Managing risk, reducing costs – a Red River Archaeology success

The village of Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds is well-known as a picturesque tourist destination. Less well-known are the extensive buried archaeological remains across several square miles of the landscape surrounding the village. These include the large Neolithic causewayed enclosure and later Iron Age hillfort of Salmonsbury Camp, the Roman road of the Fosse Way and the small Roman town along its route, and large areas of prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon farms and fields.

This means that any proposal for development in the area will probably have impact on this significant archaeological landscape and requires specialist input from a professional archaeologist to help through the planning permission process and to satisfy the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework which requires these issues to be addressed and resolved.

Recently Red River Archaeology have successfully completed a project for the Cotswold School in the village. It was known from previous developments at the school that there were significant buried archaeological remains across the whole site and the proposals for new classroom blocks, sports facilities and landscaping would potentially have considerable impact on these.

Mark Collard, one of our Directors, has 20 years experience of working in the area and has particular expertise in assessing and mitigating archaeological impact and achieving Planning and Scheduled Monument Consents for development. He was engaged at the start of the project by Speller Metcalfe who are leading the design and build of the construction project.

Mark worked closely with the engineers, drainage and service consultants, architects and landscape architects to ensure the design of the scheme minimised intrusion into the buried archaeological deposits. This was achieved by a cost-effective design of small diameter piles and slab floors suspended above the archaeological levels, re-use of existing service trenches and restricting new tree planting to previously disturbed areas. This approach had previously been successfully applied by Red River for two developments at the adjacent Primary School.   

A detailed Archaeological Impact assessment and Mitigation Strategy was submitted with the application for planning consent, and was approved fully without objection by the County Council Archaeologist who advises the planning authority. Planning permission was granted by Gloucestershire County Council in early August, with construction due to start in the autumn with only a limited watching brief requirement.

The key outcomes for the client

  • Risks identified and managed throughout the project
  • Planning permission achieved
  • Project cost certainty
  • Expensive archaeological mitigation works avoided (a saving of c. £100,000 for the project)
  • No unexpected delays to the construction programme from unexpected discoveries

If we can help you with managing risk on your development, contact us at info@rrarc.co.uk


Red River Archaeology (RRA) and Covid-19

This statement has been prepared in response to the global pandemic of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) and its growing presence within the United Kingdom. We are committed to complying with Government and Official Medical Guidance and assisting in the control of COVID-19 in our employees and all others affected by our works.

We have implemented a detailed companywide action plan in order to facilitate this. We support and fully observe the measures identified in the Construction Sector – Site Operating Procedures Protecting Your Workforce During Coronavirus (Covid-19) issued by the Construction Leadership Council. We have created specific procedures and policies to deal with Covid-19.

Red River Archaeology (RRA) remains open for business and our team can be contacted via email or phone as usual. Through detailed assessment, planning and mitigation measures, we have continued to maintain operations on two major infrastructure sites and are able to continue to deliver fieldwork services for the construction sector, where we can assure safe working environments. Do get in touch if we can assist you.

Our Assurance

We will communicate regularly and efficiently with all our staff, clients and suppliers and will ensure that:

  • Appropriate additional control measures are implemented across all of our sites and office locations, that are in line with Government and Official Medical Guidance, aimed at reducing the spread of infection and ensuring the safety of all who work for us and with us. Supplier and Sub-contractor staff will of course be treated in the same way as RRA employees and afforded all of the same information and additional controls.
  • All staff are appropriately informed and have knowledge of up-to-date guidance and safe methods of working.
  • All travel and meetings will be minimised, utilising conference call capabilities and internet communication software.
  • All guidance and action plans will be reviewed at regular intervals, in line with Government and Official Medical Guidance as well as best practice.

We look forward to working with you on our current projects, and in the future.

For more information please consult the following:

Please stay safe

Issued 17 April 2020

by the Directors of Red River Archaeology Ltd


Workplace Gender Equality at Red River Archaeology

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and we posted on social media our thanks to all the ladies that work at Red River Archaeology and help make the company the a success. While the day highlights these social concerns they should not be forgotten about for the rest of the year, and we believe people should expect an equal opportunity to shine.

Surveys conducted by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologist have suggested that “the workforce in British archaeology has notably less women over the age of 40, translating to a lack of women in senior roles”. We are proud of the fact that we have gender parity in such roles from our Site Supervisors and Project Officers to Project Managers and other senior management positions.

Our internal training programmes place emphasis on progression within the company, allowing staff members to move up the grades. Therefore we fully believe that the gender parity we have achieved is now a sustainable part of the company structure. We full expect our Site Supervisors of today to florish into our Project Managers of tomorrow.

