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Lyn's story

posted Oct 13, 2017, 4:22 AM by Caroline Davison

My dad was a wise old bean.  He held that one of the things one should cultivate towards a happy life - is a feeling of gratitude.   I try to do this - in the days when I am staring at a blank screen trying to write -or the heating goes kaput just as the weather beings to turn. But sometimes you don't need to cultivate it. Sometimes it just overwhelms you.

That was what I felt at our Imagined Land review meeting.  26 people turned out and had such lovely, thoughtful things to say about their experience of being involved with the project - from its beginning to the glorious rain gap that saw its marvellous end. 

There is still plenty to do: new interpretation panels, an anthology of the creative writing, and I have no doubt there will be an important legacy to our triumph. Already there are several residents setting up a local group that will continue to research, create songs and stories and care for the land. More on all this in future posts. 

For now I thought I would leave the last word on the event to Lyn - a Tasburgh resident who got very involved.  Thank you Lyn - and thank you Tasburgh for a night I will remember as long as I live ….

Simon Floyd 13.10.17

Several things ran through my mind, as I sat in Victorian costume in a chair, perched on top of wet straw bales in the Heritage field that evening. (Will the rain hold off? Thank goodness Alan had fixed the chair so I wouldn’t rock myself backwards off the bales! And hadn’t this been one of the best things to happen to Tasburgh?) The drum beat was getting louder, and the singing coming up from the valley was atmospheric and quite heartwarming. And then the procession came into sight – hundreds of local people of all ages in costume, carrying lanterns, holding flaming fire cans, and three giant sheep being carried above the crowd, all led by Drum Master Charlie. I wondered how long it had been since so many people in Tasburgh had gathered to march anywhere, and was there ever going to be an end to this procession?

Back in February notices appeared around the village, advertising an Open meeting at the Village Hall. Over a hundred turned out to hear how the Heritage Lottery Fund had awarded the Norfolk Archaeological Trust thousands of pounds to investigate the history of Tasburgh and, in particular, the Heritage Field opposite the church, said to date back to Iron Age.  We were told there’d be opportunities to help with archaeological digs in the village, to do archive research, write stories, create songs, make banners, costumes and giant effigies for some kind of pageant we would create ourselves. We were to be led by Simon Floyd, a theatre producer from Norwich, who turned out to be friendly and truly inspirational – with a fondness for homemade cake.

Lots of us volunteered for multiple involvement, and were not disappointed. Every step of the way through the summer there were experts on hand to help – Giles led the digs, in the Field, the School and in back gardens all over Tasburgh, which made discoveries from medals to buttons to ancient flints. John Alban helped volunteers search the Norfolk Archives for historic information for an Exhibition. Sara Helen held workshops to nurture the writing of prose, poetry and song lyrics, and Charlie magically put the latter to music, coaxing some wonderful sounds from a scratch choir and local musicians.   Meanwhile, the schoolchildren learnt more about the Vikings and the Saxons, whilst making shields, banners and lanterns, and interviewing older people in Tasburgh about the village in the last century. Ali turned the Village Hall into a hive of industry for a few weekends, from which emerged three incredible giant sheep, some beautiful banners, and many, many homemade lanterns for Pageant Day.

The steering group met on a regular basis and, as the date of the pageant on the Field grew nearer, I sensed a definite coming together of local residents. People whose paths would normally never have crossed were greeting each other like old friends, cars hooting to pedestrians, dog walkers waving as they went by. It was almost like wartime spirit, but without the war.

The rain miraculously did hold off – for just the length of the pageant – allowing spectators a glimpse into Tasburgh’s imagined past, courtesy of Narrator Shepherd Keith Read. It began with Victorian children complaining of hunger and my own monologue. Then, in fading light, we laughed at Alan Rush lording it over cheeky Medieval peasants Cheryl Winter and Julia McNulty, and watched in wonder as John and Mungo Behm showed us around the Saxon settlement on the field with the help of the schoolchildren and an awesome hakka. Marching Roman Cub Scouts led us to the final scene which I shall carry forever: as the sun sank in the west, Kate Cakebread stood with her Spear amid flaming torches and told her tale as Iron Age Warrior Queen Nia, with John’s magnificent giant iron Boar behind her, followed by Struan’s song. 

