What was uncovered at the community archaeological dig?

The Hudswell Community Charity (HCC) was awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £6,430 for their “Origins of Hudswell Project”.

Here’s what has been uncovered so far…

Hudswell Community Cahrity wanted to learn more about the history of St Michaels Chruch and the surrounding land so last summer (July 2023) a local young archaeologists’ group were joined by around thirty villagers from Hudswell including ten or so children to begin the exploration of the lumpy ground identified by LiDAR mapping, in front of the cemetery. We had thought that this might the site of an earlier, possibly Saxon Church. A trench by the road side was also dug looking for any signs of former dwellings. The topsoil for both exploratory trenches had already been removed by mechanical digger driven by local resident Brian Kassel

On the day of the community dig, local archaeologists Cath and Stuart Ross set the tasks and directed people to particular areas to excavate by hand. The digging went on all day and the church was used to provide refreshments and to wash any interesting finds. By the end of the day a structure with what appeared to be a rounded end had been partially unearthed on the land close the cemetery wall. Many villagers brought their children and grandchildren to participate in the dig, so several generations of Hudswell residents were involved as can be seen in the picture to the to the left.

Meanwhile the trench by the roadside, which was largely excavated by members of the local young archaeologists club, (see picture below) found no evidence of any building, but some indication of mediaeval farrows.

Speaking about the evidence of the structure that had been found close to the cemetery wall, one of the archaeologists commented. “It’s too early to say what this is yet, but if we are looking for an early church then what we have found so far with its apparent asp shaped end is very promising.”

ECUS Report

A second community dig was organised later that month

This was equally well supported by villagers. The digging concentrated on the site close to the cemetery wall and a deeper trench across the site was dug which this led to some very interesting finds including a clay pipe bowl and a silver penny from the reign of Elizebeth 1st.

This second dig led the archaeologists to conclude that what was being excavated were not the foundations of a building, but rather the remains of a bell pit led mine. Thus, the excavation demonstrated that the earthworks recorded by the LiDAR survey represented spoil heaps surrounding a deep shaft, presumably a mining bell pit. Bell pits were an early form of mine, created where miners had identified a mineral vein at the surface and dug a hole to expose the ore.

The exiting finds of pottery and the coin helped to date the site and were a reward for all this involved. The church interior was used to wash and sort the finds, a task largely undertaken by the local children. Those who participated had found the experience rewarding, as was evidenced by several of the those who were interviewed. One for example stated that: “It was quite exciting to be involved in an archaeological dig. Everyone was very enthusiastic and although we did not find what we’d hope to find it turned out to be quite interesting.”