Kitty Foster's blog

Pontefract Castle: Excavations are Go!


Construction work has begun at Pontefract Castle as part of the HLF-funded Key to the North Project, which will see the improvement of the site as a visitor attraction with the addition of two viewing platforms, a new visitor centre and a café. The works will also see the site taken off Historic England’s At Risk register, opening up of parts of the castle to the public for the first time since the end of the Civil War, including the Sally Port and the Swillington Tower, and the restoration of paths established in the Victorian period when the site was first used as a park.


Wessex Archaeology has been appointed by Wakefield Council to monitor the ground works being undertaken at this important Scheduled Ancient Monument. The work is expected to take around 16 months to complete and an archaeologist will be attendance to record any archaeological features uncovered and to collect any finds that are disturbed. Our work has already uncovered some interesting items, including later post-medieval pottery sherds, glass and a large number of clay pipe fragments. 
Additional funding has been provided by Historic England, Wakefield Council, the Wolfson Foundation and EPaC.
By Alexandra Grassam, Senior Consultant

Community Project at the Old Church of St Nicholas, Uphill

2553 Laser scanning in progress

Last week Wessex Archaeology ran a community project in conjunction with the Churches Conservation Trust at the Old Church of St Nicholas, Uphill. The project was organised to coincide with Heritage Open Days – a national four day event running which aims to open up some of our usually inaccessible heritage so that the public can come and view it.
The week involved a range of activities including metric survey of the church and churchyard, geophysics, test pitting within the nave and Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), a technique that uses photography to reveal faint inscriptions. The project saw the use of a Total Station, GPS, 2 Terrestrial Laser Scanners, a Ground Penetrating Radar and a Magnetometer. Staff from across the company, including the Built Heritage, Geomatics, Geophysics, Outreach and Fieldwork departments all came together to make it possible.
The event was widely publicised in the area and members of the public were encouraged to come along and take part in all of the activities. We had a great turn out with over 1000 people throughout the entire week! Much fun was had by all involved, staff and public. 
Some of the preliminary results of the week’s work are visible below.
Thanks to everyone that made it a great week.
2554 Left: image from within the Belfry, centre and right: cross section of the belfry showing the bell mechanism
2556 Samples of the laser scan data
2555 PTM images. Left: carvings on the exterior of the church. Right: a gravestone which was unreadable in normal light

A Late 19th Century Cutlery


Wessex Archaeology has revealed the remains of a late 19th-century cutlery adjacent to the Porter Brook behind Sydney Street NCP car park in Sheffield. The work is in conjunction with Esh Construction on behalf of Sheffield City Council, and is being carried out in advance of the landscaping of the site and creation of a terraced garden adjacent to Porter Brook.


The works have revealed the basement of the grinding wheel building, with many internal features surviving, and a chimney base. The Commercial Directory of Sheffield names Jas. Deakin and Sons, Silversmiths and Joseph Smith and Sons, Timber Merchants as the site tenants in 1879. The adjacent saw mill is thought to have been demolished but the remains of it may yet appear during watching brief works. The site team also recorded some of Sheffield’s more recent past – photographing the graffiti on the retaining steel struts before their removal.

Barrows, Hoards and Settlements: Prehistoric Discoveries on EKA2


In 2010, the largest excavation in Britain took place on the Isle of Thanet in advance of construction of a new road, the East Kent Access Phase 2, providing improved access to Ramsgate and Sandwich. 
The route crossed three ‘landscape zones’, from the low lying Ebbsfleet peninsula − up to medieval times largely surrounded by water, to the Cliffsend spur overlooking Pegwell Bay, and finally up on to the high ground of the chalk ridge, with views cross the Wantsum Channel and beyond.
Prehistoric highlights among the numerous archaeological discoveries include 12 Early−Middle Bronze Age barrows, a cluster of Late Bronze Age−Early Iron Age metalwork hoards, and two major but very different Iron Age settlements.
This site will be presented by Phil Andrews at the Kent Conference this weekend. He will review, in particular, the chronological range and nature of the prehistoric discoveries, how their distribution might relate to the ‘landscape zones’, and consider the changes that took place over four millennia in this archaeologically rich island.
By Phil Andrews, Project Manager

Conservation Training Day

Last week Wessex Archaeology Conservator, Lynn Wootten gave a training day at their head office in Salisbury. The presentation gave staff the opportunity to learn about preservation and burial environments with some simple rules for retrieving and preserving fragile material. Factors affecting the survival of bone, metal, textile and organic matter as well as glass and stone were looked at and some case studies were examined. Ground conditions and the environments in which they are found have different effects on the artefacts and ecofacts and their preservation.


