Saxon skeletons unearthed in Gloucestershire
EVIDENCE of an Anglo-Saxon settlement dating back more than 1,000 years has been unearthed in Cheltenham.
Two skeletons, pottery and a large wooden hall used for feasting have been discovered during building work on the new All Saint’s Academy site.
The find, in Hester’s Way, which probably dates to the 6th to 8th century AD, has excited archaeology experts and influenced thoughts on the history of the area.
It is generally thought the area around Gloucester did not succumb to Saxon control in this period, but remained a largely independent British kingdom.
Cliff Bateman, project manager at Cotswold Archaeology, which is monitoring work at the site off Howell Road, said: “It would appear there were more pockets of Anglo-Saxon control in the Severn Valley than we previously thought.
“Anglo-Saxon burials have been found in Bishop’s Cleeve*and Tewkesbury, but this discovery shows Saxon influence right on the doorstep of Gloucester.”
Steve Sheldon, of Cotswold Archaeology, who is directing the excavation on the site of the former Kingsmead School, said it was one of the best finds of his career.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to find too much when we started work on the site,” he said.
Large pieces of Anglo-Saxon pottery were found in a large pit, along with the two skeletons, which will be carbon dated but are thought to be Saxon.
Further work in the area revealed Saxon ditches and a large timber hall built from substantial posts. The hall would have been around 11m long by 6m wide and used for communal events, including feasts.
Next Tuesday, pupils from Christ College and the former Kingsmead School, who have shown an interest in the works, will examine the site and look at the finds before they are removed for dating and recording. All of them will then be donated to Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.
Despite the finds, construction on the site is continuing and the overall project is still on track for a September 2011 opening.
*N. Holbrook, 2000, ‘The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Lower Farm, Bishop’s Cleeve: excavations directed by Kenneth Brown, 1969’, Trans. Bristol Glos. Archaeol. Soc., 118, 61–92,