Evidence of Queen Boudicca and the Roman Empire discovered at The Paddocks

Iron Age Village Tye GReen

Countryside’s latest development in Essex has a history dating back to c50BC

Archaeologists at The Paddocks uncovered one of the most important late Iron Age to early Roman settlement sites recorded in Essex in the last fifty years.

Ahead of the development launch later this year, Countryside’s team of appointed archaeologists carried out a routine excavation to record, report and preserve any findings at the site and came across a high-status Iron Age Village within the site’s boundaries.

Now known as The Cressing Iron Age and Roman settlement, the discovery is one of the most significant site excavations carried out in recent years.

The findings

The sheer scale of the discovery suggests a Late Iron Age settlement of importance in the region, overlooking the Brain Valley to the west. A large enclosure was dug during the 1st Century BC with an avenue trackway leading up to the location. Numerous roundhouses were built within the enclosure and evidence for domestic activities such as cooking, animal husbandry and metalworking has been found. This settlement would have been a focal point for the wider region and have dominant views across the valley.

Surrounded by a defensive ditch and containing a number of very substantial roundhouses, the site would appear to be the home of an important individual – perhaps a clan leader within the tribal hierarchy.

During this time, there was a period of tribal conflict between the Catuvellauni Tribe, principally based in what is now Hertfordshire, and the Trinovantes, who occupied much of what is now Essex. Prior to the Roman invasion in AD43 the King of the Catuvellauni appears to have established an overlordship over the Trinovantes and the conflict pulled in the Roman Empire, who initially allied the Trinovantes.

Between c AD9 and AD 40 both tribes were ruled by a powerful king Cunobelinos and a numbers of his coins have been recovered from the site. His death provokes the instability between the tribes which leads to a Roman invasion.

Iron Age Coin

In total, several hundred metalwork pieces were uncovered. With finds including 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings, brooches and a very high-status tankard handle which would have belonged to someone in the upper strata of contemporary society – a warrior or leader. An attractive copper alloy cockerel figurine was also discovered, believed to be an offering to the gods.

Iron age brooch

The dig also revealed one of the most significant assemblages of late Iron Age pottery from Essex in recent years.

Revolts and Roman reprisals

Once the eight-month dig was complete, the team revealed the evidence of Roman reprisals against Boudicca’s infamous revolts. The Iron Age settlement, including a number of the larger roundhouses and the defensive enclosure, were burned down or cleared during the late First Century AD, at some point around the Roman conquest. 

"The local Trinovantes tribe joined the AD61 rebellion and after Boudicca's defeat we know the Romans punished everyone involved," said Andy Greef, Oxford Archaeology.

Further evidence of the settlement's abandonment was the complete lack of Roman burials in subsequent centuries. Despite this, the site was still considered an important location during the Roman period, with a farmstead developed to the east of the original site. The original enclosure was also utilised during this time, with shrines built within it remaining a centre of "votive offerings" until the end of the Roman occupation in the Fourth Century AD. Pits filled with brooches, coins and feasting remains (animal bone and oysters) have been found, suggesting a link to the cult of the Roman god Mercury. 

The four-hectare site had been little disturbed in the centuries since the Iron Age settlement was abandoned. Once the archaeology analysis is complete it is hoped some of the impressive finds will find homes in Essex museums.

Ideally located in a village setting between Braintree and Witham, The Paddocks will offer a superb collection of 2-5 bedroom traditional style homes.