Lottery grant for the Bamburgh Heritage Trust

The plans for a new heritage centre at St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, that will bring the story of the early medieval Bowl Hole burials to life has taken a big step closer with the awarding of a development grant to the Bamburgh Heritage Trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Bowl Hole Excavation Project was undertaken by Bamburgh Research Project (BRP) and Durham University and has produced a wealth of academic information about some of the earliest Christian inhabitants of Bamburgh. The burials are contemporary with the early medieval palace site currently under investigation within the castle by the BRP (places still available for this season’s excavation) and together give an extraordinary insight into what is often called the Golden Age of Northumbria.

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Some of the early medieval skeletons on their way from the castle to St Aidan’s Church during the reburial ceremony in 2016

The new funding represents an important step forward in bringing these results to the wider public. If you have not already seen it then do read Tony Henderson’s terrific article in the Chronicle, which details the work undertaken at the Bowl Hole and the planned project outputs.

If you would like to take part in this years excavations at Bamburgh Castle and/or our prehistoric wetlands site at the Bradford Kaims, please contact field-school coordinator  colekelly@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk or visit www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk.

 

St Aidan’s ossuary in the news again

St Aidans

St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh

An event hosted at St Aidan’s, Bamburgh by the Bamburgh Heritage Trust will provide a further chance to view the ossuary and learn more about its creation and the lives of those buried there more than 1200 years ago.

Follow the link to see more details and information on how to book your place.

http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/local-news/rare-chance-to-visit-ossuary-at-bamburgh-1-8076237

Laying the Bowl Hole Skeletons to Rest

Skeleton been recorded

It seems both a long time ago and strangely almost like yesterday that we uncovered a cyst burial (a grave cut outlined with slabs of stone) and realised that we had identified the location of the lost burial ground at the Bowl Hole. Memory is a funny thing! Over the 15+ years since that weekend we have undertaken an extensive excavation, followed by a successful collaboration with Durham University, aimed at analysing the skeletons and understanding as far as we are able the story that they have to tell us.

The results have been fascinating and we very much look forward to sharing them with you in the future, through further academic papers, a long awaited monograph and, we hope, a popular publication and visitor centre. Much of this work lies in the months ahead but tomorrow a long awaited and important landmark in the story of the site will happen when we undertake the reburial of the skeletons at St Aidan’s church in Bamburgh. We always intended to rebury them following their study and ST Aidan’s, a church whose foundation is as old as the cemetery site, is the perfect place to be their final resting place.

You can read a little more about the service in the article below. If you have the chance to attend then please do.

http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/local-news/final-committal-of-anglo-saxon-skeletons-after-creation-of-ossuary-1-7975389#ixzz4COCrIfrQ

The King in the North – a talk

The Friends of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh have organised a talk by Max Adams on his biography of St Oswald. It is at St Aidan’s at 4:00 pm Sunday 24th April. Entrance if £5.00 and includes afternoon tea.

Max Adams lecture poster

Writing a biography of an early medieval king is a challenge, so succeeding in writing an acclaimed one, as Max has, suggests we will be in for a treat. Do make it along if you get the chance.

The Castle Windmill

Built upon a prominent outcrop near Oswald’s Gate, the Castle Windmill stands as the highest structure within Bamburgh’s West Ward. Up until fairly recently popular opinion held that the windmill was built under the leadership of Dr. John Sharp. As it turns out, due to the research of Carol Griffiths, it has been determined that the Castle Windmill was not constructed until after his death.

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Background on Dr. John Sharp (1722-1792): With the death of his father, Thomas, Dr. Sharp was made head of the Lord Crewe’s Trustees in 1758. Fronting the money for many of the original fees, Dr. Sharp planned to create a welfare state centered at Bamburgh Castle. Throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century he is responsible for developing several charitable programs within the village, included the creation of a school at the castle, aiding in ship repairs, installing a signal gun, providing free admittance to a surgeon and, in 1786, implementing life boat services. On many occasions the Trustees also purchased large quantities of corn that would have been ground down and sold, along with other goods, at a reduced rate to impoverished members of the community (Source: Lord Crewe’s Charity).

This is where the confusion on the windmill’s original construction date comes into play. The fact that corn was being ground down and stored within the castle and the village while Dr. Sharp was the head of the trustees led to the general belief that the windmill was built during his lifetime. In fact, according to Carol Griffith, there is no mention of the use of a windmill in any of the documentation correlated with the purchase of corn throughout the late eighteenth century. Within the medieval records there is mention of a horse mill. Director Graeme Young believes it is possible that the purchased corn was being ground in a similar manner until the building of the Castle Windmill.

In truth, documentation shows that the Trustees ordered the construction of the Windmill on the 20 of March 1800. This would have been eight years after Dr. Sharp’s death. Although he was not around to witness its construction, the Castle Windmill still stands as a symbol of his legacy.

Today: For the past several years the Windmill has been used by The Bamburgh Research Project as staff offices and as a storage facility for all of the finds being discovered within the castle. Since its creation in 1996, the BRP has uncovered over seven thousand finds from inside Bamburgh’s walls.


