Marsh Award for Community Archaeology

This Award is run in partnership with the Council for British Archaeology and celebrates individuals and groups who carry out exceptional archaeological work within their communities and help to sustain our cultural heritage for future generations.

The Award was first presented in 2008 and recognises and promotes the results of research and/or fieldwork led by community groups which have made a substantial contribution to knowledge and wellbeing in their local area.

Nominations are made via the Council for British Archaeology website and judged in partnership with the MCT.

Pictured: Aylsham Roman Project volunteers, winners of the 2016 Award

Duddon Valley 2019

Duddon Valley Local History Group was formed in 1999 with the aim of exploring the history of the valley. The Duddon Dig of 2016-2018 consisted of three seasons of excavation which  were the culmination of a community project which began in 2006. The group have a strong relationship with the Lake District National Park Archaeology Team and the National Trust, who helped them write their Heritage Lottery Fund bid by stressing that their work would inform local people about their ancestors’ ways of life by directly involving them in excavations. Over 100 local people took part in the dig, many of whom had not had any experience of archaeology before, and the group held an Open Day each season to inform visitors to the area of the project. The group has a strong schools outreach programme which saw students from six local primary schools and secondary schools experience the site and get some hands-on experience. Volunteers who had taken part in the dig have gone on to other archaeological projects and a whole generation of local children have had a hands-on experience to help them understand their place in history.

Previous Winners

Friends of Woking Palace

The Woking Palace and its Park project was a Heritage Lottery Funded project coordinated by the Friends of Woking Palace. The project included excavations, the publication of 3 booklets, an academic publication, school visits, talks to local groups, a permanent archaeological display and open days on the site. The project has helped to increase local knowledge of Woking Palace and its importance, and has enabled the local community to be involved in excavations on the site.

Over 1,800 volunteers were involved in the project, including 950 school children from local primary and secondary schools. Participants that had no experience were able to take part in excavations during open days, and 50 volunteers completed a 3-day Basic Skills in Archaeology course. All of the excavations and activities were free of charge which meant that the whole community was able to take part.

The project has resulted in a permanent interactive display, showing finds from the excavations, a video of the community involvement and information about the history of the site.

Clwydian Range Archaeology Group

The Clwydian Range Archaeology Group are a team of volunteers who came together to take part in a Heritage Lottery Funded geophysical learning project based outside the Hillfort of Moel Arthur in the Clwydian Range, in Wales.

Following the completion of their training, the group wanted to continue their work and so established their own group. They have since undertaken an excavation on the site, during which they discovered an assemblage of flint flakes, carried out largescale geophysical surveys and developed further specialist training. Due to the location of the site, the group receive many visitors and have held open days both prior to, and during the excavations.

The group have received funding to develop their excavations further and have submitted their findings to local Historic Environment Records. They are also in the process of developing a report to be submitted to Archaeology in Wales, demonstrating that they are a well organised and conscientious group of community archaeologists. The group will be holding an exhibition in early 2018 which will provide members of the public with an opportunity to view the artefacts that have been found during the excavations.

Aylsham Roman Project

The Aylsham Roman Project is based on land owned by Peter Purdy, who over 40 years collected thousands of roman artefacts which indicated that the land was the site of a villa. A volunteer team was assembled to take the project forward following a geophysical survey by Britannia Archaeology, and recently the site held it’s first community excavation. This took place over a two week period and over 175 people volunteered to take part in the excavation and processing, with many more taking part in guided tours of the site.

The volunteers uncovered a number of features, including two Roman kilns and surrounding features which led Historic England’s science advisor to believe that they may be the best preserved examples in Britain. A small excavation area was opened exclusively for children to take part in the digging, and it is now thought that the area is likely to be a sunken featured building. The excavation as a whole recovered approximately 12,000 shreds of pottery which were washed and sorted by the volunteers.

Despite the volunteers being largely new to archaeology, the work has been carried out to a high standard, and training is now being organised for them to further increase their knowledge in geophysical survey and archaeology on the whole.

The London Wreck Project

The London Wreck Project are a small team of three highly motivated and enthusiastic volunteers who have made a substantial contribution to our knowledge and management of the London protected wreck in Southend on Sea, Essex. They became involved with the site in 2010 with no prior archaeological experience but they were keen and highly experienced Thames divers. They undertook training with the Nautical Archaeology Society to gain some basic knowledge and have worked closely with Historic England ever since. They have assisted in the development of a finds recovery protocol for the site, recovered high risk mobile artefacts before they are lost, liaised with Southend Museums Service and Historic England for conservation and recording and most recently assisted in the recovery of an extremely rare, complete gun carriage and associated implements. They have also set up a website which enables potential visitors to find out more about the site. The team have ensured that this high risk wreck site has been well recorded; their work has given us a far better knowledge of the site and has ensured that an important site has not been lost.

