Your article: Can you dig it? Villagers look for evidence of battle in 1066

Over the bank holiday weekend the very first Stamford Bridge ‘Big Dig’ event took place.

The primary aim is to try and understand the landscape and the human development and occupation of the village; and also a chance to find evidence of the battle in 1066.

The Big Dig event at Stamford Bridge

The Big Dig event at Stamford Bridge

No previous large scale excavation of this type has ever been attempted, and of course it was also a chance for the village community to become involved and explore their heritage.

After much planning and organising we were offered 14 private sites throughout the village on which to open a one metre square test pit, and we gave ourselves three days to see what we could achieve. The locations varied across the breadth of the village, from the Deanswell area to the outskirts of High Catton.

What we found were plenty of ceramics from Roman, Medieval and more modern times, but probably our star find was a Neolithic flint blade about2cms long with its end snapped off; this pushes the human occupation back over 10,000 years ago.

We will be displaying the finds from the Big Dig at our Stamford Bridge Heritage Weekend on 27/28th June, along with photos and maps, come along if you want to find out more about what we discovered.

So what happened over the weekend? On day one about 20 keen diggers arrived to be briefed and told where to begin the first test pits, We chose eight to get started with another six in reserve. We also erected a large marquee as a project headquarters near to the road bridge and longboat planter. This was a two fold decision as we needed a place to gather and report back to, but also to act as a public information point for residents and passing visitors. It proved a great success with many people coming over to ask questions, pick up leaflets and be informed about what we were doing over the long weekend. We even had tourists from the United States actually getting involved and getting down and dirty with a trowel!

Day two saw the completion of the previous days pits and the recording of all the archaeological data, the finds were all tagged and bagged and the gardens returned to ‘normal’.

After retiring to the local pub for well earned flagons of ale we decided to open two more pits on the last day of the dig. This left us with at least another four pits to be done at a later date, as these may require a more delicate approach due to their position within the village.

Day three saw the completion of the first phase of the project with ten test pits excavated, cleaned up, recorded, and the finds all stored ready for cleaning and investigation.

A tired but very satisfied group can be proud of their achievement. We knew more about the geography of the village than we did at 10am on Saturday morning, and we had plenty of finds to hopefully build a better picture of life in and around the village.

Ok, I know you are dying to know if we found any evidence of the battle in 1066... well the optimistic answer is, ‘not yet’. We will not know that for sure until all the finds have been cleaned up. But, even if we don’t this time, we will try again next year and open another 15 pits, and so on until we do. We see this as an ongoing long term project, it may take five years, or even 10 years, but I am sure we will find proof one day.

Organised by the Battle of Stamford Bridge Heritage Society, the project was supervised by Dr Jon Kenny, formally the Community Archaeologist at York Archaeology Trust, and we had Chas Jones from the Fulford Battlefield group and Archaeologists, Brian and Maxine Birkett from Southburn Heritage Museum on board for extra expertise.

We are pretty well pleased with the excellent start to this project. The society proved it can plan and run a serious archaeological dig, we expanded the data base on the history of the village, our members had a good time and learned new skills, the public interacted with us and gave us positive support, but most importantly, we were blessed with great weather on a Bank Holiday, ....what more can you ask for!

For more information on the society contact:

More pictures from this event in this week’s (4 June) Pocklington Post.