About the Project

A summary of the Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project

Wallingford and the Thames in flood
Dramatic aerial view of Wallingford, with the Thames in flood. Image courtesy of the Environmental Agency


2008-2010 PROGRAMME


Co-ordinators and partners: Universities of Leicester, Exeter, and Oxford, with English Heritage, Oxford County Archaeological  Service, Wallingford Town Council, TWHAS, Wallingford Museum, South Oxfordshire District Council, Northmoor Trust, Reading Museum, Ashmolean Museum.

Project directors: Dr Neil Christie, Dr Oliver Creighton, Prof Helena Hamerow.

Key sponsors: AHRC, with support from the Universities of Leicester, Exeter and Oxford, British Academy, Marc Fitch Fund

The Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project, whose initial, pilot phase ran from 2002-05, has been awarded funding from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Board, UK) for a major three year programme in order to examine in fuller detail the archaeological and historical urban roots, growth and form of this key medieval town in south Oxfordshire.  By analysing the rich archaeological and documentary data (actual, visible and buried) for Wallingford between c. AD 600 and 1250, the project has scope to provide fresh and vital evidence for (i) middle and later Saxon burh foundations, clarifying their site selection, design, content and defensibility; (ii) Norman impositions and urban remodelling; (iii) medieval development and redevelopment of town and landscape, and (iv) the material impact of late medieval urban economic decline.

Kinecroft excavations
digging the traces of a 12th century house

Pilot project work undertook geophysics and topographic survey in all key areas of the town and its immediate environs to chart and interpret buried and remnant archaeologies and to assess potential for more detailed analysis; small-scale trenching was used also to consider qualities of buried data where geophysical anomalies were identified (Queen’s Arbour – quay works – and Riverside Meadows – possible Anarchy-period siege motte, both flanking the river Thames). This new phase of study involves fuller geophysical assessment, systematic analysis and mapping of the town and castle defences, targeted excavation in all key sectors of the townscape to yield structural, economic and chronological data, church fabric analysis, landscape survey, GIS modelling, archive collation and re-interpretation (Museum, archive, keyhole trenches, etc.).  We combine professional (Unit) and academic (University) expertise for excavation, analysis and interpretation, plus local expertise (Museum, Society) in all aspects (including excavation and survey), and involve the public in various points (Open Days, talks, garden archaeology, finds recognitions).  Regular web-updates, blogs, accessible archives are programmed.  Field seasons comprise a week-long block each April for geophysical survey and a three-week summer block for excavation.  There is a dedicated Project Research Officer (Dr Matt Edgeworth, based at Leicester) and two PhD students (at Exeter and Leicester) working on castle impositions and Saxo-Norman foodways in England.

Annual targets include: field interims and summary papers in regional and national journals; related conference and seminar papers; public talks; on-line archives; annual Museum and field season displays and posters; site tours and fun days.  End targets comprise: a major monograph on Wallingford’s archaeology and urban evolution; plenary conference with related publication; local conferences with publications; ADS (York) archive; display boards.

wallingford bridge viewed from west side of the Thames
Wallingford bridge viewed from the west bank of the Thames
garden archaeology in action
One of the garden archaeology test-pits being explored

These webpages offer a set of webdiaries which summarise the excavations so far undertaken in the town and immediate suburbs (trenches 1-6, 2008 and 2009). There are also posters available as pdfs which summarise the work and also the archive material, from unpublished excavations at the castle and at the Saxon cemetery.  For the British Archaeology magazine article outlining the project and its first field results, see http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba106/feat3.shtml


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