Overstone, Northamptonshire: Residential Development Archaeological Programme

Client: 
Barratt and David Wilson homes
Date: 
2019

Size (area): 13 hectares
Size (team): 25 Archaeologists and in-house specialists 
Project Value: £1,100,000
Number of finds: 3000

In 2019, a 13-hector site at Overstone Farm in Northamptonshire was excavated by MOLA for Barratt and David Wilson Homes as part of their pre-construction planning requirement for their new residential development. As part of its commitment to preserving the history of the areas in which it builds, Barratt and David Wilson Homes funded and supported the works with a £1.1million pledge. Overstone Farm forms part of the wider Sustained Urban Extension on the north-eastern edge of Northampton. MOLA was supported in their works by the scheme’s heritage consultants RPS Group.

Archaeological work, including geophysical surveys and evaluation, was carried out on the site between 2009 and 2011 by Northamptonshire Archaeology, yet the significance of the site was not apparent until MOLA’s investigations, with a great volume and richness of finds.  Our proactive response to these discoveries was critical to managing timescales and costs for the client.

The archaeological investigation

This was a complex project, which involved working in multiple excavation areas concurrently to release areas on schedule for the client. We therefore ensured that our work was carefully programmed, and project managed effectively around the Principal Contractor’s operations on site.

Between February and December 2019, our archaeologists undertook detailed excavation and recording across a total of 13 hectares, split into eight areas. Our work on the site enhanced understanding of the surrounding landscape which we have extensive experience excavating. To deal with the exceptional archaeology our in-house specialists contributed to the on-site investigations while the project was ongoing, including osteologists, geoarchaeologists and conservators. These specialists also delivered training on best practices to on-site teams to deliver the best possible archaeological investigation.

Archaeological findings and research

Excavations revealed a Bronze Age monument complex constructed between 2000BC and 1500BC, which included three barrows.

Work also revealed the site was reoccupied in the mid-5th century, with over 40 structures built on the site over the next 300 years. An associated cemetery was also created with over 150 burials - the largest cemetery from this period ever found in Northamptonshire. Nearly 3000 rare Anglo-Saxon objects were discovered in the cemetery, and many of the burials were found to contain grave goods including roughly 150 brooches, 15 rings, 2000 beads, 75 wrist clasps and 15 chatelaine belt hooks. Other findings included weapons, as well everyday items such as cosmetic kits and bone combs, and some rare textiles.

Research undertaking by finds specialists and osteologists aided by conservators and a range of other experts suggests that the site was a focal point of burial activity for thousands of years. Our findings provide insight into daily life and death both in the Anglo-Saxon period and the Bronze Age, analysis of the human remains, artefacts and structures are helping us to understand the community who lived here, including their diets and health, and how this varied between the two different periods.