The Project

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In 1978 the Group became aware of a ten year gravel extraction programme destined to destroy all archaeological remains from a 110 acre 'chunk' of countryside just 2 miles NE of Maldon.  An extensive crop mark complex had been recorded in the Essex County Sites and Monuments Record but no other evidence from the ground had come to light.  The Lofts Farm Project came into being in response to the threat, taking its name from the farm at the center of the area.

Over the years the gravel of "Lofts" has provided us with a microcosm of British history and prehistory.  The initial aim of basically dating the crop marks has already been surpassed and a valuable contribution can be made to Essex archaeology generally when all the results have been published.

Animal life in pre-glacial times has been represented by fragments of mammoth tusk found deep down in and below the natural gravel terrace. The Mesolithic hunters and gatherers have left us a scatter of flint tools and it is logical that many of identified silty patches in the gravel surface, whether caused by man, animal or plants, belong to these five or so millennia.

The pottery, cooking holes, flint and length of ditch of the Neolithic "first farmers" gives a hint of sophistication in these peoples' life style over their forerunners.  Even greater sophistication is seen in the Bronze Age with its 'Barrow' burials, wells, double-ditched enclosure and huts.

Lofts Farm 198S Plan of the Lt Bronze Age enclosure (E.C.C. Archaeology Section)

The period to provide the most graphic record of the time has been the Iron Age.  Over hundreds of years we see a succession of small farming settlements, their round houses, wells, enclosures, fields and granaries (four-posters) linked together by gently curving trackways. In addition to a wide range of Iron Age pottery we recovered triangular loom weights, a spindle whorl and small hoard of bronze objects.  The succession of settlement had ended before the Romans superimposed an extensive system of small rectangular fields, modifying existing trackways and field entrances to suit their systematic land management.

The last phase of the Roman field ditches can be seen to have naturally silted up.  The disappearance of the field system during the Saxon 'Dark Age' provides negative evidence for a different people with a different method of land utilisation.

The most recent field layout has developed piece-meal from the medieval period which is best represented by a rectangular moated site of the l3th century.  Ironically, post-medieval changes in the landscape are more difficult to detect but I suspect a radical change in the middle of the 18th century.  I hope documentary evidence may resolve this problem some day.

There is still much work to be done with the processing of the pottery from hundreds of prehistoric contexts and not until this is complete will we be able to understand the importance of our contribution.

We are indebted to Contractors Aggregates for allowing us to work on the site and also to the all-important co-operation of farmers Mr. Hughes, Mr. Rees and Mr. Goodwin.  The discoveries have come as a result of many man/weeks of effort by Maldon Archaeological Group members and friends aided now and then with generous portions of luck.  Grants towards the work have been received from Essex County Council, Maldon District Council, Contractors Aggregates, Lloyds Bank and British Telecommunications.