Volunteers unearth treasures from a community’s past

Left to right,  Ivor Crowther, Chris Mullins, Barry Mead, David Lodge, chief executive of Great Morpeth Development Trust, and Clive Waddington at Cresswell Tower.
Left to right, Ivor Crowther, Chris Mullins, Barry Mead, David Lodge, chief executive of Great Morpeth Development Trust, and Clive Waddington at Cresswell Tower.

Volunteers are unearthing some fascinating links to a village’s past as part of a community project.

Budding archaeologists are excavating trenches near Cresswell Tower in a community dig.

Professional archaeologists led by Dr Clive Waddington, who was also the director of a dig which revealed evidence of early settlements at the Hauxley end of Druridge Bay, have paved the way for the dig, which runs until Monday.

Archaeologist and local resident Barry Mead, who is acting as assistant project manager, said: “The professional archaeologists supported by local volunteers who walked the field in front of the tower have already found some amazing artefacts more than 6,000 years old from the Iron, Stone and Mesolithic ages so we can’t wait to get our trowels into the ground to see what else we can find.

“Already we have discovered some fascinating artefacts from the past including flints, ancient axe head fragments and pieces of Roman-British pottery which indicates human habitation in village, and we expect to find much more as the dig progresses.

“Projects like this are only possible with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund but I am also extremely humbled and grateful to the volunteers who have stepped forward to help with the dig.

“They have been real heroes working in what can only be described as challenging conditions but it just shows the determination of local people to discover more about history on their own doorsteps.”

Dozens of the finds, including some foundations of the original Cresswell Mansion House dating back to the mid-18th Century, will be on show at an archaeology open day at Cresswell Village Hall from 11am to 3pm tomorrow.

Guided tours of the excavation trenches will also be taking place. Unfortunately, due to the presence of hibernating bats, visitors will not be allowed into the pele tower itself.

Cresswell Tower was built in the 15th century by the Cresswell family and it has been designated by Historic England as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade II* listed building. Because of its ruinous state, it is also on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.

Plans are in place to restore the pele tower and re-open it to visitors. Late last year Cresswell Parish Council, with help from Greater Morpeth Development Trust, succeeded in being granted £93,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to further develop a bid for the funding needed to carry out the restoration work.

Ivor Crowther, head of the regional HLF, and retiring committee member and former Sunderland MP Chris Mullins visited Cresswell at the start of the dig.

Mr Crowther said grants’ panel members had been minded to support the project because of the fascinating history surrounding the pele tower but also by the way local people have responded by volunteering their support.