This situation was not achieved by diversity planning or design, but has organically grown by the individual merits of each staff member. It realy does show what people can achieve if given a fair and equal opportunity.


Red River Archaeology awarded CHAS accreditation

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We are pleased to announce that the hard work and dedication to a safer working environment shown by our staff has led to Red River Archaeology Ltd being accredited by CHAS to meet the standards in line with SSIP core criteria to the requirements of the CDM Regulations 2015.

As part of our efforts to ensure safer working all staff members are health and safety trained and certificated, and all hold CSCS cards. Dedicated staff members hold CPCS Plant and Vehicle Marshaller (A73) and NVQ level 3 Utility Avoidance and Location of Buried Services certificates. All team leaders have attended and passed the CITB Site Supervisors’ Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS), with Project Managers holding the CITB Site Managers’ Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS).


A Prehistoric Settlement at Southend Airport: a summary of a paper delivered to Essex Society for Archaeology & History by Barry Cosham

We were pleased to be asked by Essex Society for Archaeology and History (ESAH) to give a talk on our findings from a project adjacent to Southend Airport. This took place on the second of November 2019 and was well received by all present.

The talk was put together following the completion of the initial phase of post excavation work so could only provide preliminary findings. However even at this early stage we can trace occupation of the site back 13000 years.

The focus was the Bronze Age settlement found in the south of the development area. This comprised a sub square multi-phase enclosing ditch system within which were a multitude of pits and postholes. Some structures were present, but more work is needed to clarify how many.

A large quantity of finds were retrieved during the excavation, mostly ceramics and lithics although there were a few special finds indicating domestic activity including saddle quern fragments, spindle whorls and probable loom weights. The most unexpected find was a middle bronze age dagger or dirk which was found in the base of the large enclosure ditch.

Another unexpected discovery was a complete bovine inhumation where the cranium had been removed and placed between the legs. This was accompanied by a further cow skull and ceramic vessel… intriguing evidence for religious/cultural practices. 

The talk concluded with a summary of further work required to better understand the site, it’s chronology and changing use over time and to fit it into the regional, national and international context.

Many thanks to ESAH for inviting us to speak, we hope to return when the post excavation is complete.


Three Coins in a Fountain (or one coin in a well!)

Well under excavation

Wishing well or lucky find!

Nummus of Caesar Crispus recovered from the well

Recent excavations by Red River Archaeology in the environs of a Roman villa in Wiltshire, England discovered an amazing Roman well which contained a wonderful collection of artefacts and ecofacts. Amongst this assemblage was a well preserved Roman coin dating from the early 4th century. This was identified as a nummus of Crispus Caesar (Flavius Julius Crispus). Coins turn up from a huge variety of contexts on archaeological sites. The majority are lost in antiquity and a lucky archaeological outcome of a past misfortune! As archaeologists, however, we always look hard at the evidence and see if it is possible to understand past intentions through the material remains left in the ground.

The origins of wishing wells!

A tradition of making votive offerings into watery places has been a European tradition since at least the Bronze Age. This tradition is likely to have developed as a means of making offerings to deities believed to be associated with water. It was hoped that an offering would result in the granting of a ‘wish’ such as healing of illness or good fortune to the person making the offering. Extensive remains of votive offerings have been recovered throughout Britain from pre-Roman indigenous peoples such as the extensive Bronze Age remains at Flag Fen. This native tradition appears to have been adopted by the Roman army following the invasion and a ritual well associated with the Romano-British Goddess Coventina is located near Brocolitia Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The natural hot springs at Bath were also a native British ritual site associated with the goddess Sulis which was taken on by the Roman incomers who built a bath and temple complex as part of the Roman town.

Lost or Offered?

Selection of coins recovered from the site

Although no evidence has been recovered to confirm whether the coin was lost or deliberately deposited into the well the fact that it was not worn / eroded would indicate that it was probably deposited in the well while relatively new. It is nice to think that someone back in the 4th century AD deliberately tossed it in the well and made a wish for some positive outcome in their life. Alas, we will never know!

Flavius Julius Crispus

Image used from an article on Roman Naval Warfare by Mark Cartwright https://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Naval_Warfare/

Crispus served as a Caesar from AD 317 to 326. Crispus was the son of Constantine I and raised by his father in Gaul. Crispus had the respect of the legions due to a number of victories against the Franks and the Alamanni which secured the provinces of Gaul and Germania. He also served as the commander of the Roman fleet in the Battle of the Hellespont where he commanded a fleet of 200 ships to successfully defeat his enemy. Due to his pivotal role in helping his father defeat the armies of Licinius, Constantine honoured his son Crispus by adding his face to imperial coins, statues, mosaics and cameos etc. His high standing didn’t last long and Constantine had Crispus hanged in AD326 under mysterious circumstances.

