Writtle Village

Chelmsford, Essex
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 Heritage Writtle - The archaeology & history of Writtle's past
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Heritage Writtle is a group of local enthusiasts investigating the past in the historic Village and Parish of Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex, UK.  

The aims of the Group are:-
"To investigate, interpret and record the
Heritage of the Village and Parish of Writtle,
through its archaeology and history”.
In the beginning

In 2003 a group of village friends had the opportunity to look at some pottery that had been found in fields near Writtle, and at the same time had an agreement to field walk and metal detect over the same land. Within a few weeks, a Roman road had been found, along with broken pottery and also some coins and bronze artefacts. Soon after, using local knowledge and a dowsing specialist, a mechanical digger was borrowed, and having removed the topsoil, there laying exposed after about 1800 years, was a broken Roman roof tile (tegula). So an archaeological site was “born“, and in November 2004, Heritage Writtle was formally constituted.

Since then, many different aspects of the Heritage and History of Writtle have been investigated, working closely Writtle College and Writtle Archives, together with local land owners, Essex County Council, Essex Records Office and Chelmsford Borough Council specialists.



Standard archaeological techniques for excavating, recording, and conserving are used as appropriate, supported by conventional geophysics, with GPS for site location.

In addition metal detecting is incorporated into the excavating schedule to maximize the recovery of artefacts, and also to check the local area for artefacts, which are then duly recorded and locations established. Spoil from the excavation is also regularly checked with detectors.

Working with the British Society of Dowsers who have a Special Interest Group - Archaeology (www.britishdowsers.org), Heritage Writtle has had confirmed success in determining potential areas of interest at several locations in the Parish, and in locating the lines of roads and tracks, walls etc. Dowsing is considered by us to be a useful indicative tool for archaeological work, and is used by most of the Heritage Writtle members.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011, working with Heritage Writtle, Carenza Lewis and the HEFA ( Higher Education Field Academy) Team from Cambridge University, have organised a series of digging test pits in the Village of Writtle with children from local secondary Schools. The finds determine patterns of habitation in the past, and HEFA will again be excavating in Writtle in 2012. Additionally we have been working with the Village's Writtle Junior School, introducing the children to archaeology by digging test pits at the School and showing them how to find , clean and document the artefacts. These one day exercises have been popular with the children and the finds are added to HEFA data.


Prehistoric Writtle

Stone Age
There has been tantalizing occurances of worked flint from over the Parish of Writtle, and recently   some worked flakes from the Mesolithic period have been found in a large ditch system, some 5 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep. Work in continuing on theses features.  
Stone Age Flints

Bronze Age 
In close proximity to the Stone age ditch, geophysics and digging have revealed some ditches probably of Bronze age origins. In the vicinity, two broken axe heads , a part of a bronze sword, and other pieces of bronze, including slag, have been found and been designated as a dispersed hoard.
Broken Axe head
Broken Axe head
Broken Sword Blade
Broken Sword blade

Iron Age
The Bronze Age ditches were also in use during the Iron Age as witnessed by the finds of potsherds. These are still being excavated. The pots are being reconstructed, and are quite large possibly up to 25 cm diameter.

Iron Age

An Iron Age quarter stater coin was also found in the vicinity of the ditch system. 


The Roman periodRoads and Tracks


To date the confirmed discoveries have been two new Roman roads. One being a 7-8 metre wide road fording a tributary of the river Chelmer, at its first realistic fording point from the sea at Maldon, and may have been the main Londinium to Camulodonum (London to Colchester) road.
Roman Writtle RoadThe other road (seen left) is a feeder road to the first one, and appears to follow the contours above the floodplain, possibly along an Iron Age or earlier road. There are indications of three other roads/tracks of similar age, which are being investigated.

^ The agger exposed for only 24 hours after 1700 years!

BuildingsWellfield Butchery

Excavations have revealed a groundfast building that appears to have been a Roman abattoir, slaughtering many species of animals including chicken like birds, wild boar, pigs, sheep, cattle, and deer, and interestingly frogs (legs only!). There are indications of a substantial building nearby. Around the building was a cobbled yard with a connecting trackway.
WCWF site pits
^ Reconstruction of abattoir, including many of the features and artefacts found.

