BRA-ced at Bramford

P1140807We had a classic spell of April showers during our second Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of the season, which took place in Bramford, north-west of Ipswich in Suffolk, last week. Bramford is a new site for ACA following an enthusiastic invitation from Beryl Sims, on behalf of Bramford Local History Group, to dig test-pits in their village last November.

Nine test-pits were dug in private gardens in the west of the village centring on The Street, Ship Lane and Vicarage Lane by thirty-three students from Benjamin Britten High School, Great Cornard Upper School, Leiston Community High School, Westbourne Sports College and The Hemel Hempsted School.

TP 8jThe two days of excavation began with groups grappling with gazebos. Once digging began though,the students soon started to find some fantastic artefacts. One group found several clay pipe bowls, including the decorated example below, which are far rarer than the stems frequently found in gardens. Another team, who dug down to 1.2m, found a twentieth-century rubbish collection which included a commorative plate showing Queen Alexandra (left), a saucepan and a ‘Sunbright’ perfume bottle. This contrasted with the enormous quantity of animal bone and oyster shells found in a midden in the garden of another house, probably dating to the seventeenth-century.

One student felt that he had gained “a new experience, new friends, skills and independence” during the course of the field academy and a member of staff described it as “an educational experience that would be very difficult to replicate, if at all in a regular school setting.” The third day of HEFA is spent at the University of Cambridge analysing the excavation results in discussive learning sessions which aim to engage and challenge participants, prepare them to produce a written analysis for assessment as well as provide an inspirational and positive experience of higher education. At the end of Friday, one student said that what she enjoyed most was “visiting the University, learning how to apply and what the life is like at Cambridge.”

CAU supervisor, Matt Collins, also joined us for the two days following the completion of the Ridley Hall excavations, always an invaluable member of the HEFA team. Another huge thank you is owed to Beryl Sims for organising the test-pit sites and base, and especially all the Kit-Kats provided at the end of the second day! Clem had a disastorous journey, breaking down on the A14 and being towed back to Cambridge before hiring a car to get to site on the first day. Many thanks to MPhil students Valerie Teh and Lydia Gay for their biscuits and support to and from site as well as their help supervising test-pit groups on site.

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