In conjunction with the undertaking of works to repair flood defences on Orford Ness,Orford, Suffolk, archaeological monitoring of the excavation of borrow pits and replacement of several sections of the tidal walls was carried out.
Orford Ness, an elongated shingle spit on the Suffolk coast, has seen intense military activity throughout much of the 20th century being the site of an early airfield, a WWI prisoner of war camp, and a test range for an assortment of ballistic testing and other military experiments. The excavation of the borrow pits revealed a small number of artefacts related to the
20th century activities on the site, the majority of which were photographically recorded and left in-situ. The most significant discovery relates to a short length of road that was re-routed adjacent to Stoney Ditch bank, where a large number of old camera films were discovered in the topsoil and buried in two shallow gullies flanking the original roadway. There were approximately 250 individual film reels, in at least four different sizes, ranging from c.8mm to c.9 inch (larger formats were most probably for aerial cameras), likely to relate to the firing range testing undertaken on the site in the earlier part of the 20th century (as the films were old nitrate film base and thus predate c.1952).
The films were recovered and handed to the National Trust for in-house investigation and safe storage. Initial investigation suggests that while the majority of the film has either lost all its emulsion or is too badly degraded, possibly up to a third of
the films may have surviving emulsion on them. It is not known at this time if any of the films have been used/exposed or fixed though a very small number of intact tins and cans were found which may retain well-preserved film inside.