Aylsham Roman dig scoops national archaeological award

From left: Martin Brook and Dan McConnell, of Britannia Archaeology, landowner Peter Purdy, Teresa R

From left: Martin Brook and Dan McConnell, of Britannia Archaeology, landowner Peter Purdy, Teresa Rogers, vice chairman of the Aylsham Roman Project, award sponsor Brian Marsh and Catherine Mullenger, secretary of Aylsham Roman Project, at the award ceremony in London. Picture: COUNCIL FOR BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY - Credit: Archant

An archaeological dig in Norfolk which involved some 200 members of the community has won a national award.

Archaeologists and local people get involved at the community dig of Roman site at Aylsham's Woodgat

Archaeologists and local people get involved at the community dig of Roman site at Aylsham's Woodgate Nursery where ancient pot kilns were found. Francis Schute and Diana Duhig work with archaeologist Dan McConnell.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

The two-week summer dig in Aylsham unearthed a pair of Roman kilns which Historic England's science advisor believes may be the best-preserved examples in Britain.

Now the Roman Aylsham Project has scooped the Marsh Archaeology Award For Community Archaeology, with a welcome £1,000 prize which will be ploughed into next year's dig, according to landowner Peter Purdy, 52.

The award, a partnership between the Marsh Christian Trust and the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), recognises research results and/or fieldwork led by community groups which 'have made a substantial contribution to knowledge and wellbeing.'

The Aylsham site lies under a field at Mr Purdy's Woodgate Nursery site, on Cawston Road. For the past 40 years he has been picking up Roman artefacts from his land, indicating the presence of a villa.

Archaeologists and local people get involved at the community dig of Roman site at Aylsham's Woodgat

Archaeologists and local people get involved at the community dig of Roman site at Aylsham's Woodgate Nursery where ancient pot kilns were found. Peter Purdy holds a piece of kiln lining that shows the original makers finger marks.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY


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August saw the first of planned annual community digs to uncover the site's secrets and, as well as the kilns, the year has seen some 30,000 finds recovered from the site, including about 13,000 fragments of pottery.

The dig was run by professionals Britannia Archaeology and Mr Purdy praised them for the way in which they had welcomed and helped everybody who wanted to take part, including children who were given their own site to dig.

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'It's all been done for love, not money,' said Mr Purdy. 'All I have done is share something I am lucky enough to have on my land.

'I was totally overwhelmed to win such a wonderful award in our first year.'

He also praised John Davies, chief curator and keeper of archaeology with Norfolk Museums Service, for his support, and Claire Bradshaw, county council community archaeologist who nominated the project for the award.

Mike Heyworth, CBA director, said he hoped to visit the project next summer, when a three-week dig is planned.

'It exemplifies all that's good about community archaeology - the enthusiasm of the local people and the landowner coupled with really good quality archaeology,' said Dr Heyworth.

'This national badge of honour can only help the project's credibility when it looks for funding in future.'

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