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Historic remains found on Braywick Leisure Centre site

Published: Tuesday, 12th June 2018

Braywick Leisure Centre

Anglo-Saxon remains including pit-houses and pottery have been discovered on the Braywick Leisure Centre site.

The remains were found during early works undertaken by the council prior to planning consent being formally granted and are of archaeological significance. They include an undated posthole which would have supported one of the pit-houses found, along with pottery fragments. These findings give the borough a glimpse of how people lived over 1000 years ago.

Pit-houses, or sunken-featured buildings, are buildings which are partly dug into the ground and covered by a roof and were common in the Anglo-Saxon period (5th to 11th centuries AD). All that remains of these structures normally is a shallow pit in the ground, usually with a dip at each end where timber posts would have supported a gabled roof.

However in the two examples found in Braywick Park, likely to have been used as storage buildings, only the shallow pit foundations remain. They are also positioned very closely together which is highly unusual for typical Anglo-Saxon settlements where such buildings would normally have been found further apart.

The pottery recovered from the two pit-houses found on the site is consistent with the Anglo-Saxon period. While no decorated shards have been found so far, several were burnished which would have given them a glossy appearance. Three fragments also show signs of being used for cooking, as one has soot on its exterior while the others show traces of burnt residue on their interior surfaces.

Andy Taylor, senior projects officer from the Thames Valley Archaeology Service, said:

“These Anglo-Saxon remains are very significant. Previously we were not aware of any Anglo-Saxon settlements in the Braywick area so finding the sunken-featured buildings, particularly so close together and the pottery is very exciting.”

These early finds mean that a full archaeological dig will now take place across the whole Braywick site which is expected to take up to three months. This means the current estimated opening date for Braywick Leisure Centre is now March 2020.

Cllr Samantha Rayner, lead member for culture and communities (inc. customer and business services), said: “The Anglo-Saxon remains found on the Braywick Leisure Centre site are very exciting and will add to the many historic and rare items found across the borough.

“We will be working with the Thames Valley Archaeology Service to undertake the full excavation and ensure that any historical pieces are found and saved so that residents, now and in the future can benefit from them and find out more about how people lived more than 1000 years ago.

“However this will unfortunately have a direct impact on the timelines for the opening the centre. While this is disappointing, we will be working with our archaeology and construction partners to ensure that disruption to our plans is kept to a minimum and where possible we will aim to open as close to the original date as possible.”

Braywick Leisure Centre will replace the ageing Magnet and provide residents with outstanding and easily accessible new sports facilities. The Magnet will not close until the new centre opens so there will be no break in service.

Key facilities of the Braywick Leisure Centre include:

•    A 10-lane, 25m swimming pool – up from eight lanes at the Magnet and up to 1.6m at the deep end and 1.1m at the shallow end.
•    A larger training pool – almost twice the size of the Magnet.
•    A larger splash area and larger pool changing village.
•    A 200-station gym (up from 150) and a separate health suite.
•    Two dance studios and a spinning studio.
•    Four squash courts – which can also be reconfigured into another studio space.
•    Six outdoor netball / tennis courts.
•    An 80-seat café with views of the pool.
•    A replacement Pearce Suite hall to seat up to 650 people for events.
•    A new nursery to re-provide Pixies.
•    A new soft play area.
•    Improved accessibility for disabled users and sports teams.
•    430 parking spaces – twice as many as the Magnet.
•    A 40m x 60m floodlit all weather 3G pitch.

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