The Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Project report is now available for download

Regular readers of the blog will know we have been undertaking a pilot study at a wetland site at Hoppenwood Bank as part of our study of the Braford Kaims wetland. The work has been generously supported by a grant of more than £35,000 from Your Heritage (a Heritage Lottery Fund scheme) and also by a grant of £13,000 from English Heritage. As this phase of work is coming to an end we have compiled, what we hope is a pretty comprehensive archaeological report. This is now available to download from our website (link to the Bradford Kaims Report).


Hopefully we will be back to work later this year

Undertaking this work has been a wonderful experience and we have been both delighted and excited by the amazing archaeological discoveries that have emerged. We are hugely grateful to all the volunteers, students and staff members who have participated in the project, donating so much time and effort in the process. We would have achieved very little without you.

We are glad to announce that although the current phase of funding has run out, this is not the end of the Bradford Kaims project. We believe that our pilot study has revealed an archaeological landscape with huge potential and we plan to continue working to investigate it with your help. We intend to be back in June and July this summer and will be looking into new opportunities, in the mean time, to raise funding with which to continue the work.

If you have enjoyed the journey so far then do keep following the blog, because you will be hearing more from the Bradford Kaims, because, as well as raising new supporting grants we will be looking to offer opportunities for volunteers to get back on site this year.

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A couple of short articles on the Kaims

In the last week or so we have had some short articles on the work at Hoppenwood Bank, Bradford Kaims, published in the newsletters of the Council for British Archaeology North and Border Archaeology Society. A more substantial interim on the work is in preparation and will be published, free to download, on our website in the New Year. I thought I should mention the CBA and BAS as they are two organisations of interest to anyone with a fascination for the archaeology of the region and because they are worth supporting should you be intereested in joining. The CBA offers a wide variety of information on archaeology for people of all ages and BAS has supported local research for many years.
They can be reached at: and

In addition we have a number of articles from Carol Griffiths, still to publish on the blog, so keep an eye out for further instalments of life at Bamburgh in the post-medieval period.

Happy Christmas from  the BRP

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Volunteers Editing Video of the Kaims

This article was kindly written by volunteer Ruth Brewis, who took part in the video editing of footage from the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project. The Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage.

We’d be delighted if more volunteers expressed an interest in doing some video editing – if you want to have a go at this please get in touch with me,

It will be possible to arrange one to one sessions or small groups if anyone wants to participate in this, and you do not have to have been a volunteer previously – this is open to all, and it may be possible to do this in your local area – I am prepared to travel with the footage and equipment!

Ruth writes:

Stress, Stress, Stress……

Video Editing…terrifying! Thought I was going to lose all the footage and there was so much of it! A somewhat daunting task and not an aspect I was expecting to be involved in when I signed up as a volunteer for the Bradford Kaims Heritage Wetlands Project, but the opportunity presented itself.

The BRP Editing Laptop!

Editing a small video can take days of patiently sifting through footage, re-watching the same clips over again and re-editing, playing it through many times, searching for a beginning and an ending, deciding if a picture should be static or not, which looks better??

Not as straight forward as I thought it would be!

Under Gerry’s guidance I was able to select snippets of video and assemble them to form a workable version with a storyline that would make sense to anyone viewing the video, at the same time trying to produce something that would be interesting, showing the process of coring done at the Kaims by Richard Tipping, BRP Staff and the volunteers. Looking back at the footage it was hard to decide how much to include in the video, for me it is all interesting and something that was completely new to me, so I wanted to include everything.

I came to the project expecting to learn about archaeology and was happy with that but I got the chance to try video editing, and really enjoyed the experience and I thought it would be good to see how Gerry puts together video’s for Bamburgh Research Project and as I like taking photographs when I’m on site, it was an extension of my interest in photography.

This is Ruth’s completed video which was first uploaded during the summer.

A Prince, An Octocopter, and Many Hands: Wrapping up with “This Week in Photos”

So we’ve finished wrapping up the 2012 season. In order to commemorate the final push, I thought we might have our second ever BRP “This Week in Photos”.

Graeme and Gerry with HRH Prince Charles on the beach below Bamburgh Castle

It was a rather eventful week, with a Tuesday visit from HRH Prince Charles to Bamburgh Village, a spectacular introduction to archaeological aerial photography from an octocopter on Wednesday, and the closing down of the trenches at both the Bradford Kaims and the castle from Thurday to Saturday.

