Archaeology comes to Ackworth!

by | Jul 22, 2022 | Ackworth School

Jonathan Belk discusses archaeology at Ackworth School.

The Archaeology Group’s Exhibition on Open Day was a great success, drawing interest from many visitors. Old Scholars in particular seemed interested to see what had been under their feet many years ago. Kudos to Third Former Josh, who on his own initiative spent some of the day explaining the site and the finds to visitors. Our initial aim was to find somewhere where we could work with no disruption to the rest of the school but in an area that had the potential to be interesting. Anton Maree suggested somewhere near to where the original farm buildings had stood, and this proved to be wise advice.

Shown are images of the annual Ackworth School Open Day. Images Copyright ©Darren Casey DCimaging

Our first excavation was a standard test pit, following the Cambridge Archaeology methodology, but this did not illuminate much, although it was a necessary step both to teach technique to the students and also to find what the substrate was like. Then we did some ground probing, which led us to two further areas. The first provided some pottery and metal, but in terms of lower structure seemed to be part of a long-forgotten path made up of heavy, worked stones that now led nowhere.

Shown are images of the annual Ackworth School Open Day. Images Copyright ©Darren Casey DCimaging

The second area has proved the most important; we now can hazard the hypothesis, based on surface marks on the stone cobbles and on the finds, that this was a forge, probably a blacksmith’s shop. As we excavate southwards, the cobbles become more uniform, without the robbed stonework infill that is so obvious at the north end. Our plan is to continue this, briefly this year but more regularly next year, hoping to find some sort of edge that will give us the dimensions of the paved area. And of course, we expect more finds. The three or four most significant finds are to be assessed by experts, and we are also hoping to arrange a visit by an architectural or industrial archaeologist with a view to gaining another opinion as to the site’s former role.

All the group would like to express their thanks to the school caretaker, Paul Meeson, who has helped us out over the months in so many ways, from making us our ground probe and our marker pegs to ad hoc loans of all kinds of equipment and tools. Paul, you are a star!

“Will L, Will H and Josh working on expanding trench 3, whilst Alara takes a break from trowelling to sort and clean finds.”