Friday, 3 October 2014

Settlement of Iron Age roundhouses at Straitgate?

Evidence of a prehistoric settlement of Iron Age roundhouses from over 2000 years ago was one of the last things Aggregate Industries would have wanted to find from its archaeological surveys at Straitgate.

Michael Murray
The Devon Historic Environment Records for the area, kindly sent to us back in 2012, had suggested there might be - based on an excavation in 1996-7 next to Straitgate Farm, referred to as the 'Long Range excavation'. This archaeological dig was one of the eight site excavations undertaken in advance of the new A30 between Honiton and Exeter, and revealed the presence of Iron Age roundhouses and pottery from around 400-100 BC, as well as finds from the early Neolithic period. Two of the roundhouses were indicated by evidence of complete penannular gullies - circular-shaped gullies formed either by rainwater dripping off the end of the eaves and eroding a small trench or where a drainage trench has been cut to carry rainwater away from the walls. These are documented fully in Prehistoric & Roman Sites in East Devon: The A30 Honiton to Exeter Improvement DBFO, 1996-9 (Wessex archaeology report).

Many more of these structures are thought to lie in the fields at Straitgate, after the geophysical survey last year revealed 10 or more circular or part-circular anomalies. Investigations at Straitgate will add to the 'Long Range' data, and will give a fuller picture of what life was like for our predecessors - in a hill-top settlement overlooking where Ottery St Mary stands today.

Archaeology is rarely a ‘showstopper’ - many think Straitgate already has plenty of those. But as part of Devon’s history, Straitgate's past will have to be fully explored and documented before any of it is lost to a Swiss multinational cement conglomerate.

For maps of the historic finds in the area, contact Devon County Council Historic Environment Team.