Well I never knew that”!
Did you know there is said to be a: ‘known Roman road and a river crossing, close to the site of the former Sandwell College, Woden Road South?
And If you did know, is this because it has been well documented?
But did you know this: The Roman road is said to run from Pennocrucium (Stretton, on the A5, west of Gailey) to Metchley (Edgbaston, Birmingham) it would pass north-west to south-east through Wednesbury, over Church Hill and across West Bromwich Heath.
“HOLD Ya OSSES”!
Did I just read that they knew of a Roman road that ran across Church hill? I’m confused because didn’t they already discount a Roman Road anywhere near Wednesbury?
(I shall have to dig out that earlier report)
In September 2004, they were hoping to find this ‘Known’ Roman Road and the river crossing, which was said to pass close to the site of the college.
The results of the evaluation, however, revealed that mining activity had re-modelled the landscape around there.
And that the north end of the site had been truncated and subsequently used for landfill, prior to construction of the College in the early 1970s.
Now, I apologise for repeating myself but: “A Known Roman road?”?
I know they discovered some Roman coins, but if I remember correctly, they had some good excuse for finding them where they did, and went on to say: “That there was no evidence at all to even hint at a Roman road ever being in Wednesbury.
And now I come across this report?
Okay, I will admit that it is probably well known to a lot of you. After all, archaeology was never my thing when I lived in Wednesbury. “Actually, its not my thing now!
But everything else with the word ‘Wednesbury’ in the sentence has just lately become my ‘very big’ thing!
“Over Church hill”?
Apparently they had this field evaluation because they had received a planning application for residential development of the site. (Planning Application No. DC/04/42731).
The proposed development area covered a total area of about 5.5 ha.
And the area lay on either side of the River Thame and its location was thought to be a “likely setting for prehistoric activity”.
“A likely setting for prehistoric activity”?
I know, I suppose they were only surmising, but I never heard that surmise come out in public, did you?
They go on to say:
Within a short distance to the north of the River Thame is “The historic core of the medieval town of Wednesbury”, and a possible Iron Age hill fort.
So, already knowing that this Roman road is said to run from Stretton, on the A5, west of Gailey to Edgbaston and it would pass north-west to south-east through Wednesbury over Church Hill and across West Bromwich Heath.
This indicated that the alignment would set the Roman Road and its river crossing close, near to, or on the site of the college.
They then mention the hoard of Roman coins that was found in Wednesbury during the 19th century, but say the exact location of the find is not known?
Anyway, if you’re still with me …and not drifted into a trance-like state because of boredom, I will let you read the rest of the report.
An Historic maps depicts the site of the college as being used for coal mining and later sand pits in the Victorian period and early part of the 20th century.
In 1890 the site lay due east of the Globe Tube Works and was the site of a large clay pit. Sand pits are depicted south of the site on Balls Hill, where there was also a colliery.
By 1903 coal shafts are shown on the site and by the time of maps dated 1919 and 1938 there were further clay pits and coal shafts. By 1965 the site appears as an array of steeply sloping earthworks, which appear to have been leveled by the early 1970s, when the college is mapped for the first time (AIG Consultants Ltd, 2003).
The aims of the evaluation were to determine or confirm the following:
1 The general nature of any remains present and to assess the possible scale of development impact on any remains and provide information that might influence development design so that impact on any remains could be avoided or minimised.
2 To provide information that would allow the local planning authority to reconcile development proposals with their policy for preserving archaeological remains and make an informed and reasoned decision on the planning application.
3 Provide site specific archaeological information, which if necessary, would allow for design and integration of timing and funding of any further archaeological work (or mitigation strategy) that may be required in advance of or during any subsequent development programme.
4. To produce a site archive for deposition with an appropriate museum, provide information for accession to the Sandwell Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) and in general to add to the corpus of known information for this area.
“What corpus of known information”?
Scope of fieldwork
1. The agreed brief for the evaluation specified that a total of 1,629 m² (3% of the area to be developed) was to be evaluated. This equated to twenty-seven trenches each measuring 30 m by 2 m
2. Due to the presence of unforeseen services, two test pits replaced Trench 21 and Trench 23 was not excavated at all.
Trenches 19 and 24 were also deemed too difficult to excavate owing to the presence of drains and were replaced with test pits.
3. Trench 13 was relocated to avoid an existing car-park, and Trench 27 was enlarged to further assess the potential for archaeological survival in that area.
4. Trenches 4, 5 and 6 were not excavated as it was agreed with the Borough Archaeologist, Mr Graham Eyre-Morgan, that previous trenches in this area rendered further investigation unnecessary.
5. For the same reasons Trenches 1 and 2 were reduced in scale to test pits.
Fieldwork methods and recording
6. Topsoil and overburden were removed by mechanical excavator using a toothless ditching bucket while under archaeological supervision. The spoil generated during the evaluation was mounded away from each trench.
Mechanical excavation ceased at either undisturbed natural deposits, or when archaeological features were encountered. The nature of those deposits was assessed by hand.
Excavation of archaeological features was undertaken to determine their date, sequence, density and Nature.
The trenches were cleaned by hand and the revealed features were sampled to determine their extent and nature, and to retrieve finds and environmental samples. All archaeological features and deposits were issued with unique context numbers.
Trenches were planned at a scale of 1:100 if no features were present, and at 1:50 if there were deposits to be examined. Section drawings of features and sample sections were drawn at scales of 1:20. All trenches, sample sections and features were photographed using colour slide and black and white print film. Recording followed procedures detailed in the OA Fieldwork Manual (ed. D Wilkinson, 1992).
The photographic record also included shots of the site prior to commencement of fieldwork and during the evaluation, showing specific stages of fieldwork.
No finds were recovered from the evaluation.
The site incorporated a basic flat landscape on the north side of the river Thame and rose relatively steeply to the south on its southern side. Only in the far south-west corner of the site and along parts of the east side were there any remnants of the original land-surface. Probable quarrying, landfill and re-landscaping had heavily truncated the remainder of the site.
Where there was survival of the original land-surface, it generally comprised brick earth overlain by natural subsoil.
Only one trench (Trench 17) contained archaeological features or deposits. This was located towards the centre of the site. However, the feature identified within this trench contained no finds and is thought to be post-medieval in date.
“A Roman road crossing over Church Hill aye? … Well I never!
Document Title: Former Sandwell College, Woden Road,Wednesbury.
Document Type: Evaluation
Issue Number: 1
National Grid Reference: NGR SO 3990 2940
Planning Reference: DC/04/42731
OA Job Number: 2435
Site Code: SAND 04
Invoice Code: SAND EV
Receiving Museum: Wednesbury Art Gallery and Museum
Museum Accession No: 0330
Prepared by: Robert Radford .. Position: Supervisor
Date: 28th October 2004
Checked by: Jon Hiller .. Position: Senior Project Manager
Date: 8th November 2004
Approved by: Nick Shepherd and Signed .. Position: Head of Fieldwork
Date: 12th November 2004
Document File Location X:\SANDEV_Sandwell_College_Wednesbury\FINAL
REPORT\EVAL REPORT 3.doc
Graphics File Location Server 10 OAU pubs SAND EV *JM* 10.11.04