Last week ACA had the pleasure of taking part in the first ever HEFA in Lincolnshire as a collaborative venture between the University of Cambridge and the University of Lincoln funded by the Lincolnshire Outreach Network, a partnership of higher education institutions and colleges in greater Lincolnshire. As part of her new position as Professor of Public Understanding of Research at the University of Lincoln Carenza Lewis, former ACA director and HEFA founder, wanted to bring the highly-successful HEFA programme to Lincolnshire and hopefully this is the first of many field academies to come.
The village of Bardney, a site well-known for its Abbey ruins, hosted a total of 40 Year 9 – 13 students who represented 12 different schools from throughout the county including: William Farr School, Caistor Yarborough Academy, Melior Community Academy, Peele Community Academy, Boston High School, South Axholme Academy, Branston Community Academy, Giles Academy, Lincoln Castle Academy, Priory LSST, Kesteven and Grantham Girls School and West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s. The 10 test-pits in the village were organised by Pat Rennie of the Bardney Heritage Group and were located on Abbey Road, Queen Street, Station Road, Church Lane and Manor Farm Lane and the base for the two digging days was the Methodist Hall on Church Lane.
The students worked in mixed school groups and were supervised by teachers, volunteers from the University of Lincoln and members of Lincoln Archaeology Group for Excavation Education and Research.
After receiving a briefing on Day 1 from Professor Lewis about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went out and started digging (just after it finished raining)! Cat Ranson, ACA senior archaeological supervisor, and Laure Bonner, ACA administrator, toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds. Alex Beeby, Heritage Lincolnshire pottery specialist, was also on site on Day 2 to help identify finds and date pottery sherds.
Having experts on hand to provide real-time feedback about finds and dates is highly appreciated by the participants and is always included in the feedback: “I also enjoyed finding out what the items we found were, where they dated from and why they were of significance,” (GO) and “I enjoyed learning whether the artefact was from the medieval or from another period.” (GW) The finalised pottery report, written by Paul Blinkhorn, pottery expert, can be downloaded here.
In this first phase of test-pitting in Bardney, no evidence was uncovered of an Anglo-Saxon settlement which is suprising as Bardney Abbey was first founded in the 7th century and the village is recorded in the Domesday Book. It is hoped that further test pits can be excavated in the village in the future; ideally 30-40 pits give a good idea about settlement patterns. Based on our findings from last week the highest concentration of High medieval pottery (c. mid 11th century to end of 14th century) came from the pits near St Lawrence Church and those on Station Road, although 80% of test pits produced some high medieval pottery. 70% of pits produced Late Medieval pottery which suggests at least initially that Bardney may not have been too badly devastated by the Black Death in the 14th century.
Test pits 2 and 3 both produced impressive amounts of large, non-abraded medieval and post-medieval pottery. TP 2 produced a possible medieval iron arrowhead and iron buckle. TP 3 also had a few small finds of note, to include a leather shoe sole and post-Medieval carved bone knife handle. The iron artefacts and shoe sole will be conserved at the University of Lincoln.
We were pleased that the event received so much media attention, including a feature on both ITV Calendar, which you can view here, and a segment on BBC Radio Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire Echo also produced an article with lots of fun photographs which you can view here.
The aims of HEFA are many and once the practical archaeological portion had been completed in Bardney, it was time to learn more about higher education. Students spent Day 3 of the HEFA at the University of Lincoln. They learned about how their hard work contributes to ongoing university research, including the study of Currently Occupied Rural Settlements, and how to develop and deploy skills for life, learning and employment such as data analysis, communication skills and team working.
HEFA students also had the opportunity to tour around the university and have lunch. Students always enjoy this opportunity and specifically commented in feedback “I enjoyed being in the uni and having a taste of what uni is,” (IC) and “I also enjoyed finding more out about university life through the campus tour and have a better idea of my options within higher education.” (GO) They also received a talk from Abi Paine of the Lincolnshire Outreach Network about applying to university and future opportunities.
This was followed by a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation by Dr Trish Biers of the University of Cambridge. The mark scheme and additional information about the written assignment can be found here.
In feedback after the HEFA, 94% of participants rated the event as “Excellent” or “Good”. General comments in feedback from the students included, “I’ve become more confident in myself and my skills have developed and I would recommend the HEFA experience,” (EW) “I have gained experience in working in a team and learning about university” (ER) and “I enjoyed making new friends in our test pit group and working in a team.” (TC) School staff commented, “The field academy is a fantastic opportunity for students to gain an insight into higher education, gain totally new experiences and meet pupils from other schools. Excellent skills for the future. When can I come again!?!” (AH)
ACA would like to thank the students and staff of all the schools involved, the supervisors and the residents of Bardney for making this first Lincolnshire HEFA so successful. Special thanks go to Pat for organising the pits, to Emma of the University of Lincoln and Abi of the Lincolnshire Outreach Network for coordinating the students and staff and for funding the project.