Archaeology

Waterbeach Barracks sits at the heart of two major routeways built by the Romans: Akeman Street, which runs from near Wimpole up to Ely and on to Denver in Norfolk (almost on the line of the current A10) and a Roman canal called the Old Tillage.
Archaeologist working at Waterbeach Barracks

This waterway was once referred to as Car Dyke and was believed to have run all the way from Waterbeach to Lincoln. However, we now know that the Cambridgeshire stretch of the canal did not link directly to the Car Dyke system.

These routeways were built at the peak of Roman Britain, and that era dominates the archaeology and historic landscape unveiled by the first round of archaeological investigations carried out at the former Barracks and Airfield at Waterbeach in 2020.

We know that the land north of Cambridge around Waterbeach, Landbeach, Milton and Cottenham has been occupied since as early as the Iron Age (800 BC–AD 43)

Some of the finds from the first archaeological investigations can be seen in the artefact gallery below

archaeology find

Archaeology periods timeline 

> 800 BC
Iron Age
iron age settlement

Reconstruction of an Iron Age settlement

Peter Lorimer, © Oxford Archaeology

> AD 43

Roman Britain

Image

A reconstruction of a Roman 'port' like the one found nearby

Peter Lorimer, © Oxford Archaeology

> AD 410

Anglo Saxon

anglo saxon settlement

Reconstruction of an Anglo Saxon farm, showing hall type buildings

Peter Lorimer, © Oxford Archaeology

> AD 1066

Medieval

waterbeach abbey

A reconstruction of Waterbeach Abbey

Jon Cane, © Cambridgeshire County Council

What's happening now?

Archaeologists are preparing for the next phase of archaeology to get underway.

Over the next 6 months we’ll be building on our first phase of archaeology, looking at a large Roman Settlement, Iron Age settlement and the site of a possible Anglo-Saxon hall!

