Roman and Medieval Malting on Burcote Road

Mo Muldowney

Mo Muldowney, Archaeological Project Manager, discusses a rare glimpse into Roman and medieval malting in Northamptonshire.

Recent excavations ahead of a residential development by Redrow Homes at Wood Burcote, near Towcester, have identified buildings associated with malting and grain preparation, possibly for brewing.

Finding evidence of Roman remains at the dig was not unexpected, given that we were so close to Towcester, the Roman town of Lactodurum, and also Watling Street, one of the major communication and transport routes of the Roman period; however we were surprised to find the remains of multiple buildings dedicated to the preparation of grain for malting and possibly also brewing. The pottery, including an almost intact Samian ware vessel, and coins recovered from the building tell us that the Roman malting took place during the 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD.

The next surprise was that malting was taking place in the same building throughout the medieval period as well, although intermittently, from the mid-13th century to around 1600 AD. The existing building was modified and extended to include an apsidal end, inside which we found lots of charcoal, suggesting that room may have been used to heat the grains, perhaps in a vat or tank, which sadly hasn’t survived.

Now that the archaeological excavations are complete, further analysis is underway and we look forward to finding out what more the pottery, animal bone, coins, roof tile, and environmental samples found around the remains of the buildings can tell us about the process of malting in both the Roman and medieval periods.


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