Introduction to the Archaeology of Tollgate Farm Roman Site, Staffordshire
Author: Winston Hollins, Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society
A field on the South side of the known Roman Road (ref 1), from Little Chester, Derby, to Stoke-on-Trent, about 2 miles West of Rocester.
A metal detectorist found a number of Roman artefacts including several silver denarii of different dates. Three denarii, including one the society found in a trial trench, were considered by the coroner for treasure. Mrs. D. Klemperer, who dealt with this application, talked to an expert on silver hoards who believed the mix of dates suggested a typical “Severian hoard”.
The amount of material found by the metal detectorist suggested that we must have some sort of Roman site in the field.
A resistivity survey and a trial excavation corroborated this.
Two years of excavation has proved there was intense Roman activity in the field.
The following features, shown up by the resistivity survey, have been investigated:
1. A spur off the known Roman road.
This showed up on the resistivity survey as two parallel anomalies running for about 90 metres across the field (in a slightly West of South direction).
Excavation has shown a road with a surface metalled with water rounded pebbles. The surface is about 3 metres wide. The two ditches are about 750mm deep. The road seems to have had the ditches back filled in Roman times and certainly in one section it was returned to agriculture, with a covering of 300mm of Roman plough soil above the road metalling.
The state of preservation of the road surface varied depending on how much it had been affected by ploughing. It was clear that the edge of the metalled surface was limited by some carefully placed, larger, water worn pebbles (approx. 15cms. diameter). Within the road surface of water rounded pebbles, there was a large amount of cow and horse bone (say 10% by volume). There was a complete absence of sheep bone. It did seem as if the road surface had been patched at various times, as evidenced by layers of stones sandwiched with clay in a few places.
2. A well or cistern over a metre in diameter.
This has been excavated to 2.5 metres but augering shows the feature is at least a metre deeper (the depth of our auger). The augering brought up silty material, which contained preserved off cuts of leather.
3. Evidence of some form of industrial activity?
A pit with evidence of burning suggestive of some sort of kiln or oven. This has only been partially excavated.
4. The resistivity survey shows quite regular stripes down the length of the field. These proved to be the remains of furrows from partially ploughed out ridge and furrow. The finds include:
Pottery: Huge amounts of pottery including coarse wares, black burnished wares, mortaria, some samian and painted wares. In particular, we have the thick, highly fired bluish wares which we found a match for in the material from Rocester held in the Potteries Museum. One fragment of mortarium and two samian bases have stamps.
A glass imitation nicolo intaglio (dated by Martin Henig from mid second or early third century A.D).
A denarius of Vespasian, from 72 A.D.
Two fibula brooches.
One big headed pin.
Lots of horse and cattle bones.
Slag of various types and some haematite.
Ref 1: “Roman Roads in Britain” I.D. Margary road 181 page 41 volume 2.
Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, April 2006.