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The Sutton Common Project

Sutton Common ProjectSutton Common, near Askern in South Yorkshire, is home to a pair of enclosures straddling the palaeochannel of the Hampole Beck. These enclosures appear to date to the early Iron Age, and have been interpreted in a range of different ways, from a Roman camp (Surtees 1868), a prehistoric refuge (Whiting 1936), to a 'marsh fort' (Parker Pearson & Sydes 1997). Consequently, the function of the site remains enigmatic.

The archaeological potential of Sutton Common remains extremely high. Being within an area of past wetland, the preservation of organic remains has in certain parts of the site been excellent. This preservation has unique implications for dating any phasing of the site and for exploring prehistoric technologies such as wood working. There is also high potential for investigating the contemporary palaeoenvironmental conditions, and for explaining the palaeo-economy of the site.

Survey (Chapman & Van de Noort 2001) and excavations by Hull University in the late 1990s demonstrated a high potential for organic preservation on the site, and since 1997, the site has undergone a programme of burial environment monitoring (including saturation, soil chemistry and micro-biology - link - Van de Noort et al. 2001, Chapman & Cheetham 2002).

In 2002, the first of two seasons of excavation were undertaken by the Universities of Exeter and Hull, under the co-direction of Robert Van de Noort (Exeter University) and Dr Henry Chapman (WAERC). This work focused on the interior of the larger of the two enclosures, and will be continued in 2003. The principal focus of these excavations is to determine the function(s) of the site, though they are part of a wider project aimed at preserving in situ large parts of the site and its wider surroundings. This project is spearheaded by the Trustees of the Carstairs Countryside Trust, who own the land, in partnership with English Heritage, English Nature, Countryside Agency, the Universities of Exeter and Hull and Grantham Brundell and Farran.

Sutton Common Project

A Digital Elevation Model of Sutton Common The earthworks of the smaller enclosure are clearly visible with the slight remains of the larger enclosure visible on the opposing side of the palaeochannel


The Excavations of the Iron Age Enclosures at Sutton Common are funded by English Heritage and are being undertaken by the Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter and the Wetland Archaeology and Environments Research Centre, University of Hull. The work forms a major part of the Sutton Common Project.

The Sutton Common Project, which includes land acquisitions, wildlife and landscape enhancement, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evaluations, research and conservation, and engineering works to raise ground-water levels, is spearheaded by the owners of the land, the Carstairs Countryside Trust (CCT), in partnership with English Heritage, English Nature, Countryside Agency, the Universities of Exeter and Hull and Grantham Brundell and Farran.

The Project forms one of the Countryside Agency's trial schemes in the Humberhead Levels 'Value in Wetness' Land Management Initiative, which is seeking new, economically viable and environmentally sustainable approaches to water and land management in the Humberhead levels.

Participation with the North Doncaster Rural Trust over future public access and enjoyment of the site seeks to contribute to the environmental and economic regeneration of this 'Coalfields' area in South Yorkshire.

This Project has been made possible through the co-operation of the Sheard Family Trust and financial support from: English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, English Nature, Countryside Agency, DEFRA (Countryside Stewardship Scheme), Darrington Quarries (Landfill Tax Credits) through WREN - Waste Recycling Environmental, James Goodhart, The Pilgrim Trust and the Universities of Exeter and Hull. Help has also been given by the Doncaster Naturalists Society and Doncaster Community Arts (darts).

Page last updated by Tim Bettley on 8/1/2013