A team of up to 50 volunteers – including people recovering from mental health problems – will be ‘digging up history’ in an innovative Past in Mind project at a Herefordshire village later this year.
Believed to be the first community learning and mental health support project of its kind in the UK, the scheme was made possible after the mental health charity Herefordshire Mind won a £49,200 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The 14-month project will provide health and heritage benefits to volunteers taking part in an archaeological and historical investigation of the ‘lost’ village of Studmarsh, on the National Trust’s Lower Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire.
The village is mentioned in medieval documents, but was only rediscovered in the 1970s when its slight ‘hump and bump’ remains were spotted on an aerial photograph. Now, with professional support and training from specialists including Herefordshire Council’s Archaeology Service, volunteers will seek to uncover the story of Studmarsh and reveal the lives of the people who lived there. Activities will include historical research, archaeological survey, ‘digging’, a detailed analysis of the finds and the preparation of displays and a website.
Jenny McMillan, Past in Mind project manager, said: “Past in Mind is based on the novel idea that the careful archaeological and historical process of uncovering and interpreting the past has a direct correspondence with the stages of the recovery model of mental health. Through that link, and with wide volunteer involvement, we hope this unique project will support personal journeys to better mental health, offer unexpected new perspectives on past lives and be an important learning experience for all participants – including myself”.
Ian Bapty, senior project archaeologist with the Herefordshire Council Archaeology Service said: “I am delighted to be involved in this fascinating and innovative project. It is a great opportunity both to discover more about how deserted villages like Studmarsh grew up and were abandoned, and to protect and display their often overlooked remains. What is more, working with the Past in Mind volunteer team is likely to give some really interesting archaeological insights – it is the sort of truly exciting and entirely new project you dream of as an archaeologist”.
The project results will be used by the National Trust to develop the conservation and public presentation of the Studmarsh site, and will also contribute to wider understanding and protection of the many deserted settlements of this kind which exist throughout Herefordshire and the Midlands.
Reyahn King, head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “This project offers valuable learning opportunities for those taking part and the wider public who will benefit from the information produced about the site’s medieval past. It will also help the organisations involved to understand more about the ways in which the study of heritage can enhance the recovery from mental health problems.”
If you would like to find out more (and perhaps would be interested in taking part in the project) contact Jenny McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 07812370553, or drop in to the Past in Mind project launch event (10.30am – 4.00pm, National Trust Lower Brockhampton House, Saturday June 9) where displays, activities and a chance to meet Past in Mind team members will be available during the day.