21st November 2019:
Formed after the community archaeology excavation run by OA East at Wisbech Castle in 2009, the Cambridgeshire-based Fenland Archaeological Society (FenArch) are celebrating their tenth anniversary this weekend.
The Wisbech Castle community archaeology project was run by Oxford Archaeology East and funded by Cambridgeshire County Council thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (then the Heritage Lottery Fund). Today, Wisbech Castle is managed by Wisbech Town Council and local volunteers are helping to bring the current building back into public use. This Saturday, 23rd November 2019, is an opportunity to tour the site and learn about its fascinating past with members of the Fenland Archaeological Society. Below is a copy of the programme for the day.
The 2009 community excavation investigated evidence for the Bishops of Ely’s palace built on the site in the fifteenth century, replacing an earlier motte and bailey castle. The palace was later demolished and the site is now occupied by the current Wisbech Castle, built in 1816. In 2009, four trenches and forty test pits were dug across the site by local volunteers revealing the remains of walls, demolition rubble, large ditches as well as flood silt layers dating to the period of the Bishops Palace. James Fairbairn, one of OA East’s archaeologists involved in supervising the excavation of test pits in the vaults of the current building ten years ago, will be attending the event this Saturday to talk to visitors about what was found.
Building on the enthusiasm and interest of the volunteers involved in the dig, FenArch (formerly known as the Wisbech and District Archaeological Society) was formed afterwards to continue offering opportunities for people to get involved in archaeology across the Fenland region. The group affiliated to the Jigsaw Cambridgeshire network of community archaeology groups, set up by OA East in a county-wide Lottery funded project to provide training and support for volunteers to undertake their own archaeological investigations.
Establishment of this local archaeology group by volunteers who took part in the Wisbech Castle excavation has proven it was not only a successful one-off project but has had a long-lasting legacy which continues to inspire people learning to learn about and get involved in their local heritage.