Our field trip part of the course started in earnest in early May.

Week 1 saw us visiting Roche Abbey in Rotherham.  It was cold and overcast, but we still had a very enlightening trip, learning about the life of the Cistercian Monks living and working at Roche.  We unravelled the architectural layout of the Abbey site, and identified different building materials and styles evident in the ruins.


The group at the Gatehouse at Roche Abbey

The group at the Gatehouse at Roche Abbey



Week 2 saw us visiting a rather wet Scholes Coppice.  We studied the coppiced woodland, and visited Keppel’s Column, before descending into the woods to study the Bell Pits and Hillfort earthworks.  We were treated to a spectacular bluebell display in the woods.

Bluebells in Scholes Coppice.

Bluebells in Scholes Coppice.


Week 3 saw us visiting Brodsworth Hall and Gardens.  We started by exploring the restored gardens, then had a tour of the house, and learned a lot about the upstairs / downstairs life in the hall/

Getting our eye-in at the Target House

Getting our eye-in at the Target House


Week 4 saw us visiting Wentworth Woodhouse, we were lucky enough to have a guided tour, which was fascinating.  We not only learned about the original owners of the house, but also learned about the subsequent use of the house as a college.

The group outside Wentworth Woodhouse.

The group outside Wentworth Woodhouse.



A Digability course began at Wellgate Court in Rotherham with 11 new students.  The group had already had 2 ‘taster’ sessions, and had agreed on a course filled with things they would like to learn about and places they would like to visit.

Week 1: So what exactly do archaeologists do?

Week 2: Exploring the history of your high street.

Week 3: Learning to read old maps and documents

Week 4: Buried archaeology: how to identify and interpret (Field Trip to Canklow Woods)

Week 5: Can we read a building? (Field Trip to Local Church)

Week 6: A load of old bones!

Week 7: Bodies and their biographies.

Week 8: Interpreting grave symbolism (Field Trip to Wath Church)

Week 9: Prehistoric Rotherham (Field Trip to Scholes Coppice)

Week 10: Medieval Rotherham (Field Trip to Conisbrough Castle)

Week 1 began looking at all the types of jobs and tasks archaeologists do.  It was interesting for the students to discover that archaeology is about much more than just digging.  Each student picked a particular job they thought they would like to do: these ranged from environmental analysis, to osteology to studying ancient coins.

For week 2 we went out and about to explore the buildings and road names around Rotherham Centre.  We started on Wellgate, looking at the Temperance Hall, Masonic Hall, and the only remaining oil lamp base.  We headed up to the Bluecoats pub, once a Bluecoat school, and onto Ivy Cottage, an old workhouse.  We then headed down through Snail Hill and onto the High Street.  Outside Rotherham Minster, we saw the remains of the urinals from the Ring O’ Bells pub.  From then we walked down to the Chantry Bridge, and talked about the various uses of the famous Chantry Chapel.  We ended our walk at the Walker Mausoleum, all disappointed about the current state of this listed site.

Chapel on the Bridge

Chapel on the Bridge

For week 3 we stayed in the classroom, and learned about all the types of documents accessed as part of a Desk Top Study.  We studied quotes from historic travelogues, Rotherham’s Domesday entry, and a range of old maps.  We finished the session interpreting a series of place-names from in and around Rotherham.

In week 4 we visited Rotherham General Cemetery, Boston Castle and Canklow Woods. The general cemetery contains some really interesting graves, and a sorely neglected chapel, few of the students had ever been here before.  Then onto Boston Castle, a recently restored building that dominates the skyline of Rotherham, we strolled through Boston Park, Rotherham’s first municipal park and onto Canklow Woods – looking for indicators of ancient woodland and traces of prehistoric settlements found within.

 David admiring one of the Grave Monuments in Rotherham General Cemetery

David admiring one of the Grave Monuments in Rotherham General Cemetery

For week 5 we returned to the classroom and looked at dating methods. Starting with the principles of stratigraphy, we did some soil sample handling and describing. We then looked at dendro-chronology and produced a series of floating chronologies.

In week 6 we had a slight change to our plans and we visited Whiston Church and Graveyard and undertook some graveyard recording.  We spotted some very interesting grave stones including ones with an anchor, one with musical notes, one with a fireman’s helmet and one depicting mason’s symbols.  The most interesting gravestone was adorned with a skull and crossbones – Stephen, a local to Whiston told us about a local custom of stuffing wild herbs in the eye-sockets of the skull and rounding the gravestone 3 times.

The Skull and Cross-bone Gravestone at Whiston

The Skull and Cross-bone Gravestone at Whiston

In week 7 we studied famous bodies, including Lindow Man and Otzi. We talked about the significance of mortuary practices such as cremation, disarticulation and excarnation.

In week 8 we visited Waterloo Kiln and Wath Woods.  Firstly we explored the pottery site, planning out where the original buildings would have stood and looking at the architecture of the kiln hovel.  We then walked through into Wath Woods, transformed by the huge slag heap left from the potteries.

Stephen at the foot of the largest beech in Wath Woods.

Stephen at the foot of the largest beech in Wath Woods.

In week 9 we couldn’t do the trip out we had originally planned, so instead we stayed indoors and did a class quiz, and spent the remainder of the session planning our field trip course.  Andy who won the quiz had the honour of personally choosing one of our planned destinations – Wentworth Woodhouse.

For our final classroom session we were joined by Liz Eastlake, an Osteologist who delivered a fascinating workshop on human bones.  Firstly looking at the bones in the human skeleton, and then turning our attention to the process of 2d facial reconstruction. Certainly the most interesting session of the course so far!


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