Fulmodeston Independent Learning Archaeology Field School

Our 11th Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS) of the season was undertaken on Monday and Tuesday the 2nd and 3rd of July in the village of Fulmodeston in North Norfolk. The village is situated just south of the A148 that connects Kings Lynn and Cromer, to just the east of Fakenham and the parish today includes the hamlets of Clipstone, Croxton and Barney. The village was recorded in the Domesday Book as Fulmotestuna that derives from Old German to mean ‘farmstead of a man called Fulcmod’ for which there is one entry of land belonging to the William de Warenne. (British history online).

A total of 41 students from Cromer Academy, Alderman Peel High School, Fakenham Academy and the Litcham School met us at the Old School Hall in Fulmodeston with 11 6th formers from Fakenham Academy, who were also supervising the test pits. A total of 11 1m2 test pits were excavated along Barney Road, Hindolveston Road and Croxton Road with one test pit in the hamlet of Croxton. This isolated test pit was sited within a moated site at Croxton Hall that was also close to the ruined church of St John the Baptist’s Chapel (pictured). Our thanks must go to the Barney and Fulmodeston History Group for finding the sites for us to dig and being on site for support, in particular, to both Carolyn Thomas-Coxhead and Chris Heath and to Kerry Harris for the use of the Old School Hall.

Day 1 started hot and sunny and after a stop-start beginning with schools arriving at different time, ACA’s manager Alison Dickens took the Year 8 and 9 students through the morning briefing session, covering the aims of the ILAFs project, a bit of background on archaeology and the process of digging a test pit. The methodology and process of the test pit excavation is the same as that undertaken in commercial archaeology, just on a much smaller scale. The test pit record booklets used by ACA are the same for every place we work in, so we can compare the data between all the test pits excavated.

Cat Collins, ACA’s archaeologist, briefed the 6th form supervisors on their role within each group that also included the assessments that are undertaken for each student and their own record booklet, which will be out permanent record. We mixed the students from different schools in groups of 3 and 4 and they collected their equipment and headed out to site.

Because of the current dry spell, the ground was very hard, but the students worked very hard to get through the turf with groups excavating between one context and six over the course of the day! Possible medieval pottery was found along both Croxton Road and Barney Road, although the confirmed pottery results will be available on our website here within the next week or so. One group was even lucky enough to be given ice cream by the home owner!

Day 2 also dawned bright and warm and we were also joined by local Norfolk archaeologist and pottery specialist Andrew Rogerson, who looked through the previous days finds before heading out to circulate around the test pit sites. At least half of the test pits had reached natural by lunch time on the 2nd day, which meant that there was no further archaeology in that area left to identify, so could fill in their record booklets for the final recording and then backfill the test pit. It also meant that the students could then also help other groups to finish their test pits.

One test pit in particular, excavated at Croxton Hall in the middle of a moat, seemed to be the only test pit that produced an undisturbed layer of medieval archaeology, although additional medieval finds were recorded along Croxton Road, perhaps hinting that this may have been part of the original medieval settlement, which only began to shift to its current location after the 14th century. Faden’s Map of Norfolk, dating to the 1790’s shows Fulmodeston with extensive common land, perhaps the common was once where the crossroads are now, which may explain why there was little in the way of pre-15th/16th century finds from the majority of the test pits. It is also interesting to compare to the more recent 19th and 20th century maps of the settlement to compare all the sources of information.

Day 3 of the ILAFS programme takes place in Cambridge, so on the Wednesday, all the students travelled together to Cambridge on a coach to meet Cat on the Downing Site and the archaeology department by the late morning. With time to enjoy the shade of the courtyard and for a group photo, the students were led into the large lecture theatre in Plant Sciences for their first taste of learning at University with a lecture given by current Archaeology PhD student Emma Brownlee. She took the students through the background and process of settlement studies, as aspect of what the students have been undertaking over the last two days in the field and then took them through the process of writing up their test pit results into a comprehensive report. These report writing skills and independent learning are even more important these days with the removal of coursework from GCSE modules. The work with ACA and ILAFS enables students to hone these skills for use in future study and work.

After Emma’s talk, the four school groups were split to go to either Magdalene College or St Catharine’s College for lunch and a tour round and our sincere thanks to both Sandy Mill and Kartryn Singleton and their student helpers for guiding the students around the colleges. After lunch, the students were met at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on the corner of the Downing Site by Jenny Williams, the museums education and outreach assistant. Jenny showed the students how the local archaeology is displayed in the museum, linking artefacts to settlements and then split the students into four groups to examine a different settlement and create a poster of these objects.

The final session of the day was by Dr Matt Bullimore, Widening Participation Officer at Churchill College, who spoke to the students about higher education, what university is like and how the college system at Cambridge is different to other ‘campus’ universities. More information on which can be found online here. Although the students were still only 13 or 14 years old, the ILAFS programme got each student thinking about their futures and the possibilities open to them. Feedback from the ILAFS in Fulmodeston showed that every student rated the field school as either Excellent or Good and enjoyed it more than they expected to. Also, finding more out about university and Cambridge was the top of nearly each students feedback when asked about what they had gained from ILAFS. One student commented “I enjoyed being outside all day whilst we were digging and getting to know new friends from different schools and my own school” (KD Litcham School), another said “I have gained better team work skills and I have learnt a lot more on archaeology and why it’s such a fascinating subject. Also, I am a lot more excited about attending University. Thank you for this incredible experience” (HB, Alderman Peel HS). Others said afterwards “I have strengthened my ability to work as a team. It was good fun and I would recommend it to others” (JF Fakenham Academy), “I enjoyed researching the village and accompanying finds to build a bigger picture of the village” (KC Alderman Peel HS), “I enjoyed the lectures at the university as they are intellectual and I enjoy that type of learning” (CP, Fakenham Academy) and “I enjoyed looking around St Catharine’s College and meeting people and hearing what they study and their experience” (AS, Alderman Peel HS).