A hot-spot in Fingringhoe

In the first few decades of the first century, the Colne and Blackwater estuaries were ringed by salt-producing sites now known as ‘red hills’. Red hills are so called because they consist of heaps of red debris which is the waste product from the heating process necessary to extract salt from sea-water. Over 300 of these sites are known in Essex, and we have just added one more dot to the distribution map.

Most of our archaeological fieldwork consists of evaluation – a required step in the planning process whereby test trenches are cut across sites of archaeological interest. This evaluation revealed a previously-unknown red hill, only the fourth to have been found in the parish of Fingringhoe (as catalogued by Colchester Archaeological Group’s 1990 The Red Hills of Essex).

This crumbly orange ceramic material, from the new Fingringhoe red hill site, is known as ‘briquetage’. It derives from the demolished remains of the drying ovens in which salt water was evaporated to produce salt.















High-status pottery

A surprise was the discovery at Fingringhoe of a group of pottery described as ‘high status’. This simply means it was expensive to purchase at the time. It includes a Samian ware cup, imported from Gaul (France) and some late 2nd or early 3rd century colour-coated pottery portraying hunting scenes. During 1950s gravel extraction at Fingringhoe Wick, at least three Roman buildings were destroyed. These were almost certainly what we would describe as a Roman villa. However, the current site is some distance from the villa site, so it must be a quite separate Roman site. Nor does it appear to be connected with the Red Hill – generally a phenomenon of the 1st century – as the pottery is much later.

Roman pottery from Fingringhoe includes (left) pots with hunting scenes. These fragments show (bottom row) two dogs, and what they are chasing – deer (top left) and rabbit (top right). Also from Fingringhoe, this samian ware cup (bottom) was an import from Gaul.