A Book Is Being Published!

The exciting news is that, although Past In Mind has finished its research into Studmarsh, the project lives on.  Past In Mind was never a project that was destined to be filed away in a County archive.  Too much has been gained for that.  With this is mind, Dr. Kate Lack who was the project historian, has written a book about what has been learned from Past In Mind.  The book, due to be published on May 10th 2014, offers a glimpse into the lives and experiences of some of the inhabitants of Studmarsh and the surrounding area.  Studmarsh saw the Roman occupation, the Norman Conquest, the Black Death, famine, civil war, the Industrial Revolution and much more before the present day.  Drawing from the shared experience of volunteers and paid professionals working on the Past In Mind project, the book is a human story full of fascinating historical facts.

More details will be posted as they arise.

Past in Mind has also been entered for the Heritage Lottery Awards and if we are shortlisted I will, of course, announce it on this Blog.

I genuinely believe that Past In Mind has paved the way for future Community projects seeking to learn more about local history/archaeology whilst breaking down barriers in mental health.  The common denominator in this project was enthusiasm for research and archaeology, but everyone involved brought a unique perspective.  For those volunteers who have no experience of mental health problems, I hope that fear of ‘mad’ people has been eradicated or at least diminished.  For those volunteers who do experience mental health problems, I hope that fear of trying new things and meeting new people is now one that can be faced more regularly.  Because the emphasis of the project was on the excavation and historical research rather than mental health, it was easier to get on with the task in hand.  But one of the things that made this easier was that everyone who volunteered was accepted for who they are.  Each individual was valued.  And this ethos continues in Past In Mind.

Details of where to purchase Kate’s book will be posted when they are available.

Medieval Plough -1

one_in_four_logotrowel

Advertisements

BREAKING THROUGH BRAMBLES

PIMhd20                                                                                                                                         Happy New Year everyone!  I’m very pleased to be back in the blogosphere after what seems like a decade of lying low. 

New Year always brings a wave of optimism for me, and I like turning the corner at the end of December ready to face a new leg of the journey – where anything is possible.  There is something cathartic for me in placing 2012 in the archives box.  The Past in Mind project which took off in 2012 continues to be a real treasure, and it will be featured on display later this year at the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate.

But the latter part of 2012 became a personal struggle and there were times when I honestly thought I would never find a way out of the darkness.  During this period I lost the ability to write.  I literally shut down and became lost in a very frightening world.  But the pit I fell into wasn’t bottomless, for with help from friends and professionals I managed to cling on to a ledge and prevent myself from sinking out of reach.  I am now slowly climbing out into the open again, and glad to be alive.  January 2013 has brought me some clarity and some hope.  It has been therapeutic surveying the bleak despairing weeks of late 2012 and sending many aspects to the archives.  Having regained possession of trowel and spade, I am ready to discover what lies ahead.  I have been given another chance, which is why I genuinely mean; “Happy New Year everyone”. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the Symposium on December 8th 2012.  This was an important moment for the Past in Mind project.  The Symposium is an annual day-long event in Hereford where all the County’s archaeological projects are shared with the public.  Archaeological finds, progress and academic interpretations are all aired with lively question and answer sessions throughout the day. 

Past in Mind was given a platform during the Symposium.  Obviously our project aims to make an academic contribution particularly in relation to (so-called) Deserted Medieval Villages, of which there is comparatively little knowledge nationally.  But Past in Mind also has a historical research strand, so the project brings together the two disciplines of history and archaeology.  Pushing further boundaries, Past in Mind is interwoven with mental health recovery and the individual odysseys of all the Community volunteers whatever their background or experience.  At times it has been challenging finding the right balance between the many strands linking the Past in Mind project, but it has always been our aim to promote inclusion and reduce some of the stigma that people with mental health troubles face in everyday Society.  This has been the underlying current running through our project and it is what makes this project very special to us.

From what I understand the Past in Mind Project caught the attention of the audience, many of whom were amateur or professional archaeologists.  The presentation was given by Jenny, Ian, Kate and the volunteers – all of whom were on the stage.  This clear demonstration of inclusion is the essence of the Past in Mind project, and it also makes it evident how archaeology, history and mental health are entwined.  It is heartening to know that many people would have gone away and given some thought to the concept of archaeology/history and mental health recovery linking together in a really positive way. 

One other significant event in December 2012 was the broadcasting of live conversations recorded during the excavation last Summer, on Radio 4’s “All in the Mind” programme hosted by Claudia Hammond.  This audio snapshot really captures the magic of Past in Mind:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p71gx

The Past in Mind project has funding for a few more months.  As mentioned earlier, we will be working towards creating a display which will be housed in the Brockhampton Estate later this year.  We also have more historical research to do so that we can increase our understanding of some of the people who once lived in Studmarsh.

