On September 10th we celebrated the end of the 'Life outside the walls' project with a free Heritage Open Day festival event attended by over 300 people.
As well as guided tours by our new volunteer guide team, this event included Roman cavalry re-enactment by Comitatus; Roman tales told by Jim Kavanagh; a ‘live’ test-pit (test pit 11 of the project); a new display in the church of finds from the project, and the geophysical survey and a ‘listening post’ of resident memoirs. In the marquee the Belton & District Historical Society and staff from Time & Tide Museum, Historic England, Norfolk Archaeological Trust and the county council's Community Archaeologist ran stalls with interesting things to see and do - including dressing up as a Roman soldier.
The Village Hall committee provided refreshments at the village hall and a variety of stalls, and a team of volunteers helped steward car parking.
Despite a few squally showers everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and the horsemanship of the Comitatus group was especially appreciated!
Over the weekend of August 27th/28th we opened two pits in another garden on High Road - Test Pits 9 and 10. Number 9 was sparse in finds or any other features but Number 10 produced what looks like a piece of worked flint, and our first potential sherd of Samian ware - a glossy brick-red tableware used for displaying and serving food, imported from Gaul during the Roman period. Exciting!
The last few weeks have been very busy at the project. During the first half of July 400 children from 8 different Norfolk primary schools visited the Fort, led by our new team of volunteers. Jackie, Sue, John, Brian, Ralph, Pat and Hazel designed and produced materials to support most of the activities delivered at the site, all of which worked really well. Amazingly rain didn't stop play on any of the visits, and we have had very positive feedback from the schools.
These visits were run in partnership with Time & Tide Museum, and Kate Argyle from Historic England. Each school visited the museum for a 'Roman' workshop either before or after the site visit, so the pupils enjoyed a really immersive Roman experience!
Test-pit 8 was excavated at the beginning of July, in the garden of a property off Back Lane, and Ralph and Maureen have completed three more interviews for the oral history project. At the end of July the second Visitor Guide training day took place. During the day we discussed the main stories and ideas we wanted visitors to remember, and found a common theme of 'defence' and 'shelter' which helped us to shape the tour. The newly trained guides will be leading their first tours on September 10th at the Heritage Open Day event in the fort. Remember to put this date in your diary!
Meanwhile David Bescoby from the UEA, with the help of Hazel and Dave, has been carrying out the geophysical survey of two fields at the site, looking for evidence of the vicus - the settlement outside the walls of the fort. Hopefully the data from the survey will help us to understand more about where the settlement was located and how it developed over time. We're hoping this will ready for display in the exhibition on Sept 10th...
Walking back to Roman times
Another way we hope to reach new audiences is through school visits. The team of volunteers for this part of the project have been thinking of brilliant on-site activities for children to take part in, and on Monday we welcomed our first two local schools. We were blessed with good weather and enthusiastic pupils - feedback on the day was really positive. Each school also visited our partners Time & Tide Musuem to take part in their 'Roman' workshop - so a full day for the pupils, and one I think they'll remember!
The oral history project got off to a brilliant start with an interview with Maureen Grey by Ralph Childs, assisted by Malcolm Wooldridge. The interview took place in the bar of The Queen's Head before lunchtime opening, thanks to a very kind offer from Dawn when we were looking for a quiet place to sit and record.
L-R: Maureen, Malcolm and Ralph in The Queen's Head
Maureen has lived in the village all her life and is a mine of information. We heard her very early memories of the village during World War II, being a pupil at the village school, and the 1953 floods, as well as her father's memories of the airfield based in the parish during World War I. She also told us how as a child she found numerous horses teeth on the Fort site - intriguing!
Ralph asked most of the questions, but also recorded a piece about his memories of the Good Friday walk from Great Yarmouth to Burgh Castle which used to take place when he was a lad. We still don't know the origins of this annual outing and would love to know more about it - do you have any information?
These recordings, and others we hope to collect over the coming weeks, will be kept at the Time & Tide archive for posterity. If you have some memories to share and would like to come and chat about them in the comfort of The Queen's Head bar, please let me know.
Hazel & Dave's blog for Saturday June 25th:
We planned to dig two test pits at the weekend but many of our volunteers were on holiday so we decided to go ahead with only one on the land of one of our volunteers - Wendy - in Mill Road.
