Fire of the North’ 2014 Cuthbert – Northumbria’s First Nature Warden

We have been sent some information about an events programme that may well interest the readers of our blog.. Details below:

A unique venture bringing together three iconic National Nature Reserves and three major national organisations – Lindisfarne NNR (Natural England), Farne Islands NNR (National Trust), and St Abb’s Head NNR (National Trust for Scotland) – around the figure of Cuthbert, the ‘Fire of the North’, and evoking a time when the ancient kingdom of Northumbria straddled what is now England and Scotland.

On the evening of 4 September this year beacons/fires will be lit on the Inner Farne AND St Abb’s Head to celebrate the ‘Fire of the North’s links with the wider region and its nationally/internationally important nature reserves. There is also a programme of linked walks/talks at each National Nature Reserve leading up to the 4 September event.


Mon 25 August (St Aebbe’s Day)
St Abb’s Head NNR – Liza Cole and John Woodhurst
Liza, the National Trust for Scotland’s Senior Ranger at St Abb’s Head NNR will talk about the Reserve, whilst local historian John will explore Cuthbert’s links to St Abbs, stressing the importance he gave to nature and the animal kingdom.
Meet at St Abb’s Head Nature Centre (Grid Ref NT 913674) at 1pm to walk to Kirk Hill, the site of St Aebbe’s Anglo-Saxon monastery.

Thurs 28 August
Inner Farne NNR – National Trust Rangers and John Woodhurst
John will meet the 11, 12, 1 and 2 o’clock sailings from Seahouses to the Inner Farne, and in a short walk/talk offer the opportunity to find out more about Cuthbert’s links to the Farnes, referencing the archaeology with sites extant today, and stressing Cuthbert’s self-sufficient lifestyle as a hermit. NT Rangers will also be on hand to talk about the wildlife of the Inner Farne.

Standard boat booking from Seahouses to Inner Farne (NT landing fees apply to non members – see NT website for details), and meet John and NT Ranger on landing.

Sun 31 August (St Aidan’s Day)
Lindisfarne NNR – Laura Scott and John Woodhurst
Reserve Warden Laura will talk about Lindisfarne NNR, and John will do his regular walk/talk, ‘Cuthbert – Lindisfarne’s First Nature Warden?’.

Meet at Window on Wild Lindisfarne building (Grid Ref NU129419) at 12.30 pm to walk around the Harbour, along the Heugh, across to St Cuthbert’s Island, and back via the ‘Sacred Corridor’ to St Mary’s Church.

Thurs 4 Sept at Dusk ca.8.30-9.00pm (St Cuthbert’s Day)
Beacons/Fires to be lit on Inner Farne and St Abb’s Head
NT Rangers will repeat the beacon/fire from last year near the lighthouse on Inner Farne.
St Abb’s Head beacon/fire will be on a hill close to St Abb’s Head lighthouse, with a linked walk from Kirk Hill to the site led by Daniel Rhodes, National Trust for Scotland Archaeologist (meet foot of Kirk Hill – Grid Ref NT914687 at 7.30). John will lead a group from the Window on Wild Lindisfarne building (meet 7.30) to the Watchtower on the Heugh to view, weather permitting, both beacons/fires. Along the way he will give a shortened version of his ‘First Nature Warden’ talk.

Lindisfarne – 01289 381470 or
Inner Farne – 01665 576874 or
St Abb’s Head – 01890 771443 or

Please wear suitable footwear and be prepared for all weather. Bring a drink/snack. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

A new Bradford Kaims video made by Hirst Park School

Our friends at Hirst Park School have just put the finishing touches on an amazing video they’ve been making about the Bradford Kaims site. The organizer for this media project, Brian Cosgrove, has the following to report. You can watch the video below. We hope you enjoy! We had a blast filming with them!

“Week one of the summer break saw a unique twist on our media and video production work at Hirst Park. Almost seven years ago a student crew from our school filmed a series of investigative interviews at Bamburgh Castle.
We have reunited members of that very first crew, along with media students involved with our IHC engineering project the same year, on a new video project.

The original crew are now in their final years at high school and they jumped at the chance to work on a video project again. As in the original videos we are working with our friends at the Bamburgh Research Project but this time the film is about the recent discoveries at the Bradford Kaims wetland site a few miles from Bamburgh.

Filming took place over two days at the start of the summer break and was organised and supported by Mr Cosgrove, media developer with the Ashington Learning Partnership, along with Mrs Piddock and Mrs Larkin from Ashington High school.

Following our two days filming at the Kaims, the Director of Archaeology at the project, Paul Gething wrote:

“Thanks to your team for the hard work. They are inspirational.  They have a slick, professional attitude and easy efficiency that puts most of the other media we’ve had on site, to shame. I’ve worked with media for 15 years with teams from all over the world and not seen better.  My team were all very impressed”.

To watch on YouTube click here.

To see the Brian’s original report and photos from their visit click here.

