Secrets of Northamptonshire’s past set to be unearthed as HS2 begins archaeology work

Archaeologists have started work on Britain's largest ever dig
Archaeologists have started work on Britain's largest ever dig

HS2 archaeologists have started excavating in Northamptonshire as part of a project spanning the length of the 150-mile route from London to Birmingham which will explore more than 10,000 years of British history.

Several sites of interest are located in Northamptonshire giving archaeologists, conservators, period and heritage experts and other specialists from across the UK the opportunity to explore the county’s history and heritage.

An Iron Age in Wormleighton, near the Daventry District border, is to be excavated as part of the project (Copyright Bing Aerial Maps)

An Iron Age in Wormleighton, near the Daventry District border, is to be excavated as part of the project (Copyright Bing Aerial Maps)

These sites include Blackgrounds Farm, the site of a Roman villa with an extended settlement; Edgcote battleground, a decisive battle in the Wars of the Roses; Prehistoric and Roman settlements and landscapes around Chipping Warden; a Roman temple and farm settlement at Illets Farm near Brackley; a Roman and prehistoric settlement at Greatworth Hall; a deserted medieval village at Radstone; a watermill and ponds near Thorpe Mandeville and RAF Greatworth, linked to Bletchley Park.

Helen Wass, HS2 head of heritage, said: "Northamptonshire is rich in history and archaeology and HS2 provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the county’s past through the careful and planned archaeology works.

"From exploring the prehistoric and Romano-British villa in Blackgrounds Farm, understanding more about a Roman-British temple near Brackley to investigating the site of a major battle in the Wars of the Roses, HS2’s archaeology programme has it all.

"Our discoveries will be shared with communities through open days, expert lectures and the BBC documentary we are filming.

"This is a very exciting time for archaeology in Northamptonshire.

"The sheer scale of possible discoveries, the geographical span and the vast range of our history to be unearthed makes HS2’s archaeology programme a unique opportunity to tell the story of Northamptonshire and Britain."

Edgcote battleground to the south was the site of one of the most important battles in the Wars of the Roses and led to the capture and execution of Edward IV.

The HS2 work will be the most detailed investigation ever of the physical remains of the battlefield and archaeologists hope to recover evidence for engagements between the royalist and rebel armies.

At Blackgrounds, archaeologists hope to discover more about the Iron Age and Roman farm settlement that lies next to a scheduled villa.

Initial archaeological investigations show the farm is far larger than first thought and likely to be a small village.

The remains also seem to date much further back into the prehistoric past suggesting this has always been an important place.

Over the next two years, more than 1,000 experts will work on 60 sites in England ranging from the Prehistoric period to Roman Britain, the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval ages, the Industrial Revolution and World War Two.

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston said: "This is the largest archaeological exploration ever in Britain, employing a record number of skilled archaeologists and heritage specialists from all across the country and beyond."