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.