During the first year of our three-year Community Archaeology Research Programme (CARP), which we are undertaking on behalf of the Society of Antiquities at Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, we’ve been working closely with two schools nearby, giving them an opportunity to find out more about the archaeology of their local area.
Students from St Lawrence’s C Of E Primary School, Lechlade, and Farmor’s School, Fairford, were invited to work alongside Cotswold Archaeology and Kelmscott Manor staff on the project. Thirty Year 3 children from St Lawrence’s and a further thirty Year 7 children from Farmor’s have been involved – the same children will now see the project through to its end, following the story of Kelmscott and its past as they move up through different year groups.
With approximately 1000 students at Farmor’s School, and with places limited, their teacher Rachel Chamberlain set Year 7 students the task of writing a letter of application, explaining why they would like to be involved in the project; Rachel received thirty-four applications, with thirty children then selected. Before attending the site, Caroline Adams, Cotswold Archaeology’s Outreach and Community Engagement Officer, gave an on-line introduction to archaeology and to the project to both of the groups.
Both groups then attended Kelmscott Manor in May, for practical experience in digging archaeological test-pits. The visit started with a re-cap of the project, introducing them to the day’s tasks, and then a finds’ identification session looking at artefacts of flint, pottery, bone and metal items as well as artefacts they might more commonly expect to uncover during their excavations that day. Most test-pits were de-turfed by Cotswold Archaeology staff in advance, although one group from Farmor’s School helped to de-turf one test pit, which involved using mathematical skills in taking measurements and marking out the 1m x 1m square.
Four test-pits were excavated within Kelmscott Manor grounds, behind the new Learning Barn and café. Finds included pottery dating to the 19th and 20th century, glass, animal bone and a few iron nails. The students learnt how to dig, sieve, identify finds and record the archaeology, including drawing plans and photography. Finds washing was also done on site, in groups of four.
Rachel Chamberlain commented that ‘the students found it really interesting and were really buzzing about the experience when they returned to school’, with Helen Bailey from St Lawrence’s thanking us for ‘an interesting and engaging start to the project.’
The activities didn’t stop there! In preparation for some local history research later in the project, students were given a local history task, focusing on the area around their schools. This culminated with an ‘in-person’ showcase event, where Caroline and Hannah Britton, Kelmscott Manor’s Learning and Outreach Officer, attended St. Lawrence’s Year 3 class at school to see the results. Split into small groups, the schoolchildren enthusiastically showed us their work, including studies of old photographs, architectural drawings, artefact illustration and a short walk to a nearby disused canal at the edge of their school. They were also proud to show us their ‘working wall’, entitled ‘Kelmscott Manor Community Archaeology Project’, which included a range of their own archaeological artefacts found locally.
We’ll be re-visiting the schools again later this year in advance of further fieldwork and practical tasks next year!