Rare Bronze Age longhouses discovered at Westcombe Park, Maldon

We are excited to share that archaeologists have recently discovered extensive evidence of a multi-period settlement, spanning the Bronze Age and Iron Age periods, at Westcombe Park, our new development in Maldon.

The findings, which date between 2000BC to 43AD, were uncovered during archaeological investigations in 2021/22, with archaeological project managers, RPS, and archaeologists from UCL’s Archaeology South-East, commissioned by Countryside Partnerships to excavate and record these nationally important artefacts.

Amongst the findings was extensive evidence of a Bronze Age settlement, with the discovery of a large concentration of postholes within a rectangular enclosure, which constituted at least three longhouses (a long, proportionately narrow, single-room building for communal dwelling), measuring up to 30m long, as well as associated fences for livestock control and/or plot division.

Further exciting finds included an intact Iron Age pot, placed at the base of an enclosure ditch, two large intact Bronze Age ‘buckets’ and a large assemblage of loom-weights indicating textile production in the vicinity.

What’s more, a number of timber planks and posts containing tool-marks, thought to represent the remains of a revetment (used in stream restoration, river engineering or coastal engineering), were found in the waterlogged deposits at the base of a large pit outside of the enclosure, which is likely to have served as a water source for the occupants or their cattle. Seven Iron Age roundhouse were also found, constituting external circular drainage ditches, known as ‘drip gullies’, which varied in size from 9m to 15m with internal postholes.

These remains provide evidence of an extensively occupied landscape and are consistent with evidence from previous archaeological investigations in the Blackwater Valley.

Martin Leach, Managing Director, Strategic Land and Major Projects, Countryside Partnerships, said: “We are very excited by the artefacts that have been recovered during the excavations. We look forward to the analysis reports coming back, where we will be able to identify specific dates and indicate the precise nature of the activity that took place on site during the Bronze Age and Iron Age periods.”

Rob Cullum, lead archaeologist on site, said: “Whilst post-excavation analysis is currently being undertaken in order to establish the precise date of the settlement, the longhouses are thought to represent a rarely seen building type in the British Bronze Age, where the primary building type is generally thought to be the roundhouse. The only contemporary parallels known are from Scandinavia.”

Gemma Stevenson, Project Manager for ASE, said: “Of particular interest are the remains of a Bronze Age bracelet or necklace made from amber, a rare material in Britain at this time, and a Neolithic tranchet axe which seems to have been curated for some time before being deposited in the foundation of an Iron Age roundhouse, thousands of years after it was made.”