Archaeologists make Iron Age and Roman finds at Northumberland site

An archaeological dig in Northumberland has discovered a large scale Iron Age enclosure.

Monday, 23rd May 2022, 5:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 8:54 am

About 25 members of the Holystone History and Archaeology Group led by professional archaeologist Richard Carlton, uncovered the site near Sharperton along with several nearby sections of the Roman road which ran between High Rochester and Low Learchild near the Bridge of Aln.

This road, which linked Dere Street in the west and the Devil’s Causeway to the east, was first tackled by the Coquetdale group in 2018 when they uncovered 10 sections of it close to Holystone.

The group was then unable to dig because of Covid restrictions and also because their previous funders, Northumberland National Park, ended its Small Grants Scheme.

Gareth Williams of Tarmac Harden with archaeologist, Richard Carlton, at a Roman Road section plus some of the diggers.

However Tarmac, which operates the Harden Quarry at Biddlestone, stepped into the breach and offered vital funding.

Group members were excited to tackle more of the first century Roman road and also to try and locate a two-acre encampment first mentioned in a local historian’s 1826 account as being close to Sharperton at somewhere called Chester’s Hill.

The remains of the road proved easy to locate but the enclosure was more challenging.

However, three areas of it have now been uncovered and finds there have included flint tools, Iron Age pottery and a Roman denarius coin which seems to indicate links to the nearby Roman road.

A Roman denarius coin found at the enclosure site.

The range of finds suggests the site has been popular with local peoples over many centuries.

Richard Carlton of Newcastle’s Archaeological Practice said: “This is a very significant discovery as it’s the first time the historian’s account has been confirmed. Strangely it wasn’t mentioned in later accounts so it’s good to know it did really exist. We only have a few more days to dig but I feel if we had more funds, it would be well worth doing more here.”

Jan Frazer, group secretary and dig organiser, added: “After four years without a dig, it’s so good that our latest effort has uncovered more of Coquetdale’s fascinating past showing that people - probably in larger numbers than now - have always enjoyed living here.”

The land is owned by farmer Mac Young who has greatly supported the group in its efforts.

Gareth Williams, left, from Tarmac Harden with archaeologist, Richard Carlton.