Archaeological Investigations 1999
Archaeological Investigations at Buckingham House, New Hall 1999: A summary of the report
Assessment trenching in advance of the re-building of student halls of residence revealed extensive and deep coprolite pits dating to the late 19th/early 20th century in the garden of Buckingham House, New Hall. Two trenches were cut across the width of the garden, but the results were ambiguous: in both trenches, deep and extensive post-medieval quarrying was found, with no seams of natural left. In Trench B, taken down to 1.2m, three quarry cuts were identified, the most extensive lying at the northern end of the trench. Backfilled with bands of redeposited chalk marl and gravelly topsoil, a sample of finds was retrieved from each pit, and included fragments of pottery (whitewares, glazed earthen wares and fragments of a Cologne ware jug), brick and clay pipe, all dating to the late 18th/19th century. In addition however, the shaft of a human adult femur was also recovered from the backfill, suggesting possible burials in the vicinity. Any earlier remains would have been completely eradicated by the quarrying, although some residuals sherd of early Roman pottery may suggest that there was activity of this period on the site. The natural chalk was only reached at the southern end of Trench B at a depth of 1.2m while redeposited pale grey clay and topsoil continued down at the northern end.
Accepting the nature of the quarrying and backfilling, the redeposited Roman pottery could derive from anywhere in the vicinity, but it possibly represents activity on or near the site, and the femur possibly a burial site. Roman burials were recorded from this general area in 1861-2 and again under St. Edmunds Chapel in 1936. The pottery from these sites held in the Cambridge museum is similarly early (1st/2nd century AD), and taken together the evidence does seem to confirm the image of early Roman extra-mural activity in this area. Much of the later (18th/19th century) pottery is fairly abraded suggesting it is probably derived from agricultural soils, and indeed the site was part of a field up until this century; the present Buckingham House and garden were built in the first quarter of this century.