16th April 2008
23rd April 2008
Twenty-two test pits were excavated in West Mersea in 2008, bringing the total to date to 38. Two of these produced prehistoric pottery, and several yielded Roman material: activity in these periods seems to shift around within the central area of the present village, in a zone extending c. 500m north from the church. Two sites excavated in 2008 (WME/08/17 and WME/08/18) produced Ipswich Ware (c. 720 - 850 AD), derived in both cases from apparently undisturbed levels between 40-60cm below the surface containing no later material. It seems likely this is an area of some sort of relatively intensive activity in the eighth or ninth century and might reasonably be inferred to represent settlement. Significant quantities of Roman material were residual in WME/08/18.
As in previous excavations, no material of late Anglo-Saxon date was found in any of the test pits. In the post-Conquest period activity at West Mersea seems to have been re-established, and included the area around the church and that c. 700m inland around WME/07/5. The twelfth to fourteenth century is also the earliest date for which material has been recovered from the westernmost part of the present village (most notably in WME/08/7 and WME/08/9), suggesting that this area may have come into existence at this time, with occupants probably exploiting its shore-edge location. Only one site (WME/08/9) produced more than five sherds of pottery, however, suggesting that this apparently scattered activity at West Mersea may have been of quite low intensity. In the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the focus of activity appears to shift to become almost exclusively seated along the shore-edge, with activity decreasing or ceasing altogether c.100m inland from the present shoreline. Pottery from the sixteenth century (most notably from WME/08/9) includes Dutch, Spanish and German wares, suggesting that international trade was a significant element in the economy of West Mersea at this time.