Please check the blog for updates as our programme of Events will be posted on here shortly.

WE WISH ALL OUR READERS A VERY HAPPY AND PEACEFUL 2013    

    PIMP 045

The Notice Board: General Information

Past in Mind Archaeological Excavation Project (Monday August 13th to Sunday August 26th, Public visit days August 27th/28th, Backfilling August 29th– 30th)

 

General Briefing Information

Introducing the Past in Mind Project

Past in Mind is a Heritage Lottery ‘Your Heritage’ funded project run by the mental health charity Herefordshire Mind, and is an innovative heritage, community learning and mental health support project. It is running from June 2012 to June 2013, and is undertaking an exciting new historical and archaeological investigation of the lost settlement at the Studmarsh/Grove (located on the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate, Herefordshire).

The project is being undertaken by volunteers including people recovering from mental health problems. With professional support and training, volunteer opportunities will include historical research, archaeological survey and ‘digging’, finds and results analysis and the development of displays and other information resources.

The Grove archaeological investigation

The Studmarsh/Grove site today consists of enigmatic patterns of ‘humps and bumps’ spread across a grazed field. Although the site – first recognised on aerial photographs in the 1970s – would generally be described as a ‘DesertedMedievalVillage’ (or ‘DMV’ for short) the truth is we don’t know what is really represented by these remains.  Questions such as what the settlement looked like, when and how it began, how big it is, what life was like there, how it changed through the centuries, why it declined, and how it relates to the origins of local life today, all remain to be answered.

These questions are particularly interesting because the Studmarsh/Grove is just one of hundreds of similar sites across Herefordshire and the West Midlands. This vast lost story of rural life stretching back over hundreds of years has been little investigated, and the Studmarsh/Grove investigation will also shed important new light on the archaeological potential and importance of many similar sites.

The archaeological excavation (August 13th to August 26th)

The aim of the excavation is dig into some of the platforms, ditches, banks and other features which make up the site (which we previously mapped during the survey work in July), and to try and find out what lies beneath these features. Although archaeology often produces the unexpected, we are fairly confident we will find building remains, and finds such as old pottery. We hope this information will link with the ongoing historical research to reveal something both of the lost story of Studmarsh/The Grove through time, and allow a direct glimpse of the lives of the people who once lived there.  However, excavation does not produce instant answers, and the real objective of the two week digging project is to produce a detailed record of everything we find supported by plans, drawings and photographs. At the next ‘post excavation’ stage all this information will then be subject to further analysis to being to understand what we have really found.

What is involved

We will be begin by digging a series of small square test pits across the site to establish the nature of the archaeological remains in different places, and the potential for further excavation. We will then expand two of those text pit excavations into larger trenches to more fully explore the remains in those areas. These larger excavations will involve careful investigation of the buried layers and features such as stone walls, pits, postholes etc which we may find.

Although there will be a degree of physical work in all of this – removing turf, using tools such as mattocks, spades, wheelbarrows and trowels to gradually uncover buried features – there is much more to excavation than that. Producing section drawings and plans at each stage of the process, keeping written records, cleaning and recording finds, and taking photographs are all essential parts of the process, so there will be plenty to get involved with, and you don’t need to be an Olympic endurance athlete to take part!

Dai Williams and Chris Atkinson from Herefordshire Archaeology will be on hand to give all the necessary support and training, and no prior experience is required.

Public Visit Days Monday August 27th and Tuesday August 28th

Working with the National Trust, we are very keen that the results of the work are made publicly available. The excavation will therefore be open for public visits over the August Bank Holiday Monday (August 27th)  and Tuesday August 26th. The visit process is being coordinated with the help of the National Trust, and will include the option for visitors to join morning and afternoon guided tours or to drop into the site as and when during those days.

We very much hope that at least some of the volunteer team who have been involved in the excavation project will be available on those days to help explain the discoveries we have made to the visitors, and this is another opportunity to get involved in the project.

Backfilling and ground restoration August 29th and August 30th

The final stage of the excavation is to restore the holes we have dug. This is important because we have only been given permission to dig via the National Trust and the farmer on strict condition that we properly reinstate the excavated areas. Moreover,  it is crucial for the long term future of the remaining archaeological deposits that the ground is maintained in good condition.

Essentially backfilling will involve replacing the soil we have removed back into the excavation trenches, ensuring that the ground profile of the ‘humps and bumps’ we have dug into is restored during this process, and then that the turf is carefully replaced so that the grass will rapidly re-grow and recover. The aim is to make sure the site will soon look as if we had never been there.