If you want to learn more about Bamburgh in the 18th century you can find more information about Carol Griffith’s book,  Bamburgh ‘Ghosts’-Voices from the 18th Century, by clicking here.

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 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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Pre-Season Excavation Round-Up

Jo Kirton gives us a round up of the pre-season excavation at the Castle site:

Over the past week the BRP welcomed 10 students and 2 of their lecturers from the Catholic University of America (CUA), to the project and the excavations within the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle.

Some of the CUA group and BRP staff celebrating Graeme's birthday

Some of the CUA group and BRP staff celebrating Graeme’s birthday

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the students and staff and a little luck with the weather, we had a really productive week.

After the usual site introductions the CUA group quickly removed the tarps that had been protecting Trench 3 and set about cleaning the trench from head to toe. As is normally the case with the initial clean-up, we found a number of finds, such as styca coins, Samian Ware pottery and a fair few Fe blobs.

Cleaning!!!

Cleaning!!!

Abby with her Samian pottery rim

Abby with her Samian pottery rim

Burnt wood and Iron from one of the beam slots and Abby with her Samian Ware find

Burnt wood and Iron from one of the beam slots

Throughout the week students were taught how to plan and section draw, use the Total Station and levelling kit, process small and bulk finds, and use the siraff tank for processing environmental samples.

Casey, Abbey and Michael tackle one of the section drawings for the southern beam slot

Casey, Abbey and Michael tackle one of the section drawings for the southern beam slot

The archaeology was pretty exciting this week and the students needed all their newly acquired skills to excavate and record what we found.

The elusive southern beam slot for the probable tenth century building was picked up in three sections, which gave us a pretty good idea of the size of the building. This also meant lots of section drawings and planning!

The southern beam slot became apparent in the sections of the southern latrine pit

The southern beam slot became apparent in the sections of the southern latrine pit

On the final day we were able to excavate what we think are parts of the western and eastern beam slots in the NW and NE corners respectively. The excavation of the eastern beam slot went as expected and we found the next surface, which is beginning to appear in various areas of the trench. The western beam slot whilst quite clear, raised questions about its association with the mortared surface, which it abuts – this needs further investigation but should prove pivotal for understanding the NW corner of the trench.

Chris and Alexandra excavating the western beam slot.....or is it????

Chris and Alexandra excavating the western beam slot…..or is it????

Dr Kopar, Marielle and Casey excavating the eastern beam slot with Ass Sup, Joe Tong.

Dr Kopar, Marielle and Casey excavating the eastern beam slot with Ass Sup, Joe Tong.

We also took the opportunity to remove several features from the SE corner of the trench around the ninth century metalworking building, which has been evident for several seasons. We were able to remove several external features, such as the flagged surface just outside one of the entrances, packing stones around the ‘doughnut’ shaped stone, which may have served as a drain and the hearth packing stones that sit between the metalworking building and the southern latrine pit.

Goodbye flagstones!

A hive of activity!

As part of the excavation of all these features the CUA group were able to complete cut and deposit sheets and learn how to take and record environmental samples.

As well as working in the trench, our visitors were able to tour the interior of the Castle, visit the locations of the Chapel and Bowl Hole excavations, make a trip to St Aidans in the village and head out to Lindisfarne. They are now touring significant Northumbrian sites in the North East, such as Hexham, York, Durham and Jarrow. We hope they have fun and learn a little along the way!

Hexham Abbey from the seventh century cript steps

Hexham Abbey from the seventh century cript steps

The main dig season starts Monday 2nd of June. We will have all the latest on the excavations at the Castle and the prehistoric wetlands site out at the Bradford Kaims.

Carol’s ‘Bamburgh Ghosts’ book now available

I am sure that regular readers will be familiar with Carol Griffiths work in the Northumberland archives, though the various posts of her work here. You may also recall our reporting on the successful launch of her book on the subject a few weeks ago: Bamburgh ‘Ghosts’-Voices from the 18th Century.

The book is full of fascinating insights into the world of 18th century Bamburgh and the work of the Lord Crewe Charitable Trust. Those of you interested in getting their hands on a copy can do so at both the Wynding Well and Clarke’s Store in Bamburgh and at the newsagents in Seahouses. Those not travelling to the region can make postal orders to: The book title, C/O The Vicarage, 7 The Wynding, Bamburgh. NE69 7DB. Cost is £10.00 and £2.50 post and packaging within the UK (Europe £6.50 and Australia/US £9.00). Cheques should be made payable to ‘St Aidan’s Church PCC’.

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Book launch: Bamburgh ‘Ghosts’ Voices from the 18th Century

Carol Griffiths will be launching her book, based on her work with the Lord Crewe archive at the Northumberland Records Office, Woodhorn, at St Aidan’s Bamburgh on Sunday 5th April at 5:30 pm. Refreshments will be served.

Proceeds from sale of the book, ‘Bamburgh ‘Ghosts’ Voices from the 18th Century’ will go to St Aidan’s

Image courtesy of Francis Watson-Armstrong

Image courtesy of Francis Watson-Armstrong