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Archaeologists uncover remains of Stortford "henge"

By Herts & Essex Observer  |  Posted: September 11, 2012

Stonehenge in Wiltshire

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A HENGE – or Prehistoric monument - may have been unearthed on the outskirts of Bishop’s Stortford.

Archaeologists investigating sites earmarked for thousands of new homes on the town’s ASRs – areas of special restraint – believe they could have found a Neolithic earthwork in the form of a ritual enclosure on the site along the A120 bypass.

The land – ASRs 1 to 4 - is the subject of a planning application by the Bishop’s Stortford North Consortium of developers and as part of the scheme, a series of trial trenches have been dug to investigate and evaluate their historic potential.

Similar work is being undertaken on ASR 5, which is the subject of a smaller application by Countryside Properties, close to Hazel End.

A report by the county council’s historic environment unit says: “Although these investigations are still ongoing (some of the trial trenches are visible from the Bishop's Stortford bypass and Farnham and Hazel End Roads), some interesting archaeology has been identified in both prospective development areas.

“Interpretation is tentative at this stage but the Hazel End site, involving trenches on both fields alongside Hazel End Road, has identified the remains of a probable burial mound, of Late Neolithic (c4500-2500BC) or Early Bronze Age date (c2500-1700BC) several ditches, pits and post-holes of probable Bronze Age date, and, in the lower field next to the River Stort, a roughly cobbled surface covered with Late Iron Age and Roman pottery.

“Investigations within the larger area, enclosed by the bypass, have identified an enclosure and ditches of probable Iron Age date (c800-100BC) an enclosure of possible Roman date (further excavation may clarify this) and also another prehistoric burial or possible henge (a ritual enclosure) of late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date (c3000-1700BC).

“This circular, ditched feature appears to contain several cremation burials in the ditch and it has a central feature that may also be a burial. If so, it is potentially, an important find.”

The finds would have to be excavated in detail and recorded before new homes could be built.  Alternatively they could potentially be protected and preserved – barring new construction.

Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, is the country’s most famous henge, but a  spokesman for the consortium was clear: “As expected on a site of this size and in this location – on the edge of a historic town – there’s archaeology but not of any particular significance and it would not prevent development occurring on our site.

“As a responsible developer we are responding to the finds by extending some of the trenches to check whether there’s anything else there.

“The finds are of local interest, but the condition is such that do not warrant preservation in situ.”

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  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  September 12 2012, 3:03PM

    As an update in respect of ASRs 1-4, although the initial geophysics indicated the possibility of a henge, the recent excavation suggests that the circular feature is in fact the remains of a bronze age burial mound that are relatively common throughout the country. With ploughing having removed the above-ground features the archaeology is not considered to be of such significance as to prevent development occurring in the area. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that Stonehenge is not actually a true “henge”, which is apparently a Neolithic circular earthen bank and ditch enclosing an area. But we don’t have one anyway! Iain Vellacott Community Relations Consultant to the Bishop’s Stortford North Consortium PS. In answer to the previous comment the Consortium comprises Bovis Homes, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon Homes, the Fairfield Partnership and Kier Homes. The expression “preferred” normally relates to situations where a Council owns or controls the land and is looking for a development partner. In this case, the Consortium holds the controlling interests in the land identified for development in the Local Plan.

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  September 11 2012, 5:46PM

    Are the "BS North Consortium of Builders" Preferred? If so, what is their criteria for being so? And exactly who are they?