The well

Red River Archaeology Ltd awarded silver badge for environmental awareness and sustainability

At Red River we are keen to minimise any impact on the environment that could result from our activities. Therefore we have joined the Supply Chain Sustainability School and been assessed for environmental awareness. We have initially been awarded a ‘Silver Badge’ and will be working to achieve a ‘Gold Badge’ in due course.

More information on the activities of the Supply Chain Sustainability School can be found here: https://www.supplychainschool.co.uk/uk/sustainability/construction/about/about.aspx

Quality Guaranteed!

CIfA’s Registered Organisation scheme is a unique quality assurance scheme. It is a badge of commitment to professional standards and competence. When you employ a Registered Organisation you can be confident that it has been assessed and found to be professional and accountable.

Red River Archaeology Group Ltd comprising Red River Archaeology Ltd and Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd has been included in the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIFA) Register of Organisations for 2019 to 2020. The ‘RO’ status is the kite mark of quality within the commercial archaeology sector.

Why use a CIFA Registered Organisation?

Registered Organisations have demonstrated the requisite skills to:

  • Provide informed and reliable advice
  • Execution of work appropriate to the circumstances, minimising uncertainty, delay and cost
  • Subscribe to codes of professional conduct and practice

Assessed – Registration is for a finite period, after which organisations must re-apply. They undergo rigorous peer review, and are subject to an inspection (which includes a site visit for organisations that undertake intrusive works).

Professional – Registered Organisations are strictly bound to the CIfA Code of conduct (PDF file) and other regulations, they must work in accordance with defined policies and procedures, and comply with current best practice. They will fully document their work, findings and advice, carry adequate professional insurance, and be committed to providing their staff with a fair employment package and the CIfA’s minimum salaries.

Accountable – Registered Organisations are subject to sanctions if they fail to comply with the scheme and can ultimately be removed from the Register. A complaints procedure also exists formally to address allegations of professional misconduct.

Where you see the Registered Organisation logo, you can be confident that the organisation has demonstrated they have the skills to provide informed and reliable advice and execute appropriate schemes of work while minimising uncertainty, delays and cost.

In search of the Redhall, Edinburghs lost castle!

In July 2016, we joined forces with John Lawson, Edinburgh City Council Archaeologist, to assist with searching for the site of Redhall Castle, a castle which was taken by force by Cromwell’s forces in 1650. As no above ground trace of the castle was known we used documentary research to provide a target location and, with the help of students from Middle Tennessee State University, carried out geophysical survey and trial pitting to test our hypothesis. This blog has been written and compiled by Rachel Moloney Baker, a student from James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh while on work placement at Red River Archaeology Ltd in our office in Edinburgh.

Redhall is first recorded during the reign of Alexander III (1249-86) as Rubea Aula, as Redehalle in 1298 and as Redhalle in 1337, likely referring to a red-coloured hall house. The first recorded owner was William le Grant, an Anglo-Norman immigrant from Lincoln in the 1250s. The castle was the centre of the Barony of Redhall. In 1375 the barony was conveyed to Robert, Earl of Fife and Monteith, son of King Robert II. He in turn passed it to his son Murdoch, who disposed of it to William Cunningham of the Kilmaurs family. In the 16th century the lands of Redhall were owned by Sir Adam Otterburn, who had served as Provost of Edinburgh and King’s Advocate and whose arms survive in a later dovecot near the castle site. In 1572 it was reportedly garrisoned “by the Regent Marr, and the King’s favourers”. In 1616 Anne Otterburn married Sir James Hamilton of Hoperig, to whom Redhall next passed.

The most dramatic event in the castle’s history occurred in the 17th century, when it played a key role in the campaign that culminated in the Battle of Dunbar on 3 September 1650. In July 1650 Oliver Cromwell arrived in Scotland to combat Covenanter forces. By 24 August, he and his army were near Redhall, seeking to capture the strategic location overlooking the Water of Leith. The site dominated the Slate Ford and was therefore a threat to any force seeking passage of the river. The Parliamentarians had first identified that the castle was held against them on August 13 or 14, when it was garrisoned by some twenty men, but had chosen not to take it. Now reinforced, and held by perhaps as many as 80 men, the fortress represented a formidable obstacle to the passage of the English. Ultimately, it would obstruct their forward movement for some 48 hours. In order to force Redhall’s capitulation Cromwell had to bring forward his field-guns from his camp at Stonyhill in an effort to effect a breach, but with little success. It was only when the defender’s ammunition ran short and New Model Army petardiers and axemen surged forward to breach the main gate that the garrison hung out white sheets to surrender.

