In late June 2013, 23 test pits were excavated in Shillington, the majority in residential gardens with additional pits excavated on the garden allotments north of the church and in Shillington Lower School. Excavations were undertaken by residents of Shillington and members of the public participating in a CCH community archaeology project, run by Shillington History Society supervised by ACA and co-funded by the HLF and the AHRC.
The test pit excavations showed that the landscape was used by humans in the prehistoric period, apparently then favouring the area nearer the small brook running west of the prominent hill which dominates the land around the parish. Near this stream, SHI/13/11 produced several sherds of Bronze Age pottery constituting convincing evidence for undisturbed settlement or mortuary deposits in the immediate vicinity. Small quantities of pottery of Roman date came from five different sites, two of them away from the Brookside area, hinting at a dispersed pattern of settlement or agricultural land-use beyond the lower-lying zones. No evidence was found for any activity dating to the period between the 5th – 9th centuries AD, but Saxo-Norman pottery of 10th – 11th century date was found in two distinct concentrations nearly 1km apart, (south of the church and in Marquis Hill) suggesting more than one hamlet was present, possibly forming part of a semi-nucleated pattern of small settlements. The high medieval period saw these settlements grow in extent and density, while settlement at three other ‘ends’ seems to appear for the first time, indicating a pattern of mixed dispersed and nucleated settlement. This growth ceases in the late medieval period, with Shillington particularly badly affected in this period of widespread demographic and settlement contraction compared to many settlements in the eastern region. In the post-medieval period, however, the test pit data indicates that Shillington gradually recovered, with former dispersed settlements mostly reoccupied, although it did not achieve its pre-14th century levels and some of the medieval ‘ends’ remained uninhabited until the 19th century.