SUTTON COMMON: A quiet, little known corner of South Yorkshire?
This land holding is of national significance in so much as it was regarded by John Ette (English Heritage Inspector of Monuments at the time) as one of the most important Iron Age sites in the country.
It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) and it survives as much through good luck and tenacity as anything. It’s one of those local stories that saved a national site. Having said that how many people have even heard of Sutton Common? To the untrained eye, to a member of the public it looks like agricultural land with woodlands on its boundaries. Students of archaeology might have heard of it, those who spent time patiently digging as part of the excavations will have fond memories but you dear reader, can you say you were aware of the site?
Sutton Common is described as an Iron Age ‘marsh-fort’ but flaked-stone artefacts predate the Iron Age. Mesolithic and Neolithic finds have been made. On-going research work strongly suggests that there is still much to be discovered and learned from the site about early man’s activity in the area. Detailed information about the archaeological digs at Sutton Common can be found on the internet.
If you can accept that the area, part of the wider ‘Humberhead Levels’, was once many thousands of years ago a vast wetland then perhaps also a realisation that there is still potential out there. It must have been very different to the area we now know, drained beyond recall in any living memory or beyond any photographic image available to us. Modern technology is helping to provide an interpretation but that needs presentation skills to deliver an appreciation of another of our historic ‘lost landscapes’.
The story is a fascinating one of “where there is a will, then there is a way” as the saying goes. The Marsh of Time: the saving of Sutton Common is a very readable account of the events and nature which eventually saw after five years of extremely sensitive negotiations the acquisition of both Sutton Common and Rushy Moor. It contains sections written by those who were intimately involved with the project including Ian Carstairs, Malcolm Lillie, Keith Miller, Henry Chapman, Robert van de Noort, Ian Panter, James Cheetham, Tim Kohler, Stuart Pasley, Viv Cheetham and Howard Connell. For those with need of a more forensic scientific interpretation then see also “Sutton Common The excavation of an Iron Age ‘marsh-fort’ “ (2007) edited by Robert Van de Noort et. al. CBA Research Report 154. Having said that, archaeology is never clear cut and is always open to interpretation and counter interpretation particularly as new data or additional information becomes available and so needs to be taken into consideration or factored into the ‘jig-saw’.