CBA North News
This issue of CBA North news has been slightly delayed. However, we hope that you find it worth the wait. We have a report of the recent Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage, which happens only one every 10 years, and a round-up of recent years by one of our local group members.
In addition the usual listing of events to come with the change in month soon – the sharp-eyed will notice changes to this and our Events website page as we are told of those changes for September and other months, we also have a further article on archaeological creativity and notice of an event from our sister organisation CBA North West.
We hope you that you enjoy and that you might contribute something, perhaps of your own local group’s activities this summer?, that you think that others might enjoy or should know of for our next issue.
CBA North Committee,
Remaining August 2019 Events
28 August – The Past Beneath the Lawns; current excavations at Auckland Castle, John Castling and Chris Gerrard [SOCANTS]
September 2019 Events
2 September – Whitby Abbey, Tony Wilmott [BAS]
4 September – The Bowl Hole Cemetery at Bamburgh, Graeme Young [TILLVAS]
14 September – Mapping the Khandaq Shapur: One of the Great Barriers of the Ancient World [ARCH & ARCH]
24 September – title to be announced, Dr Ben Roberts [TAS]
25 September – (Re)Discovering Ava: the Achavanich Beaker Burial project, Maya Hoole [SOCANTS]
The 2019 Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage – done with stile!
It was rather unkindly and harshly said that we know all we need to of Hadrian’s Wall sometime ago. However excavations, surveys and other researches have continued on and at a pace. Sometimes a stock-take is useful and the Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage is one such opportunity. We asked Bill Griffiths to explain all on the pilgrimage, and you will see why there isn’t a typo in the article title. He writes;
‘The first pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall took place in 1849, attended by 24 people under the direction of the Reverend Collingwood Bruce. The second pilgrimage occurred in 1886 when it began a decennial tradition. Since 1949 it has taken place in the last year of the decade.
The 14th Pilgrimage took place over 20th to 28th July 2019 and saw 218 Pilgrims, in four coaches, traverse the wall over eight days, looking in particular at some of the new discoveries and research questions of the last 10 years. The Pilgrims came from across the UK and Europe and as far afield as the USA and China.
The 2019 Pilgrims following a lunchtime reception at South Shields Town Hall, who displayed the flags of the majority of nations represented on the Pilgrimage.
Each coach had a pair of guides, each an acknowledged expert on the Wall. Pilgrims were encouraged to change coach each day to get different perspectives from different guides.
Nick Hodgson, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle and one of the coach guides, explaining the fort at Chesters.
Organised by the two learned societies of Hadrian’s Wall, the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, the Pilgrimage is five years in the planning. The committee, led by the Chief Pilgrim David Breeze, pores over every detail, from the hotels, to the menus for receptions, to considering whether we will need additional portaloos at key sites.
In the midst of this a handbook has been created for the Pilgrimage, with contributions from experts along the length of the Wall setting out the new advances of the last decade. It has been complied by Dr Rob Collins of Newcastle University and Dr Matt Symonds, editor of Current World Archaeology. Such a volume has been produced for the last three Pilgrimages, beginning with the volume produced in 1999 under Paul Bidwell, and each marks a significant contribution to Hadrian’s Wall studies in its own right. Copies are available from either of the Societies, and can also be found at several of the museum shops along the Wall.
The ‘twin’ compliers of the Pilgrimage handbook Matt and Rob.
The week included on site tours, receptions and walks along sections of the Wall. Much thought goes in to attempting to keep the Pilgrims safe. This year the Pilgrims were granted access to walk a section of the vallum, not usually accessible to the public, between Carrawburgh Roman Fort and Limestone Corner. However, this necessitated getting the Pilgrims across the Military Road at a very fast section of the road. The steering group thought hard about this, with Graeme Stobbs, our lead for Health and Safety, providing the solution. He designed a wooden stile for the event, to get Pilgrims over the field wall opposite Limestone Corner and the two of us, resplendent in hi viz jackets, marshalled the pilgrims to cross the road, with Graeme deploying a green or red flag according to whether the road was clear enough for us to release Pilgrims across it. Anyone who has led a tour knows how hard it is to marshal people to cross roads safely. However, the theatre of the flags worked well, with only a recalcitrant few daring to try and cross under their own initiative! At the end of the day they were all brought across alive – job done.
The Pilgrimage stile, with Graeme Stobbs poised and ready to prevent the Pilgrims throwing themselves in front of cars!
The Pilgrimage is a unique event in every way, not least for the melting pot of people who constitute the Pilgrims, who range from dedicated Wall specialists to curious members of the public who have not visited the frontier before. The discussions held over the week are truly stimulating for all concerned.
So – here’s to the next one in 2029, planning will start in 2024 (gulp!)’.
