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Mark Olly is a Cheshire writer and archaeologist who runs the Celtic Warrington Project Archaeological Unit. You can read about Mark's work in the 'Celtic Warrington & Other Mysteries' volumes.




Mark Olly  
Ancient settlements surrounding Tatton

Archaeological activity around the west and south-west of Rostherne and south-east of the mere has brought to light systems of late Medieval and post-Medieval fields, banks, ditches and furrows accompanied by scattered fragments of Medieval pottery, especially west of the present Egerton Hall and south-east of New Road. Given the activity at St. Mary's church during the Medieval period this is hardly surprising but there are many other ancient settlements surrounding Tatton which have completely disappeared. 'Strettle', somewhere in the area around Mere, is one example.

In the fields immediately opposite the Tatton Park gate which faces Rostherne stood the original village before the days of the developed Rostherne. This Tudor village was known as 'Camp Green' and was entirely demolished by the Egerton family as it spoilt the view at the end of their drive. The entire village was relocated to new buildings at Rostherne, 'Lady Mary Square' being a prime example built in 1909 by the Lady Egerton of the day without back doors in order to prevent the estate women from gossiping !

Rostherne Mere, the 'Lake of the Holy Cross'

Tatton Old Hall

Enter the Rostherne gate of Tatton Park and take the left turn at the top of the drive before you reach the Stately Home and follow signs for the 'Old Hall' where our story of 'vanishing villages' continues. The main archaeological effort at Tatton during the 1970's and 1980's concentrated on one detailed and long-standing site overlooking the ancient but disused sunken road 'Portstrete' to the north east and in front of the Old Hall site.

It is worth noting that this ancient road connects Rostherne in the north with Knutsford in the south and enters Tatton Park close to the Rostherne Gate where the Tudor village of 'Camp Green' used to stand. The road was in use around 1300 AD but is obviously much older in origin considering prehistoric discoveries made in the area. Tiny fragments of charcoal collected from the clay infill of the Saxon palisade trench on the archaeological site gave a carbon-date of 7440 BC (+-180 years) probably indicating a background of Mesolithic activity over the whole area.

'Portstrete' passing Tatton Green & the Old Hall and heading for Knutsford

Carbon Dating

The oldest features found on the 'Portstrete' dig site were three primitive fire hearths which carbon-dated as late Mesolithic around 4310 BC (+-100 years). Sadly no artefacts from this period were found.

Next in chronology came a structure which remained only as an irregular group of post holes but gave up evidence of barley cultivation from a pit containing charred remains. Carbon dating placed these items at 2590 BC and 2540 BC (+-100 years) and a scatter of flints from the same Neolithic or early Bronze Age period came from the entire dig site further confirming human activity at this time. A group of six post holes forming an arc, and therefore possibly a hut, also gave a middle Bronze Age date of 1580 BC (+-100 years) but later damage to this evidence made dating uncertain.

Iron, Romano-British & Celtic Dark Ages

Directly next to the sunken road archaeologists found the remains of a cobbled yard and path which had remained through at least three distinct time periods Iron Age, Romano-British and the Celtic Dark Ages. Hearths and stake holes by the path were interpreted as a small timber-post late Iron Age round house and both path and house had been covered by the later Roman deposits confirming this supposition. An Iron Age 'fire-pit' was also discovered on the site in 1982 and carbon-dated to 390 BC (+-120 years).

Mysterious Tatton Mere looking towards Knutsford

A palisade fence was constructed around the cobbled yard and over a much larger area (about 180.5 X 142.5 ft or 57m X 45m), rectangular in shape with rounded corners and a simple post defined gateway by the south east corner. This signifies a break with the traditional circular Iron Age structures and carbon-dates from this and associated structures place it in the early Roman period between 80 BC and 40 AD (+-100 years).

Charcoal in the next development layer gave a date of 240 AD (+-100 years) and contained a fragment of a Roman mortarium or grinding bowl and some of a collection of grain storage pits gave carbon-dates of 200 AD (+-110 years). A few shards of Roman pottery including Romano-British 'white ware' came from the layer covering the Iron Age round house and the boundary of a cultivated Romano/British field was also identified on the eastern side of the site, just beyond the round house (but later cobbled over).

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