Mitchell Laithes Sewage Treatment Works

Project Profile

Project Title :

Mitchell Laithes Sewage Treatment Works

Client :

Yorkshire Water Services Ltd

Type of Work :

Geophysical Survey, Excavation,
Post-excavation Reporting and Analysis

Project Gallery 

Excavations in progress   Photographing the site  
Recording the barrow   The excavated barrow  
The reconstructed barrow nearing completion   Reconstructed barrow  


Mitchell Laithes

Reconstructing a Bronze Age Barrow in West Yorkshire

Working with Yorkshire Water, NAA undertook an archaeological excavation in advance of the expansion of the Mitchell Laithes Water Sewage Treatments Works, near Osset in West Yorkshire. The excavation revealed a range of archaeological material dating from the early Neolithic, early Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods.

The earliest evidence comprised groups of pits and postholes suggesting several short episodes of Neolithic occupation. Grimston Ware pottery retrieved from these pits has been radiocarbon dated to the second quarter of the fourth millennium BC: the earliest date for pottery so far recovered from West Yorkshire. Other pits scattered across the area produced sherds of possible Peterborough Ware pottery and an assemblage of later Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery.

The remains of an early Bronze Age round barrow covering small pits containing the cremated remains of three individuals was revealed within the centre of the excavated area. One burial was accompanied by a small pottery accessory vessel and another by the cremated remains of a bone bead or toggle. An outlying burial, consisting of a cremation within the remains of an inverted Collared Urn, was recovered from a small pit nearby. All these burials produced calibrated radiocarbon dates within the range 1920-1680BC.

Evidence of Iron Age activity included pits containing pottery and part of a circle of postholes, probably representing an Iron Age roundhouse. This settlement was abandoned by the Romano-British period by which time the area had been subdivided by small ditches into fields and the centre for the focus of settlement appears to have shifted. Geophysical survey of the site showed that one of the boundaries had smaller D-shaped and rectangular enclosures appended to it, although these lay just beyond the excavated area. Several dispersed features produced Roman finds, and one pit produced a larger assemblage of material dated to the later 4th or early 5th century AD. Quantities of metalworking debris dated to this period indicated that extensive iron working had taken place within, or adjacent to, the site.

No subsequent activity was recorded until the medieval period when two small quarry pits were excavated. The remains of early post-medieval ridge and furrow cultivation was recorded across the area.

Given the significance of the prehistoric material, Yorkshire Water funded the re-construction of the early Bronze Age round barrow within the footprint of the barrow ditch. This provides some idea of what the site may have looked like during the early Bronze Age, although of course the landscape would have been very different. The reconstructed barrow is now preserved within the boundary of the sewage works site.

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