10th January 2022:
The latest seris of the BBC's flagship archaeology programme, Digging for Britain, will feature National Grid's Hinkley Connection Project and Oxford Archaeology's excavation of a nationally significant Roman settlement in Somerset this week.
The site was discovered during the pre-construction phase of underground cabling work on National Grid’s Hinkley Connection Project. Over the last two years, Oxford Archaeology with National Grid and Balfour Beatty, completed one of the most intensively excavated slices through a Roman roadside settlement undertaken in the UK to date. The site is exceptionally well preserved: Layer after layer of settlement remains were meticulously excavated and recorded using cutting edge photogrammetry methods. Remains include houses, barns, roads, and wells. Numerous crop-driers or malting ovens show that this part of the settlement was involved in agricultural production and part of the site may have been a butcher’s shop. Numerous newborn infant burials were found buried within the settlement, in accordance with standard Roman burial customs. The Roman settlement seems to have been an important regional market centre at a road junction and river crossing in the Mendip Hills. Although occupied from the 1st Century to the 4th the settlement appears to have experienced an economic boom in the reigns of the Emperor Constantine and his successors in the first half of the 4th century AD.
The excavations were planned and carried out as part of the Hinkley Connection Project, a new high-voltage electricity connection between Bridgwater and Seabank near Avonmouth. This project is a significant investment in the SW region’s electricity network and will enable National Grid to connect new sources of low-carbon energy to homes and businesses, including Hinkley Point C, EDF Energy’s new power station in Somerset. The project will play a vital role in delivering electricity safely, efficiently and reliably, and support the UK’s ambition to achieve its net zero by 2050 target. The new connection will be 57 kilometres long – consisting of 48.5 kilometres of overhead line and 8.5 kilometres of underground cable through the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Further information can be found on the National Grid and project websites, at the links below:
Details of the Hinkley Connection Project: https://hinkleyconnection.co.uk/project-summary
Future updates on the archaeology: https://hinkleyconnection.co.uk/archaeology
Previously published article on the archaeology: https://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/stories/grid-at-work-stories/going-underground-archaeological-finds-somerset
The site, located near Winscombe in Somerset, is featured in episode 5 of the series, being broadcast at 8pm on Wednesday 12th January on BBC Two and will be available afterwards on demand on BBCiPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0013f61 Digging for Britain is hosted by Professor Alice Roberts, and she visited the excavations last year to meet the team.
Following completion of the archaeological excavations, all artefacts have been recovered and recorded, the underground cables are in place and the land has been reinstated. With our partners National Grid and Balfour Beatty, we gave a presentation on the results to Local Society members in September 2021. Further academic reports and publicity are in the planning stages.