Friday, 25 September 2009

Bulletin 32 (September 2009)

Sedgefield Aerodrome Course Report

Well, the first season investigating Sedgeford aerodrome was a resounding success. We had nine very enthusiastic students who, together with three supervisors, spent time doing desktop research and three days practical work up at the Aerodrome. Once suitable work locations had been agreed with the landowner we split the students into three teams, each with their own project to work on.

Team A investigated a building that, according to local hearsay, was used as a mortuary during WWI, one is recorded in the post-war sale of site buildings. They spent some time studying the construction methods, materials, and design of the building, before moving on to create a drawn record of all four external elevations and a plan. The structure, which is located in an area that was woodland during WWI, has elements of architectural design that gives it a chapel-like quality. These, along with some of the more utilitarian aspects of its design, such as high windows and air vents, led the team to conclude that it was the mortuary.

Team B spent most of its fieldwork time investigating a rubbish dump area. A large assemblage of material culture was collected from the trench, mostly found within the topsoil, and included glass bottles and jars, pieces of domestic china, leather boots, a couple of rubber bicycle pedals and a single .303 blank cartridge case (dated to WWI). Initial research undertaken on a small selection of items by the team during their course show that the artefacts span at least a 40 year period. However, the finds were jumbled up together within the area investigated which led the team to conclude that it was not a purpose made dump, but instead a result of continual activity, in particular site clearance and re-use post WWII.

Team C studied an air raid shelter believed to date from the First World War. Constructed of house bricks, it has an internal corrugated iron ceiling overlaid with a thick slap of concrete. A wooden door at the bottom of the steps leads into the one-room shelter, which has brick piers for wooden benches along both walls. A window, crudely hacked out of the south wall, was cut through at a later date, possibly when the shelter was used as a store. Just above ground level a brick capping layer, around the stairwell, suggests that the brick courses above this were a later addition to the structure. A wooden door post at the entrance to the stairwell tells us an outer door was added at the same time. When and for what purpose these later alterations were made is still a mystery. Were they made during its time as a military installation or are they associated with the site’s later life?

The week was finished off with Dave and Angie Hibbitt running a workshop on geophysics, whilst two local detectorists provided the students with an opportunity to try out the technique for themselves. An afternoon presentation on their findings to a group of SHARP volunteers and interested locals rounded off the course for the students.        Anna Gow

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Bulletin 31 (September 2009)

The First Tank Project Update

A Geophysical Survey was carried out in Lincoln recently as part of the First Tank Project, in conjunction with the Friends of the Lincoln Tank.

Lincoln, along with over 250 other towns and cities around the country had received a Presentation Tank after the Great War, in recognition of monies raised for National Savings.   After due ceremony, that tank was sited in Wickham Gardens, next to the Water Tower, and there it remained until it was removed for scrap several years later.  Incredible as it may seem, it has not been possible to locate any photographs of the tank in situ, and only recently has it been confirmed that the tank was displayed on the south side of the tower, in a small garden area.

It was decided, therefore to carry out an earth resistance survey to try and ascertain if would be possible to find any evidence of a plinth or railings under the garden.
The survey was duly carried out on 12 September by Dave and Angie Hibbitt, (Grid Nine Geophysics) closely watched by members of the Friends of the Lincoln Tank.
Following interpretation of the results, a full report will be available.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Bulletin 30 (September 2009)

Conflict Archaeology News

Many of you may already be in possession of the latest edition of Current Archaeology - for those that haven't been able to cast their eyes over it - our very own Dr Nick Saunders is featured - launching the new discipline of modern conflict archaeology. Don't forget that details of his new MA in 20th Century Conflict can be found at www. or

Also, another of our number, Jim Lewis has 2 more books in the Lea Valley series released at the end of September , making a total of five.

And finally.........for any of you that are, or could be in the vicinity of Lincoln tomorrow evening, there are still just a few tickets left for Andrew Robertshaw's talk on 'Digging the Trenches'

Kind regards to you all

Angie Hibbitt
Great War Archaeology Group

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Bulletin 29 (August 2009)

Forthcoming GWAG Events

Thought you might like to know about a couple of forthcoming events....

First - Bristol University are hosting a conference on 24 October 2009 - Conflict Archaeology of the Modern Era - please find further details via the link below. The day will be introduced by our own John Winterburn and the list of speakers and subjects certainly whets the appetite! Contact details are also in the pdf file via the link.