< The cobbled surface outside the building with holes of grubbed out shrubs

Other finds
Close-by there were metal working artefacts. Many broken Roman potsherds, bricks & tiles were also found, along with many coins and iron & bronze artefacts, such as a hipposandal, a brooch, a set of steelyard weights and surgical instruments.

Two special finds were 5cm high bronzes.

One is of a manacled tiger, perhaps representing an animal used in the games in Londinium or  Camulodonum.  Eagle

The tiger has been adopted as the Heritage Writtle logo.

The other is an eagle, the bird of the legions. 

Replicas of these have been made by craftsmen in Cameroon using the same“lost wax” technique as the Romans used, The originals are displayed in the Chelmsford and Essex Museum, Chelmsford.
Many round flints have been found in the excavations, suitable as slingshots, and the smaller ones, could have been Roman gaming pieces.
   Penannular brooch AD50-100
QuernA part of a quern stone, maybe be part of a composite millwheel
               Felted goat hair - probably pre Roman

Finds from later periods 

A range of metal finds from the middle ages to the present day have been made in the Parish, with many musket balls, ring, crotal bells, coins, buckles and a range of other items. The locations are logged for correlating, so we can pinpoint interesting locations. 
Medieval gold ladies ring with St George & the Dragon
 A selection of finds from the 1600s to 1800s 

Crotalbell Crotal bell and jug

Features in the area

In the Parish of Writtle, there are tantalising aerial photos of possible round houses, and known concentrations of medieval artefacts and remains, many musket balls and some larger calibre ordinance, as well as known sites of Napoleonic camps, a priory site, early air fields, a POW camp, a Special Services training area, as well as indications of ancient habitation.

All these features are awaiting or are currently under investigation.

NEWS Back to Top

News from the field HEFA in Writtle - The "Diggin" project

Higher Education Field Academy at Cambridge University

The management team of experts led by Carenza Lewis came from HEFA, and spent the 1st and 2nd of April 2009 in the village of Writtle near Chelmsford, Essex (despite the date!). This project has continued through 2010,2011 and will takeplace in 2012 also.

The objective was to give secondary school students the chance to become involved in history through field archaeology and also to evaluate the habitation patterns of the past. Two teachers from each of the schools and some students from Writtle College supervised the digs.
The project is taking place all over East Anglia and is intended to further the knowledge of the areas and to provide an active project for schools. Seven pits were dug in various places near the centre of Writtle, in the gardens of old houses and areas of likely historic and archaeological interest.

Heritage Writtle itself participated in the project and had its own pit to dig on Writtle Green, which was 1 metre square and 1 metre deep.Pit We excavated at 10cm depths (4” to us old boys) and recorded all the finds in each layer. It was interesting to note that each 4” layer did take us back 100 years according to the diagnosis of the pottery sherds by the experts. Some of the pottery went back to the early 1100s. We only got down to layer 7 which revealed an interesting curved shape made up of a light coloured, calcarious sandy clay loam compared with the darker loam soil either side. This could have something to do with the base of the cross that is thought to have been in the vicinity up to 100 years ago.

One coin was found in layer 5 which dated back to James 1. It was later identified as a James 1 farthing 1613-1625.

In all the pits, at most levels a lot of roof tile and brick was found, and there was also a good cover of datable pottery. A full report of all the pottery in the each of the seven pits has been prepared by HEFA. Interestingly some coins were found that were just pre decimalization, and these predated some supervisors and experts - make you feel you age!Sieving

The school children (and their supervisors) all enjoyed the experience, and they made very good impressions on the householders in whose gardens they had dug up and then restored to pristine condition.

Heritage Writtle members also spent the two days painstakingly sieving all the earth and washed all the finds from their test pit, in situ, in cold winds, with cold water, just like the students! However, all who took part in our dig worked very hard and enjoyed the experience. We also learned a lot about correct procedures for investigating excavations, especially test pits as well as additional management techniques for sites in general.

Archaeology in Writtle Junior School

Additionally we have been working with the Village's Writtle Junior School, introducing the children to archaeology by digging test pits at the School and showing them how to find, clean and document the artefacts. The children are also shown how to metal detect and to dowse and apart from many modern coins, a highlight was a toy pistol of the 1960's Roy Rogers Lone Ranger style. These one day exercises have been popular with the children and the finds are added to HEFA data. The 2015 day again proved popular and we have been invited back for 2016.

