Towards the end of last year I began thinking about all the excavations taking place at castles. Over the course of the year a few came to my attention, mostly because I was spending a bit more time looking for news of excavations. It helps to stay on top of recent research. And the last thing I want is to miss news of an excavation discovering evidence that a castle has been slighted. So below are the excavations which caught my attention. I initially harboured the hope that it might become a comprehensive list, but sadly I just didn’t have enough time to do that.
- Berkeley – one of the first things I did with the Castle Studies Trust was visit Berkeley Castle in May. The University of Bristol’s Stuart Prior leads the training excavation and it has been going since at least 2013. In 2015 they were looking at the defensive ditches and found evidence of 1,500 years of activity. The project is nominated in the 2016 Current Archaeology Awards
- Ballintober – in 2014 Ballintober was one of the first sites supported by the Castle Studies Trust. The survey was followed up by a community excavation in June/July 2015 by Foothill College. The community excavation will take place again this year.
- Bamburgh – the Bamburgh Research Project has been active since 1996. Their work isn’t exclusively on the castle, trench 3 was re-examining an area which was excavated in the 1970s.
- Gloucester – in December the BBC reported that a Norman castle has been discovered by Cotswold Archaeology under the site of a former prison. It’s one of those situations where everyone knew it was there, but it was very impressive to reach the remains of the great tower. Of course some news outlets chose to compare the keep to the Tower of London because that’s the most famous Norman great tower in the country. It’s not an ideal comparison, but Gloucester Castle was at least used by the monarchy for a while. The site is going to be redeveloped, so this might be as much as we can find out at the moment.
- Halton – as this is the only excavation in the North West I was aware of I paid particular attention to goings on at this Cheshire site. Taking place in July and carried out by the University of Salford’s Centre for Applied Archaeology, this was the first excavation at the site in 30 years. Interestingly they found two burials within the castle, which is distinctly rare. In fact, I can’t think of any other examples of burials within a castle.
- Nottingham – York Archaeology Trust led the Archaeology Live! at Nottingham Castle, a training excavation in July and August. The work took place in the outer bailey which hasn’t previously been excavated. So far they’ve found plenty of 19th-century archaeology.
- Norham – also in July, archaeologists returned to Norham Castle, having previously dug there in 2013. Part of the Flodden 500 Project, the intention was that 2015 would be the end of the work there. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find much more information than that.
- Swords Castle – another community excavation in Ireland, this time at Swords Castle. The plan is that the work will cover 2015 and 2016.
- Wark – like the work at Norham Castle, the excavations at Wark were part of the Flodden 500 Project. Taking place in April, it built on work from the previous year which had established the castle was larger than previously appreciated.
All this talk of excavations has made me nostalgic for digging at Buckton. I want to get stuck in excavating a castle again!