Frantically cleaning Trench 3

Everyone lending a hand

On Thursday, students and staff alike got down on hands and knees (literally) to clean the trenches for our visit from our A.P. Horizons Friends, Paddy and Jack.

A.P. Horizons Boys Paddy and Jack

Even Finds Supervisor Kirstie was (forcibly) lured out of the windmill to make sure Trench 3 was spic-and-span for the octocopter’s aerial photographs.

All our ducks in a row… cleaning S to N in T3. Admire the clean lines in the rather dry trench

While I’m reluctant to admit it, in case I jinx it, the beautiful weather we’ve been having the past week has made the task infinitely more difficult.

Bone dry soil in T1 making cleaning difficult

A view of the E trench wall in T1 (now stone-walled) and the bone-dry soil










T1 in particular was complaining of bone-dry soil, making it both near impossible to clean properly, as well as very difficult to differentiate between contexts. The students were able to take some final levels and complete the end-of-season trench plan.

Planning Trench 1 is a group effort

Taking a few final levels before tarping over Trench 1

Matthew and Amin taking levels at T1











Despite the complaints, both Trenches were clean by the time Paddy and Jack showed up at 5 pm with the illustrious octocopter. As they set up near Trench 1, we all gathered on the castle walls to observe the show.

A view of T1 and the octocopter from the windmill walls

Watching from the wall

I don’t think I’ve seen us all so united in our excitement this entire season. If only we’d had popcorn…

Supervisor Alex and Directors Graeme and Gerry gather round … to get a real-time birds-eye-view of the trenches

After a tour over T1, the boys set up at T3 to repeat the process.  They finished up the evening with a flyover above Bamburgh Castle. I can’t wait to see the shots.

Jack piloting the octocopter

Approaching T3









Friday was the last full day of work at the castle for most of us. Trench 1 was tarped and stone-walled along the E section wall. Trench 3 finished planning the SE corner and tarped over it.

Taking down the N quadrant in the NW corner of T3

While some students continued to excavate the N and S quadrants of the NW corner, others worked on planning the NE section of T3. Supervisors from both T3 and T1 frantically worked on closing contexts and writing up context sheets and end-of-year summary reports.

Short-term T1 Ass-Sup Constance drawing up a final plan of T1

Finds Supervisors Jeff and Kirstie finished box-indexing and cataloguing the day’s finds.

Kirstie and Jeff sorting finds

Once lost finds, re-discovered in a cleaning of the Keep

And only with the wonderful and much needed help of some of the BRP students did I survive the day and manage to accomplish most of what I set out to do for environmental.*

Nat flotting 2010 and 2012 Kaims samples

* A special shout out to Sarah, Liam, Natalie, and Americ who helped sort samples, record heavy discard, clean out the flot tank, and any number of other enviro things I asked them to do. Without their help, my role as environmental supervisor might have finally turned me “mental”. Thanks, guys!

A somewhat-sane me, taking a brief pause from the environmental to peek at T1 and listen in on Lauren’s trench tours

We were all hard-pressed to find a spare moment even for tea between taking down the mess tent, washing dishes and duckboards, and doing post-excavation odds-and-ends. Full-season BRP-er Lauren did manage to squeeze in a final tour of the trenches for the public, however.

Lauren engrosses the public in tales of T1 and the adventures of it’s archaeologists

I tagged along for the first time this year and was surprised and delighted to learn things about the start of the project, Brian Hope Taylor’s hoard of records and finds, and the caslte’s dynamic history that I never knew. Lauren’s interest and wealth of knowledge provided an exciting glimpse into the archaeology of Bamburgh Castle, that even I, a long-time BRP-er enjoyed immensely. Thanks Lauren!

Loyal BRP-ers ensure “The Moose” is preserved for posterity

A very warm shout-out to all this season’s staff, volunteers, and students! We couldn’t have accomplished as much as we did without all your hard work and enthusiasm. So, thank you!