Conflict Archaeology Conference at Bristol link

Secondly - The Friends of the Lincoln Tank are welcoming Andrew Robertshaw to speak in Lincoln on 16 September - his subject being 'Digging the Trenches' - The Archaeology of the Western Front. Click on the poster for a larger view.

The short course at Sedgeford Airfield in July went extremely well, with some excellent archaeology and, I understand, an enormous number of artifacts for examination and investigation! Dave and I spent a morning there, giving a short geophysics workshop and all involved seemed to be having a marvellous time. We would certainly have loved to have spent more time there.... Watch the website - there will be a short resume on the course posted soon.

Also, don't forget it will soon be the 4th Jordan season - the 2009 prospectus is on the GARP website.

Kind regards

Angie Hibbitt
Great War ARchaeology Group.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bulletin 28 (May 2009)

Great War Archaeology Group Site Report

One Tree Hill (likely Anti-Aircraft Gun Site)
Honor Oak Park, Southwark, South London. SE23. NGR: TQ 354 742

Survey and Excavation
25-26 August 2007 and 13-14 September 2008

Site Code: OTH07 and OTH08


This is a non technical brief summary of the recent investigations of the One Tree Hill site by The Great War Archaeology Group (GWAG). A full report will be prepared and made available in due course.


During the First World War, London was the target of the first strategic bombing campaign in history.

Raids by German airships and aeroplanes were met by the development of a comprehensive home-defence system based on wireless direction-finding stations, observation posts, searchlights, anti-aircraft guns, and dedicated fighter squadrons. The conflict has been relatively little studied. Many archive sources have not been researched. Little oral history work has been done. Most material remains are unrecorded. Of the 20,469 sites recorded in the Defence of Britain Project, for example, only 322 are of First World War date, only 44 relate to the air war, and of these, half are airfields, with only one searchlight and six anti-aircraft gun emplacements recorded for the whole country.

The Great War Archaeology Group’s pilot ‘First Blitz Project’ in June 2006, carried out in association with BBC Timewatch, demonstrated the potential for further study. Our outer study area, centred on the Lea Valley, extended 40km east-west across West Essex and East Hertfordshire, and 40km northwards from the Thames. In this area alone, our desktop research identified 33 former anti-aircraft gun emplacements and 19 searchlight emplacements. Detailed survey, clearance and excavation at the Monkhams Hall gun emplacement north of Waltham Abbey revealed an observation post and an ammunition store as well as the gun platform itself. The project also demonstrated how archaeological fieldwork can act as a focus for oral history. The BBC recorded interviews with several people who remembered the air-raids as children, including one who had been present at the bombing of Upper North Street School in Poplar on 13 June 1917, when 18 five-year-olds were killed in the infant classroom.

In relation to these events, we are close to the centenary and on the cusp of living memory. There is a strong and urgent case for investigating, recording, preserving and presenting the material remains of the First World War in Britain. A community project centred on the surviving anti-aircraft gun platform at One Tree Hill would make a valuable contribution to this.

The archaeological investigation at One Tree Hill:

Over the weekends of 25-26 August 2007 and 13-14 September 2008, The Great War Archaeology Group investigated the site of a likely anti-aircraft gun emplacement at One Tree Hill. The team used field reconnaissance, archaeological geophysics, metal-detecting, limited surface clearance and excavation to identify, record and report on the condition and state of preservation of the obvious (and not so obvious) features.
The first task was to clean up, record and photograph the main feature which was believed to be the gun platform. Some of the invaluable local oral history collected over the weekend suggested that it was actually a band stand, and the ornate floor of the platform, consisting of concentric rings of well laid bricks, certainly suggested an origin other than military, as do the very ‘municipal park’ looking steps at each corner of the platform. However, once this brick surface had been properly cleared of many years of detritus, evidence was located of its potential military use. At the centre of the concentric rings of bricks we found evidence of where a guide ring could have been anchored to the structure which would have supported a gun (probably the usual 3” or 6-pounder). This type of metal ring, and evidence of, has been seen on other WW1 anti-aircraft gun emplacements around London, notably the one at Monkhams Hall. A narrow slot in the platform surface running from the centre out to one edge and through a small hole in the raised side was suggestive of a channel for a cable or an electrical earthing strip.
An archaeological trench was positioned directly to the north of the platform to investigate the condition of the foundations, and also to search for evidence of a metalled surface which may have encircled the platform. The platform appears to be in a fair condition, but with some evidence of subsidence, clearly demonstrated by the separation of several of the steps (apparently constructed as separate modules) from the platform and also a visually noticeable slant to the platform. At least one of the step modules appear to be contemporary with a laid path leading up to it. This laid path, in turn , appears to be contemporary with the metalled surfaces found elsewhere on the site.

