Well Campaign


In May 2016, our new theory about the location of Lancaster’s Late Roman Shore Fort was proved when excavations on Castle Hill, just below the Priory, revealed the corner of the fort along with road surfaces, a drain and, surprisingly, a stone-lined well set within the thickness of the 4m-wide walls.

The depth of the well is not yet known. The deeper it and the excavation goes, the more complicated and expensive the work, but the higher the chances for really interesting finds and environmental information that will help paint a fuller picture of life in Lancaster in late Roman and perhaps medieval and later times. A late Victorian OS map shows the spot marked with a pump, but we don’t yet know when it fell into disuse.

So far, only the top 1.5m of modern infill has been excavated. The real archaeology lies much lower down and at the bottom, and could be still waterlogged so that organic objects made of wood and leather may be preserved. What might we find?

WELL …if we are lucky, perhaps a bucket and rope, shoes or clothing, wooden writing tablets, votive offerings? And of course a wealth of archaeo-environmental material – animal bones, insect remains, seeds, leaves, pollen, etc. All good stuff…..

In a tight spot

So now BTC needs to raise the necessary funds to excavate the well. The first job is to get a better idea of how deep it is and what the depth of archaeological material is likely to be. We hope to be able to get a handle on all this via a small bore hole. Excavating within a confined space and at depth is logistically a great deal more complicated than excavating in open ground. Health and safety of those working down the well and maintenance of the well’s structural integrity require specialist engineering input at every stage from design (legislation, methodology), shoring, access, lighting, communications, removal of spoil, etc. Also, conservation can be very costly, particularly with organic material where treatment needs to start as soon as it comes out of the ground. There is no time to lose!

We need your help!

We expect the overall fundraising target to be in the region of £15,000 to cover the costs of the excavation, engineering works, post excavation and preliminary conservation of delicate finds.

The first big milestone is to raise £5,000, target date 25th December 2016. Contributions can be monetary or in-kind such as loan of equipment, technology and engineering/design, laboratory services etc.

This will allow us to establish the depth of the well via a bore hole, secure specialist structural engineering support to develop the methodology for the excavation or the well itself, and archaeologically excavate the area surrounding the well to a depth of about 1m.

This is the essential first step in establishing the relationship between the well and the Late Roman Shore Fort

How can I support the project and what do I get out of it?

The project depends on your support –  either financial or in-kind – and we have thought about the following incentives you might like in addition to the warm glow you get for having supported such an important project.


Pledge £20 and get a an A5 card  with an artist impression of the Late Roman Shore Fort (by Kate Lloyd-Philipps)

Pledge £50 and get an A1 print of an artist impression of the Late Roman Shore Fort (by Kate Lloyd-Philipps)

Pledge £100 to receive regular, exclusive updates online and copies of the final reports

Pledge £250 and you and your business colleagues, school classmates, scout group etc get to meet the team and go on a special tour of the site.

Pledge £500 and see your logo or name included on all project literature and site boards and be invited to special press days and events.

Do you want to dig with us when we excavate the area surround the well to a depth of about 1m? Let’s talk!

For more information on the Beyond the Castle Project, go to http://beyondthecastle.org/

or https://www.facebook.com/BeyondTheCastle/

What happens next?

You let us know how you would like to support the project and what incentive you are most interested in.  You will receive an email from us acknowledging your contribution and we will finalise arrangements with you re your incentive.

We will post cards or prints  – those of you who will be joining us on site will receive your items when you arrive.

How do I get in touch with Beyond the Castle?

We’re here for you! All emails sent to Lucia.Marquart@lancashire.gov.uk at Lancashire County Council will be read and replied to. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter @ squareroutesBTC; Our mobile number is 07887 831154

Terms and Conditions: Because this project is crowdfunded, your campaign support is non-refundable. All funding and contributions generated via this campaign will go towards archaeological investigation within the Scheduled Ancient Monument, Castle Hill.  We are pleased to confirm that Lancaster Priory Church will act as accountable body for this crowd funding campaign.

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Mini Exhibition, online preview

We have prepared for you a mini exhibition to let you know about the wider context of the excavations currently taking place.  You can see a mini version of it here and it will be available to anyone visiting the dig over the coming week or so.  We hope to move the exhibition to other venues post dig and would really appreciate your feedback so we can improve it as we discover more.

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Archaeological Excavation Vicarage Field; Scheduled Ancient Monument Site Castle Hill

Twelve days of archaeological excavation on Lancaster’s Castle Hill will seek to uncover more about the city’s Roman past.

This 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 led by the Beyond the Castle project, which has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is led by Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council.

The 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.

A new emerging narrative for Roman Lancaster reinterprets accepted opinion and will invite challenge and further questions. Join the debate and have your say at a pop-up exhibition displayed on the site during the excavation.

We will set up at 8.30 ready for a 9am start and will conclude the day at 5 pm with a review for all volunteers (the public will be invited to listen in); weather and stamina permitting some of the excavation work might continue into the early evening.

