Latest News


Submerged Prehistory & Palaeolandscapes off the Northumberland coast

Recently Dr Claire Mellett of British Geological Survey in Edinburgh hosted a project meeting for “Understanding submerged palaeo-environments in the southern North Sea: Pathways and timescales of hominin colonisation”. The project is funded by English Heritage through the National Heritage Protection Plan, and is a collaboration between Wessex Archaeology and the BGS. The meeting focused on the recent nearshore survey conducted by BGS off the coast of Howick, Northumberland. Bathymetric data and chirp sub-bottom data were acquired and evidence of bedrock channels tracing existing river channels offshore and potential relict coastlines can be seen in the data.

This new data combined with a resource assessment of existing onshore and offshore geological, geophysical, geotechnical and archaeological datasets aims to provide key baseline assessments of palaeolandscape potential between the Humber and Northumberland. The results of this project will facilitate further research, archaeological prospection and cultural heritage management.

The datasets produced will also be publically-available and contribute to the development of merged onshore and offshore bedrock geology mapping. Keep an eye on the blog for further news!

2008 Dr Andrew Bicket examining the recent bathymetric data acquired by BGS

By Louise Tizzard.

Publications in the pipeline

Two new publications will be available in November – excavations along the A46 with our partners Cotswold Archaeology and industrial archaeology at Hoyle Street, Sheffield.


A46 Nottinghamshire

The A46 trunk road in Nottinghamshire has its origins as the Roman Fosse Way. Archaeological work ahead of road improvements between Newark and Widmerpool undertaken by Cotswold Wessex Archaeology, has shed light on both Roman and pre-Roman use of this land. A number of significant sites were revealed, including evidence for Late Upper Palaeolithic flintwork at Farndon Fields on the gravel terrace south of Newark. This nationally important site comprised scatters of debris left in situ by a flint-knapper of the Creswellian and Federmesser hunter-gather cultural traditions. At Stragglethorpe there was a ring-ditch with a number of inhumation burials of Beaker date. Iron Age and Roman settlement in the hinterland around the Roman small town of Margidunum near Bingham was also investigated. Further to the south-west near Saxondale, Roman roadside enclosures became the location of early Anglo-Saxon cremation burials and perhaps also a ‘tumulus’, as recorded by William Stukeley in 1722 in the middle of the Fosse Way.


Hoyle Street

Excavations in 2006–08 by ARCUS (Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield), and now published by Wessex Archaeology, revealed a complex industrial site which sheds light on steelmaking and the conditions that workers lived and worked in. Historical research, building recording and archaeological excavation revealed the complex history of the site that in 1800 was still surrounded by fields on the town’s north-western edge, but which soon after was swallowed up by the steelworks, foundries and workers’ housing. Sheffield’s burgeoning population provided the workforce for the series of industrial premises – Roscoe Place Works, William Hoole’s Works (later Malinda Works), Hoyle Street Works, Progress Works, Titanic Works and Australian Works. 
These industrial complexes were located among the cramped housing of the local working populations, and a number of cellars belonging to the back-to-back tenements and terraced houses were excavated, revealing evidence of possible cottage industry. 
Available in November 2014, buy online from Oxbow Books 
To learn more about our publications follow this link

Severn Trent Water - Lunch and Learn


Wessex Archaeology was invited by NMC Nomenca to present at a Lunch and Learn session for contractors working with Severn Trent Water on 15 October 2014. Alexandra Grassam’s (Senior Heritage Consultant) and Andrew Norton’s (Regional Manager, North) presentation ‘An Introduction to Archaeology’ provided a history of archaeology in the planning process and explained the range of archaeological and heritage services that Wessex Archaeology can offer. The event took place at Severn Trent Water’s offices in Derby and in particular focused on how our work applies to utility and linear schemes. 

