Kitty Foster's blog

Introducing SESARF!


The South East Scotland Archaeological Research Framework (SESARF) is now under development covering Edinburgh City, Midlothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders. The Research Framework, being led by the South East Scotland Archaeology Partnership and project managed by Wessex Archaeology, will be designed to tie in with and complement the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) which was established in 2012. 


SESARF is being developed in acknowledgement that regional research frameworks will make a useful contribution to archaeology across Scotland for anyone interested in obtaining a current overview of each region. As such SESARF will reflect the current state of knowledge in South East Scotland encompassing all time periods and specialised areas of interest and will also consider where there are gaps in the knowledge how we can move forward to fill these gaps and establish research agendas. 
To include as many viewpoints and stakeholders with an interest in the archaeology of South East Scotland as possible, a series of workshops will run throughout the course of the project, targeted at different sectors of the archaeological community. These workshops will be an opportunity to establish key themes and discuss the future direction of SESARF. The first workshops are being run at the end of October 2017 in Edinburgh.
You can find out more about the project, workshops and all things SESARF here.

Mystery Chesil Beach Shipwreck Designated Following Wessex Archaeology Fieldwork


We recently blogged about the German First World War submarine UC-70 and about how our survey work and advice helped Historic England to legally protect the wreck. However, this submarine is not the only nationally important shipwreck site to have been recently protected as a result of our work for Historic England.
In 2015 we undertook a survey of a much older and more mysterious wreck site off the infamous Chesil Beach in Dorset. The Shipwreck project, a Weymouth based community interest company that investigated the maritime heritage of the Dorset coast had found two groups of iron cannon just off the beach, about 200 m apart. We were tasked by Historic England to work with them to survey these sites and advise.
Chesil is a very dangerous and steep shingle beach miles long that is exposed to the full force of huge waves sweeping in from the Atlantic. These waves constantly alter the shape of the beach by churning up the shingle. Wooden ships caught in Lyme Bay in a storm and blown onto the beach are reputed to have disintegrated and been absorbed without trace into the top of the beach before the storm abated, only to be spat out again at the bottom of the beach during a storm years later. Ships are also reputed to have split in two as they hit the beach, with part of the vessel then drifting out and sinking a little further out.


The exposed nature of the beach and the fierce tides that run along it, also mean that conditions are rarely good enough for archaeologists to dive there and that these dives are very short, often no more than 30 minutes. As we rarely get more than two or three days to work on any site, this means that we have to use recording techniques that are very quick and efficient, without losing the accuracy and reliability that Historic England and the public expects. As the ‘project lead’, I decided that using traditional measured survey would be too slow and would not produce enough information in the time available. I therefore decided to use photogrammetry, 3D modelling using photographs, a technique that Wessex Archaeology has been at the forefront of pioneering in UK marine archaeology. I tasked my archaeologist colleague and underwater photographer Paolo Croce to photograph both sites using a camera mounted on a frame held at a constant distance from the seabed by suspending it beneath a buoy floating on the surface. This enabled him to take several hundred photographs during a single dive on each site. A second diver took sample measurements to ensure that the models were scaled correctly. I then processed these photographs overnight using photogrammetry software. When satisfied that the resulting models were accurate, I transferred them to a digital drawing app on my tablet and the resulting site plans to traditional waterproof permatrace drawing sheets. As a result, for both sites I was able to send an archaeological diver into the water the next day with a complete and accurate site plan. All that was left for this diver to do on each site was to examine objects in the models that we had identified as being key to the interpretation of the sites.


Both sites remain unidentified and somewhat mysterious. Although there are many recorded losses off Chesil, we are not convinced that these two sites are related to any of them. It may therefore be that the sites are the remains of ships whose losses there are unrecorded or for which records have disappeared. However, with the help of ordnance expert Charles Trollope, we can say certain things about them. One of the sites, the closest inshore, has very large and probably English cannon manufactured between 1675 and 1715. These would only have been carried as the armament of a large warship. As no unaccounted large warship losses can be associated with the site and the guns are of different lengths, the likelihood is that these guns were not armament and were instead being transported as land or naval guns to an English colony or naval base. This was by no means unusual. For example, more than 400 cannon were sent to Barbados alone between 1660 and 1815.  As well as the guns, we found large masses of cannonballs rusted together and the broken pieces of at least one gun. The latter led us to briefly consider the possibility that the site was a cargo of scrap iron that was inbound to England. However, the presence of the cannonballs suggested that this was not particularly likely. Furthermore, local rumour suggested that divers investigating at least one site with similar characteristics in the late 20th century had used explosives to break open large concretions which contained cannon. Unfortunately, the lack of records for these early investigations means that we are not able to positively link them with this site.


