The City Council archaeology team dug three trenches during the relocation of the Gas Column at the south end of Houndwell Park (reference code SOU 1017). The dig took place in November 1999 on behalf of Southampton City Council.
Several flint tools which perhaps date to the Neolithic period, including two core fragments and two scrappers, were found. They were all found in later deposits.
Iron Age activity
A series of stake- and post-holes were associated with Iron Age pottery. They did not appear to be part of a recognizable building. Iron Age round houses were found in 1985 on the York Buildings site some 150m to the south (reference code SOU 175).
A layer of soil, up to 10cm thick, overlay the Iron Age remains. The finds from this layer included Roman brick and tile, and pottery made in the New Forest after 270 AD (i.e. in the Late- Roman period). The soil was perhaps formed by farming during the Roman period.
Further stake- and post-holes cut into this layer. They were also associated with Late-Roman pottery. They did not form any recognizable pattern. This Roman activity probably shows that the Iron Age settlement continued to be occupied during the Roman period, but that its centre of activity moved around. It was probably a farm.
A soil layer built up over the Roman remains. Although it contained 146 sherds of Roman pottery, we believe it dates to the Middle-Saxon period as 34 sherds of that date were found. The layer probably represents continued farming activity.
A ditch cut into the Roman farming soil. Its fills contained Middle-Saxon pottery. The uppermost fill consisted almost entirely of limestone rubble, quarried from the Isle of White, together with over 4kg of Niedermendig lava quern fragments. The lava querns were imported from Germany in the Middle-Saxon period, they ground wheat to make excellent flour!
The area seems to have been farm land during the Middle-Saxon period. There is no evidence that the Roman settlement continued to be occupied into this period. The farm land was probably connected with the town of Hamwic which lay about 400m to the east.
Medieval and later activity
Another layer of ploughed soil overlays both the Roman and the Middle-Saxon remains. It included medieval roof tile and pottery, including a Norman tripod pitcher and Saintonge ware from south-west France, which indicate a date in the 12th and 13th century. Further layers above it dated to the post-medieval period. This shows that the land continued in use as farm land into the post-medieval period. Historical sources show that Houndwell Field was part of the Lammas lands (or Common Fields of the town). In the 19th century, the Lammas land was let in strips to individual farmers during the summer, but was used for common pasture after the harvest. An Act of Parliament of 1844 allowed for its conversion into a public park.
A full report can be consulted in the Special Collections section of Southampton Central Library in the Civic Centre.