Archaeologists return to explore more of Oakham Castle’s hidden history.
We’re back! Over the next two weeks (12th – 23rd June) we will again be digging in the inner bailey at Oakham Castle in Rutland. Our community project, commissioned by Rutland County Council and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Castle’s wider £2.1 million restoration, will give archaeology students from the University of Leicester and volunteers from the local community a unique chance to uncover more about the castle’s history. This year we are also delighted to welcome to the project members of Operation Nightingale, a Ministry of Defence initiative facilitated by the Defence Archaeology Group to help assist the recovery of injured service personnel by getting them involved in archaeological investigations.
In this year’s dig, we will continue work started by Channel 4’s Time Team in 2012 and carried on in last year’s community excavation. These found four previously unrecorded medieval buildings in the castle grounds which appear to represent different aspects of the castle’s use – a functional building, possible a 13th- or 14th-century stable or workshop to the north of the Great Hall, and three higher status buildings to the west, possibly the 13th-century residence of the lord of the castle. Many questions remain, however, including what evidence for the original late 11th-century timber castle survives and what were two 15th-century buildings west of the hall used for, as this period of the castle’s history is largely unknown.
Finds during the first community dig ranged from the medieval period to the 19th century and included sherds of decorated ceramic medieval table-wares, a medieval iron knife blade, a bone knife handle, pistol shot, brass buttons and part of a Cross & Blackwell jar lid dated to 1839. These all give fascinating insights into the castle’s changing role through history, first as a castle and lordly residence, later as a county courthouse and more recently as a popular tourist attraction.
We will be on site for two weeks from Wednesday 12th June through to Sunday 23rd June. All volunteer places have already been filled, with over fifty volunteers taking part this year, but members of the public are very welcome to drop by for a chat and to find out what is going on. We’re are on site 9am – 4pm from Wednesday 12th to Sunday 16th June, and from Wednesday 19th to Sunday 23rd June. We will also have a special Open Day on Saturday 22 June where we will present some of the findings from our dig.
If you can’t make it out to the dig, we will be posting regular updates here at ULAS News alongside daily photos on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ulasnews/
Hope to see you at the dig,
Mathew Morris (Site Director)