West Berkshire Aggregate Resource Assessment

Museum of London Archaeology, 2014

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David Bowsher
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Museum of London Archaeology
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Museum of London Archaeology (2014) West Berkshire Aggregate Resource Assessment [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1023598

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Report front cover

This document details the archaeological resource assessment of the aggregate producing areas of West Berkshire undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology in partnership with West Berkshire Council in 2009–2011. The project was funded from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, as administered by English Heritage. The aim of the project was to improve knowledge of the archaeological resource within all past, present and potential future aggregate producing areas in West Berkshire, through the enhancement and analysis of the West Berkshire Historic Environment Record (HER). The study will assist in strategic planning decisions regarding future aggregate extraction, the management of buried heritage assets and the setting out of research agenda aims and appropriate archaeological mitigation strategies where archaeological assets are under threat of removal by quarrying. The aggregates resource was identified from the British Geological Survey and extraction areas shown on historic maps and the British Pits database and current minerals permissions. Three Study Areas comprising River Sands/Gravels, Plateau Sands/Gravels and Chalk were defined, in consultation with the West Berkshire HER and the Berkshire Joint Strategic Planning Unit (JSPU). Historically, aggregate extraction has been extensive, with just over 715 historic quarries across the District.

The project includes a Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis of archaeological data, as contained within the West Berkshire HER and English Heritage’s National Mapping Programme survey (a digital plot of archaeological features visible as cropmarks and earthworks on aerial photographs), which was used to generate a series of asset density maps showing the distribution of various asset types for each chronological period. This has allowed an invaluable overview of the archaeological resource within the aggregate producing areas of West Berkshire and the nature of human activity over time, which has not previously been possible. The report analyses the known resource by chronological period, and attempts to identify patterns in human activity. The report also includes an assessment of levels of dissemination in relation to past archaeological investigations carried out as a result of aggregates extraction (a ‘backlogs’ report). It also included the digitisation of the results of the extensive Lower Kennet Fieldwalking Survey within GIS. Both are stand-alone reports.

Clear patterns in the asset densities of different periods were revealed. The Bronze Age, Roman, post-medieval and Modern periods have high densities whilst the early prehistoric and early medieval periods have low densities. This generally reflects trends in resource assessments in other counties and may reflect the nature of the material evidence associated with a particular period (e.g. elusive, ephemeral, difficult to recognise). The report showed that assets identified from active and past Sand/Gravel extraction represented c 15% of the total of all assets in the Project Area. Assets recovered from active and recently historic Sand/Gravel (both Plateau River) extraction sites (ie extraction sites active up to thirty years ago) accounted for c 85% of the assets recovered from all extraction sites within the Project Area. However, Active extraction sites have a density of 1.36 assets per km2 across both Sand/Gravel Study Areas, whereas past extraction areas (both Recent and Historic) have an asset density of 1.44 assets per km2. Furthermore, the Resource Assessment has identified that based on present information the preferred proposed extraction sites would have a potential impact on a possible 1% of assets within the Sand/Gravel Study Areas with a density of 0.14 assets per km2.

The study has demonstrated that the aggregate areas, in particular the River Sand/Gravel, are very important archaeologically and this needs to be a key consideration for both minerals planners and minerals extraction companies, in any future extraction programme. Early planning and consultation with heritage curators and consultants is recommended.

The study will be useful for archaeological curators, contractors, and researchers, but is also aimed at minerals planners and minerals contractors.