skip to primary navigationskip to content


Hilgay 2018 Test Pit Location Map

Hilgay 2018 Pottery Report


2018 was the first year of test pit excavations undertaken in Hilgay and so on the 1st and 2nd of May, a total of 38 Year 9 and Year 12 students from Springwood High School and the King Edward VII school excavated a total of 9 1m2 archaeological test pits. The test pits were spread through the village along Hubbard's Drove, East End and back from the High Street, with three pits excavated in a field immediately west of the church and were dug as as part of the Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS) programme, formally known as the Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA), undertaken by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) in East Anglia and beyond, which aims to raise the aspirations, enthusiasm and attainment of 14-17 year-olds with regard to higher education by making a valuable contribution to current academic research at the University of Cambridge, into the development of rural communities and settlements in the past.

The earliest pottery excavated from Hilgay dated to the Late Bronze Age, with one sherd excavated from HGY/18/7. A large amount of worked flint and burnt stone were also recovered from all three of the test pits next to the church (HGY/18/7, HGY/18/8 and HGY/18/9) which is positioned on an area of higher ground on this island in the fens and would have been an ideal location for settlement as found here. A spread of lithics were also recorded through the southern test pits only, with no evidence for any prehistoric activity recorded in HGY/18/3 and HGY/18/4. Evidence for Romano-British activity was only found from two test pits that were excavated in the same garden along Hubbard's Drove (HGY/18/1 and HGY/18/2) which does suggest a shift in settlement activity into the Roman period. 

There was no evidence for any Anglo Saxon activity in Hilgay, despite the fact that a settlement was recorded here in the Domesday Book, and only three of the nine test pits yielded just four sherds of high medieval pottery (HGY/18/1, HGY/18/3 and HGY/18/5). These were recorded from test pits sited centrally in the village, between Modney Priory (built by Ramsey Abbey in the 13th century) in the north and All Saint's Church in the south. As no evidence for later medieval activity was found, it is likely that the settlement here during the 14th century suffered from the various social and economic factors of the time, including the Black Death, although further excavations would be needed to prove this. All the test pits then yielded evidence for post medieval and later activity; the increase of settlement here may be related to the drainage of the fens and the subsequent fertile farmland that became available.