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Foundation of the First Abbey

655AD

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A monastery was founded on the current Cathedral site on the north bank of the River Nene in Saxon times. At that time the area was called Medeswell, later Medehamstede. This translates as 'the home or farmstead in the water meadows'. The monastery was founded by Peada, son of King Penda of Mercia. It was completed by Peada’s brother Wulfhere. At that time Mercia was a pagan Saxon kingdom, but as part of a marriage contract with neighbouring Christian Northumbria, Christian missionaries were allowed to found a religious house here. The original monastery may have been built of timber, but seems to have been later replaced in stone. These original monks were Celtic Christians.





The Roman Villa at Fane Road

180AD

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An Iron Age farmstead developed into a prestigious Roman villa with mosaic floors and a hypocaust. The building was improved and extended several times before it was demolished in about AD350. The Roman villa and Iron Age farmstead were unearthed by an excavation in 2011-12 triggered by the planned development of houses on a portion of the allotment site. The discovery of this villa caused great local interest and in 2014 a community excavation was launched to find its southern wing.  







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The Iron Age

800 BC- 43AC

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The Iron Age is the last of the Three Ages of British later prehistory. It begins with the arrival of the new metal, iron, around 800 BC and ends with Roman troops landing on the shores of Kent, in AD 43. The Romans gave the British writing and with writing came recorded history – which is why prehistory is said to cease with their arrival. People in Iron Age Britain are sometimes described as Celts and they spoke Celtic languages, which survive today in Breton, Welsh, Gallic (Scotland) and Gaelic (Ireland). The working of iron requires greater control of very high temperatures which led to improvements in pottery firing and less regionalised pottery styles.  The Iron Age saw the  appearance of ditched enclosed farmstead-type settlements as at Itter Crescent, open settlements characterised by roundhouses and pits as at Fengate, and the building of the hillforts like the earthworks at Newborough. Societies were hierarchically organised in this period, having moved from the extended clan to the chiefdoms and the earliest named rulers. These are the tribes the Romans encountered when they came to Britain in the first century. The best known of these rulers was Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe/kingdom. She led a popular rebellion against Roman rule, in AD 60-1. Environmentally, the Iron Age sees increased flooding and higher groundwater levels in the fens.





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Orton Hall Farm

50 AD

Information

Archaeological excavations in the 1970s revealed a large first century farmstead in the vicinity of Orton Hall. The site was first in use from around 50AD and continued to be used well into the Saxon period. The farm house had a yard with a wall around it, and there were large barns and a mill too. Agricultural activities were evident, as well as beer production and milling, suggesting some wealth was attached to the farmstead.