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Coddenham 2011

Coddenham 2011 Pottery Report

Coddenham 2011 Test Pit Location Map

Ten more pits were excavated in Coddenham in 2011 bringing the total to date to fifty-nine. Most pits were sited to fill gaps in previous excavation sites, but three were located in Coddenham Green, c. 2km north of the existing nucleated village where test pitting has previously focussed. Settlement in Coddenham Green today is very sparse, comprising an intermittent string of farms interspersed with occasional clusters of two or three cottages along a lane which climbs northwards, out of a small east-west orientated tributary valley of the River Gipping, to run along the top of a natural ridge. COD/11/07 was sited adjacent to a cottage c. 200m from the stream valley, with COD/1108 and COD/11/09 sited well out of the valley, on high, dry land at c. 62m OD. (This contrasts with the settlement around Coddenham Church which mostly lies adjacent to the stream valley at between 28-35m OD.)

Two of the pits excavated in 2011 produced Bronze Age pottery, effectively doubling the number of pits from Coddenham to have produced material of this date. COD/11/06 produced two sherds, both from levels with no evidence of modern disturbance, and can be interpreted alongside evidence from previous years to infer, with increased confidence, activity near the stream at this time. COD/11/07 also produced one sherd of Bronze Age pottery: although this was very small (1g), it was found just above the natural, in a layer with no evidence of any more recent disturbance, and may indeed indicate settlement, or more probably some lower-intensity agricultural or funerary activity, in the area. This same pit also produced five sherds of pottery of Roman date, all from the same 10cm spit. Coddenham lies in an area of known Roman activity, with the small town of Combretovium about 3km south-west of the present village while the present A140 road just 0.5km west of Coddenham Green follows the line of a Roman road. It seems likely that COD/11/07 was located on or near the site of a farm or other small settlement of Roman date.

COD/11/07 produced no post-Roman ceramics, but COD/11/08, c. 1km to its north, produced a sherd of hand-made Anglo-Saxon pottery (7g) dating to sometime between 450 and 700 AD. Although six pits in Coddenham itself have produced similar material, in general it is rare in excavations generally compared to later material, and has only occasionally turned up in test pit excavations in the eastern region, so its appearance at Coddenham Green must be considered significant, and likely to indicate contemporary activity, probably settlement, in the vicinity. This was a remarkable find from an area which, before excavation, was considered most likely to have originated in either the 12th-13th centuries or the post-medieval period. Although the site produced no evidence of middle Anglo-Saxon date, it did yield a reasonably-sized sherd of Thetford Ware (5g) suggesting it was in use in the period between the mid 9th and late 11th century, probably as settlement as manuring is rarely carried out at this time. COD/11/08 also produced a total of fourteen sherds of 12th – 14th century pottery, clear evidence for settlement in the vicinity at this time. A similar number of sherds of this date were found at COD/11/09, the other ridge-top pit dug at Coddenham Green in 2011, c. 1km north of COD/11/08. It seems that the Coddenham Green area, despite its superficially unattractive location, on high, dry land, was in fairly continuous use from the Roman period onwards, perhaps with arable fields sporadically punctuated by small settlements.

The origins of the present Coddenham Green road, along which all three pits excavated in 2011 were sited, is unknown, but it is notable that it is very deeply hollowed at its southern end where it climbs out of the valley, and so it may well be of some antiquity, and a Roman or even prehistoric origin cannot be ruled out. Intermittent settlement along this road has been present since the late Anglo-Saxon period, when the village at Coddenham was growing and new sites appeared at Choppins, to its north. Settlement activity at Coddenham Green appears to have increased in the high medieval period, with a new settlement at COD/11/09. This would be contemporary with the first evidence for outlying settlement on more elevated land near Coddenham itself, at Ivy Farm and Hill Farm. 

It seems likely that Coddenham Green declined in the late medieval period, as all three pits between them yielded just one small sherd (2g) of pottery dating to the late 14th – mid 16th century (from COD/11/08). This echoes the pattern noted at the other outlying farm sites (Choppins, Ivy Farm and Hill Farm), none of which produced any ceramic material of late 14th – late 16th century date. It seems that these outlying sites, even more than the village itself, struggled in the later medieval period. Unlike the village and the farms immediately on its edge, however, the settlements at Coddenham Green show no evidence for revival in the post-medieval period: between them, the three pits at Coddenham Green produced just two sherds of pottery dating to the early 17th – late 18th century, one weighin 3g, the other just 1g.

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