Discovering Waterbeach Barrack's Past

Before the first phase of Waterbeach Barracks could begin extensive archaeological investigations were carried out to capture the history of previous residents and allow their story to inform the future designs and features of the new development. Now, the Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey are home to a special exhibit showcasing these finds.


The Waterbeach development is located at the junction of two important Roman regional transport links: the Car Dyke (Old Tillage) Roman canal, which is one of the greatest engineering feats carried out by the Romans in Britain; and the Roman road known as Akeman Street, which connects Ermine Street near Wimpole Hall and runs along the alignment of Mere Way joining the broad route of the A10 up to the North Norfolk coast. These connections made the area an appealing location for living and trading, and the archaeology being undertaken is helping piece together the jigsaw of Waterbeach Barracks’ past.


Urban&Civic, master developer of the former Waterbeach Barracks and Airfield site, has teamed up with Oxford Archaeology East and the Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey to share the highlights of the first round of archaeology in an exhibition at the Museum over the Summer and Autumn. The exhibition comes as the development is gearing up for its second round of archaeology, which will last for the next 6-8 months. With Covid restrictions lifting, the exhibition and information on the development’s website will also promote opportunities for people to sign up to volunteer with the archaeologists or find out more through site visits and community events.


At the exhibition you can find out what has been discovered so far about life there during the Iron Age and Early Roman period (c2,000 years old) as well as a range of artefacts: from Roman pottery and coins to an amazing Bronze Age palstave axe-head; and find out about the local industry that produced pottery along the fen-edge in the 2nd to 4th centuries.


Rebecca Britton, from Urban&Civic, said: “Waterbeach Barracks is a historic place with rich layers of heritage that span millennia. While the recent military past is something that we are all familiar with, this work has enabled us to dig deeper into the past, find out more about how our predecessors lived and what they did here.


“Covid restrictions meant we could not get the local community involved in the first dig, so this exhibition gives us a chance to share what has been found so far and promote the opportunities to get involved in the next stage of the archaeology later this year. We hope we can come back and share further finds and information on a regular basis as the development rolls out.”


Head down to the Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey to see the exhibit for yourself in our Stone Barn!

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