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End of the 2014 Season for Trench 3

Stephanie, Trench 3 Supervisor, gives the end of the season wrap-up:

Now that the 2014 season has come to an end, and all of the staff have returned to their respective home countries (myself included), it is time for me to update everyone on our last two weeks of excavation in Trench 3. Overall, the end of our excavation went smoothly, although we did have a few final surprises or “teasers” for what’s to come in the 2015 season!

Excavations in the SE corner had finished, so the area was photographed and then carefully planned and recorded. Also, the new layers were added to our previous section drawings of the SE corner. Finally, it was time to say good-bye to our beautiful section sides. The sides were successfully covered by a tarp that was nailed in place at the top and held in place by a short stonewall at the bottom. The tarp and stonewall should prevent erosion, preserving our sections sides for many years to come.

View of the SE corner before the section sides were tarped and stonewalled.

View of the SE corner before the section sides were tarped and stonewalled.


Stonewalling the SE corner

Students stonewalling the SE corner

Meanwhile, excavations continued in the NW corner of Trench 3. A spread of jagged rocks had been visible since the 2012 season to the north of the mortar floor surface. As we excavated the area underneath and north of the mortar floor surface, we soon found that this spread of jagged rocks continued. We now believe that the spread of jagged rocks could be a path that runs from west to east, up to the bedrock, and thus up to a timber building that appears to have been cut into the bedrock. One of our first steps next season will be to excavate the path/spread of jagged rocks.

View of NW corning showing the path/spread of jagged rocks (right)

View of NW corning showing the path/spread of jagged rocks (right)

Elsewhere in the NW corner, we had to excavate a considerable depth below the mortar floor surface before any new features appeared. To the southwest of the floor surface, just north of Brian Hope-Taylor’s lower pavement/wall, patches of mortar are now appearing. Because this wall abruptly ends at the north, we think that the patches of mortar may be evidence that the northern-most stones were robbed away during the Middle Ages. To the west of the mortar floor surface, evidence for the western beam slot is still visible in the form of a thin, reddish-brown line running north to south. In the southeastern area under the mortar floor surface, patches of reddish-orange burning are now appearing. The same burning can also be seen in the stratigraphy of the NW corner’s section edge (which marks the divide between our excavation and Hope-Taylor’s excavation). Additionally four new post-holes in the NW corner were discovered during out last week of excavation, two under the mortar floor surface, one to the northwest, and one to the east. These post-holes will have to be investigated at the beginning of our 2015 season, but it already appears as though a few of these new post-holes form a line with previous post-holes in the north of Trench 3—interesting!

Burning deposit and patches of mortar appearing in the NW corner

Burning deposit and patches of mortar appearing in the NW corner

If these new features were not exciting enough, we also discovered our first Roman coin during the last week of our excavation. The bronze Roman coin is well preserved and displays the head of a Roman Emperor (likely an emperor from the late 4th century), on the obverse and Victory advancing left holding a wreath or trophy in her right hand on the reverse. Roman pottery has also been found in the area at about the same level. We know that we have not yet reached Roman layers in the NW corner, so we believe that the coin and pottery are either the result of medieval collecting or the result of animal burrowing that has disturbed the stratigraphy.

Roman coin

Roman coin

Roman pottery

Roman pottery

We are happy to say that the NW corner is now nearly at the same level as the rest of Trench 3 and nearly at the same level as Hope-Taylor’s ‘Trench 2’. The means that next season we will be able to remove the tarp from Hope-Taylor’s ‘Trench 2’ and expand our area of excavation, which should greatly aid us in investigating the NW corner’s relationship to the rest of Trench 3.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are looking forward to a promising 2015 season!

Trench 3, covered until the start of the 2015 season

Trench 3 covered until the start of the 2015 season


Thanks for a great season and a special video

It is hard to believe that another season is behind us, yet here we are looking back on amazing times and wonderful discoveries. I would like to thank all those who came along and helped make the season such a success. Thanks to you, our readers, for staying tuned to the blog. Thanks to all of our diggers, the Bamburgh Castle staff, the Brown and Barber families, who hosted us at the Kaims, and all those in Belford who made us feel most welcome. A special thanks, though, must go to our hard working staff, whose constant effort, in all conditions made everything we achieved possible.

Graeme Young, Project Director

As a perfect end to the season our trench three supervisor, Anne Hartog, made one last discovery…

Our end of season lecture is available to view online

Our wrap-up lecture was a great success! We had nearly 40 members of the community, students, and staff members attend. We started the evening with Director Graeme Young discussing our Bamburgh Castle trenches followed by a short explanation of 3-d model rendering and photogrammetry by Outreach Officer Cole Kelly. Finds Supervisor Jeff Aldrich gave us an overview of the small finds from the castle and Director Paul Gething wrapped up the evening talking about our Bradford Kaims site. A big thanks goes out to Phyl Carruthers for coordinating space for our lectures at the beautiful Bell View center in Belford.

Or watch the lecture on youtube.