Obviously, the ground restoration will involve physical work and might not sound terribly glamorous. However, it is an important part of the project, and we would very much welcome volunteer help with this final stage of the excavation.

(Prepared by Ian Bapty)

Ye Olde Snapshot

After spending much of the previous night indulging in the Olympics Opening Ceremony, I was not feeling my shiniest on Saturday July 28th.  But by the time I was sitting on the bus chugging off to Bromyard my “left over night” feeling had disappeared.  I like the spirited journeys out to Bromyard and Brockhampton, and this one did not disappoint.

The purpose of the day was to give an overview of what we have learned so far about the Studmarsh site.  We also had to decide where to dig the archaeological trenches.  The Studmarsh site has many “humps and bumps” beneath its long grass, so we need to target the dig carefully given the fact that we only have two weeks to complete it.

Archaeologists Ian and Chris discussed the results of the Site Survey carried out in the rainy season of June/July, and showed off their new gadget, affectionately referred to as Lidar Duck.  For the more serious-minded, LIDAR is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging.    http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/research/landscapes-and-areas/aerial-survey/archaeology/lidar/

This impressive piece of kit gives incredibly accurate (within 2m) measurements of land surface from an aerial view, so in an area like Studmarsh where the grass is long and there are many uneven areas of ground, the humps and bumps can be properly mapped out.

Historian Kate Lack gave a detailed overview of the relevant finds from our historical research groups. Please refer to the History Page for Kate’s written update, including extracts from the “Tabloid” headlines associated with Cradley Parish in 1397!  (Not for the prudish).  When I translated the Latin from the Visitation records for Cradley I was struck by the scene of desolation and desperation reaped by the Black Death.  Beneath the salacious headlines which would embarrass most daily Red Tops, there is a sense of hellish suffering in the day-to-day lives of local inhabitants.

 One of the strands of the Past in Mind project is to explore mental health within the framework of archaeology and history.  Many volunteers in the group, including myself, experience or have experienced times of mental distress.  Although this is not the focus of the project, it is important that we acknowledge it. 

With this in mind I was asked to begin a general discussion about the project and how volunteers are finding it in relation to their every day lives.   What follows is a snapshot of Past in Mind volunteers glimpsed through some individual responses.

 

Mark: “It’s given me the confidence to open up and talk in front of others about mental health”.

Chris said that the project has opened things up for him which he has not tried before, such as studying history.  Although his father has always been keen on metal detecting, the Past in Mind project is a new experience for him.  Chris feels enabled to do more things on his own since becoming a volunteer.

Mark said that it is good to be with others again and he is glad there are some service users he knows among the volunteers.  Mark mentioned the leaning castle of Bridge North which once featured on Time Team, one of his favourite TV programmes.   Ian commented that it was surprising how little had been found during the Bridge North excavation despite the famous “leaning castle”.

Helen admitted she feels a bit worn out, but she really enjoyed the Site Survey in June/July – particularly the hands-on use of archaeological equipment such as the Prism and Total Station.

Jenny said that when she began this project she didn’t know much about history or archaeology and she has enjoyed exploring new ideas. 

Kate stated that all the volunteers are on the same level no matter what their level of expertise, as we do not know what we might discover in relation to the Studmarsh site.  She enjoys channelling the group to try to find answers.

Helen likened the project to the TV programme “Deal or no Deal”, explaining that when we dig the archaeological trenches in August we do not know which trench, if any, will yield something valuable.

Mel said that she has found the project double-edged.   She has had to confront some personal past experiences which have been quite emotional.  It has been exhausting for her, although she has also found it a very positive thing to do. Mel said that she had not expected the project to have this effect on her.

Judith sometimes finds it difficult to concentrate as her attention is often caught by interesting but irrelevant details when she is researching texts.  It is easy to lose focus as there are so many details she wishes to pursue.

Claire said that she too has experienced mixed emotions through being involved with this project, although it has been an exciting challenge.

Mel claimed that when she first started out with this project all its strands seemed very separate and she couldn’t see the relevance of some of the earlier research.  But now the content is overlapping more and the project makes sense.  Today (July 28th) is the first day that it all seems to fit together.

Trudy the project Labrador, moaned and grumbled throughout the discussion as she was not the topic of conversation.

 

We talked about many other things including the role of technology and communication, but I would never finish this Blog post if I detailed everyone’s contributions!  This snapshot account captures the project and its volunteers before the eagerly anticipated dig, which is scheduled to start on August 13th.

Please refer to the Contacts Page if you wish to find out more or get involved.

