Goldingham – a post from Ashley Cooper

A post from Ashley Cooper, our wonderful host for the dig here at Goldingham:

“How wonderful it is, to see Small Bridge Field , Bulmer — which is usually so quiet and empty — ringing to the sounds of laughter, happy voices, thoughtful discussion and the excited chatter of children, as the excavations around the old manor site progress.

Ashley Cooper digging on Day One of the Goldingham 2013 dig.  Some readers of this blog may know of the great excavations he carried out with his father, Harold, on the Roman villa at nearby Gestingthorpe.  

Farming the land—and exploring the history of Goldingham – has been dear to me since 1972. In that year my father, who was both a farmer and passionately keen amateur archaeologist, purchased Goldingham to expand our existing farm in Gestingthorpe.

Ever since boyhood however, he had encouraged me to note curious crop marks when combining at harvest — in case they revealed archaeological features beneath the ground. Every time we broke a plough share, we would dig down, in case the stone that caused the break shed any light on the ‘missing length’ of Roman road, which crosses the farm. In the autumn we would walk the fields looking for pottery and tile, or patches of unusually coloured soil, which the plough had brought to the surface for the clues that they might provide about those who had lived and farmed here in the centuries and millennia before us.

In 1997 — sixteen years ago — we spotted just that on Small Bridge Field: about a dozen little areas of black soil, each about the size of a football, scattered over a hectare or so of land, just to the south west of the old manor site. Small ‘test pit’ excavations produced medieval pottery, oyster shells, animal bones and burnt soil. However, we soon realised that the spread was far too vast—and complex—to be undertaken properly without professional guidance and manpower.

Since then we have wondered… and wondered… what the soil beneath Small Bridge Field would reveal about life around the manor house in Medieval times. Naturally we were thrilled when the opportunity arose for a ‘community dig’ to take place enabling that to happen, even though my Father was by then gravely unwell — before passing away in mid August.

None of this week’s archaeological activity — which has so enjoyably brought together so many people from different backgrounds and with different skills — could have happened without the input of ‘Manage a Masterpiece’, the presence of Carenza Lewis and her team or the willingness of the volunteer excavators.

Bur neither could it have happened without the trust my Father had in his son or the love of archaeology which he imparted to me.

Thank you Dad — thank you.


One thought on “Goldingham – a post from Ashley Cooper

  1. Royce March 23, 2014 / 1:06 pm

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post!
    It’s the little changes which will make the greatest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

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