The sun sets over the BRP

Finally, while the trenches have been tarped over or back-filled and the windmill locked up, the archaeology continues (albeit in a somewhat more limited form). We’ve got more posts to come in the following weeks and months. Closing up the Kaims. BRP Bloopers. Bamburgh Beast Body Art. Publications. How-to Archaeology. And so much more.

So, don’t disappear, blog-followers. You might miss something interesting. 😉

HRH The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall Prince Charles and the Duchess of Northumberland visit Bamburgh

Today, the 24th of July the staff and students of Bamburgh had a little thrill. We’re sorry to say that we did not  share the information with our followers and friends, but Bamburgh had a royal visit. BRP Directors Graeme Young and Gerry Twomey were invited down to the dunes to meet HRH Prince Charles. Therefore they asked the staff to be on our very best behavior and to keep our distance. Naturally we chose to ignore this, and here we have our story and photos to share with you!

Team Media! From Tee and I (Natalie), to a large, excited, stalkerish media mob!

A approximately 2pm this afternoon, Gerry and Graeme were due to meet HRH Prince Charles, and show him some of our shiny finds. It had been a flurry of activity for our Finds staff Kirstie and Jeff, and we really can’t thank Des Taylor enough for the beautiful images of the shinier finds that we couldn’t take walking through the dunes.

Waiting, Waiting. Gerry and Graeme are holding the engraved plaque, bone strap end, iron saxe, bone die, iron ballista bolt, a copper brooch and a glass bead. They also had high res images of the ‘Bamburgh Beast’, last years ‘Bamburgh Beauty’, and the pattern- welded sword from the castle museum.

Soon, HRH the Prince of Wales came down through the dunes. After meeting the Bamburgh Marine Conservation Society, it was our turn.

HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Northumberland approach the waiting crowd.

Graeme and Gerry explain the work we carry out here at Bamburgh Castle.

Prince Charles has a closer look at our iron saxe.

Graeme and Gerry tell Prince Charles about our dig season.

HRH Prince Charles looks at images of the ‘Bamburgh Beast’ and the gold discovered in the 2011 season, nicknamed (by us!) the ‘Bamburgh Beauty’.

After shaking hands with the directors, HRH The Prince of Wales started to walk back up the dunes, waving to local children who had been swimming.


Prince Charles looks up, sees a group of filthy, mud-stained and generally unkempt young people. “Are you ALL here on holiday?” He asked.

I point out our bosses, in case my stammering “We work at the castle, with THEM!” didn’t get the message across.

Apparently it’s common knowledge that Prince Charles studied archaeology at Cambridge. But I was impressed, and truthfully, a bit excited to find out in a PERSONAL CONVERSATION!

Explaining where we are all from (a long conversation!) and what levels of education people at the BRP have.

I ended my conversation with Prince Charles by spluttering “You should come visit us- You can dig!”. Oh dear. At least Graeme and Gerry made us look good.

So there you have it, folks. The Bamburgh Research Project got to meet HRH Prince Charles. He was charming, and polite, and didn’t respond to my awkward question. But that’s not a no, right?

Further work with the ‘metalworking’ building in Trench 3

This is going to be a short directorial update on progress in Trench 3. Despite the adverse weather we have indeed been making some progress, slowly removing the stone foundations of our ‘metalworking’ building and reducing the layers inside and outside of the structure to reveal those underneath.

Cleaning during a welcome break in the weather

Today we have been doing an area clean in preparation for a photograph of the immediate area, which will then be planned again in order to record the lower layer of foundation stones that have been revealed as the overlying layers were taken down. The fact that we have not simply bottomed the building onto the layers below, but revealed a more complex construction sequence, may indicate that we are looking at a fairly long lived and well founded building. This is perhaps in keeping with the equally carefully constructed pebble path, to the building’s east, that we now know to have been constructed from more than one layer of pebbles.

Interestingly at the southern end of the building we are starting to see what are likely to be deposits that pre-date the building emerge. These will be investigated in due course, but our next challenge lies a little further to the north in the trench. More on that soon.


Investigations at Bamburgh Village

Project Director, Graeme Young, gives us an insight into the little discussed investigation conducted around Bamburgh Village.

Bamburgh Village

It is perhaps no surprise that our blog concentrates on our recent or current excavation projects within the castle, Bowl Hole and Kaims, but we have also undertaken work to investigate Bamburgh Village too.

