May
05

The Archaeologists are back in Grosvenor Park 2021

The annual archaeological excavations in Chester’s Grosvenor Park have returned for four weeks until 14 May run by Cheshire West and Chester Council in partnership with the University of Chester.

Maria Byrne, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Director, Environment and Communities said: “The excavations are part of a project to discover more about the landscape that surrounded Chester’s Roman Amphitheatre and the impact of the abandoned amphitheatre on the development of the area now occupied by the Church of St John the Baptist and Grosvenor Park.

“The excavation enables second year archaeology students to gain valuable practical experience and has been revealing new information about Chester’s archaeology.

“Thanks to Ringway for their generous support in making both a JCB and dumper truck available to this project and the staff of Grosvenor Park for making the facilities of the park available for the excavation.”

The Medieval ditch, Grosvenor Park
The Medieval ditch, Grosvenor Park

Visitors are welcome to view the work and ask questions from a safe distance. Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 4.30pm.
Distancing and cleaning measures will make sure the excavation takes place with Covid safe procedures in place and after months of studying and working at home the students and archaeologists from the Grosvenor Museum and L – P : Archaeology are pleased to be working in the Park and engaging with the local community.

The discoveries so far show this part of the Park was certainly busier than it is today. A Roman road led across the Park towards the Amphitheatre, a very large Saxon ditch appears to have run north to south and a medieval ditch bordered a large medieval building, probably part of the hospital and chapel of St. Anne which stood in the precinct of St John’s church. In the late 16th century Sir Hugh Cholmondeley converted these buildings into a grand house that was later destroyed in the English Civil War.

excavating-the-Civil-War-destruction-layer
Excavating the Civil War destruction layer, Grosvenor Park

Dr Caroline Pudney, University of Chester said: “We’re so pleased that it has been possible for our students to undertake their practical fieldwork training in Grosvenor Park. We are immensely proud to be involved in something positive during the pandemic through the students’ continuing and valuable role in uncovering less-understood elements of Chester’s heritage. This excavation leads to a new and important understanding of the city’s past and creates an opportunity for our ‘Citizen Students’ to work in partnership with local heritage organisations to generate a broader appreciation of local, national and global histories.”

This year’s excavation will be asking:
• Is there any evidence for pre-historic buildings or farming such as was found at the Amphitheatre?
• Were there any buildings by the side of the Roman road?
• Was the Saxon ditch part of a fortification?
• Does the medieval ditch continue across the Park and when was it dug?
• What was happening in this corner of St John’s precinct in the later medieval period?
• What changes did Sir Hugh Cholmondeley make when he first bought the land?
The students will be posting updates throughout the excavation from the social media channels of the History and Archaeology Department and the Grosvenor Museum (@HistArchChester on Instagram and Twitter and @ArchaeologyChester on Facebook; @cwacmuseums on Twitter and @GrosvenorMuseumAndStrettonWaterMill on Facebook).

Oct
22

Historic Environment Record (HER) COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)UPDATE – 22 October 2020

HER Searches

The HER is currently closed for visitors.

If you have a commercial search you can still make a HER search request  but please note that the this will take longer than usual as the HER staff are now working remotely. We can only be reached by email at present.

General HER Enquiries

There is likely to be a delay in responding to direct public research enquiries to the HER. We can only be reached by email at present

For general (non commercial) enquiries we would recommend consulting the online version of the Historic Environment Record database in the first instance: Revealing Cheshire’s Past.

You can also use the Heritage Gateway for access to other online sources about the Historic Environment.

www.heritagegateway.org.uk

Historic Maps and aerial photographs can be viewed using the Cheshire Tithes online

https://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/

More Historic maps have been digitised by the National Library of Scotland and can be viewed here

https://maps.nls.uk/

Oct
08

Grosvenor Park (Chester) Training Dig 2020: Round-up

This year’s excavation consisted of an extended Trench VIII which was first opened in 2017. Two extensions were added partly to investigate the extent of the medieval buildings, their later use and whether there was any evidence of Roman or earlier activity and partly to ensure that enough space was available to allow ‘safe distancing’. During the 2019 season the deposits in the trench had suffered from the very hot weather which meant the clay rich soils were baked hard leading to difficulty in identifying different features. This year however the rain and cooler weather made it easier to identify features and help understand their significance. A very wet afternoon gave us the opportunity to wash some of the finds, more need to cleaned and sorted so below is just the first overview of the discoveries.

