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Willingham 2009 Community Dig

Over a sunny autumnal weekend in early October 2009, Cambridgeshire residents, members of the Fen Edge Archaeology Group (FEAG) and Willingham residents dug 26 test pits throughout the village of Willingham in south Cambridgeshire with the support of Access Cambridge Archaeology, funded by the University of Cambridge 800th anniversary fund.

The weekend started with an introduction talk from Dr Carenza Lewis and Adrian Wilkinson (from FEAG) on the basics of how to dig the test pit and the all important Health and Safety information; after which, kit was distributed and the digging got underway! The test pits were excavated all over the village in fields, allotments, back gardens, driveways and even within the primary school, with volunteers of all ages taking part.

A wide range of finds were excavated from the test pits dating from the prehistoric to the modern day and the sheer number of test pits excavated over one weekend has provided a detailed picture of the way the village has changed over the centuries. Willingham in the Roman period comprised two separate settlements, one near the present church and one, probably a villa or rich farm, in the very south of the present village. Both sites were abandoned at the end of the Roman period, when a new settlement was founded in the centre of the present village. This is turn was abandoned by the late Saxon period when the only hint of a possible small settlement comes from near the present church. Like Cottenham, Willingham really took off in the 11th – 14th centuries when the university was also founded, but unlike Cottenham it seems to have faired less badly in the 14th century. By the 17th century it had emerged as a very much more compactly nucleated village, smaller but more densely occupied than its medieval predecessor.


85% of all respondents who filled in the feedback form at the end of the weekends digging rated the excavations as 'excellent'. A few quotes from volunteers are below:

"I think this is something that all school children should have the chance to try." (WH, Willingham resident)

"A great way for a student such as myself to gain valuable practical experience in a friendly setting." (JC, an archaeology student volunteer from Cambridgeshire)

"It really brings the village together. You get to meet new people and it's a great experience. We have learnt so much in such a short time." (VR, Willingham resident)

"How about doing this where I live?" (RM, Hertfordshire resident)


Excavation Project Report