Bill Griffiths – Pilgrimage Secretary
The Northern Archaeology Group grasps volunteering opportunities
It is a while since we’ve had a local group round-up and heard something from our group member the Northern Archaeology Group, so we asked Phil Carter to review what the group has been up to lately. Here Phil notes how a small group, with its own small projects, has also been engaged with a number of larger ones again. He writes;
‘In addition to our own on-going Roman roads research & fieldwork, and of course our two divers investigating the river crossings and associated votive deposits at Piercebridge, the Northern Archaeology Group also has members who have regularly volunteered on the long-running and prestigious excavations at Vindolanda and Binchester Roman fort sites. They have continued to do that, but with the advent of NLHF funded local community archaeology projects along came the opportunity to look at other, new, initiatives to broaden our field-based experience. Thinking how good that had proved, I thought it might be of interest to CBA North readers to see the extent volunteers from a local group can contribute to archaeological investigations here in the North East of England whilst we aren’t formal group partners in such projects. I have chosen a selection of the community archaeology projects we have worked on in recent years to give you a flavour of what’s out there and what can be achieved.
A few years back a hardy core of us worked on the 3-year Hadrian’s WallQuest community project run by Tyne and Wear Archaeology and Museums. On that we were fortunate enough to excavate on such key sites as the Roman Military Way, vallum & vicus at Benwell, the north defensive ditch of the Wall at Albemarle Barracks and the fort ditch/vicus at Arbeia. We then turned our attention to Wallsend to locate, dig and expose the actual bathhouse remains at Segedunum. And as a final hurrah it was particularly gratifying to re-dig a section of the nearby Wall. It’s fair to say that was a fantastic project to be involved in.
Hadrian’s WallQuest: the (actual) bathhouse remains we helped find at Wallsend.
Following on from that a few of us signed-up to work with the Auckland Castle Trust (now The Auckland Project) community project where with Archaeological Services Durham University (ASDU) we investigated the 18th century walled garden prior to its planned redevelopment. We revealed remains of the early dated pinery & vinery complex created by the Bishops of Durham. It was very different and very interesting. Next we were back at Auckland Castle with a call to excavate an area adjacent to the Scotland Wing in advance of groundworks. ASDU were again the on-site team and supervised the volunteers. We were astonished to find a well-preserved section of the early medieval curtain wall, associated buildings, fine carved window tracery and a Tudor-era kitchen range with three intact hearths. We have since investigated important early chapel remains and more of the curtain wall & service buildings. It’s fair to say we weren’t expecting all of that at all! And continuing work with that Project, this time overseen by Northern Archaeological Associates, we are currently helping to excavate the northeast gate area of Binchester Roman fort, investigating both the early fort rampart there & later fort roadway.
Auckland Castle : a surviving section of the Medieval curtain-wall being revealed.
Closer to home (we are based near Chester-le-Street) something very close to our heart was the Sunderland’s Forgotten Stones community project. The Northern Archaeology Group has long sought to discover Roman Sunderland and we have investigated various sites and evidence for that presence, particularly at Hylton where the Group strongly believe there was some sort of Roman bridge structure in the River Wear. Back in 1999 we published a small booklet and a CD outlining our case and always wanted to undertake some trial trenches there but the opportunity never presented itself. So, it was terrific to learn that Castletown Neighbourhood Action Group was seeking assistance from the then HLF to explore just that. They wanted to investigate the site of where many large ‘briggstones’ were removed from the river bed at Hylton in the 1860s and shipped down to the mouth of the river where a good number can still be seen. Knowing of our keen interest in all this they sought our support from the outset. The project secured the services of Wardell Armstrong to oversee the archaeological investigations. The volunteer workforce did a dig on the river foreshore at South Hylton. This proved challenging as we could only dig at low tide. We cleaned off a spread of large worked stone blocks & wood, and then put a section through to help establish its construction. Wardell’s view was that without any material dating evidence, and with a similar build style to a lot of the river quayside, it was probably of 17th or 18th century construction. Later local diver Gary Bankhead was in the water to video some very large worked stone blocks underwater on the river bed close to the opposite bank. They need investigating more. A couple of months later we then moved over to North Hylton to investigate a large parch mark in a pasture field. Excavation found ditches and wall foundations related to a post-medieval farm house. Nothing Roman came to light.
Sunderland’s Forgotten Stones: working on the river foreshore at South Hylton.
Travelling to the south of the region some of us volunteered to help out on the River Tees Re-discovered community archaeology project at two locations. Tees Archaeology were running a dig at Piercebridge village to explore features shown up on a geophysical survey northwest of the roman fort. A number of trenches were opened and investigations concluded they were probably Roman-era trackways. Dalton-on-Tees was the next target, to investigate an extensive earthwork feature that came to light on a Lidar survey. In two trenches the associated ditches of the earthwork were revealed, one having a single piece of Roman mortaria. In a third trench well preserved wall foundations of a Medieval house with evidence of occupation was found sitting on the earthwork mound.
River Tees Rediscovered: wall foundations of a Medieval house come to light.
