Background to the Project
The Ewell Hinterland Project was set up by EEHAS in conjunction with Surrey Archaeological Society to examine and investigate the archaeological evidence for Iron Age and Romano-British sites around Ewell, a known Romano-British settlement. Since 2009 members have participated in a number of field walking days which involve walking over ploughed fields in a methodical manner to ascertain evidence for past occupation. Man-made artefacts are collected, examined, recorded and returned to the field. It was decided to include all fields that became available regardless of whether or not there is archaeological evidence already known for past activity. This ensures that: 1- new sites are more likely to be identified; 2- fields that are currently ploughed are investigated whilst field walking is possible, as they may be returned to pasture in the future.
In March 2009 volunteers carried out two days of field walking at Langley Bottom Farm, which is situated on the chalk of the North Downs. Three fields were walked-Langley Vale Field, (centre NGR 520210, 157305) , Nutshambles (centre NGR 520096,157208)and Headley Road Field (centre NGR 520202,156946). The fields had all been slit cultivated, that is the soil is not turned over but is slit to a depth of about 5cm. This obviously reduces the turn-over of artefacts in the soil and as a result surprisingly little was found. One of the highest number of finds was of golf balls, the area being used by golf enthusiasts from Langley Vale as a practice ground! We were joined by two metal detectorists, Bill Meads and John Cole, who found a Tudor clothes fastener and an unidentifiable coin, approximately 1.5cm in diameter, from Langley Vale Field. This field also produced an orange sandy ware handle with stabbed decoration and a green glaze, of 12th-13th century
date. All fields produced amounts of undiagnostic brick and tile, butchered and unbutchered bone, bottle and window glass, domestic pottery and a number of post-medieval metal objects.
A cursory inspection was made of Trial Course Field (centre NGR 520862,157507) which borders the south side of the current Langley Vale settlement, and Tadworth Meadows (centre NGR 522513,157095); very little was noted apart from domestic/ agricultural detritus. Tadworth Meadows is the site of an Iron Age Banjo enclosure (thought to be a stock pen) and the slit ploughing is carried out here to protect any remaining archaeology. Three fields in the centre of the Langley Bottom Farm estate, close to Downs View, were also checked briefly (Centre NGR 521810,156284/ 521780,156354/521665,156509)). These fields were traditionally ploughed but nothing of interest was noted.
In May 2009 two fields were fieldwalked at Northey Fields (centre NGR 523743,162008 and 523300,161710). Romano-British pottery and tiles had previously been found in the Northey Avenue area (Surrey Heritage Record 1104) and metal detectorists are known to have found a number of metal Romano-British objects, albeit acting without permission. The fields had been ploughed the week previously, harrowed and sown with a rape seed crop. Field 1, immediately to the south of Northey Avenue produced the body sherd of a bellarmine jar with part of what appeared to be a Tudor rose on a coat of arms. These stoneware bottles have a moulded bearded mask on, or just below, the neck and were copied in England circa 1675 by a Fulham pottery. A green glazed sherd of borderware pot was also found dating from the 16th-17th century. The metal detectorists found two small copper alloy coins in Field 2 (just off the Banstead Road) which may possibly be of Roman date, and a small sherd of greyware, likely to be of RB or medieval date, was found in the south-east corner of the field.
At the end of November a further two fields were field walked, this time at North Looe, Ewell. This area lies between the late Iron Age/ early Romano-British farmstead at The Looe (SHER 1101) and the Early Iron Age site near Epsom College (SHER 929). Again, the fields had been ploughed, harrowed and seeded. No finds of interest were noted.
Due to late ploughing only two fields were walked in November 2010 before the weather deteriorated and snow stopped any further activity. At North Looe Farm only one field was walked and revealed amazingly little for any period. At Northey Fields 90 golf balls were found (they must be bad shots at Cuddington Golf Club!) and a single sherd of Roman Samian pottery. There was anecdotal evidence for Roman tile and pottery found in the area in 1930s during house building but this was the first evidence for Romano-British activity in the three fields examined in the last two years.
Full details of the field walking and relevant artefacts will be lodged at Bourne Hall Museum. Thanks go to all those who participated and to Michael Jelley, farm manager of Langley Bottom Farm and Eric Wise, farmer of Northey Fields and North Looe, for their permission and support.
Above - an orange sandy stabbed decoration medieval pot handle
Above - a Tudor clothes fastener
PDF of a presentation given to Surrey Archaeological Society's Roman Studies Group in April 2010