The Carwynnen Quoit Restoration Team

Under the guidance of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit and the Sustainable Trust, The Carwynnen Quoit Restoration Team has delivered a number of archaeological activities at the site of Carwynnen Quoit, a Neolithic monument which collapsed following an earthquake in the 1960s.

The team have impressively coordinated the re-erection of the standing stones and placing of the capstone, carried out excavations on site, and delivered education activities involving five primary schools and over 100 school children. At all stages local volunteers have been involved, making this a real community project.

Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey

The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (NMGS) was established to undertake the very first large scale and systematic survey of pre-reformation graffiti inscriptions in medieval churches. This is a not-for-profit community archaeology project entirely coordinated and run by volunteers.

The (NMGS) has surveyed nearly 200 churches in Norfolk, which amounts to about one third of the total number of medieval churches in the county, and has made some very important discoveries. Before the project began it was generally believed that surviving pre-reformation graffiti inscriptions were a rarity. However, the project has shown that over 80% of all medieval churches surveyed contain significant surviving examples. More than 7,500 images of individual graffiti inscriptions, masons marks and architectural designs have been generated, all of which are being entered into the project database, and will be available to the public via the project website.

The NMGS has a strong community basis, with all survey work being undertaken by trained volunteers of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds. One of the project’s biggest strengths has been its ability to recruit and train volunteers from far outside the traditional boundaries associated with community archaeology and heritage projects, reaching into socially excluded community groups.

The project has also delivered a number of public lectures to local community groups, history and archaeology groups, including the Royal Archaeological Institute, The Council for British Archaeology East Midlands and the International Medieval Congress, as well as schools and colleges. In addition, the volunteers have been working with local community groups to carry out graffiti tours of local churches and establish local graffiti survey groups.



The Cairn Survey and Repair Project

The Cairn Survey and Repair Project started back in 2005 in partnership with the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) Conservation Team, Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) and English Heritage. It was recognised by English Heritage that some of the (mainly) Bronze Age summit cairns on Dartmoor were slowly being changed into odd shapes by people and that, if unchecked, this could lead to fragile archaeology being disturbed. These cairns, although apparently just piles of rocks are around 4,000 years old, and many are scheduled historic monuments. Although historically the purpose of the cairns is unclear, it is considered that their primary function was to mark burials or territories. Some of the cairns have been excavated and finds have included human hair, Beaker Pottery, worked flint, a small amount of bronze and a possible copper spearhead.

Dartmoor’s summit cairns are distinctive features on the landscape which naturally attract visitors. Over time, people have added stones to the cairns or removed them, creating hollows within the cairn itself. If the quarry hollows continue to develop, it could lead to the exposure of potential surviving buried archaeological features and their subsequent destruction. The repair work will go some way to towards ensuring that any buried archaeology stays buried and is not disturbed or contaminated by modern materials.

Initial plans were to deal with 21 cairns but as the work was completed well ahead of schedule, the volunteers have gone on to survey and repair a further 28 cairns. The project creates many volunteer opportunities for different groups such as scouts and other youth groups, businesses seeking team building projects and students requiring work experience to engage with the DPA conservation team’s projects and regular volunteers for the cairn project have often been joined by visiting volunteers or students.

Andy Crabb, archaeologist, who has been involved with the project says:-
“Of all the various tasks and jobs I have to undertake as part of my duties, the Cairn Repair Project is definitely one of my favourites. The quality of the work undertaken by the group is of the highest order and the surveys in particular are second to none. The success of the project has been entirely due to the close working partnerships that have evolved between the volunteers and the organisations involved. And the reality is we are all doing the work for the simple reason that we all greatly appreciate Dartmoor and want to help preserve it.”

Sarah Dhanjal

Sarah is currently undertaking PhD research at UCL Institute of Archaeology, exploring attitudes to heritage, and particularly archaeology, in Southall, west London. Sarah worked for three years at UCL from 2005-2008 as a widening participation and diversity officer, running programmes to encourage the participation of underrepresented groups in archaeology and other subjects. This work included the organisation of ‘taster days’ in archaeology, of school archaeology excavation projects (with the help of the Hendon and District Archaeological Society), participation in the Discover Archaeology Live event at the National History Show (Olympia), providing sessions on archaeology for Hackney primary schools, and participation in Camden Council’s Camden Young Archaeologists’ Project. She also helped to plan events for National Archaeology Week. During 2008-09 Sarah has continued her outreach work in her own time alongside her academic studies, running excavations, teaching sessions and walking tours for local schools. She has also been a volunteer branch leader for the Young Archaeologists’ Club since 2005, and continues to be an outreach worker for UCL Museums and Collections.

The Badsey Society - the Enclosure Map Project and the North of Scotland Archaeological Society

For the contribution the group has made to archaeological knowledge and understanding:-

The Badsey Society – the Enclosure Map Project

For the contribution the group has made to archaeological knowledge and understanding

The North of Scotland Archaeological Society – Glen Feshie

For the activities of the group within their local community and the level of engagement of that community in their activities