Then we all piled back to the Village Hall for some soup, and a knees up with the Bacon Butty band. Thank you all for some wonderful memories of Summer 2017.  Now we have to build on that wartime spirit, and keep the momentum going. Ruff!

Lyn McKinney

Ready for the big day....

posted Sep 15, 2017, 9:53 AM by Caroline Davison

So the big day is tomorrow. I haven't blogged in a while -things have been a little frantic! I have just got back from two busy days in the school, with the scouts and the final singing rehearsal with what has become a truly lovely community choir, and am now sitting contemplating the black clouds from my desk window with still a few last minute jobs to do.

One of them is my list of thank-yous  - now extending to four columns and 138 names.  That's incredible - that so many have given so much. As I write the finishing touches are being added to our family of huge glowing sheep in a garage on Harvey close; a truck is being prepared to pick up a load of straw bales and the banners are being topped off in a living room in Valley Road. Kids are walking out of school clutching words for their Saxon haka; a village sculptor is finishing his Iron boar and the last Victorian mobcaps are being sewn.

It is hard right now to fully reflect on things.  We have not yet finished with the effort of it all! The day starts early tomorrow with the field set up and I daresay will end with the collapsing of more than just the  stages - we intend to enjoy ourselves!

 I feel so grateful to those who have got behind the project and made it their own. What pleases me most is that 90% of the content of the pageant has come from the community itself. It is their imagination of the village over centuries - and I have no doubt, whether usher, fire marshall, sheep carrier, singer, actor, soup maker  or car park attendant - they will all do themselves justice.   And I know everyone is praying for sun!

SF 15.09.17

Imagined Land blog: writing workshops

posted Aug 7, 2017, 7:14 AM by Caroline Davison

Our community writing workshops were off to a fascinating start on Saturday 22nd with the ‘Play in a Day’. We learned a lot about Iron Age life – apparently there used to be hippopotamuses around here! I’m not sure if that’s historically accurate, but it would make a great story... We steered clear of hippos, though, and together created two iron age characters: Nia, a powerful if troubled clan leader, and Struan, a dreamer and loner plagued with visions. The group wrote several scenes in which the two different characters have to come together to save Tasburgh from a wild and possibly magical animal who is terrorizing the village. The group created a huge amount of material in a very short space of time – and Tom even wrote a beautiful song for Struan to sing!

After that we kicked off our series of evening workshops with a visit from Giles, who brought along a selection of the finds from the test-pits around the village. He was able to reconstruct the kind of pots the shards of pottery would have come from, and tell us all about when they would have been used – fascinating stuff! After hearing about the history, we turned it into writing – fiction and, in a few cases, poetry. From a few shards of pottery, a piece of flint, and a metal disc, we created an amazing array of characters and lots of different stories. Tasburgh residents liking a drink was a constant theme, though...

Sara Helen Binney

30th July 2017

Turning history into celebration

posted Jul 28, 2017, 4:02 AM by Caroline Davison

The exhibition is up at Long Stratton Library, the finds are washed, recorded and analysed and the school has broken up after a term of busy, creative work on their imagined land. There are also moves afoot by some residents to continue historical and archaeological research  beyond the life of the project.  All in all it's a been very successful start.

Now the task is to make an event with, for and about the village on 16th September that will bring it all alive for many more people in Tasburgh. 

We have had two creative writing workshops so far - and already ideas are beginning to spark.  We know for example that the story of Struan, Nia and the Wild Wild Boar will form part of our Iron Age imaginings - and we have the bones of a song which will accompany it.  On Wednesday Giles the archaeologist brought the finds with him to the workshop. It is really amazing how evocative it is to actually hold a carved flint that someone used on the banks of the river Tas thousands of years ago.  To press your thumb into a groove made for that very purpose can't help but to fire the imagination.

