Date set for archaeological dig in Lancaster

Alan Nowell and David Ingham, members of Lancaster District Heritage Group in one of the trenches at last year's dig
Alan Nowell and David Ingham, members of Lancaster District Heritage Group in one of the trenches at last year's dig

A fortnight long archaeological dig on Lancaster’s Castle Hill will seek to uncover more about the city’s Roman past.

Taking place from May 23 to June 3, the new excavation will partly re-open earlier trenches dug in the late 1920s and early 1970s, but also investigate undisturbed ground to test emerging theories relating to Lancaster’s Late Roman Shore Fort.

The Shore Fort was one of a succession of Roman Forts, dating from the first to fourth centuries, which occupied Lancaster’s Castle Hill.

Only limited excavations have taken place and very little is known about the nature of the Roman and later remains. Vicarage Fields to the west of Vicarage Lane displays a well-preserved but confusing set of earthworks. Some are very likely to be Roman; others appear to be later.

The dig will partly re-excavate the 1929 and 1971 trenches to aid understanding of earlier research, and then extend these to the west and north.

Jason Wood, Excavation Director and Heritage Consultant to the Beyond the Castle project said: “The dig represents an important opportunity to test our theories relating to the location of Lancaster’s Late Roman Shore Fort. Hopefully it will enable us to consolidate our understanding of the site and what this might tell us about the nature and character of Lancaster in Roman times.”

The dig is part of the Beyond the Castle project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council.

Lancaster is one of Visit England’s newly designated Heritage Cities. Telling the story of the Roman archaeology, therefore, will be an essential ingredient in the city’s tourism strategy and in making Lancaster a key heritage destination.

Coun Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, added: “The history of Lancaster dates back many thousands of years and while we know a lot about much of it, there are still many gaps to our knowledge. This exciting project delving into our ‘hidden depths’ could potentially have a huge influence on the way we see our city and the way it has developed over the millennia.”

All trenches will be hand-excavated by a combination of volunteers and experienced archaeologists under the direction of a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. The public will be encouraged to visit and watch the excavation, engage with archaeologists and the team of volunteers, and assist with finds processing.

To find out more about the dig and how to get involved visit www.facebook.com/BeyondTheCastle or email Lucia.Marquart@lancashire.gov.uk.