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Heritage column: Roman finds on Fairlop Plain

PUBLISHED: 15:00 09 July 2017

A Roman flagon found in what is believed to have been an early Roman cremation pit at Fairlop Quarry. Photo: Redbridge Museum

A Roman flagon found in what is believed to have been an early Roman cremation pit at Fairlop Quarry. Photo: Redbridge Museum

Archant

While everyone knows Fairlop hosted RAF fighters during the Second World War, not everyone is as aware of the area’s anicent past. David Martin, of the Fairlop Heritage Group, sheds some light on the Romans’ time there.

Fairlop Plain has been a site of continuous human occupation since the middle Bronze Age c.3,500 years ago.

Forest, rivers and woodland clearings made it an ideal location to live.

It could provide food, water shelter and fuel and eventually resources for making money.

The first humans to explore the plain lived a nomadic life passing through the local landscape looking for sources of food.

Gradually, over the course of thousands of years, people began to settle and farm the area, making their mark in clearings in the forest, building boundary ditches for their fields and to mark the burials of their dead.

Notable finds on Fairlop Plain include: Romano-British pottery dating from mid 1st to early 2nd century AD, which were recovered from ditch fills, pottery, several pits and ditches spanning late Iron Age to the early Roman period.

A middle Bronze Age palstave (axe head) was recovered and five Bronze Age ring ditches were also located.

On Aldborough Hall Farm, the only find was a single piece of struck flint, but acidic soil conditions may explain the absence of human remains.

In November 2005, the most devastating find was made, in the form of a 110kg German incendiary bomb, dug up by workmen excavating stone in Fairlop Quarry, Aldborough Hatch. Two hundred people were evacuated by police from the local vicinity.

Making the bomb safe was a lengthy process that took the 33rd Engineers Regiment nine hours to complete.

Firstly, the fuse was removed from the casing, then officers dug a pit with high walls before craning the bomb into position. Sergeant Jim O’Kane set up charges to break the case open to access the incendiary material.

The controlled explosion went off with the force of two hand grenades, which produced a single hole, which needed a further explosion so the incendiary material could be tipped out.

The Museum of London claim the flagon pictured opposite, would probably once have contained a votive offering, (to fulfil a vow made to a God for deliverance).

It was found in an early Roman cremation pit at Fairlop Quarry.

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