A Geophysical survey was carried out across the site to look for remains of any associated structures. Several areas of potential archaeological interest were found and a series of test pits were used to investigate these areas. Some of the test pits came down on rough metalled surfaces, one with a clear edge to it. However, it is difficult to say at this stage if these surfaces are contemporary with the gun emplacement or with park landscaping. One surprise in a test pit was the uncovering of old service pipes, possibly gas, their source and destination unknown. One hypothesis is that the park may have been lit by gas at some point in its history. Several test pits opened with the assistance of supervised (and very keen) local children revealed iron loops secured into concrete bases, possibly associated with military occupation of the site or metal restraints from former park benches.

Metal detecting revealed very little in the way of military material, which is some cause for concern, as this type of site usually has a light scattering at least of militaria. Several early coins were recovered, along with the ‘usual’ metal detritus you would expect to find in a public space. What became clear from the metal detecting was that the rough surfaces found by the geophysics had ‘sealed in’ the earlier surfaces, and this is clearly demonstrated by the relatively recent metal finds located above the surfaces. As the metal detector survey moved off the surfaces then earlier material was recovered.

The investigations have shown that it is highly likely that the structure is an anti-aircraft gun emplacement. There is no reason why the structure should not have been used for other purposes since the First World War, although no evidence has yet come to light for military re-use during the Second World War. The idea that this structure, which was originally designed for killing, may have had a new lease of life as a band stand – a place to entertain and make people feel relaxed and happy, is rather fitting.
A full report on the work carried out at One Tree Hill will be available in due course, and this report will also address how this site sits within the much larger picture of the defence of London during the First World War.

The Great War Archaeology Group are very grateful to all the people and organisations, especially The Friends of One Tree Hill and Southwark Borough Council, who so willingly co-operated to help make this community based project the success it was, and we hope to possibly return to investigate the site further in the future.
The Great War Archaeology Group is very keen to hear from anyone who may have any information regarding the One Tree Hill site or other sites in the London area and other First World War sites throughout the country.

Contact details are:

Dr Neil Faulkner, 01727 834844 (h), 07974 679805 (m),

Dave Hibbitt, 01476 410622 (h), 07976 981027 (m)

Bulletin 27 (May 2009)

Upcoming Digs



Location: Norfolk. Run by: SHARP – the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project. Dates: 5 July – 14 August. Cost: £125 pw inc food and campsite, £20 for day course, £100 for week course, concessions.

Contact: Brenda Stibbons, 4 Alfred Road, Cromer, Norfolk, NR27 9AN. Tel: 01263 510969, 07786 644980. Email: Web:

One of the largest, best-appointed, and longest-running projects for volunteers and trainees, SHARP is investigating the entire history of a Norfolk village and rural parish. Major open-area excavations on the Boneyard site of an 8th-10th century Anglo-Saxon cemetery concluded in 2007, and the main excavation site is now that of the associated settlement in the neighbouring Chalkpit Field. Two years of evaluative excavations have revealed good survival of ditches, pits, post-holes, and beam-slots, with abundant deposits of domestic debris, making it likely that this will evolve into a major Middle Saxon settlement excavation offering rich insights into the character and everyday life of the original village. Other work planned this year includes continuing post-excavation analysis of the Boneyard excavations, with work on human remains, animal bones, pottery, and small finds, and preliminary investigation of Sedgeford’s First World War airfield.
Full campsite and catering facilities are available. Participants can enrol as ordinary volunteers or take one or more training courses, including basic excavation, human remains, bones in archaeology, and modern conflict archaeology.