Mendi Talk


This Saturday, 18 October 2014 at 11 o’clock, Coastal & Marine’s Graham Scott will be telling the story of the Liverpool steamship Mendi  at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth as part of Black History Month. The Mendi sank during WW1, the victim of a collision at sea in heavy fog south of the Isle of Wight. Over 600 men of the South African Native Labour Corps, who were being transported to France to help the war effort, were lost with the vessel. Quickly forgotten in Britain as just one of many tragic events during the war and suppressed in South Africa during white rule, the sacrifice made by the men onboard has now become a national icon of hope and reconciliation. Graham will talk about the history and archaeology of the wreck and about how a group of volunteers from the UK and South Africa are now helping the South African National War Memorial to commemorate and celebrate the men of the Mendi and their place in modern South Africa.
Tickets to Graham’s talk cost £3.50 and are available from the Museum box office
1995 Photograph of the ss Mendi Courtesy of the South African Navy
To read more about the Mendi follow this link

German submarine UB 78


On Sunday 6 October 2014, Wessex Archaeology and members of BSAC 326 (Canterbury Divers) and BSAC 501 (Folkestone) diving clubs carried out a photographic survey of the First World War German submarine UB 78. The work was carried out from the Dover-based charter boat Neptune and was part of a programme of work connected with the 1914–18 centenary being carried out for English Heritage.
The UB 78 was sunk in April 1918 when it detonated a mine whilst trying to find a way through the heavily defended Dover Straits. As can be seen from the photographs taken by Wessex Archaeology’s own Paolo Croce, the underwater visibility on this wreck off Folkestone proved to be unusually good.

Roman Shropshire


Christopher Swales, from our Sheffield Office, was invited to Shrewsbury on Saturday 20 September 2014 to present the results of the Wessex Archaeology excavations on the Shelton Resilience Scheme to the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society. The talks were part of a one day event to review recent fieldwork and research that added to the understanding of Shropshire in the Roman period and were attended by more than 100 people from the local area.
The Shelton Resilience Scheme comprised a 4 km water mains pipeline just to the north of Roman Wroxeter, starting at Uckington and heading west to Atcham. The new pipeline was thought to be in the vicinity of several 1st century Roman marching camps that were associated with the foundation of the Roman Wroxeter. Roman burial grounds and pottery production sites were also thought to be located along the pipeline route.
Over the course of a six week excavation Wessex Archaeology stripped a 10 m wide corridor along the entire length of the pipeline route. Whilst nothing was found that could be conclusively linked to the early marching camps, evidence was found for a possible late Iron Age to Romano-British shrine to the west of Uckington. A cluster of cremation burials was also found in this area immediately to the west of the conjectured line of the north-south Roman road leading to Wroxeter. A possible pottery production site was also identified to the west of the Rivers Severn and Tern.
By Chris Swales

Find Out About Archaeology in Exeter


Join Wessex Archaeology at Exeter Quay this week where we will be carrying out a small excavation to investigate the early phases of quayside development. Visitors will have the chance to witness the excavation in action and see any finds that might be uncovered. You will also be able to handle a range of artefacts from different periods and take part in hands-on activities including sandpit digs and clay pot making! 
The archaeological work being carried out at Exeter Quay is designed to inform the Exeter Flood Defence project team (a partnership of the Environment Agency, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council) when they make decisions about flood defence alignments in this area. This will ensure that our cultural heritage is appropriately considered.
This FREE event will be taking place at:
Exeter Quay
on Tuesday 30th September 2014
and Wednesday 1st October 2014
Find out more about how to get to the Quay and where to park on the Exeter City Council website
For further information regarding the Exeter flood defence scheme please visit and search for ‘Exeter flood’.
You can also follow the project on Twitter @EnvAgencySW

