Whirlow dig reveals rare insight into city’s Roman past

Precious past: Volunteers on the Whirlow Hall Farm dig continue their excavations.

Precious past: Volunteers on the Whirlow Hall Farm dig continue their excavations.

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IMPORTANT new evidence of Roman Sheffield has been uncovered at a summer dig just completed by archaeologists at a farm on the edge of the city.

Experts planning the excavations at Whirlow Hall Farm expected to find evidence of an Iron Age or Romano-British farmstead.

Precious past: Dr Clive Waddington shows a piece of pottery to Whirlow Hall fundraiser Joan Ward.

Precious past: Dr Clive Waddington shows a piece of pottery to Whirlow Hall fundraiser Joan Ward.

But the work carried out with the help of over 100 volunteers has revealed a far larger settlement - providing a rare insight into a little-understood period of the city’s history.

Site director Dr Clive Waddington, from Derbyshire-based Archaeological Research Services, said a whole new layer of history had been unearthed.

“The realisation just came completely out of the blue. The enclosure is actually about 70 metres square so it’s quite a big monument, and would have been home to a wide variety of activities.

“We have discovered Roman pottery and evidence of gatepost holders around the entrance which suggest it would have had large gates and would have been a big, complex site.

“The pottery we have discovered is from around Britain and there are also examples which would have been imported from Gaul, modern day France.

“This shows that the occupants weren’t just farmers but were also traders.

“The site lies alongside what was a packhorse route from Sheffield to Manchester, and the location of this farmstead suggests the route was also in use during the Roman period.

“The people who lived here would have traded farm goods and produce with Roman travellers.”

It is now planned to extend the project, with further test pits planned for November. Checks are to be made on what could be Roman coins found on the site.

The team believes the site dates from the second century AD, the era of emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius.

“There have not been any Roman discoveries made anywhere in Sheffield for many, many years, and this is really helping to fill in that historical jigsaw and help flesh out what has been a poorly understood period,” said Dr Waddington.

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