How you can get involved:

Dig with us:
Many hands make light work. Please get in touch if you want to help out on the excavation (previous experience not required, 18+)
Come and visit:
Watch the excavation, view our pop up exhibition and talk to our volunteers

To get involved please contact Lucia Marquart (Site Supervisor and named organiser): Lucia.Marquart@lancashire.gov.uk, 07887 831154
For information please contact the Excavation Director, Jason Wood jwhcs@yahoo.co.uk 07763 475442.

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Flickr Images


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Landscape Management

A lot has changed on the site over the past few months.  Two teams of workers from Preston United and Furniture Matters have been working on site alongside David Redmore to improve the area by primarily clearing self seeded trees that are damaging the sensitive archaeology.  The hedge along Vicarage Lane has been laid by a team of volunteers and various new plants have been added to creative a more wildlife friendly  environment whilst filling the gaps in the hedge.IMG_6287 IMG_6304 IMG_6318 IMG_6236 IMG_6205

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February Update

Spring is coming, we have plenty to share with you and some exciting events coming up so make sure you don’t miss anything.

Landscape Management
If you have been ‘Beyond the Castle’ lately you will have noticed some changes in the landscape! We have been concentrating this Winter on landscape management and much progress has been made.

Skills development and volunteering:
Working with volunteers we have restored the historic hedge along Vicarage Lane; the work involved hedge laying and re-stocking of gaps to diversity the hedge with hawthorn, dog rose and guelder rose.

Working with community partners:
We are currently hosting and training two teams who are on a three month work placement with us. Our partners are Social Enterprises Preston United and Furniture Matters. The teams have been making great progress with hedge laying, removal of young trees from archaeologically sensitive areas, crown raising and shrub removal.

Woodland and landscape management planning
We held a workshop to introduce the public to woodland management planning and what is involved as we are to embark on the process of woodland management planning with the Forestry Commission.

Upcoming Events for your Diary

Landscape and Archaeology Walk and Talk
Sunday 1st March
2pm outside Lancaster Priory
To find out more about the work that is happening on site and how landscape management and archaeology go hand in hand. Meet our heritage and landscape consultants David Redmore and Jason for a guided walk/ site walkover.

Woodland Management Planning Values and objectives for Beyond the Castle
14th March, 2 – 5 pm, Lancaster Priory Refectory
Meet the Beyond the Castle Woodland Consultant to explore and define values and objectives for the Beyond the Castle woodland management planning; with Dave Brackley, Woodland Consultant

Heritage Lancaster; ‘Shaping the Future’ event
Monday 22nd June 2015 10 am – 4 pm The Storey Institute
We are bringing together leading specialists in Roman archaeology and medieval castles to help us envision the future of Lancaster as one of the UK’s key heritage cities. The event is free and open to anyone with a perspective on what the future of our city should be. We now have the line-up confirmed for our expert panel:

Chair: Gill Hey, CEO Oxford Archaeology
Simon Esmonde Cleary Professor of Roman Archaeology
John Goodall Architectural Editor of Country Life Magazine
David Breeze Authority on Roman Military Archaeology
Jason Wood Beyond the Castle Heritage Consultant
John Zant Project Manager Oxford Archaeology North
David Shotter Emeritus Professor Lancaster University
Andrew Pearson Authority on late Roman Military Archaeology

There will be four key themes running through the day:
Advancing archaeological interpretation and progressing future research and excavation
Masterplanning, access, vision for the site
Digital data, the future of engaging people and communication
Tourism and visitor offer

For more information and to book a free place please visit www.beyondthecastle.org/heritagelancaster

Priory Churchyard Then and Now
We are working with Lancaster Priory, Arts and Digital Technology partners to develop proposals for the restoration of the Priory Churchyard. We had our first meeting with the Heritage Lottery in January and are working on a stage one submission by May 2015.

Priory Churchyard Then and Now; talk by Stephen Gardner, Senior Conservation Officer, Lancaster City Council 13th June, 6 – 8 pm (meet at 6 am outside Lancaster Priory)

Coastal Communities Funding Application for St George’s Quay
We have been in contact with the Coastal Communities Fund; we expect to find out if we have been successful with our funding application before the end of March.

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Heritage Lancaster: Shaping the Future

An open visioning event is being held on June 22nd at The Storey Institute where we are bringing together leading specialists in Roman archaeology and medieval castles to help us envision the future of Lancaster as one of the UK’s key heritage cities.

The event is free and open to anyone with a perspective on what the future of our city should be.

Event Themes

  • Advancing archaeological interpretation of what we have found and how we progress future research and excavation.
  • Masterplanning, access, vision for the site.
  • Digital data, the future engaging people and communicating.
  • Tourism, Castle, City, visitor offer.

Archaeology Panel

Chair: Gill Hey, CEO Oxford Archaeology

Simon Esmonde Cleary, Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of Birmingham

John Goodall, Architectural Editor of Country Life Magazine

David Breeze, Authority on Roman Military Archaeology

Jason Wood, Beyond the Castle Heritage Consultant

John Zant, Project Manager Oxford Archaeology North

David Shotter, Emeritus Professor Lancaster University

Andrew Pearson, Authority on late Roman Military Archaeology



Welcome and Introductions
Plenary Panel
Workshop session

Lunch by NICE

Workshop session and networking

End of Event

Register to attend
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/heritage-lancaster-a-future-for-our-history-tickets-12315948333 or call 01524 593770

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