- About Us
On 8 February 2016 Wessex Archaeology will be signing a memorandum of understanding with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) setting out our joint aim of building a lasting link between learning and heritage.
This new partnership is the result of a lot of groundwork (no digging!) done by Rachel Brown, our Community & Education Officer, working with the WEA’s tutors to develop new ways of encouraging a wider public engagement with our cultural heritage.
The agreement will be signed at the WEA’s Omega Centre in Portsmouth at the launch of one of these projects, an Archaeology Day offering adult learners the opportunity to develop an appreciation of heritage and archaeology – through maths, English and art. This will lead into specific lessons using archaeology-themed resources created by Rachel. She has certainly not been short of ideas, and we look forward to telling you about other projects as they evolve.
To download the press release follow this link.
In December 2015, Wessex Archaeology undertook building recording (Historic England Level 2 record) of a WWII air raid shelter situated beneath the playground of Eltham Church of England Primary School, Roper Street, Eltham, Royal Borough of Greenwich.
The Historic Building Record was commissioned by Kier Construction prior to the redevelopment of the existing Primary School, due to concerns raised over the shelter’s ability to withstand any heavy structures being placed on the existing playground surface during development works.
The Historic Building Recording exercise was carried out by Bob Davis and Vijaya Pieterson (Wessex Archaeology), through a programme of measured survey and digital photography, and ably assisted by Nigel Cunningham, Project Manager for Kier Construction.
The shelter beneath the Eltham C of E Primary School follows the established early wartime Government pattern of public air raid shelters that were constructed across London from 1939–1940. Made possible by the passing of the Civil Defence Act on the 15 July 1939, they were built to afford some protection against the threat of mass bombing. Several types of shelters were used during WWII and this particular one remains a relatively good example of the ‘covered trench’ type, purpose-built by a cut and cover technique whereby the spoil from digging the trench was later used to provide overhead protection.
The plan of the air raid shelter consists of an irregular form of narrow connecting passages and covers an area of approximately 906 m2. It is constructed from pre-cast concrete sectional frames and panels and contains three main stepped entrances (now blocked) and seven emergency exists. Little survives in the way of graffiti or original fixtures and fittings except for light conduits and evidence for telephones.
Although benches had been fitted to some of the passage frames, there was no evidence to suggest that this particular shelter had been intended for long term use. It is assumed that after the War any fittings were removed and the shelter entrances sealed. The soil covering the shelter was also removed and the playground reinstated.
The WWII Air Raid Shelter at Eltham provides an excellent example of a particular pattern of Government guided construction in the history of communal air raid shelters in pre-war and wartime Britain. It attests to the strength of engineering during a time when labour was scarce and materials, especially steel and concrete, were limited.
The Times of Their Lives (ToTL) project led by Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University and Alex Bayliss of Historic England, funded by ERC, and in which Wessex Archaeology is collaborating has won a global award at the Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF). These awards are presented biennially and recognise the World’s major discoveries and research, in particular projects that promote excellence, innovation and collaboration. The ToTL project was one of 11 winners from a short list of 93 projects.
The ToTL project is involved in a major re-think of the European Neolithic through the application of Bayesian statistics to radiocarbon dating. The goal is to produce much finer timescales that equate to lifetimes and generations. It has many strands in a dozen countries that include the redating of settlements in Late Neolithic Orkney, megaliths in the Paris Basin, rock cut tombs in Malta, and long houses and tells in Eastern Europe. One element that Wessex Archaeology has been involved in is the redating of the great Neolithic tell (settlement mound) of Vinča-Belo Brdo adjacent to the Danube and just south of Belgrade, Serbia. Made up of eight metres of occupation deposits that span the later sixth to the mid-fifth millennium cal BC and has given its name to the Vinča culture. Further details can be found here.
The current crisis in museum storage space is an issue which has been widely debated across the heritage industry for some years – developer-funded archaeological work has produced, and continues to produce, a steady stream of archives (finds and records) that require storage. The space available is finite, and is rapidly filling up. Archaeological contractors are sitting on large numbers of undepositable archives.
