in the Royal County of Berkshire

Boxford Big Dig 2015 (page 1 of 5)

Roman Boxford Dig 2017

The last of our three Heritage Lottery funded digs will take place this summer, starting on Saturday 12th August in the parish of Boxford about half a mile from the village centre; it will be in a field off the Winterbourne Road. We will be working for 2 weeks and volunteers may come and go as convenient for them. However, it is useful for us to know which days volunteers are coming. So please let me know which days you plan to come. Please note Mondays of both weeks will be REST DAYS!

We start with a daily briefing by a professional archaeologist Matt Nichol from Cotswold Archaeology at around 9am; have breaks mid morning and afternoon, stop for lunch and finish around 5pm. Volunteers are covered by insurance – not that we have ever had to claim. There are portable loos on site and a large marquee to provide cover.

We will be excavating a known Roman villa site and another Roman building, which we found by doing a geophysical survey a couple of years ago. It could be another villa or a large agricultural building but since it has not been disturbed we hope to have some decent finds. An excavator does most of the heavy digging and then volunteers move in afterwards.

We also process and document finds and we use volunteers for this too – so there are different opportunities for volunteers. All tools are provided, and professionals will be on site at all times to provide guidance and help. If you would like to volunteer – the only things that you need to provide are gardening gloves to protect your hands, sensible footwear, old      clothing depending on rain or sun,         suncream, a hat/waterproofs, your         lunch and plenty to drink. If you have a garden kneeler you might like to bring that to protect your knees!

We have a good mix of volunteers and hope that some of our 6th formers and Uni students will return again – they seem to have enjoyed their past experiences and for those applying to universities, joining in this kind of project does look good on a Uni application, even if they don’t plan on studying archaeology.

For “old hands” please come with buckets, trowels, hand shovels and wheelbarrows if you have them. We will be putting up the marquee on Monday 7th August – if anyone is available to help with this, will you please give me a call or email, so we can finalise the time.

We especially hope locals will make the most of this last great opportunity to discover more about the place in which they live – particularly as they may not only discover Roman remains in their own gardens but understand and appreciate what they find!


Many thanks and look forward to meeting you.

Joy Appleton

Boxford History Project                 01488608422

Start Date for Roman Boxford Big Dig 2017

Confirmed start date at last! Saturday 12th August at 9am at the Mudhole site on the Winterbourne Road from Boxford for our last Heritage Lottery Funded dig into Roman sites in Boxford.

The site will be found about half a mile out of the village of Boxford – from Boxford Church  take the Winterbourne Road and drive past Boxford Farm and through small area of woodland (Boxford Common) – our site is the first field on the left before a house with stables (Mudhall Cottage). Car sharing will be helpful as there is limited space in the field and it’s not safe to park in the road.

For newcomers, you don’t need equipment but please come with old clothes, sturdy footwear, wet gear, sun hat and sun cream to cover all eventualities,  plenty of water, your lunch and snacks, some gardening gloves and garden kneeler if you have one. Loos and shelter will be on site. You will be covered by insurance – although we have never had to make a claim! Training is also provided by professional archaeologists. If you are a student, taking this kind of opportunity looks really good on your CV or Uni application. We usually start with a coffee and briefing session about 9am, have morning and afternoon breaks, a lunch stop and finish around 5pm.

For old hands – if you have any bits of equipment, buckets and wheelbarrows etc, they would be very helpful – please make sure they are clearly marked with your name. Thanks.

Entry to this site is free – you just need enthusiasm! There are all sorts of jobs – not just digging – the topsoil will have been taken off by a JCB but finds processing which means washing and sorting finds, and recording and photographing is available. So something for everyone. If you have any queries, please email:

Look forward to seeing you.

Joy Appleton

Next lecture in the HLF funded series on Roman Britain – 7.30pm June 21st at Boxford Village Hall

How the other half lived……………………………………in Roman times!

We have been very fortunate in securing another engaging and knowledgeable speaker for this HLF funded series of lectures which run alongside the excavations  into Roman sites within Boxford.

John Shepherd is currently Andante’s Director of Archaeology. He is an archaeologist who has worked extensively in the field in Europe. He is a specialist in the study of ancient glass and co-authored the book “The glass workers of Roman London.”

Much of John’s career has been focussed upon Roman provincial archaeology, working at the Museum of London for over 20 years. He published Professor W F Grimes’s post war excavations on the London Temple of Mithras and the Cripplegate Roman Fort and also established the Museum’s Archaeological Archive and Research Centre. He left the Museum in 2004 to work more closely with developing the use of museum archaeological collections in universities and schools, as well as teaching at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institute on various aspects of European archaeology.

