Norton has extraordinarily well preserved historical records covering 1000 years of our social history. We also have unspoilt archaeology spanning 10,000 years. The Norton Community Archaeology Group (NCAG) was set up nearly 4 years ago to further our knowledge of the village and surrounding area through practical “hands-on” historical research and archaeological excavations. Our projects will illuminate hitherto unknown aspects of the village’s past and bring it to life for the inhabitants of the area.
In the summer of 2007 we conducted a six week “training excavation” of a seventeenth century barn. The aim was to train the first group of interested volunteers from the community in archaeological skills. The dig resulted in quite unexpected Bronze Age finds which are now displayed in Letchworth Museum.
Recent expert interpretation of all of the archaeological evidence now indicates quite exceptional Bronze Age features which may be of national importance. In December 2007 the District Council Archaeologist reported the following:
The evidence is beginning to mount that Norton was an extremely interesting place in the remote past. The survival of so many elements of its Bronze Age landscape is unusual and very unexpected in an area that has seen so much development in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We thus seem to have an entire Bronze Age landscape incorporating settlement evidence, a ritual site [in the form of a henge] and burials all to the south of Norton village. This is a very rare situation and it is something that the Community Archaeology Group could investigate profitably”.
Other important features in Norton include a large abandoned medieval village and a possible Roman Road.
NCAG now have an ambitious 5 year programme to explore many historically significant sites in Letchworth and around. We have the full support of the principal landlord, authorities, experts and the District Council Archaeologist. Funds permitting, all members of the community have the exceptionally rare opportunity to get hands-on with their own history.
Families and individual residents are welcome to join, whatever your age, experience or participation. Our Diary of Events includes talks, walks and presentations of popular appeal and casual interest. All members can also participate in one-off digs, short term projects, historical research of the ancient records and archaeological excavations of possible national importance.
We have dug Roman remains in Caslon Way in February 2008, and in the Wheathill/Hawthorn Hill area in 2009/10 looking for a Roman farmstead/villa. We have dug at a number of sites in Norton Road looking for Medieval properties and a 19th century poorhouse. Many other sites have been identified across Letchworth. Each dig includes residents and local schoolchildren learning to research and excavate with experts their own local historical records and archaeological features.
We have surveyed and excavated the abandoned medieval village. In the near future we will be investigating a possible Roman Road and the rare Bronze Age features. We are conducting a longterm Geophysical Survey which is uncovering hitherto unknown anomalies, possibly of prehistoric origin, for future investigation.
All projects will discover and conserve our own local history across the ages, leading to a greater understanding of the village and the enjoyment our heritage.