Thanks are very much due to Richard Bright-Paul and Grahame Knott of the Shipwreck Project, without whose work the investigations would not have been successful. Grahame has now moved on to found Deeper Dorset. We are also grateful to volunteer Royal Navy diver Oliver Penney and to archaeology student volunteers Lowri Roberts and Tom Harrison, both of whom have gone on to successfully work for Wessex Archaeology as marine archaeologists. 



Automotive Archaeology at Larkhill

Recently we talked about the compelling WWI history of our Larkhill site with its practice trenches, tunnels and personal stories of the men that trained there. Excavations here have been undertaken by Wessex Archaeology, on behalf of WYG, for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. This week we have another interesting find from the same site, but from its more recent history. 
Within a WWII artillery position, we found the remains of an MG car, not an everyday find on an archaeological site! Because of the unusual nature of the find we felt that it needed to be recorded in some detail, but standard photography and a plan really wouldn’t have done it justice. Instead, we decided to record the car in 3D using photogrammetry.
A large number of photographs were taken by our field team, covering every surface of the car that was accessible with a camera. By ensuring that there is sufficient overlap between these photos we are able to then use photogrammetric software to create a 3D model. This functions by identifying common points within different photographs, working out where each of the photographs was taken from, based on this information, and then using the photographs to create a three-dimensional mesh, based on these two data sets. This mesh is then overlain with a texture generated by combining the colour information from all of the photos used in the creation of the model. 
The results of all this hard work can be seen in the Sketchfab model below. To share online the mesh and texture quality has been reduced, keeping file size and loading times to a minimum. The original file is of an even higher quality, allowing you to pick out finer details.
Once created the model can be scaled, positioned and used for a range of purposes, including creating images, taking measurements, creating orthophotos (images without distortion or perspective) for draw up, detailed off site analysis, public engagement and more.
Having recorded the car and the numbers stamped on its chassis we set out to discover, with the help of historic car expert Jeremy Hawke, which model car it was and how it might have ended up where it was. The car is a 1932 MG J2 with the serial number J2192. We only know of one owner Mr J. H. Howard of Retford, from July 1934, though it likely had other owners. We can tell from the tyre pattern that the car was probably in use until the early 1960s at which point it seems to have been placed in the artillery position. Many cars were patched up during the 1950s to keep them running and this MG J2 is no different. The engine next to the car is not from an MG and was fitted by welding extra brackets to the chassis, and there are lots of common bodged repairs.

3649 Image © Jaimie Wilson

The car had been dismantled, presumably for repair by a local soldier, but was then seemingly abandoned. Exactly why this happened we cannot be sure of, but the introduction of the MOT test in 1960 was the end for many cars that had been kept going in this way. It may be that the introduction of the MOT also sentenced this MG J2 to the grave. This car was one of only 2083 of this model made. When it was new in 1932 the MG J2 had a top speed of 65mph and would have cost £199 (in the 1930s, the average annual salary was £200, a 3-bedroom house cost on average £350, and a pint of beer was a tuppence!). 
Wessex Archaeology would like to thank Jeremy Hawke for his help in uncovering the story of this unique find. If you know anything about the history of this particular MG J2, or would like to discuss using our photogrammetric recording services, please get in touch. 

Long Blade from Crowdhill

3637 Crowdhill Long Blade with working drawing

This beautiful 'Long Blade' from Crowdhill near Eastleigh in Hampshire was probably made by a member of a small band of hunters who lived about 10,000 years ago.

These people were relatively mobile and their stop-overs short, leaving few traces of their presence. Therefore discoveries of this type are incredibly important.

New Archives Officer


It is good to be back! Previously, I was at Wessex for seven years as a Project Officer and was involved in site excavations, desk-based assessments, archive preparation and finds analysis. I left in 2002 to be a Finds Manager.
Before Wessex I graduated from Bradford University a very long time ago and worked mainly with the then Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust and English Heritage specialising in finds particularly ceramics.
Later I had a break from archaeology and worked within the library service thinking it would be just for a few months but ended up being there for 10 years. I thought I had left it too late to try and return to archaeology, thankfully I had some new transferable skills and luckily for me there was still a backlog of archives to work on.
I feel that the disciplines of librarianship and archaeology are similar as they both seek to inform and make use of knowledge. Archiving aims to provide a resource that can be revisited and reinterpreted whilst promoting the advancement of education and heritage. It is an exciting time to be a part of the archives team as new countrywide initiatives are taking place. 