In the extension to the south and west we came across the layer of Civil War destruction debris that has been spread over Trench IV and the main area of Trench VIII. The layer was made up of irregularly-shaped roof slates, fragments of ceramic roof tile, bricks dating from the 16th and early 17th century, plaster, mortar and a variety of objects and animal bones. Lead shot and gun powder holder caps were scattered across the layer and a possible iron musket rest was found by metal detectorist Colin Sharratt from spoil from the western extension. This is the first type of firearms equipment other that shot and gun powder holders to be found on the site. Within the destruction layer and the charcoal layer beneath in the southern extension a greater concentration of 16th century finds were found than in previous years, most notably pieces of Low Countries tin-glazed ware and Raeren and Cologne stoneware mugs/jugs. These and fragments of Venetian style glass fragments that would have been from very attractive vessels suggests fine dining in a wealthy household.

A pit was found cutting into and through the Civil War deposit on the northern edge of the southern extension this produced 18th century pottery including a piece of sugar mould and some very fine pieces of white salt glazed stoneware tea-bowls and saucers, including some with scratch-blue decoration. These dainty vessels represent the 18th century fashion for tea parties using the relatively new but increasingly popular tea and sugar and are another sign of the relatively wealthy households located in this area of Chester in the earlier post-medieval period.

Residual Roman and medieval objects were found in this area of the trench the most intriguing of which are an intaglio and a late medieval pilgrim badge. The tiny amethyst intaglio is only 8mm long and shows the figure of Mercury, Prof Martin Henig identified the gemstone for us and he comments that it is late first century in date and would have been worn on a small signet ring similar to some found during the 2004-2006 Chester amphitheatre excavations where a group of similarly dated intaglios were also found. A lead alloy badge in the form of a comb represents the symbol of St Blaise (thought to be a 4th century bishop in Asia Minor) whose shrine was at Canterbury, he was the patron saint of wool combers but due to a miracle he performed people sought his help for throat ailments. The badge would have been worn by someone who had made the pilgrimage to Canterbury or perhaps by someone given it to help them during an illness. It is the first pilgrim souvenir to have been identified from an excavation in the city although such items have been found elsewhere in Cheshire and at Meols.

Meanwhile as the Civil War layer was being removed in the western extension more and more late medieval floor tiles were found. Beneath the deposit was a sandy layer and on the very last day a small area of mortar was found and is probably a bedding layer for a tiled floor suggesting, along with the robbed out remains of a wall found in 2018/19, that we have the remains of a building at that end of the trench.

In the eastern section of the trench a band of sandstone rubble was exposed running north to south and lining up with a sandstone block on the very southern edge of the trench indicating the presence of the medieval boundary wall of the precinct of the Church of St John the Baptist. This discovery resolves questions from 2019 as to whether the wall existed in this area. To the east of this a rectangular cut pit was found in the layer of red clay on the edge of the medieval ditch found in previous years. The pit runs into the northern section and might be linked to pits found in 2007 outside the precinct area, very few things were found in the pit but late medieval pottery suggests the earliest possible date for its backfilling.

As usual the dig had a good number of visitors some of whom are local and visit every year to see what we are finding and others are on day trips to the city. Shortness of time and the Covid-19 pandemic stopped us from running an open afternoon but we had a visit from the local primary school who were full of enthusiastic questions and very excited to see the dig. One little girl went home telling her mum how she had met some ‘real live archaeologists’, her mum did not believe so her daughter brought her along to see for herself!

