Archaeology at Austhorpe: Results

Last June I posted to say that I was looking forward to working with Austhorpe Primary School on their forthcoming archaeological project. At the time I wondered whether the finds would be similar to those which we found in during a similar project in 2013.


19th and 20th century pottery

It became clear that they weren’t, soon after we began to excavate. . In 2013 we found a large range of finds including what might have been a Roman coin and what were certainly fragments of medieval pottery. In 2016 was found only a few artefacts of 19th and 20th century date. The only way I can think of to explain the contrast is that in 2013 were working at the edge of the school playing filed on what used to be farmland and that in 2016 we were not . The 2013 finds could have come from night soiling – the practice of spreading household waste and farmyard manure onto the fields as fertiliser. This year we were probably working on part of the grounds which had been landscaped during the building of the school. If that’s so, the soil (and the finds in it) could have been brought in from anywhere as bedding for laying the school lawns.

Children working on site

Children working on site

Despite the small number of finds the children all enjoyed themselves and worked very hard during their excavations sessions. For me it proves (if proof were needed) that there’s more to education than learning from books…

To download a pdf of the complete site report click on the link below.

Austhorpe 2016 Site Report v 3



Austhorpe Excavations 2016

Fragments of clay tobacco pipe

Fragments of clay tobacco pipe

It’s nearly three years since I last dug at Austhorpe Primary School on the outskirts of Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). We’ve started on a on a second dig there today. We’ve not done any excavation yet just some classroom teaching and some site preparation. Fieldwork starts in earnest tomorrow. However, I can’t help wondering what we are going to find. Perhaps there’ll be more pipe stems like these from the 2013 excavations.

There are more pictures of finds from the 2013 excavations at Austhorpe on my Facebook page.

History and Folklore in the Meanwood Valley: A free guided walk

Suicide Stone, Meanwood Woods

Suicide Stone, Meanwood Woods

I have been asked by the WEA to lead a guided walk In the Meanwood Park (Leeds, UK) on the evening of the 22nd of June 2016. The walk will start at 7.00 pm  from the public car park at the end of Green Lane and will follow the course of Meanwood Beck through the Park to Parkside Road and back. The walk is free of charge and all are welcome.

The Meanwood Valley is an oasis of quiet among the bustling suburbs of Leeds. In past centuries it was a centre of the Leeds tanning industry and must have been a much busier place. The present Meanwood Park was formerly the grounds of a large house called Meanwoodside which was developed by Edward Oates in the 1830s. The house has now gone but the park remains as a recreation facility for the citizens of Leeds.

The route follows park paths but some of these can be muddy; suitable outdoor shoes and outdoor clothing should be worn.



Archaeology in Horsforth

At work on the project

At work on the project

Last Monday was spent in digging in the grounds of St Mary’s School Horsforth (West Yorkshire, UK). I was being helped by a group of students from Leeds Trinity University. This gave us a unique opportunity to work one-to-one with the children.  Usually there are only a couple of adults with the class and I find myself running from child to child in an attempt to answer all their questions. Having more people made the whole thing more relaxing and enjoyable for me.

There’s a serious side to all this though. For the pupils it was a chance to learn about how archaeology works in a practical and fun way. For the students it was an opportunity to see how they might be able to incorporate archaeology into their own classrooms when they become fully qualified teachers.

Finds were not many – several bricks, a few pieces of Victorian/y 20th century pottery, and what might be a George V penny. However, it does prove the point that history is right there under your feet.

For the schoolchildren and the students the project is now over but not for me. I still have a site report to write up. I’ll be putting it up here in a few weeks time.



An Expanding Role for Archaeology in Schools

Finds work with KS3

Finds work with KS3

Last week I began work on a project that will help future teachers to make a greater use of archaeology at KS2. The project is the brain child of Bev Forrest of Leeds Trinity University who wanted to give her students the opportunity to see how archaeology could be used in an educational setting. With the help of the staff of St May’s Horsforth (West Yorkshire, UK) we put together a two day programme in which pupils would carry out fieldwork with me and do classroom archaeology activities with the students.

On Thursday I did some of the preparatory work with Years 3 and 4. I explained how archaeology works. “An archaeologist is someone who makes his living out of other people’s rubbish”, I told them. It’s sometimes difficult to make them see the point – or to get them to grasp the idea that broken pieces of pottery may have no monetary value but they have a lot of value in terms of what they can tell us about the past. Difficult that is, until I get the finds handling collection out. I don’t know why shattered crockery produces so much enthusiasm in children but it certainly does. Perhaps this is because it’s something tangible, something real, a genuine connexion to the past not just something in a book or in a video.


So now I’ve got sixty children fired up about archaeology. I’m doing excavation work with them tomorrow. The students from Trinity are going to be doing other archaeological activities. It’s going to be really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it.


Discover the Heritage of Bradford

A  New Heritage Course Starting this month

Carving over a doorway in Little Germany

Carving over a doorway in Little Germany

Starting on the 26 of April I will be teaching a  7 week heritage course for the WE Ain The Parish Church of St James the Great (Pudsey, West Yorkshire, UK). Sessions run from 10.00 – 12.00 each Tuesday morning. The course costs £44.10.

Course details

The course consists of five classroom sessions at St James the Great and two guided walks in Bradford. The classroom sessions will cover the history of the town from Anglo-Saxon times to the 20th century. The guided walks will focus on surviving historic buildings in Little Germany/ Cathedral area, and in Little Horton Green.

To find out more or to book a place please visit the WEA website.

Aspects of Life in Bradford in the 19th and 20th centuries

A New Heritage Course Starting this month

For seven Fridays starting on the 22nd of April I will be teaching another heritage course for the WEA at the based at the Kirkgate Centre in Shipley. The course features a mixture of indoor sessions and guided walks. The cost is £44.10.

Course details

The course consists of four classroom sessions at the Kirkgate Centre which alternate with three guided walks in Bradford.  These are as follows:

Former Co-op building Manningham Lane, Bradford. The initials BPIS stand for Bradford Provident Industrial Society.

Former Co-op building Manningham Lane, Bradford. The initials BPIS stand for Bradford Provident Industrial Society.

(At Kirkgate) Religion: Waterloo churches, chapels, role of Nonconformity in the development of Bradford, other religious groups

(Walk) Great Horton –

(At Kirkgate) Shops: corner shops and what they sold, the Co-op, Bradford Department stores


(At Kirkgate) Houses: mansions, back to backs, semis and suburbia

(Walk) Bradford Town Centre

(At Kirkgate) Entertainment: cinemas, music hall s, theatres

To find out more or to book please visit the WEA website