South West England is the largest region in England by area, covering some 9,200 square miles and comprises of Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Exmoor, Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Penwith Moors are all included in this region, as is much of Wessex and of course the Somerset levels. All good areas for pre-Roman archaeology.

South West region (Creative Commons)

The region was heavily populated during the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods. Many monuments, barrows and trackways still exist. Early coin evidence shows that the region was split between the Durotriges, Dobunni and Dumnonii peoples. It is a widely held belief that the Romans only ever really got as far as Exeter in their invasion of the Southwest, but this is not true. Roman mileposts have been found as far west as Hilary near Marazion. So there is plenty of scope for investigation, whichever period you may be interested in.

Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society

Ordinary Membership costs £10, providing a Newsletter each February and September which contains full details of Society activities. Members may attend any lecture or visit which is organised. Members also receive an annual journal (the Transactions) every Spring. There are additional classes of Membership, benefits of which are detailed on the website.

There is a full program of lectures and excursions arranged by the society, and full access to the Transactions from 1878-1995 is available online. Contents pages for later volumes are also searchable online.

Cornwall Archaelogy Society

The Society was formed in 1961 – it grew out of the West Cornwall Field Club, which was founded in 1935 by a group of enthusiasts who were studying the archaeology of West Cornwall. Currently the society has nearly 600 members and organises activities covering all aspects of the discipline.

Ordinary membership costs £25, and this provides three Newsletters a year, as well as a Journal (which is widely considered one of the best archaeological publications by a local society in the country). There are monthly walks and winter lectures, and for those interested in practical archaeology, opportunities to participate in fieldwork and learn archaeological techniques from experts.

Although many of the Journals are no longer available, there is a full list of contents for each volume available online, and a special summary of archaeology in Cornwall (Volume 25) including the full downloadable text in PDF format is available for download.

Clifton Antiquarian Club

Clifton Antiquarian Club is based in Bristol, although members are distributed across the southern half of England and Wales. Their stated aim is “to promote a better understanding of our archaeological heritage and meet on several occasions during the year for lectures, tours and research projects“.

High quality field trips and lectures are augmented with formal research projects and members are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the club’s activities. There are opportunities for publication of personal research in the biennial Proceedings of the Clifton Antiquarian Club and an editorial board has been appointed to ensure that all published material is of the very highest standard.

There is no membership Information on the club web site, though there is a section for younger members – ‘CAC Kids’ is a “junior” section of the Clifton Antiquarian Club with three key objectives:

  • -To organise visits to child friendly historical sites 
  • -To enable members and guests of the Clifton Antiquarian Club who are parents (or grandparents) to enjoy days out with their children in a safe and fun historic environment with likeminded members. 
  • -For the children to make new friends.

East Dorset Antiquarian Society

The East Dorset Antiquarian Society is an amateur society. Lectures by visiting speakers (and sometimes by members) are mainly on archaeology with occasional historical based talks. Members also arrange visits and guided walks to places of interest in Dorset and neighbouring counties.

The society undertakes practical archaeology and between 1998 and 2001 excavated a high status Roman building, where evidence was found of tesserae manufacture, including minute glass cubes. Painted wall plaster was also recovered. Since then excavations have taken place at Tarrant Monkton, Worth Matravers, Stourpaine, Wimborne Square and other sites.

Membership is a very reasonable £5, and the society’s newsletters and excavation reports are available on the web site for download.

North Devon Archaeological Society

The society’s stated aims are:

  • To promote awareness of and interest in archaeology and the historic environment with particular reference to northern Devon.
  • To encourage field survey, recording and research.
  • To promote the preservation and interpretation of ancient monuments and antiquities in the region.
  • Where appropriate and necessary, to excavate to professional standards and to publish the results of research.

Members take part in all aspects of practical archaeology including geophysical surveys, earthwork surveys, excavation, fieldwalking, potwashing etc. and the Society has attempted to train members in all these areas whenever possible. Training days are also held on documentary research, flint identification, pottery identification, pottery drawing etc.

NDAS welcomes all new members, regardless of whether they have any previous knowledge of archaeology. Individual Membership costs £16 and includes a twice yearly Newsletter, involvement in fieldwork (including insurance!) and free entry to talks in the Winter Program.

Useful Links

Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society
Cornwall Archaelogy Society
Clifton Antiquarian Club
East Dorset Antiquarian Society
North Devon Archaeological Society

Devon Archaeological Society
Gloucester and District Archaeological Research Group
Winchester Archaeology and Local History
Plymouth & District Archaeological Society (PDAS)