Our report on the geophysical survey undertaken in 2004, mostly on the south and west sides of the village, is available to download on our website, but we have also undertaken some research using maps, documentary records and shovel pitting within the village itself. Click to take a look at the report

Bamburgh Village

The village interests us because it has been occupied for a long time and has provided services to the fortress, as well as being a settlement and trading emporia important in its own right. The earliest records we have of the village tells us of the presence of a church used by St Aidan, almost certainly the predecessor of today’s St Aidan’s Church. It also tells of a civil settlement demolished by a Midlands king, Penda, who stripped it of timber to build a giant pile of firewood in an effort to burn the timber fortress, which surmounted the castle rock in the 7th century.

St Aidan's Church

We have very little evidence of this Anglo-Saxon village, which must surely lie somewhere beneath the modern village awaiting discovery, but by the later middle ages we find increasing records of the borough of Bamburgh. These give us a number of street names and the names of many of the townspeople too. The modern village street plan almost certainly preserves some of the medieval streets, but its quite likely that not all will be ancient. One thing is clear, we have more names of medieval streets than we have streets in the modern village, meaning that we have lost some! So, the question is, can we make sense of the medieval records and rebuild a plan of the medieval borough?

I will cover our current state of knowledge over the next few weeks, including Bamburgh’s ecclesiastical sites, which includes the search for the elusive hospital. Just now we will start with a photo that seems to offer us a possible candidate for a lost medieval street.

The photo shows the east end of the hollow-way from the castle. Its the broad linear depression that passes through the gap in the stone wall and off towards the village. You can make out ridge and furrow in the field too. You can also try tracing it on Google Earth as it is quite visible, particularly at its east end.

Extending broadly east to west and lying between the modern car park and the southern side of the village, lies what appears to be a hollow-way, an old and overgrown road. It can be traced on aerial photographs over two fields before being lost in the garden plots of the village. Though its line continues to be respected by garden walls, which suggests that they are respecting quite an ancient boundary. As we will see in future instalments it is just possible we can put a name to this lost street.

Happy New Year and some odds-and-ends

Here at the BRP we just wanted to say a Happy New Year to all those who faithfully follow our blog. Furthermore, we reached 15,000 hits before the end of 2011, so thank you for all your support.

Secondly, the BRP have recently published our interim report on the metal-working building and styca hoard discovered in Trench 3. Written by archaeology supervisor, John Castling,  and Project Director, Graeme Young, the piece appears in the 2011 journal Medieval Archaeology, Volume 55.

The metalworking building which features in the interim report.

Finally, one of our eagle eyed students, Mathias, spotted another community project who are also re-excavating the work of Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, who we have been discussing in our previous blog posts. If you would like to take a look at this project in Surrey, follow the links:  Click here to visit a newspaper report and click here for background to the dig.

Please stay with us in 2012, as we will have posts about the on-going work at the Bradford Kaims and information regarding opportunities to volunteer with the project. Furthermore, we will keep you updated regarding the 2012 digging season at the castle, plus plenty of stories and snippets from previous seasons and other relevant information. If anyone has any ideas about things they would like to know, do get in touch.

The Legacy of Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor Part 1.

Today we take a look at the work of Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor who excavated at Bamburgh during the 1960’s and 1970’s. You have probably heard his name mentioned in numerous blog entries over the past few months, this primarily stems from the fact that the Bamburgh Research Project has actively sought to re-investigate the work of Hope-Taylor with many of our trenches sited to explore his work (T8 and T10 for example).

Hope-Taylor’s trenches, as located and re-excavated by the Bamburgh Research Project.

The first systematic excavation prior to the foundation of the Bamburgh Research Project (BRP) in 1996 was conducted, by the late Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, of Cambridge University. Hope-Taylor’s interest in Bamburgh seems to have stemmed from his previous work at the Anglian royal site at Yeavering, some 25km to the west of Bamburgh. It appears that Hope-Taylor believed Bamburgh, being in the first tier of royal centres, would make an interesting parallel to Yeavering and aid in its interpretation. Hope-Taylor began excavations at Bamburgh in the early 60’s and returned between 1970-1974 for more systematic excavation (Young, 2009).