The day also included very useful training on the physical protection of finds being brought back from site or for storage in archives, which included looking at how to use packing material and closely controlled environments, including different types of silica gel and how this can be used not just to keep objects dry, but to keep them at their ‘ideal’ humidity. The insight into packing material and how the objects themselves can react or be affected by them as well as each other was fascinating.
Wessex Archaeology has often created short or long term displays of artefacts for clients or for their own events and open days and Lynn gave some tips and tricks for these displays as well as a reminder about the environments in which these artefacts are displayed.
She ended the day with some case studies of x-rays and the information that can come from them and the different features that can appear at different exposures – even the most unpromising looking lump may have an interesting object revealed within!
All in all it was a very interesting day and the staff from different teams all felt they’d learned a lot from such an informative and knowledgeable speaker. 
If you would like Lynn to provide this training day for your local group, society or archaeology team please contact Lynn for details
By Lorraine Mepham, Senior Manager

The Late Bronze Age−Middle Iron Age Mortuary Landscape at Cliffs End


Featured in the most recent edition of Current Archaeology, the extraordinary mortuary deposits revealed at Cliffs End Farm represent an internationally important assemblage of unusual size (for its date) and complexity. An interactive mosaic of mortuary rites are indicated, many associated with the theme of transformation, including; excarnation, manipulation, exposure and curation, charring and mixing with midden; human and animal sacrifice. 
Thanks to extensive radiocarbon and strontium/oxygen isotope analysis, a broad geographic and temporal range has been demonstrated. The location – overlooking Pegwell Bay − formed a ritual hub for peoples from northern and southern Europe, inter-acting and maintaining links with the local population across centuries from the Late Bronze Age (9− 11th century) to the Middle Iron Age (3rd−4th century). 
A further highlight of the site’s significance is illustrated by the fact that the number of Late Bronze Age individuals identified represents one-third of the total for the period known from Kent – another major difference being that most others of this date were cremated. 
But why here? Situated on a geographically significant sea-board boundary, projecting into the Channel, did Cliffs End represent a ‘triangulation point’ between this and distant but similarly located coastal communities with which it shared economic interests in which the roles of ritual and ‘politics’ remained firmly intertwined?
If you are interested in hearing more about Cliffs End and other sites in Kent why not come to the Celebrating Prehistoric Kent conference on 12 September at Greenwich University Medway Campus.
By Jacqueline McKinley, Senior Osteoarchaeologist

10 Years of Thames’ Finds on Display


In one of our most extensive, innovative and exciting Coastal & Marine projects of the last 25 years, Wessex Archaeology has supported DP World London Gateway in the investigation and protection of the archaeology of the Thames Estuary, during the construction of the DP World London Gateway deep-sea container port and the associated dredging of the river’s shipping lanes.

Wessex Archaeology has been working with DP World, above and below the water, for over a decade, in a partnership which has been praised for its ground-breaking approach to investigating and understanding the country’s long history with the River Thames. We have conducted desk-based research, geophysical surveys, diver investigations and on-board watching briefs, and operated a Protocol for any stray or unexpected finds not picked during our initial surveys; and we have published the results of our investigations.
The archaeology of the Thames is complex, and many known and previously undiscovered wrecks and artefacts were encountered during the project. Our work has seen the careful investigation of aircraft wrecks, and numerous shipwrecks – ranging from the Elizabethan Princes Channel Wreck (investigated for the Port of London Authority) to the SS Letchworth, lost during the Second World War – as well as odd (and sometimes surprising) artefacts lost to the seabed.
Some of the finds have recently gone on display at DP World’s Europe and Russia Regional head office in central London, where they have been carefully curated by Beth Ellis, who is part of a team that oversees the P&O Heritage Collection for DP World. The finds, including cannonballs, pottery from the site of a paddle steamer, and an art deco taxi licence plate, help to draw visitors’ attention to the work undertaken by DP World and Wessex Archaeology, and to engage them with the region’s rich maritime heritage.
Beth says: ‘The pieces of crockery from the paddle steamer look great and have the added novelty of coming from a paddle steamer similar to those P&O used to own and run, like the William Fawcett (launched in 1828), traditionally known as P&O’s first ship.
Moving these finds from our stores to an exhibition means that they can now be seen by thousands of people during their time at DP World’s London office, and Wessex Archaeology is proud to support the display. In time, more of the artefacts recovered will be displayed in Southend Museum so that they can be viewed by the wider public, and where they will form part of an education programme for local schools and colleges. 
By Gemma Ingason