Following its role in 1650 Redhall passed into the possession of John Chiesly of Dalry, who had charge of it in 1672, and may have been the same man hanged in 1689 for the assassination of President Lockhart in the Old Bank Close in Edinburgh. By 1681 Redhall was owned by James Brand of Baberton, before in 1749 John Davidson bought it.  In 1755 George Inglis of Auchendinny purchased Redhall and commissioned James Robertson to design a new house in 1758. It may have been around this date that the remains of the medieval castle were demolished, and the site incorporated into the landscape and garden features of the new house. This new house forms part of the building known as Redhall House that survives on the site today. The Inglis family remained at Redhall until the 20th century, and the castle site is now in possession the City of Edinburgh Council.

Documentary and map research indicated to us that the site is located near Redhall House Avenue in Edinburgh, specifically on a spur of high ground surrounded on the southwest, west and north by the valley of the Water of Leith. The site is covered with grass, nettles and briars. One hundred yards north west of the site is Redhall House, and 250 yards north east of Redhall House is the Redhall Dovecote, the only surviving above ground feature contemporary with the original castle. An excavation around the turn of the 20th Century revealed the footing of a semi-circular structure some seven feet in diameter which was interpreted by the excavator as a ‘turret’ and part of the castle.

As we had limited time (and budget!) for our field investigations we determined that the most appropriate way forward was a rapid geophysical survey followed by small hand dug test pits targeted on anomalies identified in the geophysical survey.

Magnetometry survey in progress

The project aimed to involve local interest groups and individuals to learn about the archaeology of the site and the archaeological techniques used to investigate the site. In order to achieve this, links were made with the Middle Tennessee State University, and students were given the opportunity to partake in fieldwork on the site. The excavations (comprising of test pits) took place in July 2016.

The test pits dug had a number of aims – to establish the location, character and likely extent and nature of archaeological remains of Redhall Castle, and to establish the profile of surviving archaeology. This information was used to devise plans for further archaeological works and allowed for knowledge of the area and archaeological techniques to be shared with local populations and further afield.

The results of the geophysical survey identified a number of anomalies consistent with buried stone structures. We targeted these anomalies with our test pits. The vegetation and topsoil were removed until the first archaeologically significant level of subsoil was encountered. All the identified archaeology was then recorded and investigated.

We were very excited by the results! There was evidence of levelling found around the site, as well as finds such as window glass and worked masonry that are likely from Redhall Castle. Other finds, such as the pottery shards, glass onions bottle fragment and oyster shell which provide insights into the lives of inhabitants of the castle and its surrounding area. It is also possible that further structural remains exist at a lower level than the limit of excavations. Further excavations would provide even further insight into the life of the inhabitants and would yield a great amount of information about the site.

All in all we proved that people were living at the site in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods and that a lot of effort had been made to level the ground at this time. The presence of  window glass and carved stone dating from this period indicates a high status building which would be consistent with a castle. Our feeling was that we were on the periphery of the actual castle site and that the castle was located immediately to the west of our investigation in an area of dense vegetation that was inaccessible to us. If possible, we would love to return to Redhall and carry out furthering investigations to uncover the foundations of the actual castle!

Tailored Staff Development Pays Dividends

Red River Archaeology Group has an ongoing commitment to tailored staff development and continuing career support. The company values the benefits that motivated, well trained staff bring to both our operations and our clients. We currently have several sponsored training programmes, two of which have recently come to fruition.

In May 2018 we reported on our long-term commitment to expanding our project management capacity within our Cardiff office. The company sponsored Rachel Morgan to undertake a Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership, by enrolling in the Leadership and Management programme run by Cardiff Metropolitan University. With the completion of this course in February 2019 we are delighted to see Rachel take up a new role as Project Manager, bringing the knowledge and skills learnt to supplement our experienced management team. With training specifically tailored for the construction industry our clients can be confident that Rachel is well placed to understand their exact needs and tailor our services accordingly.

Red River Archaeology is also pleased to see Victoria Rees take a new appointment as Finds and Archive Manager. This follows on from Victoria successfully completing her sponsored MSc modules in Environmental Archaeology with the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. These new skills build on her broad wealth of experience within post-excavation and her commercial awareness. Victoria will be taking the lead of our Cardiff based post-excavation team to ensure the timely production of post-excavation reports and archives. These reports are critical to our clients planning requirements, and the delivery of archives can be the deciding factor to allow the discharge of planning conditions.

As part of her course Rachel produced a 3-year growth strategy for Red River Archaeology. With the uncertainties of a post-Brexit economy looming this document will be invaluable as the company seeks not only to maintain our excellent track record of service, but expand our market share across the UK. This is an aim that both of these appointments will help to see fulfilled, as our capacity to deliver quality projects is increased.