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Young Archaeologist Club winners visit the Kaims


Excavating the burnt mound in trench 6

The Bamburgh Research Project was happy to host the winners of the Young Archaeologists Club at our Bradford Kaims Wetland Site this last Saturday. The winners were William Allis, Elizabeth Allis, Kitty Underwood, and Rosie Underwood. We had a blast showing them around the Kaims and teaching them about prehistory and burnt mounds. We can’t wait to have more visitors from YAC next year!


Trench 6 supervisor Tom Gardner with the YAC winners

Elizabeth Allis (11 years old), wrote about her day at the Kaims:

“My brother and I had a great time digging at Bradford Kaims with the team of archaeologists. I really liked the long wooden platform that had been discovered, especially as it is the only one in the country! There was a strange wooden object near the middle of the platform, it had a sort of handle and three holes in one end. No-one knows what it is yet, I think it’s something that prehistoric people made and buried to confuse archaeologists later on. We did some troweling in trench six with Tom and found some charcoal, we put it in sample bags and labelled them. Cole showed us some of the finds like flint arrowheads and a prehistoric giant cow tooth. It was called an auroch. We were given t-shirts with an auroch skeleton on. I learnt a lot and the day was really fun. Thank you YAC, Paul and the rest of the BRP team.”


Introduction to trench 6.


Making simple rope from the sedges that grow near the site.

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Beautiful floor surface in trench one

While half-sectioning what we thought was a large pit feature we uncovered part of a highly organized stone floor surface. It would be extreme to call it mosaic, but the stones are small and arranged carefully. Floor surfaces such as this are not uncommon in the later medieval deposits in trench 1, but we have never run across one associated with an anglo-saxon context.


Since then we have uncovered more of the floor and sampled the soil above for dating evidence, such as seeds and bone. The surface is cut by several small pits and post holes, which although damaging to our floor surface can provide a better understanding of the stratigraphy of the site.


Harry and Chris working in trench one

Our 2014 Season Wrap-up Lecture

Please come join us for the final lecture of the season. We will be talking about all the exciting discoveries of this season. If you can’t make it out, don’t worry. We will film the event and put it on our youtube channel. Hope to see you there!

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Windy day in the 9th century

Sometimes the most fascinating aspects of archaeology are those rare moments when you get to connect to a past event through a discrete little discovery. Whether it is the finger prints of a potter on an ancient pot or a personal object lost by an individual, it is all part of a rich tapestry of reconstructing the past.

A thin wind-blown sand lens lies just beneath the dark deposit that the leaf blade is lying on

A thin wind-blown sand lens lies just beneath the dark deposit that the leaf blade is lying on

We have been cleaning the south west corner of Trench 3 in order to record it a final time before we cover it to prevent its slow erosion. We made one of those small discoveries in the process. Bamburgh lies close to the beach and can be pretty windy. Its particularly annoying when the wind blows sand over our cleaned surfaces, adding a thin layer that has to be removed. It was amusing then to find such a thin layer of blown sand within the stratigraphy. Just a few millimetres thick separating accumulated waste lenses in the surface to the south of the 9th century metal working building. That must have been a stormy day in the early 9th century!

Shedding light on the metal working building

Stephanie, Trench 3 Supervisor, here with another update:

Over the past week, excavations in Trench 3 have focused on the SE corner, where the 2009 sandbags were removed to recover the section sides. Students have worked diligently to excavate the early medieval layers upon which the 2009 sandbags were sat. Long time followers of the blog may recall that Trench 3’s metal working building is located in the SE corner. While most of the metal working building was removed during the 2012 season, some of the foundations remain. Seeing as the SE section edges lay just south of the metal working building, we hoped that our recent excavations in this area might shed additional light on the building and its surrounds features.

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Burning deposit

Thus far, we have discovered that directly south of the metal working building sits a rather thick burning deposit. We believe that this deposit is the result of the repeated dumping of burning material, creating layers and patches of light to mid-brownish orange, dark brownish-red, and black burnt material. The burning deposit is amorphous in its shape and varies in thickness. While at this time we can only speculate that the formation of the burning deposit is associated with the metal working building’s industrial processes, finds from the deposit, such as iron nails and other iron objects/debris and slag, further support this speculation. Additional finds from the burning area include pottery (possibly Middle-Saxon or Norman?), a lead object, a copper pin, burnt animal bone, and burnt shell. Additionally, two post-holes have been discovered today, just along the edge of our area of excavation—one to the southwest of the metal working building and one to the southeast.

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Post-hole southwest of metalworking building

Farther to the southwest of the metalworking building, students have been excavating the remains of a large dumping context, lovingly known as (3241). This context once covered much of Trench 3 and was well-known for being rich in large animal bones, as well as small finds of various materials. This season, small finds from this context have included several stycas, several iron objects/nails, and two flint fragments.

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Students excavating the burning layer and 3241 south of the metal working building

We expect to finish excavations at the edge of the SE corner tomorrow, as we are nearly level with our 2014 area of excavation. After the SE corner has been photographed and planned, and the new layers have been added to our previous section drawings of the trench walls, we will finally begin the process of tarping and stonewalling the section sides so that they are preserved for future seasons.