A total of seventeen test pits were excavated in Ashwell in 2012, five during a HEFA in May and twelve as a community excavation in September, with local residents keen to carry on the excavation programme in their village which started with the On Landguard Point Cultural Olympiad Dig and Sow project in 2011. The 2012 excavations brought the total number of pits excavated in Ashwell to fifty, a very creditable achievement over a period of little more than twelve months.
Four of the pits excavated in 2012 produced Romano-British pottery, but only ASH/12/06 did so in quantities likely to indicate settlement in the vicinity. As in 2011, none of the excavated pits produced any pottery of Anglo-Saxon date. Given the textual evidence indicating a settlement of apparently urban status in the 11th century, the absence of pottery of this date remains extremely puzzling: it must be inferred on the present evidence that the Domesday Book settlement must be located somewhere away from the site of the present village. In 2013 a field-walking project is being carried out which may provide clues as to where this may have been. The area of Ashwell Bury and Ashwell Grange, immediately north of the church and present village alongside the Rhee Stream, would seem to be a plausible possibility. The recovery of a few sherds of Romano-British pottery and one of medieval shelly ware (1100-1400 AD) from ASH/12/07, just north of Ashwell Grange, provides some tentative support and is noteworthy in this respect. Alternatively, the area north-east of the present village (east of the stream, going towards the war memorial) produced one sherd of middle Anglo-Saxon date in 2011 and this may be a hint that the later Anglo-Saxon settlement lay in this area, although it should be noted that this sherd may have been brought to the site relatively recently as part of a collection. Further archaeological investigation, including test pitting and field-walking, will be needed to explore the mystery of the currently ‘lost’ Anglo-Saxon town of Ashwell further.
Very few of the pits excavated in Ashwell in 2012 produced any high medieval pottery. ASH/12/14, ASH/12/15 and ASH/12/16 are all on the margins of the present village and clearly lay beyond the medieval settlement in areas probably used as arable. It is more surprising that pits ASH/12/01-ASH/12/05, all in the centre of the present village near the church also produced no pottery of this date. Those few pits that did produce high medieval pottery did so in very small quantities with only ASH/12/12 and ASH/12/13 yielding more than a single sherd. ASH/12/13 is now the second pit east of the spring to produce significant quantities of high medieval pottery, possibly suggesting that settlement at this time extended some way along the spring line, perhaps taking in a more dispersed form than has hitherto been assumed. It remains to be seen if this is location of the 11th century town.
A larger number of pits excavated in 2012 produced pottery of late medieval date, although mostly also in small quantities unlikely to indicate settlement in the vicinity. Exceptions are ASH/12/03, ASH/12/04, ASH/12/12 and ASH/12/13 which all produced more than five sherds and probably do indicate settlement in the immediate vicinity.