Site Survey

The archaeological part of the Past in Mind project is about to commence with the site survey which will take place from Monday June 25th to Saturday June 30th. The aim of the survey is to map and record the surface ‘humps and bumps’ – such as platforms, ditches and banks – which are all that now visibly remain of the Grove/Studmarsh settlement and its surroundings. We will do this with the help of a fancy electronic gadget called a ‘total station’, although there is a good deal more to it than just pressing buttons and letting the machine do its thing – for a start, a crucial part of the process is to learn to recognise the often fairly subtle remains we want to record. All being well, at the end of the week we will have produced a detailed plan of the site which we can then combine with other information – such as the emerging historical research work – to better understand what the remains at Grove/Studmarsh actually are. This survey information will also be crucial in deciding the location of the archaeological excavation trenches we will be digging in August.

The survey work will be led by Dai and Chris from Herefordshire Archaeology, and they will be on hand to give all the instruction you need to get involved in making this mysterious site begin to re-appear from the depths of time. Although the site is in a fairly remote location, we will have chemical toilets nearby as well as a ‘Ray Mears’ style tarpaulin based tent to retreat to for lunch, tea breaks etc. So why not join us for a day (or perhaps for several days) and make a key contribution to the Past in Mind investigation? For more information on what is involved and for transport and booking information etc., please contact Ian Bapty (Herefordshire Archaeology) at ibapty@herefordshire.gov.uk, Tel 01432 383353.

 (Post by Ian Bapty)

Herefordshire Hundreds

Herefordshire Hundreds (Photo credit: sally_parishmouse)

To Belong

Our slowly increasing band of volunteers met last week in the aptly named Volunteer Inn in Harold Street, Hereford.  We took over an inside corner of the pub, which was already filling up with dogs and humans by 4.45pm.  The atmosphere was genial and I felt heartened that so many people had turned up.

The project historian, Dr Kate Lack, gave an engaging introductory talk about how to approach historical research.  Much of our research will involve accessing County records such as the Bishop’s Register and Parish Records, and most of the volunteers have never done anything like this before.  Kate demonstrated (with the aid of an eider duck drawing) some basic principles in processing and recording information as our research progresses.  The male eider duck has unwittingly become a motif for the Past in Mind project.  Since his appearance (photographically) at the volunteer Taster Day in Bromyard, he has ventured into many conversations and demonstrations.  If I learn nothing else from this project, I hope that I shall be able to distinguish an eider duck from a mallard.

Hereford Records Office is a short walk from the Volunteer Inn.  I have never been there before and was excited at the prospect of being amongst so many ancient documents.  Once inside, it was as if we had entered an Argos store in the middle of Diagon Alley.  Now I know where Harry Potter really bought his “Magical Drafts and Potions” text-book for Hogwarts school..

This Victorian warehouse is stacked with documents, maps and historical records.  I could lose myself there quite happily and emerge in twenty years time.  We were given a talk about how the records are stored and what types of documents are kept.  So much history: so much to discover.

We came across a Record book relating to Brockhampton, which detailed all the different occupations of residents from the mid 1800’s until 2004.  In beautifully scripted handwriting the entries slowly changed from wagoners, farm labourers, millers and the odd butler – to motor vehicle drivers (1920’s) and computer analysts (post 2000).  This was an incredibly rich source of social history.  For me the thrill was intense.

Some volunteers were mesmerised by antiquarian maps of the Brockhampton area.  Everyone was starting to find their personal preferences as regards research.  I felt really at peace in the Records Office.  When you’re standing amid centuries of historical records in one sense you feel very mortal and quite vulnerable, yet in another you feel grounded.  It is strangely comforting to feel so insignificant and so human.

The historical research for the Past in Mind project will be carried out by five different groups under Kate Lack’s supervision.  Having studied Classics in the past I have agreed to assist with translating the Latin entries in the Bishop’s Register.  I am so glad I still have my Lewis and Short dictionary from the days of yore..  Although I have not done any serious translating for over twenty years, I can feel a rush of adrenalin at the thought of being reunited with Latin text (albeit Medieval).  In all seriousness, I never thought I would be translating again.  It is both daunting and exciting. 

The other groups will be studying records and documents from the Medieval, Tudor and Victorian periods.  And finally, one group will concentrate on historical maps.

It is amazing to think that this is just one aspect of the project.  Already I can feel it gathering momentum.  Today Hereford and Worcester Radio’s Andrew Easton interviewed our Project Manager Jenny McMillan, and the Senior Archaeologist Ian Bapty.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00sqc35/Andrew_Easton_06_06_2012/ 

BBC Hereford and Worcester will be covering Past in Mind’s official Launch this coming Saturday.  Anyone interested in registering as a volunteer or in finding out more, is welcome to attend the Launch which will take place from 10.30am – 4pm at the Brockhampton Estate (situated on the A44 near Bromyard).