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An Archaeological Desktop Study of Land at Mill Lane, Burwell, Cambridgeshire



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Hall, Andrew 


The proposed development site lies within the historic core of Burwell. The main focus of medieval settlement was Burwell Castle (SMR 1775, SAM 29382) and St Mary's Church (SMR 328) approximately 200m south east of the site. Within the Scheduled Ancient Monument of the castle, the earliest traces of occupation are of the Roman period, comprising structural remains discovered during excavations in the 1930s. During the mid-12th century, a motte and bailey were constructed on the site. According to documentary sources the castle was one link in a chain of defences built by King Stephen in 1143/4 to contain the forces of the Earl of Essex, Geoffrey de Mandeville, who had seized the Isle of Ely. The mid 13th century saw yet further changes to the function of the site with the construction of an oratory by the Abbott of Ramsey. The existence of further structures relating to this abbey precinct is likely, as are groundworks such as fishponds. The neighbouring St Mary's Church contains elements dating back to the 12th century with improvements to the south aisle during the 14th century and wholesale remodelling during the 15th. The site also lies close to the probable location of the medieval church of St Andrew (SMR 6721). The consensus of opinion suggests it was sited to the north of St Mary's, a position now occupied by a school; this point will be discussed further below. In addition, there is the potential for the survival of earlier remains on site associated with the possible Roman settlement and large Anglo-Saxon cemetery excavated 300m to the north (SMR 6764 & 6764A) by Lethbridge during the 1920s and 1930s . A total of 140 inhumations dating from the 7th century were excavated, as well as a large quarry pit backfilled with Roman building material and pottery.



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Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

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