning services manager, Mr Pete Wilkinson, believes are Medieval.

Samples taken from the trench have been sent away to be carbon-dated.

Since the burial area is proposed to be gardens under the development plans, it is recommended to leave it undisturbed and the remains preserved in situ.

Mr Wilkinson said Trench Six did not reveal human remains, leading the archaeologists to believe the burial ground ended before reaching it.

Four more trenches were dug in locations where the three homes can be built.

These revealed archaeological remains within 50cm of the surface, but no further evidence of burials.

It is proposed the topsoil be removed from this area when earth-movers return to site, and what is found examined, excavated and recorded.

The district council told the Advertiser it intends to publish the interim archaeological report in full when the carbon data results are returned.

It is an interim report because the topsoil removal has not yet taken place.

The district council insisted on a full archaeological study in 2007 when a planning inspector granted planning permission on appeal for three dwellings it had refused.

There was no requirement to carry out archaeological investigations until construction work started.

Mr Wilkinson said if important discoveries were made as a result of the carbon-dating or topsoil removal and the site had potential to become nationally significant, then English Heritage could step in.

Any planning consent could be overridden by such a discovery, he said.

English Heritage were called in when a Roman wall on the former Minster School site on Church Street was unearthed during a similar study.

The site, close to the minster, contains the remains of what is believed to be a Roman villa, which, linked to Platts Orchard, could provide evidence of continual burials through the ages to modern times.

Nottinghamshire County Council was accused of not keeping the people of Southwell informed of what was happening with regard to the archaeological investigations at Platts Orchard.

A Southwell district councillor, Mr Julian Hamilton, described the non-publication of the evaluation report as an inordinate delay and said the county council should give timely reports on this, and other similar evaluations in Nottinghamshire.

Sally Gill, the county council’s planning manager, said: “The owner of the piece of land formerly known as Platts Orchard in Southwell commissioned Pre-Construct Archaeology to carry out an archaeological investigation of the site last June.

“The vast majority of archaeological work that takes place in the UK is carried out by commercial archaeological companies commissioned by developers.

“The role of the county council’s archaeological team has been to monitor the investigation at Platts Orchard on behalf of Newark and Sherwood District Council and ensure that it has been carried out to the best possible standard.

“We look forward to seeing the final report which is expected shortly.”

A spokesman for Gascoines Group said: “Gascoines Group took the best possible archaeological advice which it followed to the letter to the complete satisfaction of the district and county councils.

“We then commenced development and as it progresses we shall continue with the advice of our archaeologists.”

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