To summarise; you can see we have been very fortunate to volunteer on a wide range of projects covering different localities and different eras. We have forged valuable relationships with the project leads, the contractor archaeology teams and other volunteer groups. If you want to dig there’s lots out there to get involved in, and CBA North is a great source of information. Local groups and societies don’t have to have their own projects at all’.
Phil Carter, Secretary, Northern Archaeology Group.
Creative Archaeological Continued: Art and Archaeology at Aldborough Roman Town
In one of our earlier emails we had one of our own members describe their creativity inspired by archaeology, and in our earlier emails again Dere Street events and projects have been covered. Rose Ferraby and Rob St. John have combined the two in Soundmarks to find overlaps and resonances between art and archaeology at Aldborough. This is something that is geographically ‘just at the end of the road’, but still running till the end of the month. They write;
‘Beneath the quiet streets and farmland of the North Yorkshire village of Aldborough lies the Roman town of Isurium Brigantum. Recent work by the Aldborough Roman Town Project has revealed that it was a town of great importance in the Roman north; a key trading point and busy hub. It was a busy town with a central forum and basilica, large town houses, warehouses and workshops, an amphitheatre and large suburbs.
Rob and Rose at Aldborough Roman Town, North Yorkshire, pictured by Mario Cruzado.
Visiting Aldborough today, this rich history is not always immediately obvious [as above]. This year, a collaboration spanning art, sound and archaeology has explored and documented Aldborough’s hidden sub-surface landscape, leading to an art exhibition and sound installation and a series of public events in August 2019.
Recording at the Roman amphitheatre above Aldborough, pictured by Mario Cruzado.
Soundmarks is a collaboration between us, funded by Arts Council England. An exhibition of our work will be held at The Shed, Aldborough, between Saturday 24th August and Saturday 31st August.
A free ‘art trail’ will be launched alongside the exhibition, allowing the public to navigate eight ‘soundmark’ sites through the village. Each soundmark is located on an important Roman site – such as the Forum, amphitheatre and river – and will be accessed either using a free interactive mobile app, or using a paper map distributed through the village.
Village Green by Rose Ferraby, Soundmarks 2019.
At each soundmark, visitors can view Rose’s visual work and listen to Rob’s sound work, each interpreting the character and history of the site. The soundmark trail – which takes around an hour to walk in full – is designed to encourage people to explore Aldborough’s unique landscape, and to gain new perspectives on its rich Roman history.
At The Shed, visitors can view Rose’s original visual works and listen to an immersive ambient sound piece created by Rob using the sounds of Aldborough, and produced using compositional cues from archaeological techniques, datasets and maps. Two invited guest speakers – Dr. Lesley McFadyen, an archaeologist from Birkbeck, University of London, and Dr. Jos Smith, an environmental landscape writer from the University of East Anglia – will give talks on Saturday 31st August, alongside an artist Q+A. An artist book documenting the Soundmarks collaboration – containing a download of Rob’s sound installation piece – will be available to purchase’.
This exhibition is funded by the Arts Council with support from the Aldborough Roman Town Project, English Heritage and Friends of Roman Aldborough.
Soundmarks runs to till the 31st August, 10 till 5 during the weekends and Monday, 12 till 5 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, at The Shed, Aldborough Manor, Aldborough, York, YO51 9EP. Further information on Soundmarks can be found online on their website.
For booking a place at the talks and Q&A during this week, and other further September workshops, these are free but you will need to book a place through the Eventbrite website page here.
Excavating the Steam Engine
Our sister organisation CBA North West have arranged a conference in Bolton, Lancashire. John Roberts, CBA North West’s Membership Secretary, writes;
‘I am very pleased to inform you that CBA North West in partnership with the Association for Industrial Archaeology and the Centre for Applied Archaeology, University of Salford will be hosting the 39th North West Industrial Archaeology Conference on Friday September 27th. The conference is being held at Bolton Museum. As this year is the 200th anniversary of the death of James Watt the theme is excavating the steam engine. With excellent speakers and a tour of Bolton Steam Museum in the afternoon it promises to be a splendid day. There are discounts for CBA North West and Association for Industrial Archaeology members. Please note that lunch is not provided. Details, programme and booking information available at the Eventbrite page here‘.
This conference includes a talk on the Reel Fitz Pit Engine, of Little Clifton (between Workington and Cockermouth for those who don’t know) in Cumbria, where a short-lived Newcomen engine was of around 1780. There were many early engines in the West Cumbria coalfield during the 18th century. This one, however, was excavated in the 1970s. CBA North members with industrial archaeological interests are welcome at this event.
In the future
In our next issue of CBA North news we would like to hear more of what you have been doing over the summer that you think deserves wider coverage. We hope that our next email to you won’t be as delayed as this one and will be out early September.
There are a number of Committee places to fill in the forthcoming year. If you or your local group would like to become more involved in CBA North, please send us an email or feel free to talk to one of the existing committee for more details.