Whilst it was only for two weeks we had a good season of work that helped us all – students, staff, visitors to Chester and residents young and old – to learn more about archaeology and Chester’s past despite the limitations imposed by Covid-19.



The training dig is a partnership project between the archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester and is an essential part of the students’ archaeology degree course.









Oct
07

NEWS FLASH: GROSVENOR PARK STUDENT TRAINING DIG 2020

Every year archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester run a training dig for the University’s second year archaeology students. The dig takes place in Grosvenor Park in Chester. The Park was chosen because it sits next to two significant historical monuments, the Roman amphitheatre and the medieval Church of St John the Baptist. Both of these have had an influence on the development of the Park and, more importantly, on the intriguing archaeology that lies beneath.

The excavation reached its conclusion for this year on October 2nd and the image in this article shows the full extent of the discoveries made as of 30 September, 2020:

• The most obvious features are the series of land drains (1) running across the trench top to bottom which we think were laid when the Park was set out in 1865-66.
• The raised area on the far right (2) is a trench extension from this year which shows a layer of demolition rubble (mainly fragments of brick, floor tile and wall/ceiling plaster) which relates to the demolition of Cholmondeley’s house during the Parliamentarian siege of the city towards the end of the Civil War. We have recovered lead shot, gunpowder flask caps and a possible musket rest from this layer.
• The raised area at the top (3) is another trench extension from this year which shows a dark charcoal rich layer which was exposed after the removal of the Civil War demolition material. This layer has produced material mainly dating to the 16th century.
• Towards the left running top to bottom, there is a more subtle linear feature (4) emerging which consists of a band of sandstone rubble bonded in clay. This represents the top of the surviving boundary wall to the medieval precinct of St John’s. It can be seen extending into the top trench extension where an in situ stone block can be seen against the trench edge.
• To the left of the remains of the boundary wall are the fills of a late medieval boundary ditch (5) which are yet to be excavated.
• The irregular shaped pit against the bottom trench edge is the result of stone robbing from an underlying sandstone structure which we think might be part of a medieval oven. The other part of which we previously found in trench IV.

To all the visitors to the this year’s training excavation we say thank you and we hope you enjoyed your time with us and learnt a little more about this previously little known corner of Chester. For those who could not make it this year do not worry we shall be back next year so we hope to see you then.


The training dig is a partnership project between the archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester and is an essential part of the students’ archaeology degree course.

Acknowledgement: Drone Photograph: Mike Johnson 2020

Sep
18

Archaeologists Return to Grosvenor Park: September/October 2020

Each year in May Cheshire West and Chester Council in partnership with the University of Chester run an archaeological training excavation for second year archaeology students. Covid-19 prevented the summer plans but following the introduction of new safety measures the excavations will once again return to Grosvenor Park for two weeks between 21 September and 2 October. Visitors are welcome to view the activities, with social distancing being maintained and can ask questions at an information point. There will also be information panels around the site.

Grosvenor Park was chosen because it sits next to two significant historical monuments, the Roman amphitheatre and the medieval Church of St John the Baptist. Both have had an influence on the development of the Park and more importantly what lies beneath. So far the students have discovered: a Roman road leading across the Park to the amphitheatre, a large building destroyed during the English Civil War and two very wide ditches. The building seems to have been associated with St John’s, probably part of the medieval hospital and chapel of St Anne which was acquired by Sir Hugh Cholmondeley in the late 16th century and developed as part of his grand home in the city.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “The annual excavation was one more in the list of events and activities that looked like being lost this year. It’s great news that the work can continue, being able to offer this type of hands on experience at an archaeology rich site is part of what makes Chester so special. The Council has been working closely with the University to ensure students can return to Chester in a safe manner and the plans in place for this activity show how seriously the pandemic has been taken and the measures that are in place to keep students, lecturers and residents safe.”