Again we had gloomy weather forecasts but the soil was soft and very easy to trowel so progress was good and natural was reached by 4.30 on Saturday. Wendy has been nurturing a fig tree and decided to use the pit to re-home it so we were let off the task of back filling! This time finds were really scarce and comprised of a few pieces of ceramic building material, glass, coke and clay tobacco pipe. Whilst disappointing for our diggers, it is important to remember that to find nothing is just as significant as to find a lot!
Thanks go to all those who took part, especially to Wendy and her family for their hospitality and to Scarlett for the delicious fairy cakes she baked for us using eggs she had collected from their own chickens.
Training for leading school visits took place on Friday, led by Kate Argyle, Local Heritage Education Manager (East) at Historic England. Eight volunteers took part, and we had a great day, fizzing with ideas, on how to create rich learning experiences for schools who visit. One of the main challenges of the site is its size - it takes a little while to walk to the Fort from the car park - so we devised some fun learning activities to do along the way. The group also thought of some great activities to get children imagining life in and outside the fort during the Roman period.
We'll have the opportunity to try out these ideas in July when we'll be hosting visits from 400 children from 8 different Norfolk primary schools over 5 days. The groups will also be visiting Time & Tide Museum before or after visiting Burgh Castle on what promise to be amazing immersive learning experiences for local pupils.
Last Thursday we ran an introductory session to the techniques of oral history recording. Three enthusiastic participants took part in the session led by Colin Stott from Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth - unfortunately three other volunteers were unable to make it. So we're still looking for one or two more people to help with this aspect of the project - let us know if you're interested, or if you have stories to share about Burgh Castle in the 20th century.
At the weekend our first two garden test-pits were dug along the High Road: here's what Hazel and Dave Leese, our volunteer supervisors, had to say about the digs:
'In spite of all the odds, with gloomy weather forecasts, almost impenetrable turf, troublesome tree roots and rain, we managed to reach natural in both test pits. We did really well with recording, photographing and troweling, all the finds were cleaned and there wasn't a 6" trowel or unlabeled finds tray in sight! Some interesting looking sherds of pot came from both pits and we had the usual ceramic building material, iron objects etc, but there was a distinct absence of very modern pot and shell.
Our thanks go to everyone who took part, and a big thank you to Mary and Nigel & Jeanette, our hosts for the weekend, who kept us so well supplied with drinks and comestibles.
Until the next time
Dave & Hazel'
Last Thursday evening we had a very successful follow-up session to the test pit training day at Burgh Castle Village Hall. Since the training day Hazel and Dave had carefully dried out and bagged-up the finds from the four test pits dug in the playing field, and these were on show to the circa twenty trainees who were able to come along.
The session was also an opportunity for Hazel to give some feedback on the paperwork that goes with each test pit. As Hazel explained, recording the excavations in a systematic way is vital. If done properly this information - for example, which finds came from which context in which pit - will help us to start looking for patterns of settlement and historic activity which in turn will help us to understand more about how the village developed over time.
So we're all ready for the first two test pits in gardens, coming up this weekend! 06.06.16
The packed public meeting on the evening of May 12th at Burgh Castle village hall really got the project started - over 60 people attended and most of them signed up for one or more of the four different strands of training: test-pitting, oral history, visitor guiding, and leading school visits.
Last Saturday (May 21st) thirty local people came to our first training day: test-pitting, led by Claire Bradshaw, Community Archaeologist with Norfolk County Council, along with Hazel and Dave Leese who are experienced volunteer community archaeologists and who, very luckily for us, live locally. Hazel and Dave will be leading the test-pitting project in the village.
Four test pits were opened up in the village playing field and everyone had the opportunity to try out excavating, sieving, cleaning finds, and recording the excavation.
Feedback from the first training day was very positive: 'Saturday was the first time we had done anything like this and we really enjoyed the experience.', 'I had a great time at the weekend please thank Claire, Hazel and Dave.'
So far sixteen local people have kindly offered to allow us to dig pits in their gardens. We're really looking forward to getting started and finding out more about how the settlement spread from Burgh Castle Fort...26.05.2016
1-10 of 10