Titanic Works: Stoking the Furnace of Sheffield Steel Making

Following on from the success of open days last year with Sheffield Design Week, and this year with the Festival of Archaeology, two further open days are planned for 2017. The first is part of this year’s Heritage Open Days on Friday 8th September, and the second as part of this year’s Sheffield Design week between 21-29th October (date TBC). Wessex Archaeology is offering these rare opportunities to visit the crucible cellars of the former Titanic Works, Malinda Street/Hoyle Street, providing the chance to explore a once commonplace and important part of Sheffield’s industrial past.

The tours set for Heritage Open Days next week are already fully booked, however, information about forthcoming tours as part of Sheffield Design Week will follow shortly. 
The site is located in an area of Sheffield established as a steel manufacturing centre prior to 1850, with the principal surviving buildings of the former Titanic Works dating to that period. The extant building includes a nationally rare crucible furnace with two end stacks. The former works is a Grade II listed building and during the redevelopment of the site in 2008, two previously unknown crucible cellars were unearthed, adding to the known cellar beneath the listed structure.
The works was occupied by a series of steel and file manufacturers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By 1876, the works was occupied by William Mickelthwaite and Co, steel manufacturers, and was listed as the ‘Titanic Works’. If you would like to read more about the Titanic Works look at our publications page for details.
Wessex Archaeology will be conducting four 1 hour tours of the crucible cellars at Hoyle Street, all free of charge, on each of the open days. Each tour will accommodate up to six members of the public. The tours will include exploring all three cellars with information about the steel making process, the history and development of the site and its significance within Sheffield.
Tours will need to be booked in advance due to limited space within the cellars. Details of how and where to book the next tour date will be publicised shortly.
Please be aware that the tours are not suitable for those with impaired mobility or children under the age of 8 years. Suitable footwear (walking boots) is recommended. Any other protective clothing required will be provided. 
Come along and delve into Sheffield’s rich industrial past. 

Automated External Defibrillator (AED) installed at Portway House


We are pleased to report that we have had an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) installed in the porch at the side entrance to Portway House.
The AED is registered with the ambulance service for public use. This means that anyone within 200m of Portway House who dials 999 for an ambulance (and where there may be a benefit from the use of a defibrillator) will be directed to the AED and given a code to open the lockable safe that houses it. All local business have been informed that the AED is available for emergency use at Portway House.


Evidence suggests that where AEDs have been used, the outcomes for an individual who has had a heart attack are far more favourable than when treatment is delayed until the arrival of the emergency services. 
We also have an AED training module, so that our trained First Aiders will have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the AED if they so wish. The training module can also be taken on First Aider/refresher courses for training purposes.
We would like to thank the South Portway Management Committee for part funding the AED.
By Alan Spooner, Facilities Officer

Working with Historic England to Recognise and Protect our First World War Maritime Heritage

Wessex Archaeology is proud of its role in helping Historic England to protect two new nationally important historic wrecks.