Said Dr Amy Jones, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Chester: “We are really pleased that we can now offer our students a training excavation after our plans in May were necessarily cancelled. Last year the students uncovered rare evidence of late Saxon activity in Chester – a possible boundary ditch that may pre-date the foundation of Chester’s Saxon burh (fortification) in 907 AD – so they are naturally excited to contribute to our understanding of Chester’s history with their work this month”.

Updates will be provided throughout the excavation from the History & Archaeology Department’s social media channels (@HistArchChester on Instagram and Twitter and @Archaeology Chester on Facebook). There are also plans to produce regular video updates for social media and potentially some live video updates.

Further information will be available on the students’ Dig Blog during the excavation at: 

http://univchester-parkdig.blogspot.co.uk

Acknowledgement: We would like to thank RINGWAY for their generous support in making both a JCB and dumper truck available to this project.

Mar
27

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)UPDATE – 27 March 2020

HER Searches

The HER is currently closed for visitors.

If you have a commercial search you can still make a HER search request  but please note that the this will take longer than usual as the HER staff are now working remotely. We can  only be reached by email at present.

General HER Enquiries

We are sorry but we are currently unable to answer direct public enquiries to the HER.

For general (non commercial) enquiries we would recommend consulting the online version of the Historic Environment Record database in the first instance: Revealing Cheshire’s Past.

You can also use the Heritage Gateway for access to other online sources about the Historic Environment.

www.heritagegateway.org.uk

Historic Maps and aerial photographs can be viewed using the Cheshire Tithes online

https://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/

More Historic maps have been digitised by the National Library of Scotland and can be viewed here

https://maps.nls.uk/

Sep
17

Student archaeologists help uncover Chester’s Elusive Saxon past.

Student archaeologists have uncovered new evidence of Saxon life in the city. Every year, archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester organise a training dig for the University’s second year archaeology students. The dig takes place in Grosvenor Park in Chester. The Park was chosen because it sits next to two significant historical monuments, the Roman amphitheatre and the medieval Church of St John the Baptist. Both of these have had an influence on the development of the Park and, more importantly, on the intriguing archaeology that lies beneath.

This year’s dig got to the bottom of a very large ditch that destroyed the Roman road at the western end of the site. Pieces of preserved wood found in the bottom of the ditch – possibly from a wattle hurdle or fence – were sent away for radiocarbon (C14) dating.  The results have recently been revealed, and show a very high probability that the ditch is Late Saxon and may pre-date the foundation of Chester’s Saxon burh in 907 AD. The size of the ditch also suggests that it was defensive, and may form the boundary of settlement referred to in the Domesday entry for Chester as ‘the Bishop’s Borough’.

Dr Amy Gray Jones, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Chester, said: “We are delighted that this discovery has been made during the students’ Dig. The excavation in Grosvenor Park is an integral part of their archaeology degree and we started this year’s Dig eager to find out more about the mysterious ditches we uncovered last year, and to see whether they could add to our knowledge of the immediate post-Roman occupation of Chester, which is much less well understood. To have this information, offering more evidence of our city during Saxon times, is really exciting. It also shows that our students, whilst learning archaeological skills, are making a very real contribution to furthering our historical knowledge of Chester. This is very much a partnership project with Cheshire West and Chester Council, and our thanks also go to CWAC’s archaeologists for all their support and enthusiasm.”

Dan Garner, of L-P Archaeology and co-director of the dig said: “The ditch, measuring roughly 5 metres wide and 2.5 metres deep, has been an exciting and unexpected discovery. Excavating to the base was challenging due to ground water constantly seeping in to the excavation and it has taken two digging seasons to complete. The result of the scientific dating is a fitting reward for all the hard work done by the students in getting to the bottom of this archaeological mystery!”

Student Jack Douglass added: “Finding out that the ditch is dated to the Late Saxon era is very intriguing, and it’s great to have physical evidence for a currently under-represented period of history for the city of Chester. It’s even more exciting to have been involved with the excavations in trench four directly.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, and Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, added: “The Grosvenor Park digs are always popular, bringing interested spectators, particularly to the open days. We know Chester is rich in archaeology, to unlock some of our Saxon past is very exciting and I’m sure future years will reveal more. I’m glad the students had such a unique opportunity to be part of this find.”