Stay updated

Artefact Gallery

Work experience at Waterbeach archaeology find Large storage jar This ‘Horningsea ware’ was initially shaped by hand and finished on a kick-wheel, a technology introduced to Britain by the Romans. Summer 2022 newsletter hits doorsteps Samian Ware This is a broken fragment or ‘sherd’ of pottery known as ‘Samian ware’, mass-produced in Gaul (France) and exported throughout the Roman Empire. Community celebrates local talent at this year’s Summer at the Beach Roman Coins Most of the coins found during the first phase of excavation date from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Including a coin of Constans (AD 340-44) and two coins from the reign of Magnus Maximus (AD 383-88) Work starts on cycle improvements for Milton Cremation vessel A small pottery vessel made in south Gaul (France) and imported to Romano-Britain. This red pottery with a glossy surface is known as ‘Samian ware New sports facilities open at Waterbeach Barracks Axe head This is a type of axe head known as a ‘palstave’, cast from bronze using a two-piece mould usually made of clay, stone or bronze. The new Toucan crossing on the A10 by Waterbeach has now been completed and is fully operational Spindle Whorl Whorls were made from a variety of materials and this example is made from a coarse ceramic. It dates to the late Iron Age or early Romano-British period, about 2,000 years ago. A10 Carriageway Resurfacing – Night Working archaeology find Large storage jar This ‘Horningsea ware’ was initially shaped by hand and finished on a kick-wheel, a technology introduced to Britain by the Romans. U&C and ECL join forces to support local Food Bank Samian Ware This is a broken fragment or ‘sherd’ of pottery known as ‘Samian ware’, mass-produced in Gaul (France) and exported throughout the Roman Empire. Uncovering the past at Waterbeach Roman Coins Most of the coins found during the first phase of excavation date from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Including a coin of Constans (AD 340-44) and two coins from the reign of Magnus Maximus (AD 383-88) Planning permission granted for new A10 bridge at Waterbeach Cremation vessel A small pottery vessel made in south Gaul (France) and imported to Romano-Britain. This red pottery with a glossy surface is known as ‘Samian ware Installing a new Toucan Crossing Axe head This is a type of axe head known as a ‘palstave’, cast from bronze using a two-piece mould usually made of clay, stone or bronze. Car Dyke Junction is now reopen to road traffic Spindle Whorl Whorls were made from a variety of materials and this example is made from a coarse ceramic. It dates to the late Iron Age or early Romano-British period, about 2,000 years ago. Green Side – Suspension of Parking Green Side, Waterbeach archaeology find Large storage jar This ‘Horningsea ware’ was initially shaped by hand and finished on a kick-wheel, a technology introduced to Britain by the Romans. Car Dyke Road Junction / A10 Samian Ware This is a broken fragment or ‘sherd’ of pottery known as ‘Samian ware’, mass-produced in Gaul (France) and exported throughout the Roman Empire. Latest Edition of Waterbeach Barracks Newsletter Roman Coins Most of the coins found during the first phase of excavation date from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Including a coin of Constans (AD 340-44) and two coins from the reign of Magnus Maximus (AD 383-88) A10 cycling and foot path improvements : Waterbeach to Milton – Start of works Cremation vessel A small pottery vessel made in south Gaul (France) and imported to Romano-Britain. This red pottery with a glossy surface is known as ‘Samian ware Community market moves to Waterbeach Barracks Axe head This is a type of axe head known as a ‘palstave’, cast from bronze using a two-piece mould usually made of clay, stone or bronze. New A10 Bridge heralds Mere Way Cycle Route Spindle Whorl Whorls were made from a variety of materials and this example is made from a coarse ceramic. It dates to the late Iron Age or early Romano-British period, about 2,000 years ago. Waterbeach Beer Festival hosts charity football match archaeology find Large storage jar This ‘Horningsea ware’ was initially shaped by hand and finished on a kick-wheel, a technology introduced to Britain by the Romans. Iron Age brought to life at Farmland Museum Heritage Open Day Samian Ware This is a broken fragment or ‘sherd’ of pottery known as ‘Samian ware’, mass-produced in Gaul (France) and exported throughout the Roman Empire. Waterbeach Barracks Newsletter Summer 2021 Roman Coins Most of the coins found during the first phase of excavation date from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Including a coin of Constans (AD 340-44) and two coins from the reign of Magnus Maximus (AD 383-88) First homes approved for Waterbeach Barracks Cremation vessel A small pottery vessel made in south Gaul (France) and imported to Romano-Britain. This red pottery with a glossy surface is known as ‘Samian ware New town formally named Waterbeach Axe head This is a type of axe head known as a ‘palstave’, cast from bronze using a two-piece mould usually made of clay, stone or bronze. Discover Waterbeach Barracks’ past at the Farmland Museum Spindle Whorl Whorls were made from a variety of materials and this example is made from a coarse ceramic. It dates to the late Iron Age or early Romano-British period, about 2,000 years ago. Plans shared for new connection between Waterbeach Barracks and Cambridge Science Park – along the historic Mere Way archaeology find Large storage jar This ‘Horningsea ware’ was initially shaped by hand and finished on a kick-wheel, a technology introduced to Britain by the Romans. Waterbeach Barracks Spring 2021 newsletter Samian Ware This is a broken fragment or ‘sherd’ of pottery known as ‘Samian ware’, mass-produced in Gaul (France) and exported throughout the Roman Empire. Waterbeach Naming Consultation begins Roman Coins Most of the coins found during the first phase of excavation date from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Including a coin of Constans (AD 340-44) and two coins from the reign of Magnus Maximus (AD 383-88) Longhurst Group appointed as Affordable Housing partner Cremation vessel A small pottery vessel made in south Gaul (France) and imported to Romano-Britain. This red pottery with a glossy surface is known as ‘Samian ware Playgroup moves into transformed building at Waterbeach Barracks Axe head This is a type of axe head known as a ‘palstave’, cast from bronze using a two-piece mould usually made of clay, stone or bronze. A journey through nature at Waterbeach Spindle Whorl Whorls were made from a variety of materials and this example is made from a coarse ceramic. It dates to the late Iron Age or early Romano-British period, about 2,000 years ago.

You can find out more here

Haven’t seen the exhibition as yet?

Learn more about how our predecessors lived and what they did here.

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Exhibition boards
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Exhibition details

Exhibition

Waterbeach Barracks archaeological investigations

End

21 October 2021

ADDRESS

The Farmland Museum, Denny Abbey, Ely Road, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB25 9PQ

exhibition entrance sign
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Waterbeach Archaeology Open Weekend

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April 2022

A team from Oxford Archaeology East are carrying out archaeological investigations at the former Barracks and Airfield at Waterbeach. They are excavating the remains of a large Roman settlement and a later Saxon hall. This is an opportunity to take you behind the scenes of what has been uncovered so far, what it tells us about the history beneath the new development, and what is coming next.

Drop in to see the finds and a display at the Community Building from 10am - 4pm on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April.

You can also pre-book a tour of the excavation led by an archaeologist on the eventbrite link below. All tours must be booked in advance and take part on the hour at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.

archaeology tour at Waterbeach

ADVANCE BOOKING ESSENTIAL FOR TOURS.

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Exhibition details

Exhibition

Waterbeach Barracks archaeological investigations

Date

2nd - 3rd April 2022

ADDRESS

Waterbeach Barracks
Denny End Road
Waterbeach
CB25 9NY

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archaeologist taking a tour at Waterbeach
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You can find out more here

Sign up to hear more about the forthcoming archaeology taking shape over the next six months and be among the first to find out how you can get involved!
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