A meeting held last week, convened by Devon County Council and held at the Bristol offices of Wessex Archaeology, aimed to address this issue for the south-west region. Representatives from planning authorities, museums and archaeological contractors were invited to hear a proposal by Stephen Reed of Devon CC, involving a greater emphasis on the digitisation of site records, and the use of off-site ‘deep storage’. Quinton Carroll from Cambridgeshire County Council gave his positive experience of working with deep storage (the DeepStore facility in Cheshire), and Lorraine Mepham from Wessex Archaeology summed up the contractors’ point of view. Lively discussion amongst the delegates focused on the financing and accessibility of such a scheme, but a consensus was reached that this might be a possible way forward, and plans were made to flesh out the scheme and build a business case. Watch this space for further developments!
The wreck of the South Australian, which lies close to the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, has been put forward for the BSAC Wreck Award 2015, which is awarded by the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC). The BSAC Wreck Award ‘aims to celebrate our underwater heritage by using BSAC members’ first-hand experiences to bring their favourite wreck sites to life’.
Wessex Archaeology carried out a geophysical survey of the South Australian for Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club (ILFSAC) last summer (more details here). Keith Denby of ILFSAC has put together a website all about the club’s diving on the wreck and the geophysical survey and this has been submitted for the award.
The website features photographs and videos about diving the wreck site as well as images and information from the geophysical survey. Take a look.
We wish Keith and ILFSAC all the best for the award, the result of which will be announced later this month.
Geoservices is pleased to welcome Megan Metcalfe to the team in our Salisbury office where she will be working as a marine geophysicist, processing and reporting on geophysical data to help investigate sites of potential archaeological interest below the waves.
While at university, Megan gained experience in geophysical survey techniques, palaeoclimatology and archaeological fieldwork. Since graduating in 2011, she has spent time working offshore where she expanded her knowledge and gained practical experience collecting and interpreting geophysical data for an array of different clients around the globe. Megan is excited to be able to combine her practical knowledge of geophysics with her interest in archaeology in her new role at Wessex, and we are looking forward to working with her over what looks to be an exciting year ahead!
Wessex Archaeology is pleased to welcome Joanna Debska to the Sheffield geoservices team where she will be working on survey control and all things CAD. This will be Joanna’s second spell at Sheaf Bank having previously worked as an illustrator for ARCUS (Archaeological Research & Consultancy at the University of Sheffield) prior to their closure in 2009. Wessex Archaeology subsequently took on the ARCUS premises and many ongoing projects.
Joanna has been on a career break for the past few years and we are delighted that she has decided to return to the world of archaeology with Wessex, and an office where there are still many familiar faces from her ARCUS days. Old and new colleagues alike all look forward to working with Joanna over the next few years, and what is already shaping up to be a busy and exciting future.
Wessex Archaeology West is pleased to announce that we have now moved to our brand new premises at Filwood Green Business Park, Bristol. With our recent increase in heritage-related business opportunities these new offices will enable us to continue to expand and provide the professional services our customers expect.
Filwood Green Business Park is a well-known environmentally efficient development with an ethos based around sustainability and green thinking. Read all about it at: http://filwoodgreen.co.uk/about-2/
We very much look forward to a new year and new challenges – once we’ve finished unpacking….
The staff at the Salisbury head office entered into the Christmas spirit this year by buying raffle tickets for the corporate gifts. The prizes included: spirits, wines, biscuits and other festive goodies, all of which had been kindly given to us by our clients and suppliers.
The draw was yesterday and there were many happy winners! But the big winner this year will be the Harvey Warren Trust, a local organisation that raises money for charities related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. We will be sending them all the money raised by the raffle – an amazing £150!
We end the year with the delivery of a record 46 publications, (see the full list here). Our publications range from monographs on large-scale joint venture projects (A46 and East Kent Access Road), occasional papers such as Riverside Exchange, Sheffield Investigations on the site of the Town Mill, Cutlers’ Wheel, Marshall's Steelworks and the Naylor Vickers Works, as well as a number of articles in local, regional and international journals.
Imperial College and RMC Land monograph is at the printers and we are working on a number of other monographs and occasional papers. We continue to develop the ebook series (available from the Oxbow Books website), and we are in the process of reprinting the Amesbury Archer a third time.
The delivery of such an impressive number of publications is a fantastic achievement and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work in making this possible, and we hope you enjoy reading them.