WRI-ting about our first HEFA

TP 11fBefore a Field Academy we often jokingly say to our local coordinators, responsible for finding test-pit sites, that their job also extends to organising the weather for our two days of excavation. In stark contrast to the wet weather of our last two visits to Writtle, we were delighted to find that Wendy Hibbitt and her team at Heritage Writtle organised uncharacteristically hot and sunny days for March especially for our first Higher Education Field Academy of 2012 which took place this week.

Forty Year 9 & Year 10 students identified as Gifted and Talented were invited to attend the Field Academy. These students were from The Plume School, Passmores Academy, Mark Hall School and St Helena School, all in Essex. They dug 10 separate test-pit sites around the Oxney Green area west to the centre of Writtle village, including sites in private back gardens, allotments on the green and the Pleasure Park. Heritage Writtle brought the test-pit total up to 12 with another couple of excavations behind our base at Longmeads House. These sites received some very enthusiastic budding archaeologists from ‘The Fossil Club’ at Writtle Junior School once finished.

Having looked at the finds on the second day as our pottery speacialist, John Newman thinks that Oxney Green is peripheral to the centre of medieval Writtle with some medeival/early post-medieval pottery from Bulimers Farm and medieval pottery on the northern edge of Great Oxney Green. There was some eighteenth century pottery from another green edge site but only recent post-medieval pottery from sites on the green itself. A couple of the test-pits on Chequers Lane away from the medieval frontages seemed to indicate some prehistoric activity.

One especially nice find was a late nineteenth century/early twentieth century apostles spoon found at Test-Pit 5, the end of which is shown here.

An enormous ‘thank you’ to everyone at Heritage Writtle who helped organise or took part in the excavations. We always appreciate their warm and welcoming hospitality, as well as their interested and interesting hands-on approach to archaeology, and their endless stream of drinks and refreshments!

P1140886We also owe a lot to Alex Pryor for driving the van and stepping into Cat’s shoes while she is still recuperating from her operation.  We also had another six volunteers from Cambridge University help supervise test-pits for the first time, and we hope to see them join us again in the near future. Another new recruit to the HEFA team was Dorothy, Jess’ four and a half month old puppy who proved to a popular visitor to test-pits.

Our next HEFA takes place in Bramford, Suffolk after the school Easter holidays, and all we need to do now is order another couple of days in the sunshine…

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