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Back in 2013, we reported upon a project with the lofty ambition to conduct a full GPS survey of the Roman town of Verulamium (modern St Albans).

Here we are, three years on, and the survey has now been completed! (well not quite – all the magnetomentry is completed, but there is still some I’d like to do some more GPR and resistivity to go, along with the magnetic susceptibility survey)

How about some numbers?  Well, Verulamium is the third biggest Roman town in Britain, after London and Cirencester.  It is, however, the largest Roman town in Britain which doesn’t have a modern settlement built over most of it.  We have surveyed 64.5ha of the total area of 81ha.  It has taken us 83 working days starting in the summer of 2013, but we didn’t do much at Verulamium in 2014.  It took 12,900,400 readings to cover those 64.5 ha.   That, of course, doesn’t include the grids we did twice because of frozen sensors or other problems. People pushing the cart walked about 322km, not including having to go back to the start for partials, getting to the squares in the first place, or laying in the tapes and strings.

Hearty congratulations go to all the volunteers who gave up their time to learn how to use GPS equipment and then walk those 322km, and to the project lead, Kris Lockyer. It just goes to show what a dedicated group of people achieve, with the right leadership and training.

Although the walking may be completed for now, and the overall picture is very impressive (below) the work of interpreting the results will continue for some considerable time!

Verulamium Survey

A second “Archaeology in Hertfordshire” conference is planned for November 26th to be held in Hitchin Town Hall, where no doubt the project will be presented at length.

by Nigel S

OK, this article is mainly about non-prehistoric stuff but my excuse is that it didn’t start that way as I visited the village of Kempsey in Worcestershire to see the ramparts of an Iron Age promontory hill fort,  just west of the church and close to the River Severn. Not spectacular these days but real enough. I chatted to the priest and he made me feel silly by saying some of it might be the “bund”, the very recent flood defences, but I don’t think the bit in the picture is, at least.

Kempsey 2

What caught my eye though was this, adjacent to the churchyard…..

Kempsey saxon 1

It was erected by the locals following the discovery of 42 ancient graves during the construction of the flood defences and it contains the inscription: “Marking the reburial of our Saxon and Mediaeval ancestors 800-1300 BC”. The actual interment was just the other side of the fence, within the churchyard, but the stone was erected outside the fence so that passing ramblers would be able to see it. That strikes me as a great example of a village taking the trouble to mark its past, a past that is still connected to the present in some ways: as the priest pointed out, those who had been re-buried would all have been familiar with this …

Kempsey 4

Not all of Kempsey’s past is cherished though. Some of it is being exploited IMHO.  First (like every village by now probably), Kempsey has been visited by metal detectorists under the unique Bonkers British legal umbrella which says they needn’t tell anyone about 99.98% of the historical finds they come across.  One wonders just how much cultural knowledge of its past that has cost Kempsey bearing in mind that ARCHI UK, the database aimed at metal detectorists, lists 271 archaeological and historical sites within 10 km of the centre of the village!

Second, over on the other side of the village from the church there’s this new estate being developed ….

Kempsey 3

Note the name, Saxon Meadows.  I bet there’s a new estate near you with a similar name. Being a bit of a cynic I read it as:  “We’re probably destroying archaeology but this name shows we really care”! In the event they found a bit of Roman but no Saxon.  Still, it’s the apparent caring that matters – although some gestures of caring in Kempsey are more obviously genuine than others!

 

MUSCULAR 1.

MUSCULAR 2

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What prompted that? Well back in July we highlighted that Britain’s largest metal detecting shop, Regtons, was marketing lots of the night vision equipment loved by nighthawks as “metal detecting accessories” and we asked the public to write and ask them to stop. It took a while (and our reminders in August and  September) but at last they’ve deleted all such items from their site. Well done Britain, you look a tad less oikish today.

