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Life before the Romans

A TEAM of engineers building a new gas pipeline across Cheshire has stumbled across the remains of an Iron Age settlement.

A TEAM of engineers building a new gas pipeline across Cheshire has stumbled across the remains of an Iron Age settlement.

Work on the Transco-owned 10-mile long link from Birch Heath, at Tarporley, to Mickle Trafford, near Chester, was immediately halted for a full-scale excavation of the site.

The discovery, near the village of Duddon, was made three weeks ago but Transco kept the news secret until a full-scale excavation could be completed. Work laying the new pipe has now resumed.

The find has excited archaeologists from Chester who are more used to dealing with Roman and medieval artefacts.

Evidence of six roundhouses has been uncovered and pottery dating back to around 500BC has been recovered by a team of 12 archaeologists drafted in to investigate the settlement.

After the artefacts have been fully documented, it may be decided to carry out a more extensive investigation of the area.

The site pre-dates the Roman occupation of Cheshire and includes evidence of a bow-sided house larger than the others, suggesting it could have belonged to a chief or was a communal shelter.

The construction work is being carried out to meet a growing consumer demand in Cheshire and North Wales as part of a £290m national programme.

Neil Fairburn, an archaeologist employed by Transco with the construction team, ordered the work to stop when the settlement came to light.

"As the topsoil was being removed to prepare for the pipeline, I noticed slight changes in ground colour in this location - evidence that there were once some structures here," said Mr Fairburn.

"Initial excavations turned up a number of post holes and some pieces of pottery. We have since found evidence of the six roundhouses and there may be more on farmland around the working area of the pipeline."

Chester City archeologist, Mike Morris, described the find of a settlement 500 years before the arrival of the Romans in the area as "tremendously exciting." He added: "This is the first Iron Age rural settlement found in the Chester area and the information gathered by Transco will help to transform our understanding of what was in essence an early farming community."

The underground pipeline is being routed through farmland to avoid local villages, but will cross the River Gowy, the main A51 between Nantwich and Chester, around 20 public footpaths and a railway line near Mickle Trafford.

So far, almost 70pc has been laid out like a serpent across the countryside with 62pc already welded by contractors Amec Spie Av to be placed into position.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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