For me the most evocative find is the temperance medal form the 1840s. This evokes stories that echo straight back to the research of our volunteers archivists: the small but active Quaker and Methodist populations, poor relief,  the daily work of survival, even the building of the school. The objects provide us with a start and allow us to reel backwards and take a broader sweep. How did the medal end up in the mud - who owned it, what happened to them, what were their family like?


As I make more detailed plans for what we are calling the Imagined Land Procession and Historical Pageant on 16th September we are using these inspirations to construct an event that we hope will be fun, inclusive, entertaining and really give Tasburgh people a sense of their heritage.  

Of course we don't yet know who will come forward to support the event but I believe there is something for everyone to make a contribution in a way that suits them best. By the time the day comes we will have made lanterns and banners, made and learnt songs, written stories and rehearsed performers.  

We will also be encouraging and supporting people to make their own costume if they want to - inspired by any one of the four eras that we are focusing on - Victorian, Medieval,  Saxon and Iron Age.  So have a look at our timetable of events in singing, making, writing, performing and join us for anything that takes your interest.

A full list of workshops can be obtained from the Training & Events page

If you don't fancy any of that  just come as a spectator and take a walk back through time.

Right now the best thing you can do is come on Saturday 5th August for an open meeting at the village hall where I will explaining all this in a lot more detail and will be able to answer any questions you have. If you fancy it, bring your sewing machine or a musical instrument and your voice because the rest of the day will be taken up with designing and making village banners and making music together.

Tasburgh has a fascinating history which the earthworks at its centre can tell us much about - so come on! Let's make a celebration…


Voyage of discovery...

posted Jun 13, 2017, 7:52 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Oct 13, 2017, 3:55 AM ]

On Saturday we held a Discovery Day at the village hall with another good turnout.   We heard from Dr. John Alban, the former county archivist who is ably leading the 'people' strand of the documentary research, and then Dr. Brendan Chester Kadwell - who has been helping a few Tasburgh residents delve into the secrets of old parish maps of every description.  Incidentally Sara Helen Binney - our creative writing facilitator - has also just received her PhD - so that's a third doctor in our midst.  With so much brain power we should be able to go a long way with Imagined Land in Tasburgh.

Giles Emery, the archaeologist who has become familiar to quite a few [people in the village, was also on hand to present some of the findings of the digs over the May bank holiday weekends - the curiosities include Saxon pottery where there wasn’t supposed to be any and a perfectly intact toy digger on the school field - obviously played with and abandoned by a youngster a quarter of a century ago. It's not always the ancient stuff that gets us excited. A legacy of many years of school fetes and some avid metal detecting also yielded a full £6.40 in loose change.  It's kind of heartening to know that we are laying down evidence of today as we go about our business.  I can imagine archaeologists way into the future discovering those money and diggers and asking questions. "Was there a school here? "

Always there are questions - and the answers just bring more questions. I think that must be the appeal - the never ending jigsaw.  The evidence we have found shows patterns of settlement of the past that fire the imagination - as the project was intended to do.



The highlight of the day for me was trooping onto the field with Dave Bescoby, who conducted the geophysical survey. He had marked out with white builder's spray the patterns of possible buildings, breaches in the ramparts, tracks, a kiln and post holes where once the roof of a large building would have been held up over the early settlers to the village. In the morning there were sheep - in the afternoon the 40 or so of us that walked with Dave were able to imagine a whole lot more of the village that stood there before any of today's houses were built.

The morning was rounded off by taking a short walk across the road to the garden at the Old Rectory, where the continuing bank of the enclosure is easy to see, and the view over the Tas Valley makes sense of the siting of the enclosure - thank you to Messrs Handley and Mixer for letting us invade.

The smell of bacon rolls provided by the scouts was enough to tempt people back to the village hall for the afternoon, where some of the participatory artists were able to give short presentations on the writing, crafting and performance work that will be happening in the summer, and has already begun in earnest at the school.  40 lanterns have already been built - and very soon we will be helping people to spark their imaginations further in preparation for the Imagined Land  pageant in September.  We will be launching the creative programme, along with the project exhibition, at the school on the evening of 12th July. I look forward to seeing you there and an invite will be with you shortly. 