But here’s the thing. It’s not the first time we amateurs have got detectorists and suppliers to act properly by highlighting what’s going on – but it shouldn’t be our rôle, it’s surely something archaeologists, especially those who are paid to outreach, should be doing. Back-slapping people who are going to co-operate anyway is only half the job. Highlighting to the public those who aren’t is the other (and no, kidding them that most of the knowledge-loss is down to criminal nighthawks when actually it’s predominantly down to legal misbehaviour won’t do).

Half a job is not unadjacent to deliberately misleading landowners and the general public. About 560 of the 790 recordable items dug up today won’t be reported and will be lost to science. Merry Christmas.

decs

UPDATE: An artefact hunter writes that it’s a lie, it was not “letter-writing pressure” that caused Regtons to give up their “night vision franchise” although he/she doesn’t explain what did. Right. Sheer coincidence eh?

I think in the real world we can take it that whether it was letters or not, the publicity about their behaviour (which many detectorists have publicly condemned) was what did it.  Muscular outreach does work better than limp wristed appeasement.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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We’ve just received the following Press release from our friends at the Sustainable Trust, announcing the official end of the Carwynnen Quoit project.

‘The Restoration of Carwynnen Quoit’ commemorative book to be launched. 

The Sustainable Trust’s award winning community project will be completed soon. A non-academic record of the project is being published and will be available from Troon Church Hall, Treslothan Road on Saturday December 6th between 6 & 8pm.

All aspects of the project are described from excavations and finds to the ‘Ballad of Carwynnen’, poems, oral and local history.

Short films about the Quoit will be shown, refreshments will be available and there will be an opportunity to buy a print of the 2014 recreation of the 1925 Old Cornwall Society’s picnic.

Pip Richards from the Sustainable Trust said “We have chosen to hold this event at the nearest community building to the quoit, hoping that some of the more elderly residents of Troon may be encouraged to attend. We are grateful to them for sharing their memories with us and look forward to a future project in the area.”

The suggested donation of £6 for the book will help cover printing costs and fund Sustrust’s next project.

email pip.sustrust@gmail.com to reserve a copy.

Recently the restoration was awarded the Council for British Archaeology’s Marsh Award for community archaeology, a national award. The project manager, was also the first lady recipient of the Sir Richard Trant Heritage Champion award from the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

Here at the Heritage Journal we were overjoyed to hear that Pip Richards has been deservedly awarded the title of Cornwall’s new Heritage Champion. She is the first female to be accorded the award.

Lt Col Philip Hills, Chairman of Cornwall Heritage Trust said ‘I am delighted to be able to announce that this year’s winner of the Sir Richard Trant Memorial Award goes to someone who has done so much to promote our unique history, whilst inspiring and engaging communities to carry on this vital work for future generations’.

‘Pip receiving the Heritage Champion award from the chairman and president of the Cornwall Heritage Trust’

‘Pip receiving the Heritage Champion award from the chairman and president of the Cornwall Heritage Trust’

The award is in memory of Sir Richard Trant who was a Cornishman of extraordinary talents. After a very distinguished career in the Army he retired to his beloved Cornwall and dedicated his remaining years helping to promote Cornwall’s heritage. Each year the award is presented to an ‘unsung hero or heroine’ – someone who gives their time and energy in a voluntary capacity and has made a significant contribution to Cornwall’s heritage.

Colonel Edward Bolitho OBE and President of Cornwall Heritage Trust agreed that “Pip Richards has made an outstanding contribution to preserving and strengthening our iconic landscape and is certainly a very worthy heritage champion, following on from our previous year’s winner Cedric Appleby.”

Following this personal recognition of  work as the project manager, the Council for British Archaeology has awarded the Sustainable Trust the Marsh Award for the best Community Archaeology project. ‘This award recognises and promotes innovation and quality in the dissemination of the results of research and/or fieldwork through publication, communication and archiving. In 2014 the winning project is the Restoration of Carwynnen Quoit, a neolithic monument which collapsed following a reported earthquake in the 1960s.’

The official ceremony for the award will be made at the CBA’s AGM at the London Academy in early November. Lead Archaeologist Jacky Nowakowski from the Cornwall Archaeological Unit will accompany Pip Richards to the ceremony.

