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A483 Four Crosses Bypass

Archaeological Excavations

The Four Crosses area is rich in the remains of our past, with archaeological sites having been discovered ranging in date from the Neolithic, around 2,500 BC, up to the 20th century. The construction of the new bypass around the western side of the village is providing an opportunity to investigate a number of known sites, as well as having the potential for revealing new discoveries.

A team of archaeologists from the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust has been engaged by the contractors, Alun Griffiths Ltd, and Powys County Council, to undertake a series of excavations in advance of the construction, and also to monitor the soil stripping in case previously unknown sites are revealed.

Historical Summary

The earliest sites to have been discovered in the Four Crosses area to date are a group of plough-levelled burial mounds which date from the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age, around 2,500-1,500 BC. These earthen mounds, surrounded by one or more ditches, generally had a single, central burial placed in a grave beneath the mound, although there were also some cremations which had been placed in the mound at a later date. The number of burial mounds suggests that this area would have seen intensive occupation during this period, although so far there is no indication of any settlement sites. However, there are traces of what are thought to be prehistoric field boundaries in the form of several rows of individual pits, one of which will be excavated where it crosses the bypass route.

Barrow and pit alignment: photo 84-c-0199 © CPAT

Right: One of the Bronze Age burial mounds and several alignments of pits to the east of Four Crosses

There is growing evidence for settlement and farming in this area during the late Iron Age and Romano-British period, and recent excavations at Greenacres, off Domgay Lane, revealed parts of a field system, consisting of linear ditches containing Roman pottery.

The most prominent archaeological site in the area is Offa’s Dyke, the 8th-century earthwork which formed the western boundary of the kingdom of Mercia, and which bisects the village from north to south. Excavations by CPAT in the 1980s also found an iron javelin and a spear which may be of a similar date, as well as several presumed early medieval graves.

A geophysical survey, undertaken as part of an assessment of the archaeology along the bypass route, revealed a group of probable 18th-century brick kilns along the southern side of Canal Road, which will be investigated before construction work starts.

Excavations South of Canal Road

Archaeological excavations started on 12 April 2010 in the area between Canal Road and the present A483. Part of the area had already been stripped of topsoil under archaeological supervision, revealing what were thought to be several post-medieval brick kilns. Having hand-cleaned the area it is now clear that there are at least four brick kilns, each of which appears to be of a type known as a ‘clamp kiln’, which were common until the 19th century when they were replaced by industrial brick production. The kilns would probably have been constructed to fire enough bricks for one building project and it is hoped that it will be possible to match the size and shape of the brick to those in one of the local buildings.

clamp kiln

Right: Archaeologists investigating one of the clamp brick kilns

A number of relatively straight ditches were identified at an early stage of the excavations and further investigation has now revealed that some of these relate to an earlier alignment of what is now Canal Road. Prior to the construction of the canal at the end of the 18th century, much of the land to the south of Canal Road was unenclosed common land. The common land, together with other areas around Four Crosses, was formally enclosed in 1799, replacing the medieval pattern of narrow strip fields and commons with more regular, larger fields. Until enclosure the main Oswestry to Welshpool road, together with the road to Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain (later Canal Road), followed slightly different courses with the their junction being further west than today, within the area of the excavation. It is now also clear that the brick kilns were deliberately positioned alongside the earlier road alignment.

Excavations will be completed in the area south of Canal Road by the end of this week and construction work for the new roundabout is already underway.

earlier road ditches

Left: Part of the excavated area south of Canal Road showing the ditches flanking the earlier road alignment

Excavations between Canal Road and Parson’s Lane

Archaeologists have been keeping a close watch on soil stripping operations and as this process draws to a close a number of potentially exciting discoveries have now come to light. At the southern end, near Canal Road, an unusual rectangular ditched feature has been discovered. There is no obvious evidence for any internal features, suggesting that this is unlikely to have been a building. Although this type of small, ditched enclosure is often related to burials, principally during the Iron Age and early medieval periods, in this case there is no sign of a central grave and its date and function remain unknown.

rectangular ditched feature under excavation

Right: Excavation of the rectangular ditched feature

Further north a large linear ditch has been uncovered running roughly north-west to south-east across the road corridor. Two sections have been excavated to investigate the feature, which is around 2.8m wide and 1.55m deep and includes a gap or entranceway. Small fragments of prehistoric pottery have been found within the ditch, and although it is felt likely that the ditch is prehistoric in date this is not sufficient evidence to confirm the dating. However, samples of charcoal have been taken from various layers within the infill of the ditch which will hopefully provide a radiocarbon date in due course.

Large linear ditch under excavation

Left: Excavation of the large linear ditch

Several small pits have also been revealed in the same area, some of which have obvious signs of burning and may be associated with prehistoric cooking activities. This part of the site has also produced the best find of the excavation so far, a sherd from the rim of a pottery vessel which has been provisionally identified as late Neolithic or early Bronze Age in date.

Features at Parson's Lane under investigation

Right: Excavations underway to investigate one of the many features identified to the south of Parson's Lane

ring ditch and linear ditch

Left: Aerial view of part of the road corridor showing the circular ring ditch of the burial mound and the linear ditch in the foreground

Closer to Parson’s Lane, south of Maesoffa Farm, soil stripping has uncovered a narrow, circular ditch around 23m in diameter. Although the ditch is relatively small, the shape and size of the feature suggest that this is likely to be similar to the burial mounds known elsewhere around Four Crosses which have been dated to the late Neolithic and Bronze Age (2,500 to 1,500 BC). A feature identified in the centre of the circle is likely to have contained the main burial and it is possible that other features in the area could represent later burials. Burial mounds like this were usually constructed with a large circular ditch surrounding the central burial, with the spoil from ditch being used to create a mound over the grave. In this case the ditch is too slight to have been used to create a mound and may have simply marked out the area for the burial. The mound is likely to have been built using turf stripped from the surrounding area, a construction method which has already been identified elsewhere in Four Crosses as a result of excavations by CPAT during the 1980s in the field to the east of the school.

Although this area clearly contains a number of significant features excavations are currently concentrating on other parts of the site and the excavation of this area is expected to start in mid May, taking several weeks to complete.

Excavations North of Parson’s Lane

excavating near St Tysilio's Church

Right:Aerial view of the northern end of the bypass showing St Tysilio’s Church and the large area excavation which includes the pit alignment

Topsoil stripping is now almost complete in this area and a significant number of archaeological features have been revealed. Work have now started to hand clean the area for the construction of an underpass, which includes part of the alignment of large pits thought to mark the boundary between prehistoric fields. The area of the excavation is likely to encompass at least ten of the pits, each of which will be investigated in the hope of revealing evidence for dating.

This page will be updated with new discoveries as work progresses.

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