I get the feeling the creative work may be a slightly harder sell than the research and the archaeology. Even the most active and engaged people are claiming they can't sing - or write - or make. Well, we are here to prove you wrong. And, in the summer ,expect to see a lot more of me persuading you to join the fun.  Onwards and upwards…

SF 12.06.17

Test-pits blog 4

posted Jun 5, 2017, 6:34 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Jun 5, 2017, 7:24 AM ]

Fifty people (plus a small dog and several chickens) took on the challenge of test-pitting in the second dig weekend (27th to 29th May 2017), with marvellous sunny bank holiday weather - including a traditional stormy shower. I am pleased to report that cake was at hand at every test-pit and one lucky team was treated to a BBQ, while another enjoyed a cream tea with traditional jam and scones. BBC Radio Norfolk heralded the start of the weekend on the Saturday morning, with the Diss Express arriving to take more photos for their follow up article later in the day (see below for links).

This time the test-pits were in the northern part of the village, within four gardens ranging from Low Road along to Saxlingham Lane. The results from each site were markedly different; firstly riverine silts and peats to the rear of Commerce House were investigated by two test-pits (TP5 & TP9). These both yielded mostly 19th century finds from their uppermost layers, with metal detecting recovering a few Victorian coins, a .50 calibre bullet casing and a fascinating Temperance Society medallion of white metal depicting the Good Samaritan. 

The bullet may be another example of our American allies tipping failed ammunition from their Liberator bombers as they came home to one of several local airfields, while the medallion is suspected to have links to a nearby Methodist Chapel on the north side of Church Hill. Hand auger testing of the sticky riverine deposits here showed that over 2.5m of waterlogged silts and peats lie above chalky-clay between the rear of the cottage and the River Tas.

The test-pit at Glebe Cottage uncovered a 19th century metalled surface (TP7) opposite the house, just a few inches below the turf. A second test-pit (TP15) was subsequently positioned further away from the house, which reached the sandy geology here and recovered part of a 16th to 17th century Bellarmine jug.

At White Cottage along Saxlingham Lane (TP8) the test-pit reached nearly a metre in depth, with no shortage of medieval to post-medieval pottery sherds and butchered animal bone. A lightly cobbled surface was uncovered which may have served as a post-medieval trackway down to the river’s edge.

Whilst all the other test-pits were done and dusted by Monday morning, the test-pit at Harvey Close (TP6) was just starting to get very interesting. Below the 1960s rubble strewn soils which date from the construction of the close, was a sequence of layers which can be dated by the pottery and finds to the late medieval period. Some houses in this area have suffered from subsidence problems over the years, believed to be attributed to a large and now infilled hollow or pond. Our test-pit reached the same, rather wet and silty conclusion; although it showed that in the medieval period this hollow was at least partly infilled with a mixture of stony soils (possible consolidation surfaces) and midden waste. Finds included oyster shells, butchered animal bones, medieval brick fragments and glazed pottery sherds. 

This is fascinating new evidence of medieval occupation in this area of the village, but one rather unassuming small piece of kiln fired clay stood out as the star of the show. The object is a clay setter from a kiln, used to space pottery vessels or tiles during the firing process. This means we now have indirect physical evidence for a medieval kiln in the village, an amazing chance find (that raises even more questions) and a fantastic example of how this archaeological project has had a significant role in providing new evidence to augment the ever-growing history of Tasburgh.

All the finds must now be processed and catalogued prior to more analysis, the results of which will provide the basis for a detailed archaeological report. In the interim I will be providing a few highlights of the test-pitting work and discussing some initial results as part of the Imagined Land Discovery Day held on Saturday 10th of June 2017 at the Village Hall.

At this stage I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those who have so willingly volunteered their gardens and their time to the test-pitting project. Our supervisors from the Caistor Roman Project have had a genuinely marvellous experience and pass on their thanks to all those they have had the pleasure of working alongside. The last few weeks have been highly enjoyable, with much soil sieved and many new friends made. Over the course of just a few weeks we have excavated an impressive 15 test pits around the village, none of which could have been achieved without your help and support. I hope to see many of you again soon and look forward to sharing more of our discoveries in the near future.