He will be delivering his lecture “How the other half lived…………………in Roman times” at Boxford Village Hall at 7.30pm on June 21st. This should give us a clue as to what we might expect to find in a Roman home – like the Roman villa we will be excavating in August – if we are lucky to find anything in one piece!!

So two dates for the diary: 21st June for the lecture and 12th August for the likely start of the new Roman excavations – if you are interested in joining us for the latter, please email: (You don’t need to be experts or proficient – just interested! There will be experts overseeing the work.)

Roman Pottery Workshop in Boxford’s Heritage Centre


Roman_Pottery_Workshop_4Lorraine Mepham was as good as expected! The largest proportion of pottery from the Wyfield dig was 2nd and 3rd century but there was a significant amount of Late Iron Age pottery too and a small amount amount of later 3rd/4th century which would suggest a continuous use of the site. It was good to be able to handle so much clean pottery with an explanation and especially interesting to find out where it had all been made.


Places going fast!

Only 6 out of the 12 possible places for Lorraine Mepham’s Pottery Workshop on January 28th are left – so if you  are interested please email asap.  Places will be reserved on a first come first served basis. Lorraine has confirmed the start time 10am to 1pm.

Julian Richards’ Visit to Boxford

Julian will be coming to Boxford on Wednesday 9th November to deliver a talk entitled “A Career in Ruins.” He will also be bringing books for sale – so if you have enjoyed his TV appearances, bring your wallet as there may be some books that tickle your fancy! We look forward to seeing you. (If you haven’t yet booked your place, please let me know asap. Thank you.

Big Dig Open Day

Below some of the nearly 100 people who turned out to the  see the results of this year’s Big Dig in Boxford yesterday. Members of BARG (Berkshire Archaeology Research Group), volunteers and Cotswold Archaeology were on hand to explain the site which contained not only Roman but Iron Age finds. It was good to see some of the younger volunteers sufficiently confident in explaining what they had been doing over the last two weeks.  There were a number of aerial photos on display kindly provided by Richard using his drone. A few of the finds were on display – when they have all been recorded, they will be on display in Boxford Heritage Centre. Pottery, bones, shells and metalwork will all be sent to experts for identification; as well as large amount of soil samples taken for environmental analysis. Our thanks go to Cotswold Archaeology, BARG and all our volunteers without whom , none of this would have been possible. Especial thanks goes to Dave who ferried equipment around and Pru who washed innumerable finds almost single handed! Now we are looking forward to our last HLF funded project next year in August – another Roman villa – maybe two or perhaps the second building will be a barn or full scale brewery! Please contact Joy Appleton at: if you are interested in joining us. It might be hard work at times but we do have a lot of laughs!! We hope to hold a feedback session later in the year. Please subscribe to get updates.20160904_145626

Boxford Roman Grain Drier

Uncovering the walls to the grain drier which is about 3 meters x 3 meters. This can have been  for malting barley – the first stage of brewing beer – so perhaps West Berkshire’s first micro-brewery!


Marvelling at the increasing size of the stoke hole – hard work for James and Jim – the hot air from this fire was channelled under the building and emerged at the opposite end of the building and was deflected back into the main body of the building using  recycled roof tiles or tegulae, all to heat the grains.


Obviously serious intent by the Romans to produce a brew judging by the size of the stoke hole, the sturdy building and enclosures!


Photos courtesy of Emily

Boxford Big Dig – Friday

No time for photos today! Everyone on site was working hard to get things finished before rainfall arrived late afternoon. We also had the pleasure of a visit from Peter Warry, an expert on cbm. His knowledge is so extensive and he was able to tell us that the maker of most of the tegulae, supplied the same for Roman buildings in the Wantage area…………. all this from the signature on the tile! He also approved the recycling of Roman tile found on our site – so somewhere not too far away is another Roman building which has been stripped!

The weather forecast is not too promising for Saturday but Richard Miller is hoping to take more aerial photos with his drone camera in the morning. We are also expecting Professor Mike Fulford on Saturday afternoon, from Reading University to see what he makes of our “weird” building. On Sunday we are hoping for a large crowd at our “Open Day” between 2-4pm.  And then the site is covered up once more on Monday.

Boxford Big Dig

Autumnal feel at the start of the day…………………..


But Isobel is soon down to it – or is it in it?


And everyone is cracking on………………….


But by lunchtime, all the hard graft takes its toll!


Photos courtesy of Lindsey

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