Highways England’s £5 million A66 Eden Valley improvements project has uncovered the remains of a Roman settlement at Kirkby Thore in Cumbria – illustrating the company’s determination to protect the country’s cultural heritage.
As well as foundations of the original Roman road, traces of Roman life – and death – have also been identified near Kirkby Thore where Highways England is carrying out major carriageway reconstruction and resurfacing. Pottery, post-holes for timber housing and a Roman grave have all been discovered near the village in the past few weeks.
Highways England project manager Steve Mason said: “As we’re essentially replacing the ancient foundations of the A66 between Low Moor and Kirkby Thore we realised before starting the work that we might come across Roman remains.
“We’ve worked very closely with archaeologists for several months and it’s been very interesting to see what kind of things are turning up. It has added a bit more complexity to planning and delivering the improvements but we’ve been determined from the outset to ensure that what we find on site is treated seriously and sensitively.”
Highways England has been working alongside GUARD Archaeology Ltd and Amey Consulting on the archaeological aspects of the A66 improvements.
The route of the modern A66 roughly follows an important Roman road which linked the Roman forts and settlements of Cumbria with the Roman forts and settlements of North Yorkshire, passing by through the vicus (or village) that lays just outside the Roman Fort of Bravoniacum, which lies below modern-day Kirkby Thore.
GUARD excavation director John-James Atkinson said: “Not only have we revealed the foundations of the Roman road but we have revealed traces of timber buildings that lay adjacent to the Roman road to the south-west of the fort. While the timber has long since rotted away, the construction of these buildings has left post-holes and pits from which we have recovered a variety of Roman pottery sherds.”
The Roman pottery sherd include Samian pottery from Roman Gaul which was once used as fine tableware for rich and well-connected soldiers and citizens, amphorae which may have once held wine or olive oil from the Mediterranean as well as more common greyware and coarse ware that was made in Roman Britain itself.
Highways England is delivering the biggest roads investment in a generation and is committed to conserving and where possible enhancing the historic environment.
In the context of a carriageway reconstruction project that means allowing archaeological excavations to ensure any significant remains that lie along the route can be recorded and preserved for this and future generations.
Ahead of starting work on any new road or major upgrade, Highways England is required by law to agree plans for how a scheme will deal with the effects it will have on its immediate environment, including local communities, wildlife and plants, and also any archaeological finds that may be found
More information about the A66 discoveries is available from the GUARD website at: http://guard-archaeology.co.uk/wordpress1/?m=201809
The project – which involves carrying out 7 separate carriageway improvements between Penrith and Brough – enters the penultimate weekend of 7 weekend road closures from 10pm on Friday (12 October) until 3am on Monday (15 October).
More information on the project, including diversion details, is available at: www.highwaysengland.co.uk/A66EdenValley