Pip commented ‘This is a great honour for me, Sustrust and Cornwall. I have enormous gratitude for all the members of the community who have made this all possible by participating in so many different ways. We are currently producing a commemorative book ‘The Restoration of Carwynnen Quoit’. Making sure that everyone gets a credit on the acknowledgements page is a great challenge. The prize for the award will be put towards our next project.’

Sustrust manages two large groves on the Old Clowance Estate for outdoor learning and volunteering opportunities. Pip may be contacted by email pip.sustrust@gmail.com

See our previous articles covering the restoration at Carwynnen.

Starting next week, the next stage of the project to restore the Giant’s Quoit at Carwynnen will be taking place. The plan is that on Friday 2nd May the remaining two supports, or orthostats, for the capstone will be raised. The public are welcome to watch this event, which should start at about 11am.

Carwynnen, the first upright, upright! (March 2014)

Carwynnen, the first upright, upright! (March 2014)

The completion of the raising of the uprights will mark the culmination of a week of education events at the quoit – the capstone itself will be raised and placed later in the year (this is currently planned for Midsummer, Saturday 21st June).

Five schools will be visiting the quoit during next week, when the students will be taught a little about the archaeological processes of excavating, searching, sieving, and cleaning finds by professional archaeologists from the Historic Environment Service. They will be taught about the importance of Neolithic monuments in the Cornish Landscape, the age and weight of the stones and how the ancients made use of their surroundings to live, eat and clothe themselves. Art activities will take place in the marquee, along with an exhibition and quiz. A basic snapshot of the activities each day is as follows:

  • Guess the Weight of the Stones – An introduction with all the team
  • Gory Neolithic Demonstration – by Experimental Archaeologist Sally Herriet
  • Honeysuckle Rope-making – by Experimental Archaeologist Jacqui Woods
  • Sieving, Searching and Trowelling – with Community Archaeologist Richard Mikulski
  • One Timeline, One book, One Spinning Image – with Artist and Designer Dominica Williamson
  • Time Capsule Brainstorm – with Project Leader Pip Richards

Finally, on Sunday May 4th, Julian Richards, “Archaeologist and Broadcaster” will be de-mystifying the ancient art of moving large stones, utilising wooden levers, sledges, rollers and honeysuckle ropes. This will be a free workshop starting at around 10am. If you would like to participate, please register your interest with pip.sustrust@gmail.com or ring the Sustainable Trust on 01209 831718 – safety or stout boots and a hard hat will be required for all those taking part.

See all the details, finds and future events at their website or on their Facebook page ‘Carwynnen Quoit’.

“The Sustainable Trust is grateful for the support of The Cornwall Heritage Trust, Sita Cornwall Trust and The Heritage Lottery Fund who are currently financing this work. We also thank all the volunteers who have made this project possible.”

During a recent holiday in Cornwall, I took the opportunity to revisit Carwynnen Quoit, to see what progress had been made since my previous visit during the recent excavations. Seeing one of the uprights back in place has prompted me to put together this brief overview of the history of the quoit.

Built some time between 3500-2600 BC, this Cornish dolmen had (presumably) stood for millenia before its collapse and reinstatement in the early 1840’s. The recorded history of the quoit begins in the early 18th century, mentioned by Edward Lhuyd during his Cornish travels. It was later drawn by Dr Borlase, and this illustration was included in W.C. Borlase’s ‘Naenia Cornubia’in 1872. J.T. Blight’s ‘Ancient Crosses of West Cornwall’, published in 1858 also includes an illustration of the quoit, somewhat different from that drawn by Borlase.

'Caerwynen' by Blight, taken from 'Ancient Crosses of West Cornwall'.

‘Caerwynen’ by Blight, taken from ‘Ancient Crosses of West Cornwall’.

'Caerwynen' by Dr. Borlase, taken from 'Naenia Cornubia', by W.C. Borlase.

