Suffolk Archaeology, as Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service (SCCAS), was commissioned to carry out two community archaeology projects for the Managing a Masterpiece’ scheme, a 3 year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Landscape Partnership which aimed to ‘conserve, celebrate and improve understanding of the Stour Valley, including the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)’…
The first event involved the excavation of a series test pits over a weekend in Stoke by Nayland. Despite horrible weather the local volunteers opened a total of 15 pits throughout the village, with Suffolk Archaeology providing recording and guidance/info packs, equipment, and staff to give help and advice. The volunteers were shown how to systematically excavate and record their pits, and then process their finds, so that their results could be included in the final project report. The test pit weekend was complemented by a separate outreach programme at the local primary school, where our Outreach Officer excavated a further two test pits with pupils.
The test pitting revealed a small number of prehistoric and Roman finds - pottery, worked flints and Ceramic Building Material (CBM), the latter of which adds to the already known evidence for a possible Roman building in the vicinity. An absence of finds dated from the 5th to 11th centuries didn’t reflect the documentary evidence for Anglo-Saxon origins for the village but there were gradually increasing levels of finds from the 12th century onwards with the majority of artefactual material dating to the post-medieval period, and mainly consisting of pottery and CBM. The medieval and post-medieval finds, as well as the map evidence and surviving buildings may suggest a shift in the focus of occupation from the north-west to the south-east of the village. They indicate typical domestic occupation throughout these periods, as well as agriculture, medieval businesses organised from the guildhall, and industrial activity in the form of medieval malting and post-medieval smithing.
The second project involved the supervising of thirty-two volunteers in fieldwalking a field north-west of Stratford St Mary (in Higham parish). The field was chosen as it had a number of undated cropmarks identified from aerial photography, suggesting the presence of ring ditches and enclosures which formed part of landscape of such monuments along the north edge of the Stour valley and the aim of the project was to try to provide evidence to help suggest potential dates for the underlying archaeology.
Our staff managed the project, providing a GPS unit to divide the field into a 20m grid and to spot locate and metal-detected finds, and other recording equipment. Volunteers were shown what to look for and our staff were able to provide on the spot identification of material as it was found. At the end of each day volunteers were shown how to process and catalogue the finds material so that Suffolk Archaeology could produce a full archaeological report.
The most significant finds were a small number of Iron Age pottery sherds and a scattering of worked flints of probable Iron Age date. Medieval and post-medieval pottery was found across the site, as was a large quality of Ceramic Building Material (CBM - brick and tile), which may have come from earlier buildings in the SE corner of the site or from 17th century buildings to the west and north-east of the field.