Working on behalf of Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, Wessex Archaeology have unearthed an archaeological site, believed to be a settlement or farmstead dating back to Iron Age/early Romano-British period.
The site at Newsham is currently being prepared for construction of a new station and platform, which will be ready ahead of passenger trains running by the end of next year.
The archaeological investigations, which have been ongoing for a number of weeks in a farmer’s field west of the railway line, have revealed the presence of a rectangular enclosure with a central circular feature, most likely a roundhouse.
Although relatively few artefacts have been discovered, several other circular features have also been located within the rectangular enclosure and taken together the evidence suggests an enclosed settlement or farmstead, established and in operation during the Iron Age/early Romano British period.
Capturing remains of ancient structures found at new rail line site in Northumberland
These investigations will allow the archaeologists to recover and record information from the site, including artefacts and soil samples, all of which will add to an understanding of the environment, life and practices of the people who lived in South East Northumberland hundreds and thousands of years ago.
“This is an exciting discovery, which enables us to capture and document the findings for future study.
As part of our commitment to enhancing communities, we’re looking forward to working with local schools to further explore what life would have been like for these ancient communities, in partnership Wessex Archaeology and Northumberland County Council.”
Main construction work on the Northumberland Line is due to get underway this summer.
The scheme, which will see six new stations, will deliver 18 miles of upgraded track, access improvements and new signal locations, and is due to be open by December 2023.
It's planned to run a half hourly passenger service between Newcastle and Ashington – stopping at Bedlington, Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park along the way.
Commenting on the archaeological finds, Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council said: “This is a fascinating snapshot into what life was like in our county thousands of years ago.
We know Northumberland has a rich and interesting history and to see it close up is a real find.
As we begin to create our own little bit of history in bringing back passenger trains to this line it’s worth remembering that progress and innovation is nothing new.”
The archaeological works are a planned part of the scheme and will not in any way delay or hinder the project.
Nick Best, assistant county archaeologist, added: “South East Northumberland is more typically associated with industrial heritage, including early railways and wagonways.
“This excavation reminds us that this area was part of thriving agricultural landscape from at least the Iron Age until after the coming of the railways.”