Rutland History Society's Archaeological Group has been fieldwalking an area near Thistleton for several years. It is known to have been the site of a Romano-British town, but most of it was thought to have been lost as a result of ironstone quarrying in the 1950s. However, the investigation revealed that the archaeology had survived and that the town extended to nearly 100 acres. This confirmed the need for the more intensive survey which followed. Jeremy Taylor of Leicester University, assisted by members of the group, then carried out a geophysical survey which revealed a number of interesting features including a magnificent temple, roads, ditches and iron smelting sites.When a planning application was presented to open a new limestone quarry in the area a condition attached to the permission stated that a haulage road had to be built in order to avoid disruption and noise to the village. The route chosen happened to go through the site of the Romano-British town. A known or suspected site of archaeological significance must be evaluated before work commences. In this case an extensive geophysical survey and trial trenching was carried out along the length of the proposed road by Northamptonshire Archaeology. The results were spectacular. A section of exceptionally well preserved Roman road was exposed, the rut marks from wheels still clearly visible. In another trench an oven was found, the stones showing clear signs of burning and there was evidence of a possible flue structure. Several ditches were uncovered and collapsed masonry pointed to where walls had once stood. The skeleton of a child was perhaps the most remarkable find. It was a considerable distance from a cemetery which had been excavated by Ernest Greenfield in the late 1950s.Before the arrival of Christianity, it was not uncommon for young children to be buried with little or no ceremony and in places that we would find very strange today, even under the floors of houses. One of several theories suggests that until a child could speak properly it was not considered to be fully human.Geophysics and trial trenching were also undertaken on the site of the quarry itself. Whilst not quite so exciting as the finds along the haulage road there was nonetheless evidence of Romano-British rural activity together with an undated ring ditch. When work begins to open the quarry a watching brief will take place. This will involve archaeologists observing the topsoil as it is removed. It is highly likely that more archaeology will be found.
Inspecting the Romano-British road at Thistleton. The line of trees marks Fosse Lane, a link between Ermine Street and Fosse Way
Rut marks in the surface of the Romano-British road at Thistleton
The Romano-British infilled ditch found on the Thistleton site. The skeleton of a small child was found near here
Burnt limestone indicates a hearth surrounded by flooring material
All the trenches were accurately recorded and photographed before back filling. None of the structures found were lifted, although pottery sherds were removed for dating purposes. If the haulage road is built the archaeology will be protected for future generations by a special membrane, which acts as a shock absorber, and approximately 1.5 metres of earth.