3622 Diver exploring the wreck © Crown copyright

The first of these, UC-70, was a First World War German mine laying submarine built in 1916 in Hamburg. Carrying their mines in tubes forward of the conning tower, German mine laying submarines operated around the UK throughout the war. The minefields they laid were a particular menace to coastal shipping and regularly closed off both British and French ports. Large numbers of British and allied merchant ships also fell victim to them, threatening the British war effort. The presence of German submarine bases in parts of Flanders that the Royal Navy was unable to attack effectively from the sea was one of the reasons why the British Army and its allies fought the notorious and unsuccessful Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele as it became known. However, it was only by the adoption of the convoy system and a massive effort to bolster anti-submarine defences in the seas around Britain that the U-boat menace was ultimately defeated.
Until August 1918, very late in the war, UC-70 was a successful ‘boat’ (submarines are always boats, not ships). Operating from Flanders as far afield as the Bay of Biscay, it sank 33 Allied ships of all sizes with its mines, torpedoes and deck gun. At one point it was sunk by a British shell whilst alongside in the captured port of Ostend, but it was quickly salvaged and patched up.
On the 21st August, UC-70 left Zeebrugge for a war patrol off the English east coast. What happened next is unclear, but seven days later a patrolling British bomber followed an oil slick off Whitby. Reaching the end of the slick, the pilot, Lieutenant Arthur Waring, saw the tell-tale shadow of a damaged submarine just below the surface. Waring dropped a bomb close to it. Shortly afterwards the British destroyer Ouse arrived and dropped depth charges through a patch of oil that had come to the surface after the bomb had exploded. More oil and debris came to the surface. Believing the U-boat to have been sunk, British divers were quickly on the scene. These brave men, known as the ‘Tin Openers’, squeezed or cut their way into German submarine wrecks in the hope of finding code books or other intelligence material. They found the sunken submarine on the seabed. There appeared to have been no survivors.
3624 The UC-70’s control room, taken using a camera lowered in through the open conning tower hatch © Crown copyright
Like many submarine wrecks around the UK coast, the UC-70 drew the attention of late 20th century salvors. By 1991 both bronze propellers had been taken for the valuable metal, even though the wreck is not reported to have been sold for salvage and despite the concern of locals who regarded the wreck as a war grave. Recreational divers also started to visit and the wreck became quite a popular dive site.
3627 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0
The wreck of the UC-70 was identified as being of possible historical and archaeological importance in a desk-based study of submarine wrecks around the English coast commissioned by Historic England. Then, in 2016, an opportunity arose for Historic England to send a Wessex Archaeology dive team to survey it, part of a wider programme of submarine wreck investigations carried out by us off the North-East coast. Arriving during a rare period of good visibility and using CEFAS geophysical survey data provided through the UKHO, our dive team was able to locate and inspect the submarine over the course of a couple of dives in August 2016. UC-70 was observed to be partially intact and lying upright at 25m depth. Considering how close it was to the coast, it was obviously fairly well preserved and its pressure hull resisting the corrosion that is now causing many First World War shipwrecks to rapidly collapse. However, evidence of what may have been late 20th century salvage was quickly spotted. Much of the bow was missing and a large hole in the stern section of the pressure hull (the part of the submarine that does not flood when it dives and within which the crew live) suggested the violent removal of the stern torpedo tube, probably to obtain its valuable non-ferrous metal.

3625 One of the UC-70’s open hatches © Crown copyright

In 1918 the Royal Navy divers had found evidence – open hatches – that some of the crew had managed to get out of the submarine. However, they also found the bodies of some of the crew within. The divers, whose work was both arduous and hazardous, were concerned only with identifying the submarine and finding material valuable to the British war effort against the submarine menace, so many bodies would have been left. In 2016 we saw how salvage can disturb human remains in submarines, as a human skull was seen through the hole in the stern of the submarine. Although we have a crew list, we do not know who this was. Our best guess is that as it was found in the aft torpedo room, it may have been one of the ‘torpedo men’ who operated the stern tube.
Following receipt of our report, Historic England decided to recognise the historical and archaeological significance of the UC-70 and its vulnerability by designating it under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Whilst ultimately we cannot hope to protect the submarine from the depredations of time and tide, we are proud of our role in helping Historic England recognising the importance of this small part of our First World War heritage.
Working with local volunteers and experts is a key feature of our work for organisations such as Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland, and Wessex Archaeology is grateful to local divers and researchers John Adams, Mike Radley, Anthony Green and Chris Robinson for their help during and after the fieldwork, and also to the Holderness Coast Fishing Industry Group for the use of their research vessel Huntress for diving.
Watch out for a news article on the second, rather older wreck coming soon.

New Graphics Officer in Sheffield


Hello, I'm Ian Atkins. I am an Illustrator based in Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office. I trained as an archaeologist, graduating from the University of Bradford in 2006 and since then I have spent my time digging, surveying and illustrating archaeological sites all over the country. I have always been interested in utilising new technologies to record and represent what we discover, therefore I undertook an MSc in Archaeological Computing at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2011. This enabled me to develop some useful skills in areas such as 3D modelling and polynomial texture mapping that I hope to be able to utilise at Wessex.
It is great to be working in Sheffield as it is a fantastic city that I have lived in for several years, but it is also reassuring to know that there is a large illustration team with a huge depth of knowledge down in the Salisbury office that I can rely on for help!
By Ian Atkins, Graphics Officer

New Consultancy Director


Hello! My name is Abby and I joined Wessex at the end of June as the new Consultancy Director based in the Salisbury office. This is a return to Wessex for me after an absence of a few years, so its lovely to be back and to see so many old faces and meet all the new ones!
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an archaeologist by training, graduating from my Masters in Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bristol in 2004. I joined Wessex shortly after and soon focused on the research and report writing side of things tackling the dreaded DBAs!  Wessex created a Heritage Consultancy section in 2005 and I worked in that team until I left in 2011 to explore other opportunities. I then went on to work as a freelance heritage consultant for a number of years based where I live in Frome, Somerset.  
It’s really lovely to be back working with a team again and having the opportunity to get involved in some really interesting projects. 
By Abby Bryant, Consultancy Director
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