Giles Emery, Norvic Archaeology

See also: BBC Radio Norfolk: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p052ljrl at 1 hour 20 mins (20 days left to listen)

Diss Express: http://www.dissexpress.co.uk/news/new-evidence-of-tasburgh-s-heritage-unearthed-in-community-archaeological-digs-1-7990070

Test pits Blog 3

posted May 25, 2017, 1:42 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Oct 13, 2017, 3:56 AM ]

Test-pits, metal detection and other hands-on educational archaeological activities were provided for the children of Preston Primary School, Tasburgh, from the 10th to the 12th May 2017. Over 100 children had the chance to get involved over the course of the three days, with good weather and lots of enthusiasm from all.

Metal detecting was a definite hit with many of the children and a survey of the school sports field yielded a Georgian half-penny, a post-medieval buckle, a WWII .50 calibre bullet and my personal favourite – a complete toy digger buried below the turf!

The first test-pit (TP13) proved to be a dud, coming down onto compacted builder’s waste from the construction of the school. However, a second test-pit (TP12) yielded burnt flints from localised hearth activity and a small number of prehistoric flints of Mesolithic to Early Neolithic date. Below the clay rich subsoil, an archaeological feature was uncovered in the form of a shallow gully, from which two small fragments of hand-made pottery were collected, which may be prehistoric in date. 

A complete Bronze Age beaker was found in the adjacent field by workers laying pipes in 1974 and this discovery could indicate that more evidence of prehistoric activity may well lie hidden beneath the school grounds.

The children also tested their trowelling skills with some mock test-pits loaded with replica coins, prehistoric flints, medieval to Victorian pottery and butchered animal bones. They identified their finds and pieced together pottery sherds to understand how archaeologists examine evidence as clues about the past. They also examined a series of mystery objects from different periods of history, including a polished Neolithic Axe, a Roman Oil Lamp, medieval chain mail and a 1940s Brownie Box Camera. The teachers are using the Imagined Land Project as a fantastic opportunity for themed learning and I noted that the playground was covered in chalked Saxon runes by the end of the week!

Giles Emery Norvic Archaeology

Test pits: Blog 2

posted May 8, 2017, 10:25 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Oct 13, 2017, 3:57 AM ]

A test-pit and metal detection weekend was organised at Tasburgh this Saturday and Sunday (6th & 7th May 2017) for members of the local Scouts groups, the Norwich branch of the Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) and several other children from the village. Our hosts Angela & Ian Youngman kindly gave us access to several acres of land off Grove Lane. We had an amazing turnout with 25 children taking part in the digging, sieving and having a go at metal detecting.

The sandy soils here, once used as part of a market garden and for growing christmas trees now provide an idyllic habitat to local wildlife. Two test-pits were completed (TP10 and TP11) which produced both prehistoric flints and several sherds of unglazed medieval pottery of 11th to 14th century date. 

TP11 just kept getting deeper and deeper…Amazingly the test-pit turned out to have been positioned directly on the line of a medieval boundary ditch! 

Several sherds of early medieval pottery were collected from it, along with a perfectly preserved flint ‘end-scraper’ typical of Neolithic to early Bronze Age periods. These prehistoric tools are manufactured from a single flake, with a retouched thick edge to provide the business end for such tasks as cleaning hides and wood or bone working.

Metal detecting across the field proved tricky, both due to the rough ground and the number of modern bits and pieces of farm machinery. Despite this the children’s perseverance paid off with metal finds including 18th to 20th century coins, buttons and thimbles.  

Giles Emery Norvic Archaeology

Test pits: blog 1

posted May 3, 2017, 1:44 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Oct 13, 2017, 3:57 AM ]

The Archaeological Briefing on Saturday the 22nd met with a very crowded room at the Village Hall and gave a chance for those volunteering to take part in the test-pit teams to meet the supervisors from the Caistor Roman Project. The session began with a talk to go over the research agenda, the method of test-pitting and the importance of a steady supply of cake to all those involved for the duration of the dig. 

