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Kirkby Stephen Bypass, Cumbria. Archaeological Evaluation

Buxton, Katharine and Hodgkinson, David (1995) Kirkby Stephen Bypass, Cumbria. Archaeological Evaluation. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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In June 1993, at the request of Cumbria County Council, Lancaster University Archaeological Unit (LUAU) produced a Phase 1 Archaeological Assessment of three proposed alternative routes of the A685 Kirkby Stephen Bypass. In March, 1995 LUAU was commissioned to prepare a project design for evaluation works, on the line of the Outer Western Route B. This design was amended in July 1995. This report presents the results of this evaluation work, namely landscape survey, geophysical survey, and limited trial trenching.
Kirkby Stephen is situated on a low ridge above the River Eden. Many examples of prehistoric settlements and field systems have been identified on the limestone uplands surrounding the town. Local place-names provide evidence of both Anglian and Norse settlement in the area, and, after some decline in settlement in the medieval period, perhaps connected with both Scottish raiding and the Black Death, the area appears to have had a peaceful return to prosperity, as the town became both a market centre, and a staging post on the route between Kendal and the North East (Lambert 1993a).
In the evaluation phase of work a number of sites were selected for detailed survey in order to create a permanent record of features that will be adversely affected by the road construction. The topographic survey was undertaken within a larger corridor than that for the actual road, in order to place the sites within their wider context. The selected sites were mapped at a scale of 1:500 (by hachure), and full contour surveys were undertaken where appropriate. The instrument survey was accompanied by a written description of the surveyed features and a photographic record. This work proved invaluable in recording the considerable number of upstanding earthworks along the proposed route of the bypass. Forty-six sites were recorded, the majority of which were hollow ways. Other sites included quarries, possible structural platforms, and a series of field systems. The site types divided into two groups, on the whole corresponding with upland and lowland areas. Of the upland sites, it is suggested several of the hollow ways in fact represent a single continuous route from the far south of the site, over Wiseber Hill, and down to Greenriggs Farm. The lowland field systems at the northern end of the route can be divided into wide and narrow ridge and furrow, in general the wider field systems more likely to be attributed to the medieval period.
The area of the geophysical survey lay at the northern end of the proposed road route, in an area where surface indications of settlement (other than cultivation) were unlikely to survive, because of subsequent ploughing activity. This work located both ridge and furrow, faintly visible on the surface, and below ground abnormalities, including two possible archaeological features, although upon excavation these were found to be of natural origin.
Thirty greenfield trenches were excavated in order to establish the presence or absence of any previously unsuspected archaeological deposits, and, if established, to define their character, date, and state of survival. In addition four deliberately targeted trenches were located in order to examine earthwork features and/or areas of suspected archaeology. All trenches were 30m long, unless otherwise stated, and the majority were aligned approximately north south parallel to the road corridor. Topsoil removal was undertaken using a mechanical excavator. All other excavation was by hand. In general, the trial trenching found very similar stratigraphy throughout the area. The natural subsoil was very hard orange brown sandy clay with occasional patches of river gravel and sporadic outcrops of limestone. In some cases the natural material lay directly below the topsoil, but more usually it was seen underlying a deposit of similar but looser orange brown sandy clay. Topsoil over the entire area comprised mid brown sandy clay. In general, nothing of archaeological significance was found in the greenfield trenches. However, in the great majority of cases where sites were observed as topographic anomalies, some stratigraphical variations were seen during the trial trenching. A number of hollow ways were examined, as were several 'platforms' (which are now thought to be associated with a 1930's golf course/practice range) and several linear features and field systems. Given that less that one fifth of the originally proposed trenches were excavated, and only five of the 24 sites designated as of archaeological importance (Lambert 1993b) were investigated, and that the three sites regarded as having high archaeological potential were not examined, the low incidence of archaeological features found during this period of evaluation was not unexpected, and is not necessarily indicative of the area as a whole. It is therefore anticipated that investigation of the sites for which it was not possible to gain assess would increase the frequency in which deposits of archaeological significance were found.
It is recommended that additional trial trenching would be required in order to evaluate fully the archaeological potential of the route prior to road construction. LUAU would welcome discussions to this end in the near future.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cumbria
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Period > UK Periods > Neolithic 4000 - 2200 BC
Depositing User: barker
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2022 15:22
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2022 15:22
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6781

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