This was our sixth year of excavations in the Bedfordshire village of Sharnbrook and the 2012 Higher Education Field Academy now brings the test-pit total up to an impressive 69 sites. June Barnes, alongside other members of Sharnbrook Local History Group, enlisted residents willing to have their back gardens dug, and thirty local students from Sharnbrook Upper School took part in the test-pit digging last Wednesday and Thursday. They followed this on Friday with a visit to the University of Cambridge to analyse the results of the excavations and learn more about attending Higher Education, including lunch and a tour of one of the Colleges.
Perhaps aptly for a village whose Saxon name means ‘dung brook'(!), almost half of our test-pits resembled quagmires by the start of the second day due to heavy overnight rain and a rising water table. We allocated students onto the remaining sites still dry enough to dig which helped them to make progress in the muddy conditions. A couple of test-pits were dug on Pinchmill Way, which produced Iron Age, Roman and Medieval pottery (shown in the tray below) indicating that the cul-de-sac has a very early history of occupation, pre-dating the name of the village. Having dug several test-pits along Lodge Road over the past few years, we have our first sherd of Roman pottery from the west of the village. Surprisingly, several test-pits dug opposite St Peter’s Church, of Norman date and situated in the centre of the village, produced only Victorian pottery.
One student said that she found it “great knowing I was part of something bigger, and the tour around the College was amazing. I’d love to do it again, but hopefully with better weather.” Another said that she had “gained new skills and knowledge about history and stuff that I thought was rubbish but was actually something amazing!”. Leaving Cambridge at the end of the third day, several students mentioned how inspired they felt about going to University; “I have learnt a lot about University and am now more confident about applying in the future”.