The training dig is a partnership project between the archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester and is an essential part of the students’ archaeology degree course.

https://www1.chester.ac.uk/news/student-archaeologists-unveil-chester%E2%80%99s-saxon-past?list=6800

http://univchester-parkdig.blogspot.co.uk/

Aug
09

Archaeological Volunteer Opportunities August/September 2019

Thank you everyone who has been able to come and help us with the processing of the finds from the excavation in Grosvenor Park. We have washed everything that needs washing from this year so now we are marking the pottery, ceramic building material and clay tobacco pipes before sorting, bagging and boxing all the finds in material and context order. Over the next few weeks we will be carrying out those tasks and also doing some basic recording of everything we have found.

We would welcome your help and we will be working in the Grosvenor Museum on the following dates:

Tuesday 20 August
Wednesday 21 August
Thursday 22 August

Tuesday 27 August
Wednesday 28 August
Thursday 29 August

Tuesday 3 September
Wednesday 4 September
Thursday 5 September

The morning sessions will run from 9.30am and the afternoon from 1.30 – 5 pm but you are welcome to arrive any time after 9:30am or 1.30 pm. Tea, coffee and biscuits are provided. If you would like to help please email julie.edwards@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk with the dates and times you are able to attend.

Thank you! 

May
30

Archaeological Volunteers: Opportunities June/July 2019

The archaeologists from CWAC’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) will be starting a new project on Monday 3 June 2019 to wash the finds from the archaeological excavations that have taken place in Grosvenor Park, Chester. These excavations have so far uncovered a Roman road that once led to the east entrance of the amphitheatre; a large stone building, perhaps part of the medieval hospital and chapel of St. Anne destroyed during the Civil War; a huge ditch which is c.2.5m deep!

http://www.cheshirearchaeology.org.uk/?p=2369

We would very much welcome your help. We will be in the Pavilion in Grosvenor Park, Chester from 9.30 am until 5pm on the following dates (please note some 12.30 starts and on Wednesday 24th July we will be running an early evening session until 7pm).

June

Mon 3, Tues 4, Fri 7

Tues 18 – Thurs 20            (nb 12.30 start on Thursday)

Tues 25 – Thurs 27            (nb 12.30 start on Thursday)

July

Tues 09 – Fri 12                 (nb 12.30 start on Thursday)

Tues 16 – Fri 19                  (nb 12.30 start on Thursday)

Tues 23 – Thurs 25           (nb Weds 24 until 7 pm)


Tea and coffee are provided, we have some rubber gloves but you may wish to bring your own.

If you would like to help please email julie.edwards@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk with the dates and times you are able to attend.

Map and travel information:

https://www.grosvenorparkchester.co.uk/plan-your-visit/entrances/

Plan of Park and location of Activity Zone

https://www.grosvenorparkchester.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1200-parkmap.png

May
20

BIG DIG 2019 OPEN AFTERNOON

EXCITING PARTNERSHIP PROJECT READY TO REVEAL MORE OF CHESTER’S HIDDEN PAST

On Wedensday May 29 why not visit Grosvenor Park, Chester where the students from the University of Chester will be holding their annual BIG DIG 2019 OPEN AFTERNOON from 1pm to 4.30pm giving you the opportunity to see first-hand the archaeology that has been uncovered on this years excavation and to learn more about the history of this little known corner of Chester.

Amongst the exciting discoveries there is a Roman road that once led across the Park to the amphitheatre and the remains of a large building that was destroyed during the English Civil War!

The training dig is a partnership project between the archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester and is an essential part of the students’ archaeology degree course. As well as the Open Day the training dig will be open for public viewing from May 2 until May 31, 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays and between 12.30pm – 1.30pm).

Plan your visit

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