June 2009 HEFA
October 2009 HEFA
Fifteen test pits were excavated in Binham in 2009, six in the Westgate area and the rest in the northern part of the eastern village. Three of these (BIN/09/08, BIN/09/11 and BIN/09/14) produced Roman pottery, two of which were in undisturbed Roman contexts and the third residual in later Anglo-Saxon/medieval levels. These three pits are all clustered together around 150m south of the priory church, and constitute good evidence for Roman settlement in the immediate vicinity. BIN/09/02 produced handmade pottery of early/middle Anglo-Saxon date, a single sherd residual in later Anglo-Saxon levels, indicative of some level of activity in the Westgate area at this time. BIN/09/15 revealed the more substantial discovery of a beam slot containing two large sherds of Ipswich ware, clear evidence of a timber-framed building dating to c. 720–850 AD. The proximity of this to the later priory gatehouse may be a coincidence, but does prompt intriguing questions as whether the middle Saxon structure may be a previously unknown pre-tenth century high status building or possibly even an antecedent to the Norman priory, eleventh-century memories of which may have determined the siting of the later priory. Notably, this middle Anglo-Saxon building also lies close to the putative early-middle Anglo-Saxon cemetery inferred from the metal-detected finds.
In the late Anglo-Saxon period, pottery was found in pits both east (BIN/09/04, BIN/09/08 and BIN/09/11) and west (BIN/09/02 and BIN/09/03) of the later Priory, but, interestingly, not in the area closest to its entrance, which seems to have been unoccupied open space at this time. Again, it is interesting to note that settlement in the late Anglo-Saxon period seems to respect the area around the entrance to the Norman Abbey, although no documentary evidence exists to indicate that it was in existence before the early twelfth century. Pottery of twelfth to fourteenth century date was found widely the 2009 test pits, mostly in some quantity, indicating considerable growth in the extent and possible the intensity of settlement in the post-Conquest centuries. It seems reasonable to infer that the presence of the Priory acted as a stimulus to growth in the settlement. Whether the settlement at this date took the form of a nucleated village or a more attenuated interrupted row, or a combination of the former around the green with the latter along Westgate, is impossible to say based on the number of test pits excavated in 2009, but such a hyphothesis is not contradicted by the evidence to date. A marked downturn is evident in the later medieval period: hardly any pottery dating to the later fourteenth to mid sixteenth centuries was found, with only three pits producing any material of this date. The village east of the priory produced pottery of this date from just a single pit (BIN/09/08) and this yielded just two sherds totalling 3g in weight - hardly indicative of significant activity in the area which otherwise produced no post-fourteenth century medieval material at all - on present data, it would appear that Binham was almost completely deserted at this time.