Latest News


Roman Archaeology Workshop


This week I visited the children in Year 3 at St James’ School, Bournemouth, to share with them how we use archaeology to learn about the Romans, their topic for this half-term. We started with a presentation to show the types of artefacts that archaeologists find on Romano-British sites and what these tell us about the people who used them. We looked at the changes that the Romans brought to Britain including new styles of building; different types of food and drink, and the way they were prepared and served. The children also learnt about a large-scale pottery industry that was in operation around the Poole Harbour and Wareham area. They asked lots of interesting questions, including how we actually know that something comes from the Roman period. 

It was then time for some activities and they had the opportunity to try to identify some of the tile types they had seen on the slides (the tegulae and imbrices from Roman roofs and box-flue tiles from a hypocaust) and make a mosaic out of tesserae. They divided Roman pottery into different types and then counted and weighed the sherds. They became archaeological detectives, describing a range of replica objects and trying to decide what they would have been used for, and had fun dressing up. The object that provoked the most interest? The ear scoop!
To find out more about school workshops visit our education page.
By Grace Jones, Archaeologist/Finds Specialist

The Andrew Townsend Collection

2580 Just some of the books from the Collection

Wessex West has recently inherited a quite remarkable library of volumes concerning archaeology and history from the late Dr Andrew Townsend’s family.

The Collection, numbering approximately 400 titles, represents many years of research, study and a keen interest in the subject. 

2578 Andrew turned from a much more lucrative career in the construction industry to pursue his personal interests in archaeology and attained a range of qualifications and professional accreditations as well as publishing widely. Andrew’s working and academic interests took him to Spain, Libya, Jordan, Cyprus, America and the Caribbean and he made an outstanding contribution to the published archaeology of Malta’s prehistory.

In his commercial archaeological employment with the field unit of Bristol Museum Service, Andrew raised the bar for standards of research into primary source material.  
Through his membership of the Chartered Institute of Building he was a driving force in establishing cohesion and understanding over Health & Safety between the construction industry and archaeology, particularly for CDM regulations. 
In order to have a fully accessible catalogue one of our volunteers will assist with digitising the existing card-index to link the book titles to the main Wessex library database.
The collection will make a very valuable addition to our library resources, assisting future researchers.
Our Chief Executive, Chris Brayne said ‘the collection will remain in Bristol and will be known as the Townsend Collection in recognition of the very great contribution Andrew made to archaeology in general and in the south-west in particular’.

Scottish Fisheries Museum Boat Collection


Specialists from Wessex Archaeology are currently undertaking a suite of Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) on behalf of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther in Fife. The project has been made possible through funding from the Coastal Communities Fund and this exciting opportunity will look at the boat collection as a whole, in addition to specific CMPs for a number of vessels, to assist the museum in the development of robust management arrangements for the long term, sustainable future of the collection.
With such a valuable boat collection, the museum identified the need for the development of CMPs for three of the larger vessels; the Fifie Reaper and Zulu Research, both examples of 1st Class sailing herring drifters, which represent significant survivors of the once prolific Scottish herring fishing fleet. In addition the smaller Fifie herring fishing vessel White Wing, also known as a ‘Baldie’ will also be included as an exemplar of the smaller vessels operating in the fishery. All three vessels are registered with the National Historic Fleet and are recognised as rare examples of vessels operating within the Scottish fishing fleet from the early 20th century. The CMPs will aim to identify the specific needs and management considerations of each vessel, both as operational vessels, and in the case of the Zulu Research, an archaeological artefact on permanent display undercover in the museum.
In addition to the larger vessels, at least two of the smaller boats in the collection will also be investigated including the Montrose Salmon Coble Jubilee, and a Tay Salmon Coble. The latter is particularly significant as an example of a unique adaptation of the standard rowing coble, known as a ‘Bermondey Boat’ developed for use during salmon netting on the exposed sand banks located in the Tay Estuary. The vessels together provide an important vernacular theme based around the understanding of small craft used in the Scottish east coast salmon fishery.
The team will be undertaking a variety of tasks in the development of the CMPs over the coming months and will be working closely with the Museum and the Coastal Communities Project Manager in the development of the plans and assisting with opportunities to disseminate the work in conjunction with upcoming community engagement opportunities. The first of these comprised an event hosted by the museum as part of the Scottish Archaeology & Heritage Festival in September. The event , ‘Different Generations of Boat Builders but the same old boats’ allowed members of the public to visit the working boatyard in the museum to experience the work of wooden boat builders through materials, tools, and techniques; including insights through pictures into the old boatyards of Fife and the people who worked in them. 
To see what is happening at the Scottish Fisheries Museum see

Sherford Archaeological Open Day


On Saturday 3rd October 2015 Wessex Archaeology held an open day at the Sherford New Community site in Devon. The day was a real success with over 860 people attending. 
The event provided the opportunity for the local community to come and see the progress of the archaeological work and to speak to those involved in the excavation. As well as Wessex staff being on hand, there were members of Devon County Council and AECOM archaeological consultants participating in the event. There were displays relating to the works and archaeology in general as well as activities for the young visitors. We had a large number of children attend and enjoy the day; the sand pit excavations indicated we have many future archaeologists in the making.


The event demonstrated the popularity of local archaeology and the value of engaging with the local community. The value came from people being able to see and better understand the work happening in their local community, which in turn enabled people to develop a greater sense of place and understanding of heritage.
Overall it was an enjoyable, well managed and engaging day and we thank all of those who attended.
To find out more about this site follow this link.
Plymouth Herald Link 1
Plymouth Herald Link 2

Sherford New Community Open Day


Excavations are ongoing at the Sherford New Community site in Plymouth and our discoveries are attracting the attention of the media. We welcomed ITV West Country News onto the site last week to film the initial archaeological excavation on the site. Excitingly, the remains of three Romano-British roundhouses have been discovered and we have revealed over 600 postholes which may indicate Bronze Age settlement activity. 
Why not come and see the site and the archaeology already found on the site at our public open day


Saturday 3 October 2015
10:00am – 4:00pm
Displays and activities
Meet the archaeologists
Activities for children
Learn about interesting and unique evidence from the site
View and handle artefacts
Parking available
To find out more about the open day follow this link.

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

Pottery Recognition Seminar


Members of CBA Wessex enjoyed a day at the Salisbury offices of Wessex Archaeology on Saturday 12 September 2015 learning about prehistoric and Roman pottery. The day was designed to give participants the chance to handle a wide range of pottery, focusing on central southern England and covering 4000 years, from the very earliest pottery found in this country during the Neolithic period, through to the end of the Roman period around AD 400.
There was also the opportunity to discuss some of the topics that exercise ceramic specialists, such as how and why did ceramic technology change, and what can pottery tell us about the sites we excavate, apart from the dating? The day was designed to appeal to anyone with at least an interest in ceramics, but not necessarily any experience; we hope that it provided information that the participants will be able to use in their future archaeological activities. A similar day on post-Roman pottery (Saxon to present day) is planned for November.

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
Syndicate content