Several people brought in finds for identification, which included medieval pottery collected from the new allotments at the rear of the Village Hall. These finds have been recorded and the information submitted to Norfolk’s excellent and ever growing Historic Environment Record – a database of finds, monuments and archaeological sites which provides an invaluable source of research (http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/)

Over 45 people took part in Dig Weekend 1 over the bank holiday weekend (29th April to 1st May) and I am happy to report that the residents of Tasburgh did not disappoint – with all four teams having turned out in full force, with some excellent comradery, cake eating and even some finds! Two of the pits were completed by the end of play on Sunday with another closed on the Monday morning and the last by lunchtime just as a light shower rolled in. Three of the test-pits were dug down through sandy soils to the natural gravel geology, while the stalwart diggers at 18 Church Road (TP2) found themselves battling heavy clay soils. 

These first four test-pits have provided the first ever archaeological sample of the modern area of the village and I am very pleased to report that they have provided us with a small window into several thousand years of past human activity.

The finds will need to be cleaned and analysed in detail but it looks like three of the four test pits recovered pottery sherds of Late Saxon to medieval date. The test pit at Curson Road (TP3) recovered what we are hopeful will turn out to be a sherd of middle Saxon pottery, while a piece from Chestnut Road (TP4) is suspected to be either Iron Age or Saxon. Several fragments of burnt flint representing nearby hearth activity and struck flints of prehistoric date were also found at Chestnut Road, which included a simple ‘ad hoc’ flint scraper of probable late Bronze Age date. 

Metal finds were few but did include a complete late post-medieval iron buckle. One or two pieces of metal working debris collected from just to the south of the Church at 59 Church Road (TP1) may well be residual evidence of Saxon iron smelting, previously identified in the area to the east of the church during the excavations in the late 1970s.

I was genuinely impressed by the hard work and enthusiasm of all the volunteers and the hospitality of the homeowners. The cake makers of the next test-pit venues have a lot to live up to. 

Giles Emery, Norvic Archaeology

'Watch this space...'

posted Apr 25, 2017, 6:31 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Apr 25, 2017, 6:38 AM ]

Well, there are no more anxieties any more about getting the balls rolling.  In the past 3 weeks we have taken a big leap towards making the project a firm reality.   

The Creative Planning group are just putting the finishing touches on the schedule for the creative programme - both in the school for the summer term and in the community during the summer holidays.  A full programme will be published shortly - and an article with dates and venues will appear in next month's Tasburgh Quarterly.   The researchers are organising themselves too and are joining forces with the school to find people in the village willing to have their stories of Growing Up in Tasburgh recorded by the children [talk to Georgina at the school or David Moore if you are interested in telling your story].  The school have really been terrific in their support and enthusiasm.

One of the several recent highlights was talking to the children at the assembly this Monday morning - so many interesting questions coming from their curious minds - and performers, historians, singers and scientists amongst them all.  When I asked who didn't like singing only four children out of 100 put their hand up. How many adults would do the same? I assured the four lone voices that they would enjoy it before the year was out - and the adult tally will rise too. I have every faith in the wonderful Charlie Caine to make marvellous music with the people of the village in the coming months.  

As far as the science goes no-one could have failed to have been struck by the incredible images from the geophysical survey of the site [see the Tasburgh Research page if you have not already seen them].  For me the past really began to come alive when I saw those deeply intriguing patterns - evidence of very active past cultures; digging, building, housing, making, growing on the land.  And the big black blob in the middle - believed to have been a kiln - a massive one!  Maybe this is why the desire to burn things exists so strongly in the village!

A resident of many years sent me an image of the wicker man that the village burnt on the field at the Millennium. The image of the kiln and this together convince me that, despite a generous offers from a local farmer who owns an adjacent field, the bonfire should be on the site - so now we are faced with the challenge of making a raised fire.  As a scheduled monument we have to be careful not to contaminate evidence for future archaeological investigation.  Ideas on a postcard please.

As we gear up for the first big Bank Holiday dig this weekend I am really beginning to enjoy the process. With the initial timetabling almost done and the work firmly underway we can begin to concentrate on the 'what' and the 'how', rather than the 'when'.

It's time to get inspired …

SF 24.04.17

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