Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Another activity ticked off on the 'Bucket' list!

I don't actually have a Bucket list but if I had this would have definitely been on it!  Let me explain.  

As you may already have gathered I love History, especially British History, and I love nothing better than reading historical books, both fiction and non-fiction, and visiting old buildings and stately homes.  I belong to the H&R U3A History Group and we go out on trips in the summer and have indoor meetings in the winter.  Two of my treasured possessions are parts of Roman roof tiles which I was allowed to keep after a visit to Piddington Roman Villa.  The tiles were lying all over the site and I was told I could keep the two pieces that I picked up.  One has the finger marks of the maker, probably his 'signature' and the other has burn marks which shows it was near smoke.  I hold them and cannot believe they are about 2,000 years old..

I also belong to Higham Ferrers Archaeology and Research Society (HIFARS) and an email was sent out asking if members were free this week to help with an archaeological dig at Chester Farm, which now belongs to Northamptonshire County Council.  In historical terms it is of huge importance in the area, with evidence of a neolithic settlement, a large walled town of about 600 people in Roman times, a deserted medieval village and the house itself is Georgian.  Well I answered the call and yesterday went to take part.  I have to say that I am a complete novice at this, but did decide to take my gardening knee pads (good idea), gardening gloves (good idea), sun hat (excellent idea), lots of water (good idea) and forgot my portable chair (bad idea).  The latter was needed at break times to sit on instead of the ground which was hard and I am not very nimble getting up.

We arrived at the right time and were briefed about the site, which was originally part of the Victorian gardens laid next to the main house.  They were originally 'ridge and furrow' with topsoil laid on them and we could see this in the dig site.
Geo physical map of farm and surroundings

We had the geo-phys map explained to us and the Roman part is left side to the centre and clearly shows the roads.  However because the site is of Special Historical Interest excavating can only be undertaken in the gardens, at the moment which is to the left of the house and outbuildings at the top of the map.
The dig
Our first job was to sweep the dusty earth off the top in the area top left of this picture.  This took nearly all morning and I found this sticking out of the soil.
A Roman pot/plate?
In the afternoon we excavated for anything we could find - pottery, nails etc.  Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to excavate my pot/plate further as it wasn't in my designated area, so I shall never know how big or how much there was of it.

It was a lovely site and I did take this photo of the old greenhouse and potting shed.  I am told that when the site is developed further this may be the cafe!!  I think some further work is needed.
Potting shed and tumbledown glasshouse
But I had a wonderful day, really enjoyed my first 'dig' and learnt a great deal about the whole site, part of which now has new warehouses and an approach road over the ancient remains!! That is progress I suppose.


  1. this looks really interesting Carol, I would have been disappointed if I couldnt follow up on that pot/plate !!

  2. How exciting to take part in the dig. I have been reading about the site, looks like there will be lots to find.

  3. Snow that must have been a great day for you. Not sure it's something I want to do, but so pleased you got that opportunity