Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford University

Region: Oxfordshire

Archaeologists in high-visibility jackets carrying out an evaluation in a large field with buildings on its far side.

The task: We were commissioned here to complete a detailed report on the archaeological implications of a new development quarter proposed by Oxford University. The aim was to create a large new educational facility covering 3.7 hectares. But in so doing, the new scheme would necessitate removing archaeological features and strata to create a substantial new basement.

The result: Top marks. Our study concluded that there was a strong likelihood of the existence of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery that was possibly used during the Saxon period, along with the medieval hamlet Barrowcroft and buried remains of the original Infirmary, including its hospital graveyard. For this reason we undertook a field evaluation using test pits and trial trenches, from which we were able to zone the site into areas of high, medium and low archaeological potential. We were also able to excavate and unearth Bronze Age ring ditches, as well as walls, bedding trenches and cellars associated with the hospital. The client benefited from a much-improved and simplified development programme since our excavation work was completed in a single phase in the pre-planning stage – thus avoiding a pile-up of consultants all working on site at the same time.