Excavation Through a Scheduled Monument


Wessex Archaeology has recently completed an excavation through the Scheduled Monument of Car Dyke (Scheduled Monument number 1004923). Wessex was commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council, working with the Heritage Consultancy Team at Mouchel, on a flood alleviation scheme at Keeble Drive, Washingborough. The flood alleviation works will involve laying of new pipes to take surface water runoff away from nearby residential areas. 
The scheme presented an excellent opportunity to understand more about Car Dyke, which is thought to have been constructed around AD 125. The Dyke forms an artificial water channel running along the western fen edge from Peterborough to Lincoln; previous archaeological excavations have revealed that the water channel was approximately 15 metres wide at the top and between two to four metres deep, with sloping sides and a flat bottom. The dyke is thought to have been used to control and divert flood waters rather than a canal, with most of it now incorporated into modern drainage systems. 
The flood alleviation trenching did not impact on the water channel but did allow us to examine a section through the Dyke’s southern earthen bank. Car Dyke originally had mounds of earth on either side, which would have stood up to 5 m high and up to 20 m wide; remnants of these banks survive as earthworks in fields to the east.
Our work demonstrated that the southern bank was formed from dumps of redeposited alluvium capped with clay, and that over 1 m of deposits survive beneath the current ground surface. Most intriguingly the bank appears to be contemporary with a large peat-filled ditch or channel. The peat should provide material for radiocarbon dating and allow us to confirm the assumed date of the construction of Car Dyke.
By Andrew Norton

Drumbeg Wreck Site Survey


Our dive team has just returned from a large-scale photogrammetric survey of the Drumbeg 17th/18th century wreck site, part of a series of surveys which have been funded by Historic Scotland following designation of the wreck as a Historic Marine Protected Area. This will help us to understand the site in its context and will support the interpretation of data from our recent geophysical survey.
Our team was made up of three divers from Wessex as well as a volunteer, Edinburgh-based diver Bob Mackintosh, who has previously participated in the SAMPHIRE project. We were also joined by both of the local divers who first discovered the site, Ewen Mackay and Michael Errington and are very grateful to them for their help and input. Visibility on the site was excellent and we were fortunate to have great weather for our whole week of survey.
By John McCarthy

Remembering the War at Sea - Part 2

Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue 

The Consequences
The losses sent reverberations throughout Europe. Prior to the action of 22 September, many senior officers had criticised the use of aging cruisers that they deemed too vulnerable to undertake patrol duties and the triple sinking confirmed their fears. Despite being ordered to steam at 13 knots and to maintain a zig-zagging course to protect themselves against attack, the vessels were too old to maintain the speed and the order to zig-zag was widely ignored prior to the event as an over precaution.
The day before the losses, Churchill had delivered a divisive speech in which he claimed that the enemy would be dug out by British naval forces. The Admiralty had seemingly underestimated the German threat and the events of 22 September demonstrated this oversight. 

1944 sm U9 submarine

The true scale of the submarine threat had also not been anticipated and the loss of the Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue, all three of which were 19th century vessels, by the unseen 20th century threat would have been anathema to the Captains of the vessels, and to the British public. Warfare, and the maritime danger, had changed irreversibly. The decision of the Cressy and the Hogue to standby the Aboukir was also later described by Churchill as ‘chivalrous stupidity’, a phrase much maligned by commentators after the incident.

1942 Sketch of the Cressy sinking, by Henry Reuterdahl

On this day then, it is appropriate that we remember the sailors that lost their lives but also reflect on the naval arms race that occurred between Germany and Great Britain before the war. The perceived thwarting of Germany’s Imperial ambitions by the Royal Navy when Germany felt itself hemmed in by enemies on the European mainland in the form of France and Russia had been an ongoing source of tension. Whilst the war was sparked in the Balkans, and Britain entered it to support Belgian independence, the causes of conflict between Britain and Germany also relate to imperial and dynastic jealousies expressed in the number of Dreadnoughts owned. This came to naught for the German Imperial Navy, however, due to the strategic failure to break out into open sea following a tactical victory at Jutland; the failure of unrestricted U-boat warfare to bring Britain to its knees (although it came close); and in fact the effects of the campaign in the hastening of the US entry into the war; and vitally, the destruction of the German economy by blockade all contributed to their ultimate defeat. Whilst the sacrifices on the Western Front and elsewhere are highly visible to this day and provide a focus for remembrance and public perception of the conflict, let us not forget the naval conflict and its role in the final outcome of the war and those who have no resting place but the sea.
By Euan McNeill and Gemma Ingason
All images in public domain, source
Syndicate content