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Preston Community Archaeology Project

Project Background

Between 1952 and 1954 local archaeologist Brian Hope-Taylor led a team of amateurs during the excavations of a medieval moated manor house, chapel, and associated buildings, which once stood on the grassed area by Longfield Drive. Along with evidence for the buildings themselves, many artefacts and even some burials were discovered. One of the finest finds was a bronze chalice, which fitted in with the historical records for the site, which suggests that priests lived here. This may also be how Preston got its name – 'Priest – to(w)n'.

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The results of the excavations in Preston have never been fully published, and for many years the finds have been in storage in Guildford, and Brian Hope-Taylor's records in storage in Scotland! As part of a three-year Community Archaeology Project, the county archaeological unit, Heritage Enterprise, succeeded in getting Heritage Lottery Funding to run a local Community Archaeology project in Preston to find out more about this magnificent site.

On Saturday 29 March 2008 a special Community Archaeology Open Day was held at Tattenham Community Centre, on Merland Rise. The aim of the day was to introduce local people to the archaeological archive and artefacts from the excavations that took place in Preston during the 1950s. As a result the Preston Community Archaeology Project was formed.

Preston Community Archaeology Project in action

Weekly meetings began in earnest in October 2008, and since then a small but enthusiastic group of local volunteers has made significant progress. The finds from Brian Hope Taylor’s excavations were transferred to the Surrey History Centre in Woking, so that each week several boxes could be taken to Preston to be worked on by the group.

Phase 1: Cataloguing in the finds

This involved bagging, labelling and creating a catalogue of all the finds from each box, of which there were 53 boxes. Following this, the group returned to Box 1, and divided each box by find type - pottery, tile, iron, stone, bone, and miscellaneous! Each find type was then divided into site areas, such as 'A1', 'MX1a', 'Cottage', and 'Guard Mound'. This phase was completed in early August.

Phase Two: Organising the paper archive

A digital copy has been made of every piece of the paper archive (drawn plans, photographs and written records) created by Hope Taylor during the excavations, including holiday snaps and shopping lists! The groups first task was to label each copy of the digital archive by site area. This had to be done for around 800 records. Following this the record sheets were split into site areas, creating 'working' record files.

Phase Three: Pottery marking

In order for SCAU's pottery expert to make sense of the forms and fabrics of the various pieces of pottery found on the site, each bag and its contents needs to be marked individually with a unique number. This is done with good old fashioned pen and ink, and can be a messy business on 500 year old sherds! The group is currently about half way through marking up 400 bags of pottery containing anything from 1 to 160 pieces of pottery! This phase should be completed early in the new year.

Phase 4: Cross-referencing (expected to start February 2010)

All the records and finds need to be referenced against each other, and positioned on an overall plan of the site. Hopefully some sense will be made of the records and the site at this stage!

The group hopes that a full report will be written as a direct result of the Preston Community Archaeology Project. Other ideas to work towards are a popular brochure, a local display and interpretation board for the site.

The Preston Community Archaeology Group meets weekly. See Archaeology news and events for latest meeting dates. If anyone is interested in getting involved in the project, please contact Abby Guinness on 01483 518772 or

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