Dig on Saffron Walden Common – the results! All will be revealed on heritage open day

Members of the team from Newport and County High on site

Members of the team from Newport and County High on site - Credit: Archant

THE results of the recent archaeological dig on the Common will be revealed on Saturday (September 14) at a special free event at Saffron Walden Museum.

Members of the student digging team from Newport Free Grammar School and Saffron Walden County High School will be on hand to show visitors the finds and talk about the week-long dig in July. The event is the culmination of the project on Saffron Walden Castle Bailey, co-ordinated by the museum and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories programme.

The excavation, conducted by Access Cambridge Archaeology under the direction of Dr Carenza Lewis, located a substantial ditch over 2m deep which formed part of the original Norman defences surrounding the castle and market town in the mid-12th century. There were also finds from prehistoric to Victorian and recent times which were lost or discarded on the Common over the centuries.

The open day will also display new information from geophysical surveys which Dr Tim Dennis has conducted on the Common and in the Castle grounds, bringing important new information to light.

Visitors can try their hand at washing potsherds or making a miniature medieval pot, and there will be a trail quiz and colouring sheet available in the museum.


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Dr Lewis said: “The excavations were a great success and fulfilled all our hopes. It’s a fantastic achievement that the line of the castle ditch in this area – so long a matter of untested speculation – has finally been proved beyond doubt to run across this corner of the common.

“It’s even better to know that this discovery was made by local teenagers: the students who took part worked very hard and it was a great pleasure to see their skills, knowledge and confidence grow as they gained in experience over the course of the week.”

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Museum curator Carolyn Wingfield said: “We’ve learnt a lot from the dig project and now we are having to revise some of our ideas about the Norman town and castle.

“By sharing our discoveries more widely, we hope to give people a better insight into the town origins and the importance of the castle in local heritage.”

The event is on the afternoon of Saturday September 14, from 1.30pm to 4.30pm, in the museum and grounds. As it is Heritage Open Day, there will be free entry for all.

* The day also marks the opening of the museum’s new exhibition “The 1950s – Having It So Good!” which takes a nostalgic look at life in the post-war decade. There are games and activity sheets of the time for the younger visitors. Older visitors who remember Muffin the Mule might like to see him again and take the opportunity to give their memories of the decade.

As part of the exhibition, a special 1950s afternoon is being held at the museum on Saturday September 21. Staff will be wearing their best 1950s threads and from 1.30pm to 4.30pm families can enjoy games, music and old-style quarters of favourite sweets, courtesy of Saffron Walden’s The Sweet Shop.

Author, Peter Southgate, will talk about his book Saffron Walden in the 1950s and hold a book signing at 2.30pm.

Look out for more information on the exhibition next week.

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