North Warnborough 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

North Warnborough 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)Catching up with the last few busy weeks of ACA’s 10th season of field academies, here is the news from the Hampshire HEFA in North Warnborough.

This was Access Cambridge Archaeology’s second visit to the village, at the invitation of John Champion and Liz Good of The Odiham Society. Forty Year 9 students from Fort Hill Community School, Robert May’s School, Costello School and Cranbourne Business & Enterprise College dug 10 archaeological test pits in North Warnborough over two days at the end of June.

Most of the test pits were located in the south of the village on and near North Warnborough Street, Queens Road and Dunley’s Hill. Our base during the digging was The Anchor Inn on North Warnborough Street in this part of the village. A couple of test pits were also dug north of the canal off Hook Road and another near Mill Lane, adding to the HEFA excavations conducted near Warnborough Green and the remains of Odiham Castle in 2013.

One of the test pits near Hook Road was located on what was believed to be the site of a Victorian tannery, which was corroborated by the discovery of a vast number of cow horn cores at the end of the second afternoon. Over sixty of the cores were dug out of the final two contexts, with even more left unexcavated after running out of time.

Paul Blinkhorn, a specialist in post-Roman pottery, was on hand to identify pottery found by the test pit groups. All of the excavations along North Warnbourgh Street discovered small amounts of medieval pottery, including sherds of Surrey Whiteware dating to the 13th-14th century AD. The pottery distribution from the 20 test pits dug so far indicate that occupation of the village in the medieval period was spread over 500m from Mill Corner in the north of the village to residences along North Warnborough Street in the south. However, pottery use as a proxy for population numbers declines dramatically after the Black Death and the village took over two centuries to recover a similar extent and density of occupation again.

Two test pits in front gardens along North Warnborough Street even uncovered direct evidence of earlier buildings. Test pit 4 found a mortared chalk wall (shown below) running parallel to the road, and test pit 7 also found a wall and interior floor surface perpendicular to the road. No conclusive dating material was found with either feature but the remains hint at the long history of occupation in this area, with buildings sited closer to the road than those standing today. The 2014 test pits also found tantalising clues of pre-medieval occupation, with a sherd of Bronze Age pottery found in a test pit near Dunley’s Hill and a sherd of Roman pottery found on Queens Road.

The pottery report for the 2014 test pit excavations is now available to download here.

Following the excavations in North Warnborough, the students then travelled to the University of Cambridge for the third day of the field academy to analyse their findings and find out more about life and learning at one of the world’s top Higher Education institutions. At lunchtime, the schools were hosted by Magdalene, St John’s, Trinity and Trinity Hall Colleges for a tour and a meal, and Ruth Holmes, Schools Liaison Officer at Newnham College, spoke to the students in the afternoon about future education and career choices.

At the end of the three day field academy, 100% of the students rated the course as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. The participants were very appreciative of the chance to work in mixed-school groups and make new friends, with one student saying afterwards that she “felt more confident about university and trying new experiences” (EB). One of the staff members also commented that her students had “really enjoyed the networking opportunity and hopefully will look to university to find more like-minded people” (PH). Another staff member described the HEFA as “superb – what an opportunity” (LM).

Following the field academy, participants are encouraged to write and submit a report covering the aims, methods and results of their test pit excavations to the University of Cambridge. An impressive 93% of the North Warborough HEFA students completed a report in the three weeks before the end of the academic year. All students receive a certificate of participation and an assessment of their data collection as well as personal, learning and thinking skills during the two days spent excavating, along with detailed feedback on their written report, if submitted.


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