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Hindringham 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

last modified Aug 12, 2014 01:40 PM
After a long absence, HEFA returned to the north Norfolk village of Hindringham this summer to continue excavating archaeological test pits.


ACA first ran a Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) in Hindringham in 2007 but a flash flood later that summer damaged the village hall and it was closed for almost a year while repairs were made. In the meantime, members of the history society based in the neighbouring village of Binham offered to host the field academy and sixty archaeological test-pits have subsequently been dug there by HEFA participants and local volunteers. It was following a chance encounter with Hindringham resident, Simon Hester, during the 2013 Binham HEFA that he offered to coordinate this year's field academy in Hindringham again, and another 11 test pits were dug over two gloriously sunny days at the end of June and the start of July this year, adding to the 11 excavated in 2007.

The pits were dug by forty Year 9 students who worked in mixed-school groups, which were supervised by ten Year 12 students. The Year 9 students were recruited from Alderman Peel High School, Litcham School, Reepham High School, Cromer Academy and Fakenham Academy Norfolk, and the sixth-form students came from Sheringham Sixth Form Centre, Paston Sixth Form Centre, Reepham College and Fakenham College.

The test pits were located on The Street, Blacksmiths Lane and Moorgate Road, and Andrew Rogerson, from Norfolk Historic Environment Record, helped to identify finds on site. The final pottery report, produced by Paul Blinkhorn, is now available to download on our website here.

The earliest pottery recovered during the 2007 excavations dated to the Late Anglo-Saxon but this year, a sherd of Roman pottery was found in test pit 11 on the Street, and a rare sherd of Early Anglo-Saxon pottery was discovered at a neighbouring site, test pit 8. Both of these pits also produced pottery spanning the 10th - 14th centuries AD, as did test pits 4, 6 and 7 on Blacksmiths Lane. Combining the pottery results of 2007 and 2014, it appears that Late Saxon and Early Medieval occupation in Hindringham was concentrated on higher ground set back from the stream on Blacksmiths Lane and above the 60m contour line further south and west on The Street and Wells Road, presumably to avoid the dangers presented by flood events - which is more than can be said of the 20th century village hall!

A large amount of burnt flint was also found by three test pits in one of the gardens on Blacksmiths Lane, suggestive of a prehistoric site. The finds from the pits on Moorgate Road suggest that there may have been an isolated medieval farmstead in the vicinity and that the area was permanently settled from the 16th century AD onwards, with evidence for a pub at the site of two of the test pits.

However, the aim of the field academy is not simply to find archaeological evidence for how a settlement has developed over time, but to offer secondary school students the opportunity to develop a range of practical and personal, learning and thinking skills for the future, and for them to find out more about studying at university in the process. On the third day of the field academy, the students visited the University of Cambridge, and they received a taster lecture on medieval settlement studies; visited one of Emmanuel, Gonville & Caius and Selwyn Colleges at lunchtime; and compared the results of their test pits with the findings from 2007. The Year 9 students also had a presentation about post-16 choices and university from Ingrid Hesselbo, Schools Liaison Officer for Gonville and Caius, the area link college at Cambridge responsible for working with schools based in Norfolk. Ellen Slack of Selwyn College also spoke to the Year 12 students in a separate informal session on university admissions.

At the end of the HEFA, the participants are asked to rate the field academy and 98% of the respondents rated it as 'excellent' or 'good'. The sixth-form supervisors gained valuable leadership experience with one saying she "was happy with the group sizes and the fact that we each got to work on individual sites as it gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better" (AS). Another Year 12 student said she enjoyed "the opportunity to lead and manage a team" and left the day in Cambridge with a "better understanding of university education and the application process" (LJ). Many of the Year 9 students gave very effusive comments in their feedback such as "it was brilliant!" (ML) and "it was great fun and I really enjoyed it" (HB).


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