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Saturday, 6 March 2021

Minster, Manor and Town: Excavations at Berkeley Castle 2004-2019

 For our second talk in February, we were lucky enough to welcome Dr Stuart Prior who talked about excavations at and around Berkeley Castle where he was Co-Director over a 14 year period. The background to the project, up until the current day when they are launching a new community collaborative project at Lower Hazel can be found here.

I looked up the village of Berkeley on Wikipedia and it gave me the following information:

 'Berkeley is a small town and parish in Gloucestershire, England. It lies in the Vale of Berkeley between the east bank of the River Severn and the M5 motorway, within the Stroud administrative district. The town is noted for Berkeley Castle, where the imprisoned Edward II was murdered, as well as the birthplace of the physician Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine. The parish includes the village of Berkeley Heath, which runs along the A38 Bristol to Gloucester road and the adjacent B4066 towards Berkeley.' 

Stuart started by saying that it was important to understand minsters, and their role in the birth of christianity. There are lots of minsters in the area of Gloucestershire where Berkeley Castle is situated, they are generally a days walking distance apart which I think Stuart said was 14 miles. The Norman feudal castle became a minster in 660AD, before this Berkeley lay in the Kingdom of Hwicce which means witch. Berkeley is a double house minster, housing monks one side and nuns on the other side, and is the longest continuously occupied building in England.

There is evidence of a Roman wall in the excavations, there were Roman villas nearby and it's not far from the Fosse Way. The photo below shows where the wall was situated if you click on the link above:

I was more interested in what artefacts were found, to a beginner like me, this seems to be the most exciting part of archaeology. There were something like 20000 artefacts discovered, some were displayed in the windows of people's houses in 2016 leading to the team receiving an award for Archaeology Research Project of the Year

I made a note of 3 artefacts: a high status ring from 9-10th Century, an astel, which is a page turner so the reader doesn't get the paper greasy, and a whetstone.

The talk was videoed and appears on our website where you can find quite a few of the talks we have had. If the talk doesn't appear on there, it's because the speaker was new to Zoom and requested that we didn't video it.

I've added these two photos, the first is an aerial view and below another photo of people working on the dig.
If you are interested in being involved in working on the Lower Hazel dig this summer when restrictions are lifted, then please contact me, and I'm hoping we can visit in person later on in the year. I'm not setting dates yet...


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