Friday, 27 September 2013

Our Annual Report for 2012-2013 is out now!

You can find out more about what Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has been up to over the last 12 months with our newly published Annual Report for 2012 to 2013.

Find out more about the teams that make up our service; catch up on our latest projects and see the highlights of our first full year as a joint service. The full report can be found on our website.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Researching the English Civil War with Explore the Past

Around the 3rd September a number of events took place to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Worcester, which was the final battle of the English Civil Wars. This being a major part in the history of Worcester and the county, we have various sources here to help you find out more about this dramatic period in our history

Map of the city of Worcester, 3rd September 1651 (available at reference b899:25 BA372/1)
Within the 12 miles of archives are various documents relating the Civil War period. This includes the Worcester Chamber Order Book, where we can see plans for the defence of Worcester at the start of the war and muster rolls for the county. There are also letters which were sent from Worcester, including ones by Charles I, Charles II and Prince Rupert. A recurring theme is the struggle to find enough men to defend the city, and instructions for local gentry to try harder to recruit more men.

We also have a large number of books in our local studies library on the open shelves about the Civil war, including books about Worcestershire during the conflict. All these can be searched through the library catalogue.

The site of the St Martin's Gate dig

Our archaeologists have also unearthed evidence of the Civil Wars in the city and the county during various digs they have undertaken. One notable find was the defensive ditch around St Martin's Gate in advance of the Asda development at Lowesmoor. The 1660 Vaughan map of the defences as existed at the time of the battle shows a v shaped ditch in front of the Gate, although we weren't sure if they would really look like that. However when we dug we found the v shaped ditch just like the map said, and it was a pretty substantial feature as can be seen in the photo. It is all the more impressive as it would have been dug by conscripted local people, including women, and we have documents in the archives sent to local parishes demanding that they send people to help dig defences, and they even had to bring their own shovels!.

Staff from Worcestershire Archaeology on site at the St Martin's Gate dig
If you are interested in what Civil War archaeology is known about in Worcestershire you can check the Historic Environment Record database with one of our archaeologists. This has 30,000 records of sites, monuments and features and can be searched by period. For more information on how to do this email

All this information has been used as part of school workshops to help children understand the impact of the conflict on the area. For instance we had three classes from Gorse Hill primary come to us last year, before taking them up Worcester Cathedral Tower to view the landscape after reading the documents and the maps.

 A sample of one of the interpretation panels on display at Fort Royal Park

On the 3rd September this year interpretation panels were unveiled as part of the redevelopment of Fort Royal Park. Our illustrators worked on these for Worcester City Council to portray reconstructions of what Fort Royal would have looked like at key moments in the battle.

Steve Rigby and Carolyn Hunt, Illustrators with Worcestershire Archaeology, next to one of their panels

Although not part of our collections, here in The Hive is the Stuart Collection, a collection of over 1,000 books and pamphlets about the Stuarts and the Civil Wars collected by bookseller John Grainger and bequeathed to the City Library in 1900. These include books dating back to the 1640s and early editions of some the key texts on the Civil war, such as Clarendon's History. They used to be held in Worcester City Library but they are now more accessible as they are now listed on the library catalogue and are being conserved by our Conservator. They are housed on level 4 and if you would like to view any of them please speak to a member of library staff.  

A page from a book held as part of the Stuart Collection at The Hive

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Discovery of 5,000 year old skull on the banks of the Avon

Worcestershire Archaeology have featured in the news recently following the discovery of a human skull. Here Nick Daffern, Senior Environmental Archaeologist, tells us more about the processes taken to identify the find:
"On 20th March 2013 West Mercia Police were contacted by a member of the public. They had discovered what appeared to be a human skull to the west of Eckington Bridge on the northern bank of the River Avon (SO 92895 42236) whilst walking their dog. The skull was not complete with only the upper cranium represented. West Mercia Police believed the skull to be potentially archaeological in origin and contacted Worcestershire Archaeology. It is suggested that the skull is that of a female due to the absence of prominent brow ridges and the overall slightness of the skull.

The 5,000 year old skull discovered on the banks of the river Avon

The skull was submitted for radiocarbon dating to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) radiocarbon dating laboratory by Detective James Bayliss of West Mercia Police. A single bone sample was extracted from for AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) radiocarbon dating. The date 3338 – 3025 cal BC (SUERC–46228 (GU30346)) obtained from the radiocarbon dating proves that the remains are archaeological in nature and are Middle Neolithic in date.

Nick Daffern, Senior Environmental Archaeologist, with the discovery he has been working hard to help identify

The only previously identified human remains from Worcestershire, which are definitely Neolithic in date, were from a crouched inhumation encountered during excavations at Wormington Farm (SP039372) near Aston Somerville (Coleman et al 2006, 63).

Nick Daffern from Worcestershire Archaeology with Martin Evans, who discovered the skull

Interestingly, this is not the first skull to have been recovered from the banks of River Avon in similar circumstances. Another was recovered from the vicinity of Nafford Weir after the river had been in flood. Despite this, it is tempting to suggest that a Neolithic monument, possibly a cemetery, upstream of Eckington and Nafford is being eroded during high energy flood events of the River Avon and is introducing these buoyant, easily transportable and easily identifiable human remains into the water course."

Once the Archaeology Service have completed investigations on the skull it will be handed over to Worcestershire Museums Service for display at either Hartlebury Museum or the Almonry Museum in Evesham.

More features on this story can be found on the Guardian website, the Daily Mail and on YouTube.