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Reassessment of earlier excavations

Other aspects

There are three other aspects of Radford's interpretation of archaeological features at Cricklade which must be called into question:

  1. the existence of a Roman cemetery near the west side of the Saxon bank;
  2. the existence of an internal street running parallel to the west side of the defences in the south-west corner; and
  3. the 'evidence' for the position of the west gate.

Roman cemetery

Radford has suggested that 'the most important contribution made [to the study of Roman Cricklade] is the discovery just outside the west rampart ... of a small Romano-British cemetery' (p.95). Three graves were found in trench K.A1 and another in trench W.XIX (1972, 85, fig. 9). There is, however, no direct evidence of their Roman date. A fragment of Roman tombstone found in the Saxon wall (1972, 89-90), on which evidence Radford's conclusion is based, no more dates the graves than it does the wall, nor by itself does it demonstrate the existence of a cemetery in its immediate proximity. The grave in W.XIX is unstratified, but the other three are shown in the published section of K.A1 (K1 in fig. 10, 1972, 86) as occupying positions in the upper filling of a feature which has been demonstrated above as being the late Saxon outer ditch. Their presence has been quite reasonably explained by Wainwright, who in referring to the skeleton in W.XIX observes in his site notebook (vol. 1, 1954, p.57) that it 'could be (with Knocker's skeletons) the body of a malefactor buried (?in middle ages) on the borough boundary'.

Internal street

In 1963 Radford excavated several trenches (R.I, R.VI, R.VII and R.IX) across a 'low mound running parallel to and 130ft (40m) inside the west rampart of the town' (1972, 79, fig. 7). This was interpreted as 'a roughly made-up trackway belonging to an early occupation' (1972, 83), and in fig. 12 (1972, 98) as an integral part of the layout of the Saxon fortress. This interpretation can be questioned on two grounds. Firstly, this 'street' is both far away from the centre of the town (the High Street) and unrelated to any other arguably Saxon feature, nor can it be fitted into any regular modular layout of the town (a question discussed further in Part 4). Secondly, the cambered line of the 'street' conforms exactly to the line of a ridge in a ridge and furrow field system determined by contour survey prior to excavation in 1975 (see Part 1). Furthermore, the stones (which are not identified) forming the 'metalling' of this 'street' 'were not frequent', and 'lay at random in the soil and close to the camber' (1972, 83). They therefore bore no resemblance to the carefully laid surface of flat Oolitic Limestone slabs forming the intra-mural walkway or wall street. The interpretation of this feature as a laid street, let alone one belonging to the initial layout of the town, must therefore be rejected in favour of an origin as a ridge in a ridge-and-furrow system of probably medieval date.

The West Gate

The tendency to place the west gate in the middle of the west side of the defences (on the grounds of symmetry) rather than under the present Bath Road is long established (Thomson 1961, 68; Radford 1972, 88-9). In order to resolve this question Wainwright dug trenches in a long line northwards from Bath Road (W.XVII - 1972, 85, fig.9) to locate the supposed gate and line of West Street, though with no positive results. Radford notes that the indication of a 'road' on Wainwright's MS plan (lying between 140 and 165ft north of the southern end of the southern section of this trench, but not marked on fig.9, Radford's plan) is inconclusive and 'conjectural'. Wainwright anyway notes that this is a modern feature (site notebook, vol. 1, p.41).

Radford's preferred alternative position for the west gate and west street is '40 to 50ft further north' in the area of Knocker's excavations (1972, 89). This suggestion is based on three features in Knocker's trenches:

  1. the presence of a deposit of 'brash' in trenches K, M and N;
  2. the 'disturbance' of the top layer of clay in trench K1; and
  3. the 'disturbance' of burials in this area.

However, it must be pointed out that the 'brash' in trenches K, M and N must refer to the destruction products of the wall (period 3A), and therefore demonstrates that the wall originally existed at this point. Secondly, the 'disturbance' in trench K1 represents the filling of a 1.5m deep Saxon ditch, and the 'disturbed' burials in its upper filling are probably medieval in date. The presence of both the wall and the ditch rule out the possibility of a street or gateway at this point. Radford's further suggestion that there was a market place outside this presumed gateway, which was connected to the river and a dock by a hollow-way (1972, 88 and 99), must also be rejected. Not only is there no gateway here, but his suggested hollow-way is in fact the outer defensive ditch of period 4, and the 'market place' merely the space between this ditch and the Saxon bank.

However, topographical arguments suggest that Bath Road perpetuates the western street of the original fortress. Since its alignment outside the defences respects the position of the defences established in c. 1144 (period 4), it must have passed through these defences on its present line when these defences were still a major topographical feature, and therefore when they were first built. The close relationship of the 12th century defences to their Saxon predecessors implies that the positions of the street and gateway were the same in the Saxon period as they were in the 12th century. The fact that the distance from the suggested West Gate under Bath Road to the north-west and south-west corners of the defences do not correspond to any 4-pole (66ft) module, which can be detected in the layout of both the streets and the defences (Haslam 1986), carries the implication that this represents an earlier routeway incorporated within the layout of the 9th century fortress.

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