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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Volunteers wanted for dig at north Cumbrian abbey

An archaeological excavation of an historic church once inhabited by Cistercian monks starts next week.

Mark Graham photo
Mark Graham

Work to restore Holme Cultram Abbey at Abbeytown is now complete after it was ravaged by fire in 2006. The excavations are part of a three-year project to get volunteers from the area to investigate the “rich history” of the abbey.

Mark Graham, of Grampus Heritage and Training Ltd, who will be leading this summer’s dig, said: “The excavations this summer will target two areas. The first is Friar’s Garth to the west of the abbey where in 2012 a geophysical survey identified an area of high magnetic disturbance.

“A small excavation showed that this was a site of medieval iron production. The team excavated a small area with excellent organic preservation and recovered half a wooden bowl as well as preserved timbers and fragments of leather.

“This summer we will open a larger trench to fully investigate this deposit with the aim of learning more about the iron site and everyday life in the monastery.”

An excavation will also take place in the Abbey Cloister where an ancient rubbish tip was previously found containing bones and shellfish.

Mr Graham said: “We are targeting a range of buildings we believe to include the refectory and kitchen. Here, we hope to find environmental and midden material which will help us to understand more about the diet of the monks and food sources of the monastery, which in turn, will tell us about the impact of the monastery on the surrounding landscape.”

Previous archaeological finds at the abbey include coins, stained glass, ceramics, decorated tiles and bodies.

Naomi Hewitt, manager of the Solway Wetlands Partnership, said: “Everybody is welcome to join the excavations. Training and equipment are provided and no experience is necessary.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to join the team in uncovering the story of one of the most important medieval monasteries in the north of England.”

Volunteers should go along to the abbey site between 10am and 4pm during the excavations, including Saturdays and Sundays. All you need is sturdy footwear and outdoor clothing.

The excavation, which starts on Monday , is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Solway Landscape Partnership. It will finish on July 25.

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