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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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Lottery cash will fund major Roman dig in west Cumbria

Almost £400,000 has been secured to fund a major excavation of a key Roman settlement unearthed during the 2009 floods.

Papcastle dig photo
Archaeologist Mark Graham at work

The discovery, at Papcastle, near Cockermouth, is one of the largest Romano-British settlements ever found in northern England.

The lottery cash – totalling £367,700 – will allow archaeologists to discover the secrets behind the settlement.

Mark Graham, project manager for Grampus Heritage said:“This is fantastic news. The ‘Discovering Derventio’ project is a great opportunity for anybody interested in archaeology to learn new skills and make exciting new discoveries. By working together, professional archaeologists and local volunteers will re-write the history of Roman Papcastle.”

Local history groups have welcomed the news. Gloria Edwards, secretary of the Cockermouth History Group, has taken part in previous Roman excavations in the area.

She said: “We are very excited about it because it is another aspect of Cockermouth’s history.

“Most of the stuff that we do is centred around the Victorian or Georgian period but there is also an awful lot of Roman remains.

“Anything that adds to our picture of Cockermouth is welcome.”

A 12-day excavation took place last year, but the money – announced today by the Heritage Lottery Fund – will mean an extensive archeological study can be carried out.

The well-preserved remains of a Roman Settlement were revealed in the aftermath of the November 2009 floods that devastated Cockermouth.

Now Grampus Heritage and Training Ltd will now lead a three-year community archaeology and survey project that will investigate the scale and scope of the remains.

The Roman fort at Papcastle was known to the Romans as Derventio. Although the fort site has been subject to excavation in the past, the full extent of the associated settlement lay undiscovered until the floods of 2009, which brought a wealth of Roman artefacts to the surface.

These finds prompted Grampus Heritage to undertake an initial community archaeology survey, confirming that Derventio was far more extensive than previously thought.

These limited excavations revealed substantial stone and wooden buildings, roads and enclosures as well as many Roman artefacts including pottery, metalwork, coins and glass. The discovery of the most complete Roman water mill yet recorded in Britain was a major highlight.

Following the lottery award, Grampus Heritage will now lead further excavations, alongside 60 days of geophysical survey, to better understand the archaeology that remains at the site.

Previously discovered artefacts will also be preserved and put on public display.

The organisation says that local volunteers will be directly involved, with training offered to those wanting to take part in the geophysical survey, excavation and recording. Others will be given the chance to assist in the processing and assessment of excavated material.

For those not able to join the excavations, workshops will be held to find out more about the finds.

To help keep everyone up-to-date with news about project as it develops, including volunteering opportunities, a temporary exhibition space at Cockermouth Town Hall will be set up.

Sara Hilton, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “These remains at Derventio offer an unprecedented opportunity for us to explore and learn about Cumbria’s Roman history.

“The floods of 2009 had a devastating impact, and we our delighted that our funding can bring about a positive legacy from that time.”

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