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 centre 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.
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
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.