Iron Age settlement

High Speed Rail meets Iron Age settlement

Archaeologists from Wardell Armstrong Archaeology have unearthed extensive Iron Age remains during pre-development archaeological excavation work at the planned site of Hitachi’s high-speed rail factory in Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham.

Archaeologists from Wardell Armstrong Archaeology are investigating a significant Iron Age settlement as well as medieval open field systems and the remains of a 17th century and later farmstead.

“The work is revealing a well-preserved prehistoric landscape,” said Frank Giecco, lead archaeologist from Wardell Armstrong. “It includes a major boundary ditch, two round-house settlements with field systems, and an enclosure dating back to the first millennium BC.

“We knew there was a strong probability of finding the remains of late Iron Age and Romano-British farmsteads at the site. Our investigations should allow us to document life at Newton Aycliffe as it was over a 3000 year period, and make sure that archaeological finds are professionally identified and recorded.”

There is also some early evidence of earlier Bronze Age activity at the site. The Wardell Armstrong team have already found a series of pits and stone tools, including a flint arrow head. Archaeological remains dating to the early Bronze Age are quite rare so this is a potentially significant find.

The new Hitachi Intercity Express facility is planned to be operational from 2015 at Amazon Park, a site owned by Merchant Place Developments. It will bring 730 new jobs to the area with contracts already won to build super express trains for the Great Western and East Coast main lines as part of the Government’s Intercity Express Programme.

Prior to construction of the factory being commenced the archaeological remains within the development site require complete excavation and recording.

Wardell Armstrong Archaeology have worked to ensure that Hitachi, who have funded the archaeological excavations, face no delays to their construction timetable caused by the presence of archaeological remains and from the outset of the project have successfully balanced the commercial needs of their client with the requirement to excavate and record the archaeological remains.

The site at Newton Aycliffe is therefore significant not only for the important Hitachi development but also for revealing human activity of one kind or another on this spot since remote prehistoric times right through to the modern 21st century.

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