Following some interesting finds, Heritage Writtle  has carried out a dowsing survey of the playing field and it appears that there are some interesting features to be discovered.

Searching for Writtle's "lost" buildings

We have been investigating the locations and layout of two long lost buildings. Using Dowsing rods we have in collaboration with All Saints Church and the Bowling Club we have established some of the details of the location layout and details  of some early and historic buildings. When investigations are complete they will be written up. Conventional Geophysics were not effective, especially in the bowling green
These are;-
 St Mary's 13/14th century Chapel or Chantry in the Churchyard,showing it to be approximately 30 ft square, with two lines of graves in the building and a priests quarters.

The Lodge, a 15/16th century manor in the walled Bowling green area with the brick walls being approximately 15th in part. The outline of the house has been established. Occupants include John Rushworth, secretary to Cromwell and part of the Pynchon family one of whom established Massachusetts USA.

historic writtle

Publications and information

Historic Writtle series of books about Writtle's history and archaeology to update the Writtle Villagers of their heritage. These are available from heritage@writtlevillage.com.

The Romans :-  This book describes the work of Heritage Writtle's archaeological investigations around the Historic village and Parish, and has been produced with the Heritage Lottery fund's "Awards for All".

Village life through misfortune and war:- This new book marks the anniversary of the start of Word War One. It describes the investigations and research by Heritage Writtle and Writtle Archives into events that have shaped our Village, from pre-history  up to 1945. The book was launched in April 2014. It has been produced with a Heritage Lottery Grant " All our stories" and support from Cambridge Community Heritage. The book is priced 5.

The Marconi Company and Writtle:- This book was written by Tim Wander as a companion to the Village Life book above, and details the work and the staff of the Marconi Company at the three sites in Writtle, from 1918 - 1989

Heritage Writtle gives talks to local organisations and clubs in order to inform the community of the rich heritage in the Writtle area, of the current and future research, together with the discoveries and finds.

Heritage Writtle members have given audio visual presentations on the work of the Group and it's finds, to a range of local clubs and societies.

Members also work with local schools, supporting the appropriate syllabus key stages, and also provide hands-on experience for the children of local archaeology and history.

We also support the local Chelmsford Museum event days such as "Archaeology for all

For more information please see 'Contact Heritage Writtle'.

Events in the Heritage Writtle year


The Group meets weekly throughout the year, excavating when weather permits, and otherwise carrying out recording, detecting, archiving or researches.

We also have in addition, evening digs weekly during the summer months. 

For special projects we may have weekend digs, “Time Team “ style!

Heritage Writtle has collaborated with Cambridge University Access Archaeology, and their Higher Education Field Academy education digs for local schools

Annual lecture

We hold an Annual lecture, to which a specialist is invited to talk about his work, with especial reference to the Essex area. Previous talks have been on the Ice Age, Chelmsford from 1100BC to 1100AD,  the Portable Antiquities Scheme, 2000 years of Colchester's History, Carenza Lewis talking about Time Team and also the Higher Education Field Academy, and a talk about the Time line and Archaeology of South Essex and The lost Royal Palaces of Essex. We have had Carenza Lewis talk about the long term project with schools carrying out series of test pit digs over several years in the gardens and open spaces of the Village of Writtle. The 2015 lecture was by Jay Carver, Chief Archaeologist of the Crossrail  Project who gave an excellent lecture entitled " Portals to the past - The archaeology of the London Crossrail Project". 


There are annual outings to sites of special interest such as Iron / Bronze Age / Saxon dwellings, several Roman villas, historic cities and towns, Museum visits including "behind the scenes", and also to local Conferences.

We also visit other local societies to see their activities.


General information 01245 422986

Membership 01245 421515

Secretary 01245 422726

E-mail:- heritage@writtlevillage.com

19th February HW Annual Lecture - Anglo Saxon discoveries at Mucking - a 30 year excavation!
Writtle University College's Northumberland Lecture Theatre 7:30 pm
 Heritage Writtle 

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