Digging Dad’s Army

Location: Shooters Hill, Greenwich. Run by: Digging Dad’s Army: the East and South-East London People’s War Project, 1914-1945. Dates: 13-21 June. Cost: £60 for weekend course, £150 for week course, concessions.

Contact: Andy Brockman, 72 Nithdale Road, London, SE18 3PD. Tel: 0208 316 6358, 07958 543518. Email: Web:

Digging Dad’s Army is a new multi-disciplinary, community-based research project centred on a study area in the East and South-East London boroughs of Waltham Forest, Newham, Barking and Dagenham, and Greenwich. Building on existing work on First World War air-war sites, mainly in North-East London, and on Second World War sites on Shooters Hill (Greenwich), DDA will use archives, oral/family history, field reconnaissance, survey, standing-building recording, and excavation to explore the militarised landscapes and popular experience of modern conflict in a densely populated urban area. Work this year will focus on both First and Second World War sites on Shooters Hill. There will be courses covering modern conflict archaeology, basic field skills, and standing-building recording.

Bulletin 26 (May 2009)

Zeppelins, Fighters, and Ack-Ack: an introduction to modern conflict archaeology

Dr Neil Faulkner and Dr Keith Robinson

Sunday 26 July – Friday 31 July

This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to the theory and techniques of modern conflict archaeology through the investigation of Sedgeford Aerodrome – a home defence and training airfield in the First World War, and a decoy airfield in the Second. Combining taught sessions, desktop research, and guided fieldwork, students will experience the full range of methods involved in the study of modern industrialised warfare. These will include: the use of archives, maps, old photos, and the internet; survey work using GPS-recording, geophysics, and metal-detecting; standing-building recording; and carefully targeted excavation. We will also cover the relationship between material remains in the landscape and memories, commemorations, family and local histories, and political and moral issues.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Bulletin 25 (March 2009)

Investigating the Wireless Listening Station at Hunstanton

Documentary and photographic evidence exists of the Wireless Listening Station at Hunstanton, which was used to overhear the radio transmissions between the German Zeppelins and their home bases. The Station was one of a number along the east coast, providing vital information on the movement of these bombers.

Although we have the above evidence, the exact location of the listening hut and associated aerials is not known for certain.

Photographs and postcards show that the aerials should have been placed high on the cliffs at Hunstanton, between the lighthouse and the coastguard look out station. Sadly this area is subject to erosion, and some of the remaining evidence may have already fallen into the sea, so time is of the essence to try and records that which remains.

Angie Hibbitt liaised closely with the local authority, who were exceptionally positive and helpful, and a date was set to carry out a geophysical resistance survey in the area where we believe the aerials to have been sited. Chris Mackie contacted the local media who interviewed both him and Dave Hibbitt and kindly publicised the survey and the story of the listening post. Almost immediately, members of the public started to contact Chris, with many pieces of very useful information.

On the day of the survey, Hunstanton was wreathed in a wet cold sea mist obscuring most of the survey site. However, geophysicists are a hardy bunch and the survey was carried out, with the assistance of GWAG members, Charlie Middleton, and Chris Mackie, clip board in hand, who chatted to the numerous visitors, both casual and in response to the media pieces.

The day was a success – with the surveyors, Grid Nine, reporting anomalies that could be associated with the masts, and thus be of potential archaeological significance for the project. Huge amounts of information were received from members of the public, and as a result, we will be returning in the near future to survey a second area, in an attempt to locate the site of the listening huts themselves.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Bulletin 24 (Feb 2009)


Julian Evan-Hart has recently had an illustrated GARP related article published in the current issue of Treasure Hunting magazine.

This is an enthralling account of some of the finds and other activities of the Great Arab Revolt Project 2008 Season, which took place in Jordan in November last year.

In his usual entertaining and enthusiastic style Jules has managed to capture the excitement and variety of the trip, and he eloquently describes how it melds the technologies of metal detecting and internet research together with the academic aims of the project. It is a thoroughly good read and highly recommended. Also as can be seen below three rogues appear on the cover of the magazine, which is the March issue and is in the shops now. (Available in larger branches of W.H. Smiths)

Also about to be published is the latest issue of Current World Archaeology which will include a GARP article and extracts from this years blog.
CWA - "the UK's no 1 world archaeology magazine" - (ok the UK's only world archaeology magazine) - is available in Foyles/Borders/by subscription - next issue is out late March.