‘Caerwynen’ by Dr. Borlase, taken from ‘Naenia Cornubia’, by W.C. Borlase.

A section of the capstone broke off when the monument fell in 1842, and during its reconstruction “by workers on the Pendarves Estate and local people, galvanised by Mrs Pendarves”, one of the supporting stones was reduced in height and the arrangement of the uprights was thus changed. Comparing this reconstruction to the original, W.C. Borlase noted:

The two supporters at the south-eastern end seem to have retained their original positions. They were, formerly, respectively 5 feet 1 inch, and 5 feet 2 inches above ground, and are still nearly the same height. The single pillar at the other side has been moved nearer the edge of the covering stone than in the above sketch; it measured 4 feet 11 inches high, but is now shorter. The covering slab, which, like the other stones, is granite, measures twelve feet by nine; one side, however, seems to have been broken in its fall.

The monument seems to have remained in this state for around 124 years, until in 1966 it collapsed again, reputedly due to an earth tremor. With thanks to Paul Phillips and the folks at the Sustainable Trust, we have photographs of the quoit taken a short time prior to it’s later collapse.

Carwynnen in the 1960's. © Paul Phillips

Carwynnen in the 1960’s. © Paul Phillips

Carwynnen in the 1960's. © Paul Phillips

Carwynnen in the 1960’s. © Paul Phillips

After the collapse, the Pendarves estate declined, and what were once the landscaped gardens of the estate were returned to agriculture. The collapsed stones were piled in a heap, and with repeated ploughing more stones came to the surface, to be added to the pile of ‘field clearance’.

My own first view of Carwynnen came in May 2007, whilst trying to ‘tick off’ all the Cornish quoits. There was actually very little to see – a field of scrub, with a few stones almost hidden amongst the weeds. But the site was purchased in 2009 by the Sustainable Trust and their partners, and plans were immediately put in place to once again restore the quoit to it’s former glory.

Carwynnen0705

The stones at Carwynnen May, 2007.

I returned in 2012, to find on the surface very little had apparently changed, the pile of stones was still there, looking much as before.

The stones at Carwynnen, May 2012.

The stones at Carwynnen, May 2012.

But now there was a noticeboard at the entrance to the field, indicating that the plans were very much under way. Later that year, two excavations were held in the field. The first was a preliminary investigation via a series of test pits. The stones were then moved using a crane, from the place where they had been left after the 1966 collapse, in preparation for the ‘Big Dig’ in the autumn.

Carwynnen stones, all nicely sorted and categorised, October 2012.

Carwynnen stones, all nicely sorted and categorised, October 2012.

In April 2013 I returned again, to attend ‘Quest for the Quoit’ a neolithic exhibition of crafts and an archaeological test pit dig. This was just one of a series of events and exhibitions both at the Quoit and around various parts of Cornwall to advertise what was going on, and to get the community involved. The day was a great success with a lot of local interest and involvement. And of course, the ‘Big Dig’ had provided the perfect surprise with the discovery of the original footprint of the monument, and the stone ‘pavement’, the original chamber floor. A year after the excavation of the original socketholes, in October 2013, the first of the uprights was put back up into place.

CArwynnen, the first upright, upright! (March 2014)

Carwynnen, the first upright, upright! (March 2014)

Although it looks quite forlorn, locked away inside it’s protective fencing, the other two uprights are scheduled to be raised to join it in May this year, followed by the placing of the capstone at Midsummer. I hope to be there to witness that.

Further details about the history, excavation and events at Carwynnen can be found on the project website at http://www.giantsquoit.org

Unless otherwise stated, all photos © Alan S. 

Carwynnen Quoit is situated a short distance south of Camborne, in Cornwall. OS Grid Ref: SW650372, Sheet 203.

MapCarwynnen

Last weekend saw the culmination of a successful community project in Cambridgeshire, led by the Meldreth Local History Group. The project was inspired by the Michael Woods TV programme “The Great British Story”, and two of the local historians, Kathryn Betts and Joan Gane led the project with the help of Dr Carenza Lewis,  gaining HLF funding of just over £7000 under the ‘All our Stories’  initiative.

