Digging up the past in Baginton

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The Coventry Society is very interested in Coventry’s future and is always pushing for it to be of quality. We also understand that to achieve that we to have to understand the essence of our city, its DNA – its history and it heritage. What is the main source of its culture and inspiration? That is why we were very pleased to invite Nigel Page, an Archaeologist from Warwickshire County Council, to address one of our meetings.

He came to talk to us at our meeting on Monday 13th January 2020 and told us about the wonderful things had been found in a part of Baginton, across the field from the Lunt Roman Fort. The site was a very large field on a high wind-swept area.

The dig was done in advance of the construction of a new Jaguar Land Rover facility which is part of the City Gateway project. Years ago small test digs had been done over the site which was a massive field but there had never been the money to dig such a large area without justification as it was working farm land. But now before it was going to be built on and before the bulldozers got on the site there was an opportunity to see what actually lay underground. What they found was amazing – Prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon cremation cemetery remains, but also small ring ditches which was probably the remains of prehistoric houses and several other prehistoric pits. Even an ancient sauna was uncovered.

Nigel talked with passion about the dig. He was one of the main site mangers and he could not believe what was being discovered every day. He told us they had a feeling about where the main burials would be in this very large field and expected to find that most of the graves had been ploughed out years ago. But to their surprise they discovered pots only a few centimetres below the surface of the ground.

They found Prehistoric graves that had only ashes of the dead that must have been brought there in a cloth or other organic container or sack. There were no signs that they had been cremated at the site and they must have been brought there from a distance and placed at this site as it was sacred to them. Other graves had large pots with ash remains that to had been brought there from somewhere else. What was amazing was that the Romans also saw this burial site as sacred and holy and they too buried the cremated ashes of their loved ones there.

There were also some amazing and personal finds. The grave of a young girl aged between 7 and 14 years old included her small jewellery and personal items such as a small mirror, hair pin and brooches. All in all there were sixty burials, many in pots. Some also included pots that had contained wine. There were also two mirrors, two glass bottles, brooches, the odd coin (one definitely of Vespasian), pins, a ring with an intaglio and the remains of at least two copper bound boxes.

The star feature consisted of a large pit with 23 near complete pots and an oil lamp. All the items are being looked at, cleaned and conserved by specialists in their field. But after writing up their report, what will happen to them? Nigel said he felt they should go on display near the site where they were found but that the decision was out of his hands. We know Jaguar Land Rover have made a payment for some Section 106 money towards local facilities and the Lunt Fort. However it may not be sufficient to build the required environmental building or showcases to house them in.

It will be interesting to see what will happen on this sacred site in the future. Will our  history and heritage be respected and shared?

There is more information about this dig here.

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