Ancient Roman games and makeup found in wealthy village discovered during Northamptonshire HS2 works

ITV News Reporter Ravneet Nandra reports on the Roman artefacts uncovered at a HS2 site

One of the "most impressive" Roman villages unearthed during HS2 works has been discovered in Northamptonshire.

Archaeologists working on the rail network have uncovered a wealthy trading town, which boasts ornate pottery, hundreds of silver coins, and remnants of Iron Age gaming and grooming.

Experts say the site, unearthed near Chipping Warden, is one of their most significant discoveries so far.

Archaeologists say the find sheds light on how a small Iron Age village was transformed into a wealthy Roman trading town.

The team working on the route were digging near the village of Chipping Warden in South Northamptonshire when they uncovered the settlement, believed to be more than 2,000 years old.

One of four wells uncovered in the unearthed Roman Village. Credit: PA

The settlement was first believed to have been established in about 400 BC when it was made up of more than 30 roundhouses.

Archaeologists say it is believed to have expanded during the Roman era in the years around 300-400 AD, with new stone buildings and new roads emerging.

The site, known as Blackgrounds after the black soil found there, is one of more than 100 to have been examined by archaeologists between London and Birmingham during the HS2 works since 2018, with experts saying it turned out to be "one of the most impressive".

Archaeologists excavating a wealthy Roman trading settlement, known as Blackgrounds, in South Northamptonshire Credit: HS2

The archaeologists found more than 300 Roman coins along a wide road, suggesting that commerce in the area was significant as the village developed into a wealthy town.

The 10-metre wide road also indicated that the settlement would have been very busy with traffic.

The archaeologists found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

A Roman lead die and bone gaming pieces uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds. Credit: HS2

In one part of the site the earth was bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work, or a kiln.

Other artefacts found during the dig highlighted the wealth of the inhabitants, such as glass vessels, highly decorative pottery, jewellery and even traces of the mineral galena - a substance that was crushed and mixed with oil to be used as make-up.

Half a set of shackles was also discovered, suggesting criminal activity or slave labour in the area.

An archaeologist holds a Roman pot uncovered during the dig. Credit: HS2

Site manager James West, from MOLA Headland Infrastructure, which has been excavating the site, said: "This is certainly one of the most impressive sites [we have] discovered while working on the HS2 scheme.

"A particular highlight for me has been understanding the emerging story of Blackgrounds, which we now know spans multiple time periods.

"Uncovering such a well-preserved and large Roman road, as well as so many high-quality finds, has been extraordinary and tells us so much about the people who lived here. The site really does have the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond."

Mike Court, lead archaeologist for HS2, added: "The opportunity to carefully examine a site such as Blackgrounds, and map out a long history of the site, brought to life through artefacts, building remains and roads, has enabled us to provide a more in-depth understanding of what life was like in rural south Northamptonshire in the Iron and Roman Age."