The who!e community got involved, coming together for the digs over three weekends during the summer, and Meldreth Village Hall was packed to the rafters with local people looking to view the various finds from 32 test pits dug throughout the village, clustered around a two-mile stretch of road just west of the River Mel, a tributary of the River Cam.

When we arrived slightly early, we were greeted by Kathryn and her colleagues, and made to feel most welcome. A short film about the project, made as a digital record of the project was on continuous loop in a side room and we took the opportunity to watch this as background info, in relative peace before the main crowds arrived.

Just some of the finds on display.

Just some of the finds on display.

In the main hall, the finds from the 32 test pits were laid out on display, each pit showing a map and photographs, with the finds divided by context (depth). The vast majority of finds were of pottery sherds or animal bone, the outstanding find being a metallic ‘badge’, initially identified by the experts (including the PAS) as a Medieval Pilgrim Badge, which within the last week has now been correctly identified as a medieval mirror casing. In fact, this was possible due to an almost identical find from Billingsgate in London, dated to the late 14th century. This was so identical in fact, that it’s highly possible that the same mould was used to create the two items.

The 'Pilgrim Badge' from Meldreth Pit 7.

The ‘Pilgrim Badge’ from Meldreth Pit 7.

The Billingsgate Mirror Casing © Museum of London

The Billingsgate Mirror Casing © Museum of London

On cue, the hall was cleared and seating arranged in time for Carenza’s talk. She gave an overview of the test pitting procedure, and explained that everyone was given the opportunity to get involved, either by digging their own pit, helping dig someone else’s pit, sieving spoil, bagging finds, or just by keeping the diggers refreshed with food and drink!

Some of the pits and finds were then highlighted, and the correct identification of the mirror case was announced, showing that even the experts get it wrong sometimes!

Next some charts and maps were shown, putting the project’s finds into a regional context. The comparatively large amount of Bronze Age pottery was deemed unusual – it’s possible there were two or more small settlements or housing groups in the area. This starkly contrasts with the complete lack of Iron Age finds, although the amount of Roman material shows that the area was settled toward the end of the IA. There was then a gap, with no early Anglo Saxon finds until the 9th Century. Moving through the middle and later medieval periods, Meldreth was obviously an important and thriving centre, with many finds, some of which from the area of the manor indicate high status, and it seems the settlement was sustained (or at least not curtailed nearly as much as other nearby population centres) throughout the period of the Black Death.

Following on from the late medieval, the finds tailed off, with very little from the pre-Victorian and Victorian periods. It was interesting to see the pattern of finds through time, indicating the ebb and flow of the village’s fortunes.

Meldreth today is a commuter village, with a population close to two and a half thousand people, with many new houses, and a thriving community. The possibility exists, now that the History Group have the materials, for further test pitting to take place in the future, though this will depend to an extent upon further funding being made available. But for a small village just south of Cambridge, there is obviously more of the story to be told, and I suspect the community spirit and will is there to push the project forward even further.

Drinks and cakes were available for those who wished to stay behind and investigate the finds further, to chat with Carenza or to watch the films, but we made our way to the door, for the journey home to London.

 Many thanks to the project organisers for putting on such a great display, to all those who took part in the dig, and to everyone on the day who made us outsiders feel welcomed.

If you have a Community Archaeology project or event upcoming, please let us know about it in the comments, and if we can, we’ll try to come along and say hello!

kidd2

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Kidderminster isn’t Winchester when it comes to heritage. It can boast about the carpet industry and penny black inventor Rowland Hill and 17th Century churchman Richard Baxter and superstar Robert Plant and the biggest church in Worcestershire but the list isn’t endless. So when a building that may have been associated with the Saxon minster that gave the town its name has been located and is being investigated as a community project in the churchyard of that church (see the blog here) it’s a source of a lot more local pride than would arise in many other places. When I was there someone approached me brimming with it. It was the pride of someone who clearly felt he owned it. Which of course he does, it’s his heritage.

