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Summer Dig 2023 – Haw Hill Archaeology Research Project, Lincoln

Updated: Oct 4

Lincoln Archaeology Group are delighted to have been working again with Bishop Grosseteste University Field School on their annual training excavation. This year, investigations began on a new site at Haw Hill in the Swanpool area of Lincoln and ran from June 12th to July 7th. Around twenty, first and second year, students from across the university’s history and archaeology undergraduate courses took part.

The dig also welcomed participants from Wings To The Past, a collaborative archaeology and heritage project which supports resilience amongst RAF personnel and their families.

Dr Derwin Gregory, archaeology and heritage programme leader at BGU, said, ‘This is a site that has never been dug before. We are thrilled to launch this field school, which will not only give participants the chance to gain practical experience in field archaeology and excavation but also provide valuable insights into the historical significance of Haw Hill.’

Dr Martin Huggon, Director of Training, said, ‘There’s documentary evidence of a lost medieval hospital in the area, and we believe it’s here. We’ve already uncovered a rich deposit of high-status finds from the 15th to 17th century, indicating a later manor house, but also some prehistoric flints, so there’s potential for a long period of habitation on the site. Haw Hill is only a few metres above sea-level, but as an island knoll in marshland it would have been an attractive place to live stretching back thousands of years.’

Kealy from LAG (right) has just passed her drone pilot’s licence and, prior to starting as an archaeology student at BGU in September, has been making regular flights over the Haw Hill site.

Dr Huggon added, ‘From the drone footage we can see lots of crop-marking including potential buildings, double and treble ditches and an ancient causeway through the marshes. A medieval hospital required people passing by, and travellers staying overnight, to generate revenue. The nearby causeway is a further indicator that this is the unrecorded site of St Mary Magdalene hospital. The causeway is still used as a field track today and it’s remarkable to think people may have been walking over it for nearly a thousand years.’

LAG’s Bob Garlant spent five days at the excavation, working on a number of features. ‘To the north of the site, there is an area comprising crushed tile and mortar which may have formed the foundations of a wooden building. I recovered a complete copper alloy pin, probably medieval in date, from one of the slots. It’s a very interesting site with much more to come.’

LAG's Mary and Sue excavate a ditch feature

The summer weather was a trial at times with hot sunshine resulting in hard, compacted ground, alternating with thunderstorms. There was also plenty of wildlife around with deer and foxes spotted, and a family of buzzards who took a close interest in the excavations, and the drone in particular. The Red Arrows provided an arial display of a different kind, accompanied on one occasion by their Saudi Hawks Aerobatic Team counterparts, the green jets identified courtesy of the Wings To The Past diggers.

Site Supervisor, Giles Emery of Norvic Archaeology said, ‘The finds are consistent with a relatively wealthy medieval household with plenty of large, glazed jugs for serving wine and beer. Documentary sources tell that one of King Edward II’s servants was pensioned off here and it looks like he may have enjoyed his retirement.’

Haw Hill sits in the wider boundaries of Lincoln’s Western Growth Corridor, where it’s planned to build 3,200 new homes, but the site itself is protected and separate from any development proposals. Dr Gregory said, ‘We hope that the archaeological research project will uncover new information about the site's past, and we look forward to seeing the excavation grow and evolve for years to come.’

Post-excavation processing of the finds will take place at LAG’s regular Wednesday afternoon session in the newly expanded BGU Archaeology Lab.

You can see more information from the dig and pictures of finds on Norvik Archaeology’s Facebook page -

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