Celebrating Prehistoric Kent in the heart of Chatham Maritime

This year Wessex Archaeology is excited to be able to host a conference focusing on recent discoveries and ideas associated with prehistoric Kent. We have great speakers and great topics so this meant that we required a great venue.

2537 The Pilkington Building

Located within the heart of historic Chatham we are working with the University of Greenwich to offer state of the art equipment within a purposely designed open space. The conference will be held in the Pilkington Building, a Grade II Listed Building adjacent to the former Royal Navy Barracks Drill Shed. Designed by Colonel Henry Pilkington the construction of the Drill Shed or ‘Drill Hall’ was completed in March 1902 and provided accommodation and training facilities for the men of the reserve fleet who, up until that time, had been located within hulks moored alongside the River Medway close to Chatham Historic Dockyard. An ideal spot!
On the day head for the University of Greenwich Medway, Central Avenue, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TB, the Pilkington Building is accessed via Central Avenue adjacent to the Drill Hall Library and Parade Ground. There is ample parking on site and we will happily arrange priority disabled parking closer to the building. We will have signs and directions set out and staff on hand to help.
For further details please see our upcoming events page,
or contact David Britchfield on 07515 998871 or email
By David Britchfield, Project Manager

New Community & Education Officer

2536 Rachel Brown

Wessex Archaeology is delighted to welcome Rachel Brown as our new Community & Education Officer. 
Rachel has worked as a History teacher and more recently as People and Learning Manager for the British Red Cross. These roles have taken her into a variety of learning environments and given her the opportunity to teach a wide range of people – from 3-year old pre-school children and 16-year old school students through to volunteers in their 80s. 
Rachel also has experience in developing an interest in archaeology, in a range of audiences, such as when volunteering with Dorset County Museum. Also, as a teacher, she involved sixth form students with archaeology, and created lessons focussing on archaeological sources for Key Stage 3.
While working for the British Red Cross she coordinated a variety of events. She also gained skills in managing research and evaluation projects in order to understand audiences, and better support business development.
In her new role Rachel will be engaging the public with the work of Wessex Archaeology, and in doing so she aims to develop existing and new partnerships both with our clients and the wider community.
Rachel has said: “I have a passion for history and hold the belief that cultural learning is of great importance to society, and should be accessible to all. So I am very excited to be joining Wessex Archaeology.”

Explore an 18th Century Dutch Shipwreck in 3D!

Cannon 6002 - Gun Rocks, Outer Farne Islands by Wessex Archaeology on Sketchfab


In the early 1700s a Dutch ship was lost on the notoriously dangerous rocks of the Farne Islands, off Britain’s east coast. Since then the wreck has lain at the bottom of the sea, hidden and forgotten, until the 1970s when divers from the local Tyneside British Sub Aqua Club came across a large collection of cannons scattered across the seabed. The club undertook a measured survey of the site.
In 2013 Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by English Heritage (now Historic England) to revisit the wreck site and update the survey. We worked closely with the local divers who had found the site, and undertook both sonar and hand-measured survey, helping us to understand the site more clearly than ever before, as reported on the BBC. Earlier this year we went back to give a talk to the local divers about our results, see our blog about the evening. 
As well as our normal survey methods, the survey in 2013 gave us another opportunity to use a fairly new technique called photogrammetry. This is fantastic for underwater archaeology and allows us to create realistic 3D models of parts of the site. We have now put our 3D models online ahead of our upcoming talk about the wreck at the Ordnance Society’s Guns from the Sea conference on the 5th September. These models are a great tool in helping us to rapidly record and understand these amazing artefacts, and now you can see them in all their detail through your browser!
The cannons below are a variety of cast iron 6- and 8-pounders. We have uploaded examples of three found on the seabed, and one, also recovered, which now sits on a modern gun cart outside the nearby Bamburgh Castle. Photogrammetric survey was carried out by John McCarthy and Peta Knott of Wessex Archaeology.
By John McCarthy, Project Manager
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