That’s why he took a dim view of this, holes dug all over the chuchyard the night before by someone that was stealing his heritage. (They were back 2 nights later, the chuchyard is peppered).

kidd

I don’t want to tar all detectorists with the same brush” says the archaeologist in charge “but this opportunistic looting of sites is damaging and very frustrating.” Agreed, but on the other hand I do feel that not tarring most detectorists with exactly the same brush is unjustly whitewashing them. By which I mean this: the ONLY distinction that can be drawn between most detectorists (who don’t report all their finds) and the people that attacked this site (and didn’t report their finds) is “lack of permission”. The damage they do is the same. Same action. Same effect. Same loss of knowledge for the rest of society.  The damage inflicted on Kidderminster is identical to the damage inflicted on communities up and down the country thousands of times every week. Legally. People – especially landowners – should know.

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The people that sneaked past this notice with detectors were plain nasty….

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sign2.

but please, please let’s not allow people to get the idea that such unpleasant, antisocial neanderdunces and their few hundred fellows do more damage than those thousands of perfectly legal non-reporters who get permission. That’s a damaging falsehood the public has been fed for 15 years. They do vastly less.

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More about what has just been revealed at this community dig shortly. (They have an Open Day next Saturday, all welcome). Will it be as exciting as the remarkably similar community dig currently going on at Polesworth, Warwickshire? Of course! Kidderminster has loads of heritage!

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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I visited (and wrote about) the Norton Community Archaeology Group’s (NCAG) Open Day last year. The weather for thIs year’s event last weekend could not have been more of a contrast! Whereas high factor sunblock and sunshades were the order of the day last year, waterproofs and galoshes were a definite requirement this year as the rain was light but continuous the whole time I was there.

My timings were all out (I thought the event started earlier than it did), so preparations were still under way among the hardy volunteers when I arrived on site. I am therefore deeply indebted to Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s Archaeology Officer, who took time out of his busy schedule to give me a little one-on-one time and explain a little of what has been found this year.

The main trench across the henge ditch

The main trench across the henge ditch

There were three main features within the excavation immediately apparent, the largest of which was the trench shown above. This was cut across the line of the henge ditch and bank, and most excitingly, some evidence has been found of a possible earlier causewayed enclosure. Keith had previously suggested that the henge monument was of an early ‘formative henge’ type, but the discovery of a possible causewayed enclosure is icing on the cake.

At the eastern entrance to the henge, compressed chalk pits have been found, ideally sized for inhumation, but with no significant finds within them.

The chalk pits at the eastern entrance to the henge.

The chalk pits at the eastern entrance to the henge.

Whilst the possible causewayed enclosure is icing, there’s a cherry too! A neolithic ‘plank house’ feature has also been identified, close to the ditch.

Excavation of the plank house feature

Excavation of the plank house feature

Mike Parker-Pearson has recently visited the site and corroborated Keith’s interpretation of the findings, which makes this quite an important site, possibly nationally important, as the easternmost henge found to date.

Preparations for the Open Day were ongoing, and with the site due to close down on Sunday, Keith was getting heavily involved in what work remains, so I thanked him once again for his time and left him to it.

Investigations on site have been ongoing for a few years now – Full site diaries can be found on the NCAG blog and wider information about the group can be found on the main web site – but there will sadly be no dig next year, as Keith will be involved in another project elsewhere. Scandalously, it appears that the site may be given over to allotment use. The Group Chairman, Chris Hobbs introduced himself to me as I was leaving and stressed that he hopes to find out more about the potential plans for the site in the coming weeks.

Keith (in shorts), directing operations in the rain.

Keith (in shorts), directing operations in the rain.

So while the Stapleton’s Field site obviously has much more of a story to tell (and an interim report will be published in due course), the future is uncertain – it’s a case of watch this space.

Note: Apologies to all involved for any inaccuracies in my account above, I was working from memory rather than notes.

All pictures above © Alan S.

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