A photograph of BHT's excavation in the West Ward
A photograph of BHT’s excavation in the West Ward

Hope-Taylor never published his findings at Bamburgh, so when the BRP began their first season of investigation in 1996 they were not sure what to expect.

Project Director, Graeme Young, tells us in his article in Antiquity (2009) that “Dr Hope-Taylor loomed substantially in the minds of the small group of archaeologists who formed the BRP, not just because the thought of following in the footsteps of such a famous name seemed a little daunting, but also because without knowing the extent of his work within the castle, how would we integrate our own studies to his. It was perhaps this, as much as the interest of the site itself, that prompted the initial excavation undertaken by the BRP, to concentrate on the identification and investigation of an early medieval burial site close to, but beyond the castle gate” (2009). It was here that the BRP would unearth and excavate approx. 100 bodies from the final phase cemetery known as the Bowl Hole. Follow the link to see the first of three blog entries discussing this site. Bowl Hole: Part 1

The BRP also wished to explore the interior of the castle and decided to situate their trenches in the same area in which Hope-Taylor excavated.

Graeme tells us “ Documentary survey, resistivity and ground penetrating radar surveys were undertaken prior to excavation and, together with anecdotal evidence from those who remembered Hope-Taylor at Bamburgh, helped identify the general area of the 1970s excavations. Sufficiently to at least allow a trial trench to be sited with some confidence within the west ward in 2000”.

Geophysical survey being undertaken in the West Ward of the castle

This 30m by 2m trench, oriented broadly north to south, was by sheer good fortune, perfectly placed to identify the east side of Hope-Taylor’s main excavation trench.

Excavation begins in the West Ward

And once this had been identified, it was a relatively simple task to follow the edge during the following season to reveal the vast majority of a substantial, trapezoidal, open area excavation, divided by a central baulk. The north side of the trench was 10m wide, the south 7m wide, extending 19.4m north to south.

The extended trench in the West Ward

The full trench was emptied to the base of the original excavation, with the exception of the southern 3m, where a service pipe had been inserted in the intervening time between the BRP and Hope-Taylor excavations. This was a relatively easy task, as the trench had been covered with a mixture of polythene fertilizer sacks and tarpaulins weighed down by stones and timber by Hope-Taylor and his dig team at the end of the 1974 season.

The Hope-Taylor level covered by fertilizers sacks and tarpaulin

The Hope-Taylor level covered by fertilizers sacks and tarpaulin

The day of the great unveiling, when the tarpaulins and sacks were peeled back was a memorable occasion, given the quality of the archaeology that was revealed. This was made all the more interesting by the presence of section strings, nails and occasional marker tags left in situ. Clearly, Hope-Taylor had left with every intention of returning in a later season. Once cleaned, the Hope-Taylor trench was extensively recorded by photography, as well as by plan and section. In addition to this record, our strategy was to excavate a parallel trench on the east side of Hope-Taylor’s. This it was hoped, would provide sufficient insight to allow at least a basic interpretation of what had been excavated during the 1970s. Primarily however, it would provide an independent sample of the west ward stratigraphy (Young, 2009).

Trench 3. The extent most people would recognise today. Note the baulk in the bottom right corner

This trench is what many people now know to be Trench 3 and is still under excavation today. The 2011 season was particularly interesting as we began the excavation of the baulk which BHT left in-situ. This has enabled us to begin to marry-up the excavated stratigraphy in the BHT trenches with the stratigraphic sequence we recorded this summer.

In the following blog post we will discuss one of the BRP’s most exciting discoveries to date, which concerns our main protagonist, Dr. Hope-Taylor.

Young. G. Excavating an Archaeologist: Brian Hope-Taylor at Bamburgh. Antiquity 82(318)

Annual BRP Winter Lecture Announced

We are pleased to announce that the Bamburgh Research Project will be giving its annual winter lecture on Friday 16th of December at 6.30 p.m. in the Pavillion in Bamburgh Village. Everyone welcome.

The lecture will discuss the archaeology uncovered during the 2011 summer dig at Bamburgh Castle and introduce our new project the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project

Click here to read more about the project and opportunities to get involved

Trial trenching at the Bradford Kaims

I am also pleased to announce that the report for the 2004 investigation of the chapel situated within the inner ward of Bamburgh Castle is now available to download.

Click here for a list of downloadable publications from the BRP